College basketball has March Madness. To school board members in Nevada, however, May Madness is crunch time when hard decisions are made on budget issues for the coming fiscal year.
Churchill County School trustees addressed their 2013-14 fiscal year budget and possible reorganization — not to mention a motivated audience in “The Pit” at the Old High School — Thursday night during their regularly scheduled meeting. The final budget will be presented for public review tonight when the school board meets.
“It’s pretty fast and furious right now,” said Trustee Greg Koenig, who is serving his third term on the board. “It’s just frustrating that you have to turn in your budget before the lesgislature lets you know how much money is going to be available.”
Much of the attention focused on a proposal to reorganize the counseling staffs at the high school and middle school. Later in the evening, trustees determined seven positions on a list of priorities — first-grade teacher/return counselor to CCHS, middle school secretary, I.C. facilitator, third-grade teacher, second-grade teacher, library software and high school vocational teacher.
The proposed counseling change would move Teresa Gehman from her current position and leave the high school with only two counselors.
Jack Beach, a longtime teacher in the school district and current principal at Logos Christian Academy, was one of at least two dozen people to speak on the counselor item during the public comment period.
“I just think it needs to be the highest priority that when money’s available, the No. 1 priority is to reinstate the counselor at the high school,” Beach said.
Steve Endacott, a 24-year Churchill County resident, voiced his support for maintaining three counselors at CCHS.
“The student-to-counselor ratio of above 600-to-1, would be way outside of the national norm,” Endacott said. “This counselor reduction decision will have serious consequences to the community. Our children, parents and community deserve due consideration of this issue by the elected officials of the school board.”
CCHS student Jonathan Avila explained how he stayed in school and on track to graduate with assistance from his counselor, Autumn Lucero.
“My counselor has seriously helped me so much,” Avila said. “Students need to have counselors who make the time to talk and who they can check in with on a regular basis to find out what is going on with their grades, classes and how to improve things in their life.”
Interim Superintendent Bus Scharmann thanked the audience for their participation in the process.
“I appreciate the feelings everyone has in regard to this issue,” Scharmann said. “One thing I love about Fallon is that people care.”
At the outset of the budget process, Scharmann explained that his top priority was class size at the first-through-fifth grade levels. Ideally, those class sizes will be in the range of 22 or 23 students.
“I instructed my staff that the budget not be balanced on the elementary schools,” he said. “If you look at the budget, you will notice that maintenance, transportation, food services, as well as the board and superintendent’s budgets were all cut by 10 percent so we could leave the site budgets alone. The board will be looking at this very closely, and hopefully, we’ll have money restored to us through the legislature so this doesn’t become an issue at all.”
Koenig echoed that Tuesday when he spoke from Carson City.
“I think the chances are pretty good,” Koenig said. “Almost every year I can remember, they come up with a little more than they expected. But you never know.”