Board creates 5-K literacy coach position

LEROY — For many school districts throughout the area, balancing a budget is one of the challenges boards of education must face each year.

At a special meeting which took place on June 25, the Pine River Area Schools Board of Education approved a balanced budget for the 2015-26 school year with district's projected revenues total about $9.785 million and expenditures total of about $9.766 million. The fund balance at the end of the year is expected to be approximately $936,000, an increase from the 2014-15 school year's ending fund balance of about $917,000.

Among other services, expenditures include about $6.3 million for instructional services, operations costs of about $896,000, transportation costs of about $711,000, general administration costs of nearly $308,000 and school administration costs of about $573,000.

Board members Alan Peterson and Merrylie Cameron were absent for the meeting, but the remaining members approved the budget in a unanimous vote.

PRAS Business Services Coordinator Josie Hill said the district is looking at an estimated 1,060 students for next year, which is a loss of about 24, or $300,000 in funding. However, Hill believes the drop should be the last large drop in student numbers for the near future.

In other business, the board approved a motion to create a 5-K literacy coach/MTSS coordinator position, which would be funded by Title 1 and At-Risk funds. The board previously posted a job for a K-7 literacy coach, but received no applicants.

PRAS Superintendent Matthew Lukshaitis said he re-examined the position and believes a K-5 coach would be better for the district, because lower elementary students are expected to learn how to connect vocabulary and sentence structure with context, and students who fall behind in literacy will fall further behind once those skills are expected of them.

Lukshaitis said he wants a reading specialist who is passionate about elementary education and believes the district needs to assist the elementary students because children are beginning school unprepared.

Salary for the position was not set, as Lukshaitis wants to focus on hiring the best candidate for the job.

In addition, the board also approved the establishment of a Pine River Hall of Fame. With the help of the Buck Pride Group, a wall in the high school will be mounted to commemorate former Pine River individuals or teams who have achieved significant life accomplishments. Applications are available on the district website and physical copies of the qualifications, FAQ sheet and nomination form are also available at the business office and high school office.

Inductees will be honored with a plaque to keep and a plaque to be placed on the wall. Graduates of Luther, Tustin, LeRoy and Pine River High School are eligible.

"The Hall of Fame idea cultivated by the Buck Pride Group is exciting,” Lukshaitis said. "The timing is perfect as we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year. It’s a great way to pay homage to the many outstanding graduates of the Pine River high schools. Each community has its own unique history and together we’re also starting to tell quite a story. We make things happen at Pine River and we have a lot of pride in our work. This is a great way to honor the folks who make us such a proud district."

In more business, the board:

  • approved the resignation of high school teacher Anne Thomas,
  • recognized high school baseball coach Shawn Ruppert for his 500 career wins in 25 years,
  • approved the purchase of Board Book, an electronic agenda preparation tool, for $2,000, and
  • approved a motion to request a $1.7 million loan from the state for operating costs. Hill said schools throughout the state must borrow money due to the fact that budget deadlines  and fiscal years for the state and school districts differ, and because tax revenue is not received until January. The board approves a similar motion each year.