School Board approves kindergarten plan

An all-day, every-day kindergarten program in the Princeton School District became reality March 12 with a school board vote on a kindergarten financing package.
The finance committee, comprised of Jeremy Miller, Eric Minks and Chuck Nagle, brought a $350,000 plan to the full board that included taking $200,000 from a district savings account for school fixtures, furnishings and equipment, and another $150,000 from the general fund earmarked for basic operations of the school district, which includes the salaries of teachers, custodians and paraprofessionals, and items such as utilities.
School administrators will be taking a hard look at the staffing levels in its four school buildings and could be looking at staff reductions to help fund the needs of the new kindergarten program.
The measure passed on a 6-1 vote, with Nagle casting the dissenting vote.
Families who had already registered for the district’s two every-other-day sessions have been notified that their children will be attending all-day, every-day kindergarten in the fall of 2013, said Gwen Anderson, director of Community Education and Early Childhood Family Education. People who had registered and paid tuition for the district’s “Kindergarten-Plus” program have also been contacted, Anderson said.
“We’ve torn up their checks,” Anderson said.
“I absolutely support all-day, every-day kindergarten. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised we don’t have it,” Nagle said.
“However, we’re looking at having a deficit this year. I believe we should have a plan for a balanced budget,” he said.
It’s irresponsible to spend $350,000 without a plan, when the school district is projecting a deficit, Nagle said.
The kindergarten plan received glowing praise from other school board members.
“I think this is absolutely fantastic we moved this fast to meet the needs of the families in our school district,” school board member Craig Johnson said.
“This is a huge stride in meeting the mission statement and goals of this district and I hope we can continue on this path,” Johnson said.
School board member Howard Vaillancourt had a simple question for his fellow school board members.
“Is $350,000 enough?”
School district business manager Michelle Czech assured Vaillancourt and the board that $350,000 was enough to launch the kindergarten program.
School board members Chad Young and Deb Ulm both shared the opinion that moving forward on the kindergarten program was a good move because parents are in the process of making fall plans for their future kindergartners.
“People are looking ahead,” Ulm said.
Board member Eric Minks likened the program to baseball and the “Field of Dreams.”
“Build it and they will come,” Minks said.
The school board is banking on all-day, every-day kindergarten halting a pattern of declining enrollment. The lack of an all-day, every-day kindergarten program has been attributed in part to a decline in student enrollment in the district. School board members and administrators believe the program plays a major roll in the future health of the school district.
“It’s a good thing for the kids and a long-term strategy for improving our enrollment,” Interim Superintendent Julia Espe said of all-day, every-day kindergarten earlier in the day on March 12 at a finance committee meeting where the final financing plan was crafted.
The finance committee met with Espe and Czech for a combined four hours on March 7 and March 12, to hash out the financing proposal brought to the board.