Steve Montgomery, West Point School District superintendent, gave a briefing Monday to the Bright Horizons/Partners in Education about goals the district is meeting and expectations for the district in the future.
From this year's budget cuts, Montgomery said other than Fifth Street Elementary losing its choral teacher, the district has not had to let go of any more teachers or programs in the schools. He said one of the main things that was saved was the arts program, which he is excited about, and encouraged partners to continue to support arts in the schools.
Montgomery also gave a briefing on the building of a Restart Center, a project the district has been working on for over a year, and informed partners that the district has received stimulus funds to begin this project.
The Restart Center will replace West Side School, but will not be called an alternative school. Montgomery said he challenged teachers at West Side to come up with a name for the school that represents the school's mission. Montgomery said it is important for the school's name to reflect positivity since many positive results are coming from the students who are currently attending or previously attended West Side.
“Our goal is to get these students in there and out, and restarting in the regular school as quickly as possible, and we have done that over the last few years,” Montgomery said. “The five years I've been here, we've really changed that school to where we were averaging about 120 students over there, and now we're averaging about 55.”
Montgomery said West Side has been in the need of repair or replacement for quite some time, and rebuilding the school is the right direction to go.
“There are numerous problems with that building,” Montgomery said. “To fix that building would be more than building a new one.”
The school district will begin accepting bids soon for the building of the new Restart Center, and Montgomery said hopefully in January the building of the Restart Center can get underway.
Montgomery said the state legislators are doing an excellent job of helping educational institutes receive the support they need to improve, but hopes that state leaders can push a little harder in helping schools avoid more cuts in the future.
“I know the economy is down and when the money is not there, they can't give it to us, but when you read... the statement that K12 is not going to take any cuts- that's not true,” Montgomery said. “If they say we're going to fund K12 like we did last year, that's a cut. That adds up to about a 16 percent cut last year and this year.”
The West Point school district took a 14 percent cut in 2009 to prepare for this year, and Montgomery said because of that preparation, he doesn't foresee any teacher layoffs. Because budget cuts are affecting students as well, Montgomery said the goal is to get back to where the district was as soon as possible and help students bring the district to a higher level of achievement.
“I've always said, you can't expect more in academic test scores when you're cutting the budget,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery, who will be retiring next June, reflected on his time as superintendent of West Point's schools. One of his regrets is not getting to build a new high school that he said is greatly needed.
“That was one of my ten year goals,” Montgomery said. “We need the room. Maybe one day when the economy picks up, we'll be able to pass that bond issue and build a new high school.”