KENNEWICK -- The Kennewick School Board on Wednesday approved the district's $151.3 million budget for the coming school year and discussed how to replace a departing board member and whether to give student clubs -- including gay-straight alliances -- full access to all school facilities.
The meeting began with a farewell to Wendy London, who had been a board member for nearly four years. Wednesday's was her last board meeting, as she has accepted a position with Seattle Public Schools.
London was a business teacher and assistant principal in Kennewick, and later worked as an administrator in the Richland School District, before being elected to the Kennewick School Board in 2007.
The board briefly discussed not replacing her, as a successor will be elected in November. But several board members spoke out against having a potential split vote without a tie-breaker during important meetings at the beginning of the school year.
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The district will accept applications from candidates for the next few weeks and conduct interviews Aug. 15, so it can appoint a temporary replacement for London at its Aug. 17 meeting.
Candidates must live in the Kennewick School District.
That board member's term would end when the winner of November's election is seated on the board in early December.
* The board held a public hearing on the district's proposed budget for this coming school year.
After brief discussion, the board adopted the $151.3 million budget as proposed. Last year's budget was $146.6 million.
Despite the loss of federal stimulus money and severe state budget cuts, Kennewick will cut no programs and not lay off teachers.
Instead, the growing district will add the equivalent of nearly 19 full-time teachers, a figure that may be spread out over full- and part-time teaching positions.
It can absorb the lost income and still add to expenses by dipping into its reserves.
The district will have$4 million less in reserve by next summer than it does now, said Business Manager Vic Roberts. It now has almost $27 million.
The district is losing about $3.2 million in federal money compared to last year. At the same time, it is spending$4.7 million more overall. Half of the spending increase comes from rising employee benefits.
The district has managed its money smartly enough to weather another $3 millionto $4 million in the 2012-13 school year, should state contributions continue to decline, Roberts said.
* The board held a first public reading of a new policy that gives all noncurricular student clubs equal access to school resources.
The new rule affects religious organizations such as Youth on Fire and volunteer groups such as the Key Club, among others.
But the discussion that had gone on for months centered on gay-straight alliances.
Gay-straight alliances are student clubs that seek to provide safety from harassment or bullying at school to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender youth, who are disproportionately targeted.
The new policy will allow all of these clubs to make announcements on school bulletin boards and over the public address system, along with other rights. Students had said they need the full access to let kids know the clubs exist.
The new policy will bring the district in line with the federal Equal Access Act. It had approved a temporary measure this spring to not be in violation. This policy will replace that measure.
The board voted 4-1 to approve the first reading of the policy. Dawn Adams was the lone dissenter.