TJ is not immune from economic hardships, as district-wide budget cuts are just one step in chain reaction of state shortfalls.
The national economic downturn has officially arrived at recently at TJ, leaving the school to try to make up for money lost. Once per year TJ gets a budget notification from the district, letting the administration know exactly how much they well be getting for the following school year. Once this report is received, Principal Sandra Just sits down with her assistants and decides how the money will be spent. However, this year the budget was less than the school is accustomed to getting. “We had a base budget cut of 2%. While this happened at every school, it does make things difficult. Last year we carried about two new full time staff positions along with a part time staffer who we will now have to find additional money for, or will have to let them go. Most of the money goes to the teachers’ salaries as well as paying for the school improvement plan,” said Just.
The school improvement plan is one that requires the administration and faculty to look at certain evaluations and adjust policies accordingly. The first of two subjects that it focuses on is increasing attendance through different avenues, and trying to place more kids in AP (Advanced Placement) courses. This is accomplished through the PSAT that students take during the year. Each score is evaluated, and if students tested at a certain level, they are deemed “AP potential”. This plan costs around $150,000, or 10% of the total school budget.
Since the school improvement plan and teacher salaries exhaust a large amount of the funds, when the budget was reduced it became clear that cuts were going to be necessary. “The funding that were cut is going to cause us to have to reduce the staff size. That 2% may not seem like all that much, but it’s going to result in us losing four and one half positions within the school. Two teachers have notified us that they will be retiring [Gordon Heaton and Sarah Curry], so that leaves us with two full time teachers and a part time position that must be cut,” said Just.
The way funds are doled out among the schools is based upon the number of dollars each school gets per student. The district gets approximately $6500 per student registered in DPS. After they fund the district level budget, the money that is then passed down to each individual school per student is reduced to around $3100; however, certain groups of students such as bilingual, AVID and other specialized student groups get a higher rate per student. When the money was allocated based on enrollment, the district then took the aforementioned 2% back from every school within the district to help fund other district wide programs that are in need.