By Nina Crowder
Many of the schools across the state of Arizona have been challenged with budget cuts for this year and Hayden-Winkelman Unified School District is no different. Superintendent Jeff Gregorich and his staff feel it is important for the community to know about this year’s budget reduction of $300,000. Gregorich’s goal is to make the budget cuts as far away from the classroom and instruction as possible.
The cuts are due to a number of factors, but primarily to declining enrollment. Lack of local housing seems to be a major obstacle for young people wanting stay in the area or relocate there. The second major factor is lack of state and federal funding for schools and education. The State of Arizona has been cutting funding for education since the 2008 financial crises, which hurt small rural school district more than bigger districts.
Neighbors to the west, the Ray School District, are also facing budgets challenges this year, both closing a school and having administrators wear more hats.
Gregorich said he serves as superintendent for Hayden-Winkelman USD as well as principal of the middle and high schools. He said he has a good understanding of what school districts need to do during these difficult and lean times. He hopes that the Ray School District and the Hayden-Winkelman School District can begin to have discussions to help save money by sharing limited resources.
One of the ways to save money was identified during the Arizona Auditor General Performance Audit, where auditors said both districts could save money by sharing student transportation costs. A Hayden school bus brought five students from the Dripping Springs area to school while a Ray USD bus picked up four students from Dripping Springs. The auditors suggested the districts trade pickups of these students every week. This could save both districts fuel cost, wear on buses and labor costs.
The auditors also recommended sharing staffing and teachers whenever possible. If the districts need a math teacher for three separate periods, the cost could be split.
In addition, both districts have Interactive Television Systems (ITV) which allows one teacher to teach two classes at the same time. This has the potential to reduce costs significantly and would also be great for small classes like AP classes that neither district can afford alone.
The Hayden-Winkelman schools have CTE (job training) programs that might interest some of the Ray students, while some of Hayden’s students might be interested in Ray’s ROTC or Band programs. Hayden-Winkelman will be sending four students to Globe this fall to attend the nursing, cosmetology, welding and fire science programs offered through CVIT Program.
Gregorich acknowledges the two are separate school districts, “but we are part of one greater community,” he said. “ASARCO, the area’s major employer, depends on the steady stream of well educated workers. It is important for our local economy and the mining industry that we continue to provide a quality education for our students.”
Gregorich sincerely believes that districts need to find every opportunity for both school districts to work together to ensure they have strong healthy school systems for all the children. Serious, direct, on-going dialog needs to take place between the two school districts, community leaders and local businesses, Gregorich added.