By Linda Thomas
Oracle School Board
Special to the Crier
It’s been a busy year for the Oracle School District. Our governing board made a great decision to hire Dennis Blauser and Nanette Soule as our new superintendent and principal. We also developed an annual strategic plan for the district centered on quality education, finances, and public relations and revised the superintendent evaluation instrument to ensure alignment with that plan. Our district implemented the Common Core reading standards and conducted a complete review of our district policies with the Arizona School Board Association (ASBA). Blauser also restructured administration to save 30 percent in administrative costs and strengthened the district’s long-term strategic and capital plans.
Our board attended numerous training opportunities to stay informed of opportunities, trends and legal issues and participated in each ASBA Lobby Day at the state capitol, attending education committee meetings and speaking to each of our LD8 legislators. One of our board members, Linda Thomas, was even awarded the 2013 ASBA Advocate of the Year.
Reduced funding forced us to make some tough decisions such as restructuring our preschool operation, suspending the art and music programs, conducting a reduction-in-force and stopping the high school activity bus runs. The most painful loss though, was that of the override renewal. The 60-vote loss will result in $140K less for next year. Unless we can pass the override in 2014, we’ll lose another $140K by 2016 and the entire $430K by 2017.
Nothing can take the place of adequate resources for a quality instructional program, but the community continues to step up in a variety of ways. SaddleBrooke (SB) Community Outreach provided tutors and enrichment program funding, SaddleBag Notes gave a grant, and the Rotary Club (and many others) provided support and volunteers for the “Stuff the Bus” drive. The Teens Sew Cool club started a sewing class, Oracle staff, and volunteers are running an Equine Program, volunteers are offering guitar and singing lessons, and a SB Ranch resident will be working with teachers on a grant-funded “how to better communicate” curriculum called Cosmo Kidz. Other SB Clubs such as the Knit Wits, Greenware Club, Teens Sew Cool, Fine Arts Guild and numerous community residents also volunteered for, or donated generously to the student holiday store, rodeo art contest, science fair and the tax credit program.
District staff and volunteers also saw the near completion of the new concession stand/restrooms at the ball fields; funded through monies raised by the PTO, donated labor and materials from local businesses, and the purchase of bricks by community residents.
Next year is sure to bring many new opportunities and challenges. We are currently discussing a possible consolidation of campuses so as to become more effective and efficient, we want to renovate the district’s website to make it more effective and user friendly, and we’ll be implementing the Common Core math standards. Of course, we’ll continue to focus on our mission: to provide an educational setting that ensures every child/student will become a responsible, conscientious, well-educated, productive citizen.