By planning ahead, GUSD averted money woes

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 6, 2013

Text size: A A A

T he Ganado School District is heading into the new school year in an enviable position - with money in the bank and no plans to lay off any teachers because of budgetary concerns.

While a number of other school districts on the reservation and in nearby border towns are worried about cutbacks in federal and state funding, Ganado's superintendent, William Allsbrooks, said he is going into the new school year looking at creating new positions to shore up the district's academic program.

The district hasn't been exactly flushed with revenue but Allsbrooks, who was persuaded by the Ganado school board to come out of retirement last October and take on the interim superintendent position, said one of the first things he did when he came on was take a good look at expenses and cut a lot of waste.

"We are still waiting to hear from the state legislature about a final budget for next year but it looks like we may be getting a 1.8 percent increase," he said.

That's the amount that has been approved by the Arizona Senate. That increase would provide an extra $300,000 for transportation and basic operating expenses.

Allsbrooks already knows he wants to use part of that money to start buying new textbooks for the district.

"We used to be on a five-year rotation in buying new textbooks but we got off that a couple of years ago because of budget problems," he said, adding that he would like to get new social studies textbooks in the coming year and get back on the rotation system.

Like all of the other districts in this area, Ganado has been seeing decreasing enrollment for a number of years and as a result of this, Allsbrooks has been looking at staffing needs.

The district has been able to eliminate a couple of positions at the high school and one at the primary school because of decreases in enrollment, which has also helped the bottom line and enabled the district for the first time in six years to give pay increases to teachers and classified employees.

Teachers and anyone making more than $12 an hour received an 8 percent pay increase and anyone making less than that received a bump of $1 an hour, Allsbrooks said.

One of the main reasons the district doesn't find itself in a financial bind like others on the reservation, said Allsbrooks, is that district officials took note of possible shortfalls and planned ahead.

For example, Allsbrooks said he began hearing reports that federal funding to the district would be cut back because of the sequestering and instead of spending the federal money in the hopes it wouldn't happen, he set aside $650,000 and put it in a special account which he didn't touch.

"We were hoping it wouldn't happen but when it did we had the money set aside; it didn't impact our budget," he said.

The district operates on a total budget of about $23 million and because of careful planning, Allsbrooks said it is looking at carrying over to next year about $4 million in federal impact aid monies, which will allow GUSD to make some improvements even if the state legislature decides to take away any proposed increases for next year.

Another change in effect for next year, he said, has been a restructuring to go from four schools to three. No schools will be closed but it will allow for a more efficient operation.

The new setup will move the sixth grade up a level so that the schools will go from kindergarten to fifth grade, sixth through eighth for the middle school and then ninth through 12th for the high school.

The primary and intermediate schools, which are located across the street from each other, have been combined into one school with both buildings still being used for classrooms, he said.

The district has also asked Allsbrooks, who was also superintendent in the Kayenta School District in the year 2000, to stay on and he said that at the request of the board he has signed a three-year contract, putting off his retirement for a little longer.

His family lives in Phoenix and he said the major disadvantage of staying on as superintendent is that he will not be able to see his grandchildren every day.

But the other side of that is the fact that he won't have to be worried about being bored because life as a superintendent on the reservation is a daily challenge.