Levy Guest Opinion

Guest Opinion-Questions Regarding Important Levy Issues
Posted on 01/21/2020

By:  Karen Douglass
Superintendent, Stevenson-Carson School District

I would like to respond to voters about their questions and comments regarding the important issues, accomplishments, and challenges of our school district.  I have been superintendent since July of 2015 and in the district for over 30 years.  The Stevenson-Carson School District has students with unlimited potential.  The district also has a dedicated staff and parents who are committed to see their children and this district succeed.  Finally, the school board of directors has three new members, and an opportunity to create a dynamic team as they appoint their fifth board member and hire a new superintendent to begin in July 2020.  Each member of the SCSD Community desires to continue improvements to provide our students the very best opportunities possible from birth through graduation.

Is the levy on the ballot a new tax?
The Stevenson-Carson School District board of directors passed a resolution last fall to put the replacement levy on the February 11, 2020 ballot.  The first levy was approved for 2013 and has been renewed three times by voter approval.  The current levy ends in December 2020.  The levy on the ballot in February is a replacement levy (not a new tax) and is for three years:  2021, 2022, and 2023.  It is estimated that the rate for the 2020 levy will be $2.18 (per $1000 of assesses property value) and the levy for the following three years will be $2.17.  Our website has information about the levy, its uses, the collection amount, and more: www.scsd303.org

UPDATE On January 21st, the actual tax rate for 2020 was released by the Skamania County Assessor’s Office.  The rate for the SCSD Levy for 2020 will be $2.01.  This also adjusts the estimated tax rate for the three years of the proposed levy to $2.01 each year.  The ballot has been published already and will have $2.17 on it as an estimated rate.

What about how our students are doing on state assessments?
The Stevenson-Carson School District has been working diligently to improve student success as measured by the state assessments.  Here are a few examples of our demonstrated growth on the 2018-2019 state assessment: (1) 10th Grade in English Language Arts surpassed the state average and 80% achieved state standard, (2) 8th Grade in English Language Arts grew 12 percentage points with 58% achieving state standard, (3) 8th Grade surpassed the state’s growth average in science, and (4) in the elementary schools, Class of 2027 and 2028 grew more than 10% in English Language Arts as cohorts.  Is there room to improve? ABSOLUTELY, and we are diligently working towards all grades exceeding state averages.  We also believe that there are other ways to measure our success, for example, CES was celebrated by Office of Superintendent of Public instruction in 2019 for their growth in math and our 12th Grade students graduate at a comparable rate or higher than the state average.

What is the district doing to better their financial outlook?
The district promises to be a good steward of all funds received.  In the last ten years, the district has trimmed about 18% off their budgeted expenses.  When I think of my personal home budget, 20% is a lot!  Furthermore, the district seeks grants (over 1 million brought in during the 18-19 year) and looks for cost savings (over $70K of surplus furniture and technology received from larger school districts). The district has made energy efficient upgrades to improve all future utility bills. The district desires to create a budget where expenses and revenue are balanced without dipping into the fund balance and without relying on unpredictable SRS (Secure Rural Schools Act) allocations.  The board’s goal is to keep the fund balance around 10%. Continued levy funds are necessary to meet that goal.

Is the district receiving any “timber dollars”? The SRS (Secure Rural Schools Act) was reauthorized in December 2019 for fiscal years 2019 and 2020.  This allocation for the Stevenson-Carson School District will be about one million dollars for each year.  The district has been moving towards a budget that will balance without those funds as each year it is uncertain if the funds will be reauthorized.  These funds, when received in the Stevenson-Carson School District, will be set aside for one-time expenses or capital projects.  Most recently, the district’s new track was funded from this federal allocation. 

What about bullying?
We are addressing bullying in our schools.  Bullying of any nature is a concern, taken seriously, and acted upon when reported. Although we may not be able to stop all student misbehavior and unkind acts, we are working hard to create positive school cultures.  Last year, our district implemented a web based/phone app called StopIt that allows anyone to anonymously report bullying situations (or anything of concern).  Timely and accurate reports are necessary for the district to respond and take action to resolve the situation. 

The district is also focusing on social, emotional, and mental wellness as this is closely connected to the why and the results of bullying after effects.  All of our K-6 students receive social-emotional lessons, a researched based curriculum, with bullying prevention.  To keep our students safe at recess, we have added additional adult coverage.  Our elementary schools have additional social-emotional teacher support for students in this area.  Finally, this winter, we have also offered two opportunities for adults to come into the schools and join us in this work. 

In December, the district received a grant for $18K.  These funds will be used in partnership with ESD 112 to place a full time mental health interventionist into our secondary schools.  We are addressing bullying in our schools, we are proactively preventing future bullying through social and emotional education and support, and we are aware that this is a concern in our community.  We hope that parents will work in partnership with schools and always encourage their child to be kind and respectful. 

Final Thoughts:  Listening to You

I make time for any student, parent, staff member, or community member who wants to talk with me.  These conversations are gold!  It is interesting to learn from another’s experience and to understand what they know about our students, staff, and schools.  Sometimes, I am able to answer questions and other times I’m given something to really ponder.  Over the course of five years, changes have been made based on these “listening sessions” and slowly, the district’s course has shifted.  Please feel free to schedule a time for a chat with me.

I know that Stevenson-Carson School District residents want to do what is right for our children and communities. Please look at the facts.  Strong schools equal strong communities. If anyone has questions or needs information about the levy, the district, or our schools, give me a call at 427-5674 and set up an appointment.