School board studies its communication issues | SierraSun.com

School board studies its communication issues

Renée Shadforth

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board attempted to get to the heart of its communication issues in its meeting Wednesday night.The board decided to hold the communication workshop after the 2004-05 budget meetings, a process that included cuts that parents and staff said they didn’t feel informed about.District officials said they involved the community, but the message just wasn’t getting out, board President Cindy Gustafson said.”We started thinking, ‘What can we do to increase the communication, both internal and external?'” she said.Prior to the meeting Gustafson solicited input from various public relations firms and news outlets to understand how the school board can mend the communication breakdown that can occur with district staff and the public.”There has always been discussion that the district needs a communication person, but that’s always an issue where you don’t want to take money from the classroom,” she said. “Our administrators see the need [for a communication plan], as well.”The meeting was just the beginning of the formation of a school district communication plan. Over the summer, members of the school board will continue to meet with public relations firms and news outlets for external communication issues and with site administrators and department heads for internal issues.Gustafson said she hopes to enter the 2004-05 school year in the fall with a viable communication plan.School budgetAssistant Superintendent of Business Ralph Johnson presented the school board with the 2004-05 budget. The $34 million spending plan maintains class sizes and cuts the district’s reserve in half, to 1.5 percent.The district also had to tighten its belt by reducing its overtime budget, cell phone expenses, transportation budget, middle school and high school athletics expenditures and district office support programs.The cuts and reallocations to the 2004-05 general fund budget total $1.4 million. The funds will cover a $600,000 funding shortfall, mostly from the state, and a 30 percent insurance premium increase.In other news, the school board filled two administrative positions at Wednesday night’s meeting.A district hiring panel selected Sierra Mountain Middle School Vice Principal Susan Phebus to take over for Principal Don Beno next school year at the new Alder Creek Middle School. Last month Beno announced he would leave Tahoe Truckee Unified after 14 years with the district.Phebus is also the principal at Donner Trail School, and the school board has yet to decide what will happen with that position. Phebus offered to remain as principal at Donner Trail.Jessamy Lasher, currently the principal at Kings Beach Elementary School, will take over as the director of curriculum and instruction. Lasher will be replacing outgoing director Ruta Krusa, whose contract was not renewed by the school board for the 2004-05 school year.