Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Financial Health of the Hudson Community School District

The financial condition of the Hudson Community School District deteriorated over the course of the 2010-2011 school year.  This is due primarily to the fact that the district has been subject to declining enrollment at a time when cuts were made to the state aid portion of the foundation formula over a three years (including the fiscal year 2010-2011).  In total, the district experienced a cut in state foundation aid of $574,295.  In the fiscal year 2010-2011, state aid was underfunded by $222,435. 

Additionally, the state failed to adequately fund the allowable growth formula, which contributed to a deterioration of the unspent budget authority and cash balances.  At the close of the Fiscal Year, June 30, 2011 the unspent balance had deteriorated to $78,380, down from $210,606 the previous year.  Unspent budget authority is one of the most important financial indicators in a school district.

The Board of Directors acted decisively in the spring of 2011, making significant and systematic budget cuts totaling over $574,000.  While the financial condition of the school district is beginning to improve, it is important to stress that now is not the time to relax.  As we continue to face declining enrollment and an allowable growth of zero percent for fiscal year 2013, we will need to carefully examine our spending habit, ensuring that we are maximizing all of our capital and human resources wisely.

Creditor's Equity Ratio
The table and chart to the left is what is referred to as the Creditor's Equity Ratio.  This tool is used to measure the amount of current assets that are provided by creditors.  The amount of short term borrowing would be symptomatic of how dependent the school is on credit to cash flow business operations.  Logic would suggest that as a school increases available cash to service operations, the less dependent on short-term debt it would become.  Ideally, this ratio would be zero.  There are two key takeaways from this ratio.  First, the district currently participates in short term borrowing, typically during the month of September, which is prior to the first state aid payment of the school year and prior to the first of two large tax draws during the school year, and second; this ratio is on the decline which is good news for the school district.  For Fiscal Year 2011, the district borrowed $350,000 in the month of September.  In Fiscal Year 2012 (current) for the same month of September, the district borrowed $250,000. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Child Left Behind Rights Notification

Parents/Guardians in the Hudson Community School District have the right to learn about the following qualifications of their child's teacher:  state licensure requirements for the grade level and content areas taught, the current licensing status of your child's teacher, and the baccalaureate/graduate certification/degree.  You may also request the qualification of an instructional paraprofessional who serves your student in a Title I program or if your school operates a schoolwide Title I program.

Parents/Guardians may request this information from the Office of the Superintendent by calling 319.988.3233, emailing, or by sending a letter of request to the Office of the Superintendent at 136 S. Washington Street; Hudson, Iowa; 50643.

The Hudson Community School District ensures that all parents will be notified in writing if their child has been assigned, or has been taught by a teacher who is not considered highly qualified.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Certified Enrollment and the Budget

Do you realize that on Friday, we will finish the first quarter?  It is pretty amazing to me that we are already this deep into the school year.  All of our fall sports seasons are beginning to wrap up, and we enjoyed a music concert just this week.  I always seem to catch myself making comments like "next week won't be quite so busy", only to find that it is, and in many instances even more so.  However, there is no mistaking the fact that the fall season is an incredibly busy time for reports to be filed with the Department of Education.  Believe me, there are a plethora, and while each important in its own right, none can top the importance of the certified enrollment report.  This data is used to collect the primary variable for the school aid formula.  The number of students we have in our district this fall multiplied by the district cost per pupil will, in a nutshell determine the part of the foundation formula that is titled "Regular Program District Cost" for next year, and is the largest component of general fund operations. 

Back in the days when I worked in the Catholic school system, this was a pretty simple evolution to complete.  On count day we simply counted our students and presto, we were all done!  It is not nearly as simple as that, and is part of the reason why we have a two week window in which to complete this transaction.  Here is how it works:  On October 3rd, Count Day, we take a census of our student population.  The data is cleaned and uploaded onto a state database website where we can view duplicates.  Each student in Iowa is given a unique identifying code (kind of like a social security number) that follows them throughout their academic career.  When they move, transfer, open enroll, etc., this number remains constant.  Once that data is populated on the state site, we have to correct errors with other districts.  This is pretty normal and expected.  We may be counting a student that another district is counting for any number of reasons.  What we need to do then is have a conversation with that other district and come to an agreement on who should be counting them.

After the reconciliation of the data is complete, on October 15th, we certify the results and sign an electronic affidavit claiming the data is "true and accurate to the best of my knowledge".  From now until the end of the month, we will have several conference calls with the Department of Education for further clarification and reconciliation of the data.  (My first conference call will be at 4:30 this afternoon.)

Here are a couple of things to remember about the certified enrollment process:  any student that enrolls after October 3rd is not included on your official count, and therefore is not eligible for funding, and the certified enrollment number is used to calculate revenue projections for the next fiscal year.  You are all probably aware of the fact that we have enrolled a number of students since count day, and that a  number of them are concentrated in kindergarten. This has cause alarm and concern for all parties involved, and we are in the process of problem solving that issue right now.

Now there are different numbers that we need to be concerned with, including certified enrollment, BEDS enrollment, open enroll into the district, and open enroll out of the district.  For the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on BEDS and open enrollment.  The point to remember about all these trendlines is that they are in decline and it is critical that the district respond to these changes in demographics.  To put it quite frankly, we need to make sure we are staffed properly for our size of district.  The charts and graphs included on the next page illustrate the enrollment trends for the Hudson Community School District. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Board/Superintendent Goals

As a school we are constantly evaluating our students, collecting data, and setting goals.  Once we have set those goals, we write an action plan on how we plan to achieve those goals and then periodically provide updates as to how we are progressing on the goals.  While we pay most attention to how our students are progressing, we also must be cognizant of how we are doing as teachers, administrators, superintendent's, board members, and school districts.  After that, we should be identifying areas for growth and improvement, after all we are all about continuous improvement for everyone!

With the assistance of the Board of Directors, I have developed goal areas for this school year.  We all have areas in our personal and professional lives where we can (and should) improve; regardless of our position.  I want to take an opportunity to share with you the goals that the Board and I have set, and periodically I will provide you with an update of my progress toward those goals.

Our teachers are asked to write their goals based on the Iowa Teaching Standards, administrators likewise use the Iowa Standards for School Leaders. The following is the framework upon which the Iowa Standards for School Leaders are based:
  1. Shared Vision
  2. Culture of Learning
  3. Management of the Organization
  4. Family and Community
  5. Ethics
  6. Political/Social Context
This year I have chosen to focus my goals on three main areas: improving the Culture of Learning (Standard Two), by working collaboratively with our faculty to improve our professional development and curriculum alignment work within the Iowa Core, which will have the net effect of improved student achievement; shared vision (Standard One) and building relationships in the district (Standard Four), by providing more communications such as these and being visible in the school district and finally; management of the organization (Standard Four), by improving our fiscal condition in the school district.

To find out more about my action plan and specifics, read on!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Conversation with Senator Jeff Danielson

It has been a few weeks, but I had the chance to sit down with Senator Jeff Danielson on September 19th to discuss a variety of issues that are facing not only the Hudson Community School District, but school districts all across Iowa. 

At the time of our conversation, we didn't yet know for sure what the Governor's Blueprint for Educational Reform would include, other than some very general themes.  With the release of the blueprint yesterday, the conversation around education reform is definitely picking up steam.  Now that we know specific recommendations, the conversation will need to focus on how we can pay for these reforms!  There is no doubt that it will come with quite a price tag.  If the last legislative session was any indication, this will be a significant debate.

From our conversation, it was apparent that Senator Danielson was (and still is) very sympathetic to the educational challenges that face our state.  As one example, during the last legislative session, he was in support of an allowable growth model of 2%.

As I mentioned in a previous post, now is a great time for all of us to visit with our local legislators about all of these very important issues. If you have comments about the education reform plan, make your voice heard!  As we all learned yesterday, the proposed plan, if enacted will be a seismic shift in education policy in Iowa.  Almost all of the proposed reforms will require a change in legislation, and our lawmakers need to hear from us. 

Senator Danielson was quite well informed about the Hudson Community School District.  He asked good questions and was very interested in hearing about the impact of zero percent allowable growth on our school district, and how the budget guarantee had a negative impact on local property tax.  He took a substantial amount of time out of his schedule to meet with me and asked great questions to ensure that he had a total understanding of the issues that we are facing in Hudson.

As we continued our conversation, I wanted to ensure a consistent message was being shared with all of our local legislators:
  1. Modified Allowable Growth. Some of the rules and constraints on the use of this funding has made it very difficult for school districts to adequately serve the At-Risk population. This has the unintended consequence of becoming a program designed toward response instead of prevention. We are of the belief that it is much better, and cost effective, if we can use preventative measures in our work instead of response when something becomes a problem.
  2. Education Reform. Undoubtedly this will be a huge topic of the next General Assembly. 
  3. Unfunded Mandates. I explained how unfunded mandates are having a very negative impact on our ability to educate students, and that every time an unfunded mandate becomes law it has the effect of diverting money from some other purpose in our general fund. I shared that we can't do everything in education with fewer and fewer resources every year.
If you are interested in hearing more from Senator Danielson, he has accepted an invitation to attend our board meeting on November 21st. Please plan to attend.

Well, that about wraps it up for today.  Some of you may have been hoping to hear my thoughts and comments on the Education Reform Blueprint, but I am saving that for next week.  On Wednesday I will have the opportunity to attend a meeting with the AEA 267 Superintendents in Clear Lake.  Our guest speaker for the day is Education Director Jason Glass, who is expected to take questions about the plan.  I am seeking more information before I comment further (although I did agree to an interview with KWWL yesterday).  If you are interested in joining the statewide conversation on the blueprint, you can follow along on Twitter, just use the hashtag #IAEdFuture and you will be able to hear the latest!