Starting a dialogue on education, schools

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Albertson

I want to thank the community for your trust in me as the new Lake Pend Oreille School District superintendent. As a long-standing Bonner County resident, and graduate of Sandpoint High School, I can sincerely state that I am committed to the work assuring all students continue their path of learning and afforded opportunities to achieve at high levels. This can only happen through a collaborative culture with all stakeholders, honoring the learning cultures created in each school, and always guided by what is best for students.

I would like to also thank the patrons who attended the July 23, 2019, Lake Pend Oreille School District board meeting giving input on stabilizing the current maintenance and operation levy. I appreciated the open dialogue on this topic and all opinions on making the current maintenance and operation levy continuous. It is important for all citizens within the Lake Pend Oreille School District to have opportunities to share views on educational topics. Through this process, the Lake Pend Oreille School District is asking voters to stabilize school funding on the general election Nov. 5. To be clear, this is not a vote to increase school funding but to continue supporting schools at the flat dollar amount which was approved in March 2019.

I want to take this opportunity to remind all citizens the main reasons funding from the state of Idaho is not sufficient to operate LPOSD, thus requiring the need for a local maintenance and operation levy. We are a large geographic school district and the citizens have communicated clearly that keeping the rural schools open is a high priority. It costs more than the state funding received to operate and staff multiple small schools compared to fewer large schools. I appreciate the support, as community schools are important. The state does not fund extracurricular activities. These opportunities are an extension of the student school day, providing growth in leadership, collaboration, teamwork, commitment, problem solving, and social skills. These skills are repeatedly mentioned by business people as valuable to be successful in the workplace. Finally, one of the school district’s priorities is to recruit, train, and retain high quality staff. In today’s competitive market with neighboring school districts this comes at a cost beyond state funding.

Please be reminded that the school board has set a priority to utilize resources effectively and be fiscally responsible. Annual budgeting and audits, in open meetings (by law), continue to show this priority is taken seriously with excellent reports. Yes, Sandpoint has been discovered (again) making all of us reflect on current property values. As new residents move to Sandpoint and property parcels are added to the tax roll, the amount you will pay on this fixed amount to support schools may actually decrease. As our community changes it is very difficult to predict future needs, increase in student populations, and what you envision and support in upgrades to facilities, but stabilizing current operational funding levels without having an “all or nothing” scenario every two years is healthy for the community. As it should be, any future increase in the current M&O levy would require voter approval. The great part of our constitutional rights is the ability to speak on election day.

Again, thank you for the support you have given me as the new superintendent, remember, civil discussion is healthy and I have a commitment to the community to create the best educational opportunities for students on their journey to adulthood. I have already heard from many citizens to increase courses to prepare students in the trades (CTE), keep class sizes appropriate, all at the same time keeping the college preparation rigor intact. This can only happen with a collective community vision and continued support.

Tom Albertson is superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He can be reached at 208-263-2184 or via email at tom.albertson@lposd.org.

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