Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek took questions from peninsula residents Tuesday night via Facebook Live. Questions ranged from lice policy to the district’s $140 million budget.
Dusek said the district has sustained about $7 million in budget cuts over the past few years. He stressed that the district has been able to handle those cuts without making major reductions in the classroom or teaching staff.
“Eighty percent of our budget goes to staff. We are at the point that we have to make reductions in staff,” Dusek explained. “We experienced that a little bit with support staff last year. We’ll have to re-examine it for our certified staff moving forward.”
The district was at risk of losing about eight high school teachers last year before the borough assembly boosted its share of education funding, but the district has made some staffing cuts. It has eliminated 10 administrative jobs since 2015.
Future cuts depend on whether Alaska’s Legislature agrees on a solution to the state’s looming fiscal issue.
The Legislature has kept education funding flat over the last couple of years, but Dusek said those decisions were made last minute, and left the district little time to hire staff before the school year starts. The district was forced to put a hiring freeze on 30 teaching jobs this year because of the last-minute decision.
Dusek also fielded questions about last year’s state testing scores, which were low for a majority of schools in the district.
“The scores weren’t where we want them to be, ok. They’re just not, but we’re going to use those assessments to see where students are weak and help them move forward,” Dusek said. “I’m sure we will see growth on that.”
Dusek also mentioned that the test, which was administered for the first time in 2016, is based on more rigorous standards and he added that there are more factors used in determining a student’s success.