SIDNEY — Sidney City Schools finished out the 2018-19 school year in stride with a vibrant class of seniors venturing out into the world, be it to serve in the military, continue their education, or head out into the workforce to make a difference in the local community. The district started the 2019-20 school year with a realigned district and a new preschool; it continues into 2020 with a plan to forge ahead.
Tiffany Rank, Sidney Cty Schools Communications coordinator, has submitted the following report:
Financial picture and emergency levy
The district passed a renewal levy on the November 2018 ballot with 61.55 percent of the community voting in favor of the renewal of the 9.23 mill emergency operating levy. If this levy were not renewed, the district would have lost $4.4 million in funding from an annual budget of $36 million, which would have been a 12 percent loss.
Through solid financial decisions and actively managing the ever-increasing cost of education and student services, the district has been able to maintain a positive cash balance. However, in FY 2024, the forecast shows the district in the red (with a negative cash balance). There are a few factors which play into that including uncertainties in the state funding formula, increased expenses to serve student needs, and minimal increase in property tax collections due to limited growth in real-estate development. During the same time period, the forecast shows the three major expenditure buckets increasing by 17.7 percent compared to the revenues only increasing by 1.8 percent.
Students are the No. 1 priority of the district; the board and staff want to make sure they can continue to offer a quality education to them. To that end, Sidney City Schools is asking the community for additional financial support in the March 17, 2020, primary election. In order to minimize the amount of new money needed, the district has taken great steps in an effort to reduce existing expenses including reconfiguring and consolidating the district, reducing staff, closing SAS, transitioning to a high deductible health plan only, competitively bidding improvement projects, and filling maintenance positions with those in skilled trades to reduce the amount of contracted work. More information on the school’s levy can be found by visiting www.sidneyschoolslevy.org.
Whittier Early Childhood Center serves preschool-age children
Whittier Early Childhood Center opened its doors at the start of the 2019-20 school year to serve children ages three to five, both typically developing and with special needs. The mission of the preschool is to nurture the development of early learning through play and social interaction, preparing our preschoolers for kindergarten success.
When the plan was developed to open Whittier Early Childhood, the district was excited for expanded educational opportunities that would arise by offering preschool–allowing more kids to start their educational foundation earlier and stronger and closing the gap between students with and without preschool coming into kindergarten. As of Jan. 6, Whittier ECC had enrolled more than 265 preschool-age children who are Sidney residents (IEP/typically developing peers), compared to approximately 119 children on IEPs and 75 typically developing peers when we contracted out preschool services.
Preschool Principal Keith Helmlinger is focused on making connections with parents. “We have the opportunity to see and talk with parents every day when they’re dropping off and picking up their children. I make it a priority to welcome families into our school each day, both morning and afternoon sessions.” said Helmlinger.
“One of my greatest joys this year is seeing the kids running up to the sidewalk with their parents saying they just can’t wait for school. Preschool is a positive experience for them and we want that to continue into grade school. The kids really thrive in this learning environment,” he said
The preschool keeps an ongoing waiting list. The state requires certain ratios of children on IEPs and their typically developing peers. As students age into preschool from Early Intervention, those who are typically developing are enrolled off of the waitlist to keep the ratios balanced. Parents interested in enrolling their 3-5 year old child should call the school to learn more.
The district saw an opportunity to maximize resources (staff, materials, facilities), minimize inequalities among the previous four elementary schools, and expand educational opportunity, while addressing the need to reduce expenses, through a district reconfiguration of schools and grades.
The district now consists of two kindergarten through second grade buildings–Longfellow and Emerson, a third and fourth grade building–Northwood, a fifth through eighth grade building–Sidney Middle School, and the high school. As mentioned previously, an additional part of the reconfiguration was the ability to begin offering preschool, housed at Whittier.
Preliminary benefits of the reconfiguration include:
• Expanded opportunity for more children to start educational foundation earlier and stronger with preschool
• Plan for smoother transitions between preschool and kindergarten for students, families, and teachers
• Implementation of programs and processes that provide consistent services for students
• Unified opportunities and expanded equal access to resources among grade levels for students and teachers
• Increased collaboration for teachers around student needs
Through the new reconfiguration and the addition of preschool, the district is starting to see the benefits of establishing a greater continuum of educational services for all students from age three to grade 12. It is the mission of Sidney City Schools to inspire, empower, and prepare our students for their best future. Our vision is to meet the needs of all students in a safe, respectful, and responsible learning community. We will continue to look to the mission and vision for direction as we move forward and in all decisions we make.
Please visit our website to learn more about Sidney City Schools. Our social media accounts highlight student and staff achievements and can be found by searching @sidneyschools on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For any specific questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.