Sulphur Springs Independent School District will experience the result of federal cuts to Head Start funding beginning in July, although the local cut isn’t going to be as deep as federal Head Start officials initially predicted.
Head Start Director Hilary Young, during Monday night’s school board meeting, outlined and submitted for board approval the Head Start Policy Council’s proposed “Head Start Sequestration Funding Cut Plan.”
Sulphur Springs’ Head Start program will lose $64,941 this year from its base award of $1.167 million. The district had been told to anticipate cuts to funding in the Head Start technical assistance award amount too, but officials were notified within the last few weeks that training fund will continue to be $20,138. That puts the new total Head Start funding amount for July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014 at $1,187,481. The current year’s award was $1,252,422.
Young said, after consulting with administrators and the business office, the plan proposes reducing the program by nine children, so the program serves 168 children in the 2013-2014 school year. That would be achieved by cutting one Head Start four-year-old classroom, which would displace one teacher and one instructional aide. The school should be able to absorb those two staff members, however, she said.
The Head Start educational specialist teacher is retiring; the board accepted her resignation letter Monday night. This is a half-time position. Duties related to the position will be reassigned to the school readiness/parent engagement facilitator. Family services staff will assume duties related to parent engagement, Young said.
“We feel this will cause the least disruption to the program,” Young explained. “We at first asked you for a lot of help. Head Start, this way, can sustain itself. This way we are not asking the district financially for anything.”
“What would the plans be if these staff are not absorbed through attrition or reassignment? Is there a Plan B?” asked Kerry Wright, who was named president of the school board just prior to Young’s presentation.
“There would be laid off teachers. We should be able to fit them in. I’m about 99 percent sure,” Young noted.
One board member asked what enrollment had been and what the highest enrollment was.
Young explained that The district had received funding to serve 179 students for at least the last 14 years. The district started with 104 students, then got funding for 104, later 164, then 179.
Board member Jason Dietze asked how many students were already on the waiting list for Head Start.
Young explained that registration is currently underway, and that the school wouldn’t know exactly how many had applied but been put on a waiting list. She said it is normal for more three-year-olds to be wait-listed than four-year-olds. The district only has 60 slots for three-year-olds, with the remaining slots going to four-year-old students.
“Our thought was to cut from four-year-olds. We have pre-k. So those students can still be served by pre-k, still be in school. We feel those needed to be served more than three-year-olds. If we cut threes, some of those kids need an extra year. We don’t want to hurt them. A lot of thought and prayer went into it,” Young noted.
Sherry McGraw, SSISD business manager, added that Young and Head Start representatives had met and consulted with the business office regarding finances before drafting their plan. When cuts were expected to be more, Head Start officials had discussed how to make those cuts and mulled over with SSISD business officials the feasibility of the district absorbing the cost so programs wouldn’t have to be cut, or not cut as bad.
“All federal programs will probably see the same types of cuts as this. Title I funds with be the same with sequestration from what we’re hearing. If we do for hers [Head Start], others will come soon asking. [Those cuts] just haven’t gotten here yet,” McGraw said.
“Thank you, Hilary, for dealing with this. It’s never pleasant to go through downsizing. I’ve been through it; it’s never easy,” board member John Prickette said, referring to his background in business.
The school board approved the Head Start sequestration funding cut plan, along with the Head Start Program Self-Assessment Summary/Program Improvement Plan.
In other business, the school board gave approval to an instructional materials allotment Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills certificate form for 2013-2014
The board also approved an order “authorizing the issuance of refunding bonds, establishing the parameters for the refunding and delegating authority to the administration.” The approval was given after a lengthy presentation by Doug Whitt of Southwest Securities, who explained the current bond market and options the district has to refinance their 2005 bond notes before August 2015, which could save the district money on their bond repayment.
Whitt noted that approving the measure simply gave school administrators the ability to give the go-ahead to refinance if the best set of circumstances present themselves within the next six weeks, which would be advantageous to the district in the amount of interest repaid on the bond.
Approving the measure does not obligate the district to refinance the bond at a lower rate, but could mean a lower interest rate for repayment if the district approves it. This only sets things up so that if a really low rate and the right circumstances occur, Southwest Securities has the initial required paperwork prepped and ready to move.
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