Claremore Daily Progress


August 10, 2011

Despite more budget cuts, Verdigris superintendent remains hopeful

VERDIGRIS — Verdigris Schools Superintendent Mike Payne says his district is in good financial shape, despite cuts in state funding.

“Our school lost just under $138,000 with the initial 4.1 percent cut. But while our budget is healthy at this time, you can’t keep taking cut after cut,” he said. “We aren’t among those schools who spent all our federal stimulus money, so that will help this year, but 2012-2013 will be a whole new ball game because we won’t have any of those funds left.”

Verdigris was able to replace the four teachers who retired at the end of last school year.

“We did replace everybody that left and didn’t absorb any positions this year like we have in previous years,” Payne said. “We have cut teachers in the past and not replaced positions after retirements. The biggest part of the budget for a school is personnel. I just don’t see how we can cut anymore.”

A “thinner” staff has meant some adjustments for the classroom.

“Our class sizes are still good here. We’re still running 18-20 kids in most classes, but in the elementary we might have some that are 23 or 24,” Payne said.

And as far as classroom resources, teachers know “if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it.” “We haven’t updated our text books in a couple of years, so we’ve been able to use those funds for general purposes,” he said. “We will start back the cycle of purchasing books next year, but in the meantime we’re saving money that way.”

Payne is confident that despite the tight budget, Verdigris is still able to deliver a good education.

“Our test scores have been good. We have good clientele, good kids, good teachers,” he said. “It’s not the optimum situation, but it’s not bad in comparison to other schools.”

With a change in state leadership, he remains hopeful about the future of school funding.

“There is a new state superintendent and new state school board and there is a transition time,” he said. “I’m also excited for the next legislative session to see what happens. We’ve had several months in a row where there has been an increase in state revenue, so they’re able to start putting some away for education.”

Verdigris has several bond projects under way.

“The plans are all designed and construction will start in September for an addition to the 7th and 8th grade building, which will include a new library, computer lab and office. We’re also building a new central office and school board building,” Payne said. “Then in the spring we will be installing a new track, which will also serve as a community walking track. That project will begin in May hopefully and be done by the end of next summer.”

For the upcoming year, everything is in place for students to begin classes Thursday.

“At this point, all our air conditioners are working, which is important!” Payne said.

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