Chesterton Tribune

Duneland Schools budget adopted; summer school enrollment falls

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At about this time last year, the Duneland School Board approved a 2010 general fund that later was cut by about $4 million due to declining state revenues. This year, the proposed 2011 budget reflects the new budget reality that state funding for schools isn’t likely to improve next year -- and maybe not anytime soon.

The school board on Monday adopted four of the funds in its overall budget, with the largest fund -- the general fund -- set at $35.8 million, an increase of about $280,000 over what was ultimately approved for this year. The total is about $4 million less than what the board originally adopted for this year before the state funding cuts.

Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer told the school board that the prospects for increased state funding for the general fund do not look promising in the next few years. The general fund covers operating costs such as salaries and utilities.

The school board adopted the four funds without much discussion, having reviewed the budgets in detail at previous board meetings. As Baer noted, the board’s adoption was a formality, representing a “simple matter in a very complicated issue.”

The board also approved a resolution giving Duneland administrators the ability to make cuts if needed later at the state hearing.

The four budgets approved were: General fund, $35.8 million; debt service fund, $8.9 million; pension bond debt fund, $1.6 million; and transportation, $3.7 million. All of those are funded through local property taxes, except for the general fund, which is now funded through the state as part of comprehensive property tax legislation that became law in 2008. The school board previously adopted other funds, such as the Capital Projects Fund.

School Board President Michael Trout said the budget adoption required a great deal of work on the part of the administrators. “Your efforts are appreciated,” he said.

Shortly after adopting the budget, the school board heard a report on summer school, with the numbers reflecting a very real consequence of this year’s budget cuts.

Because the state is no longer funding summer school to the extent it used to, Duneland nearly doubled its summer school fees, from $65 to $125. “The program had to pay for itself,” said Duneland Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett, who noted that summer school was still provided at reduced or no fees for students who qualified.

Total enrollment in summer school was 879, compared to 1,231, 1,239 and 1,230 in the previous three years. The enrollment was actually more in line with what Duneland saw back in the 2004 summer school, with 881 students.

This year’s breakdown was: 209 students in grades K through 5, compared with 369 the year before; 47 students in grades 6 and 7, compared with 89 the year before; and 569 students in grades 8 through 11, compared with 773 the year before.

Despite the enrollment drop, Moffett said Duneland officials believe that summer school is a valuable program and that having an enrollment of 879 students is still significant. Overall, he said, the summer program went well.

Graduation Moved

Baer also announced that the 2011 high school graduation ceremonies have been moved up a day. Instead of a June 10 commencement, the ceremony will be Thursday, June 9.

Baer said the move is to eliminate past problems of students who have a conflict with graduation and athletic or academic competitions held on the same day. He noted that other schools have also adjusted commencement accordingly.


In the personnel report, the school board made two appointments: Katrina Lewis as a Title I aide at Brummitt, and Sarah Lipniskis, a Bailly reading specialist.

The board also approved two maternity leaves: Brummitt fourth grade teacher Pam Moore and Liberty Intermediate reading specialist Heather Lowe.

Dibels Program

Also at Monday’s school board meeting, the board heard a presentation about the Dibels program at Brummitt Elementary.

Teachers Betsy Kazmierczak, kindergarten, and Katie Curiel, second grade, outlined the program, which is used in part to determine if students need additional support through the Title I program. Students are monintored in several different ways, including their ability to name letters, sound out parts of words, and read nonsense words. In the math portion, some of the assessments include determining which number is greater and which number is missing in a pattern.

The assessments are given in grades kindergarten through second grade, with different levels as the students progress.

Brummitt Principal Antonino Cammarata said his school is grateful for the Title I grants, which have funded the remediation aides to help the students who are struggling.

Next Meeting

The school board also rescheduled its next meeting -- to Thursday, Nov. 4, at which time the board will tour the newly completed addition at Liberty Elementary School.



 Posted 10/5/2010