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School administrators offer to forego pay hike

School board votes to split the difference

San Juan Island School District principals, administrators and district office staff had offered to forego their allotted 4.4 percent pay increase in the strained school budget for 2008-09, but they didn’t get their wish.

They got half their scheduled pay raise instead, thanks to a compromise plan put forth by the San Juan Island School Board.

“We really appreciated the offer quite a bit,” School Board President Boyd Pratt said. “I thought it was really generous of them and in the same spirit of tightening our belt. But the board felt that we couldn’t entirely do it.”

The gesture by the district administrators is significant because, as one staff member pointed out, retirement calculations are based on those numbers and the foregone wages will affect how much their retirement income will be.

Help to the tune of $300,000 has come in the form of a matching gift organized by the San Juan Island Community Foundation toward which islanders have been able to pledge against — doubling the amount of their gift — to reinstate programs which would have been cut next school year.

The district faced an $800,000 shortfall, roughly 10 percent of its 2008-09 budget, in spring and has closed the gap considerably though the generosity of 459 donors who, according to Paul LeBaron, president of the San Juan Public Schools Foundation, raised more than $123,000.

Coupled with money donated from Valmark, Roche Harbor, Richard and Joan Komen — all doubled because of the Challenge Gift — the shortfall is being met.

“We’re getting there,” LeBaron said. “We think we’re going to be able to reach our goal by the time we’re able to get back to school in the fall. We’re very happy at the tremendous amount of support that the community has provided.”

Reinstated programs include the entire high school athletic budget, a full-time math/science teaching position, $75,000 worth of classified hours for staff who work directly with students, a special education assessment specialist and the elementary school’s Primary Intervention Program, which helps at-risk students.

Gone is just about everything principals could cut at the building level, from school supplies and copy paper to staff development money. The district also cut out more than $150,000 in non-employee related costs — something the district could do once but can’t do indefinitely — to help close the gap.

Also gone is the food service program as it’s now known. Hot lunches will be gone but a basic sack lunch will be provided in keeping with federal laws for disadvantaged students.

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