The Boulder Valley school board on Tuesday approved next school year’s $394 million operating budget in a 4-3 vote, adding more services for dyslexic students and school counselors at elementary schools.
The board also voted unanimously to approve salary increases for administrators and professional staff members, but didn’t approve the handbook that includes salary ranges.
Instead, the board directed the interim superintendent to commission a market salary survey and recommend revisions to the handbook, including potential revisions to salary ranges.
The administrative salary increase approved for the next school year was a standard 2.8 percent cost-of-living raise, plus a 2 percent raise for experience.
The highest priority identified by schools was to hire elementary school counselors. Now, the district only has counselors at middle and high schools.
The budget includes $1.3 million to hire 10 elementary counselors, two behavioral health advocates and a half-time coordinator. Each counselor is expected to serve multiple schools.
While board members agreed on adding elementary counselors, they didn’t agree on how much money to spend to support students with dyslexia.
Parents of students with dyslexia have been regulars at school board meetings, lobbying for $1.2 million to cover general education materials, awareness training for all teachers, professional development for interventions and a screening tool.
The budget, however, included $750,000 for targeted interventions for dyslexic students and teacher training, up from the $500,000 originally proposed.
Staff members also didn’t recommend a screening tool designed specifically to identify students with dyslexia. Instead, district officials said, they plan to better use an existing assessment to screen students.
Board member Shelly Benford proposed an amendment to use $450,000 from a $900,000 ending fund balance being held in reserve to increase the amount for dyslexia support to $1.2 million.
“This is a matter of priorities,” she said. “I would really like this board to make this a priority.”
But board member Tina Marquis said she wanted to stick with the staff recommendation, which includes hiring a consultant to work collaboratively with district staff members and parents of dyslexic students to develop a plan.
If the consultant recommends spending more money, then the district could tap into the $900,000 reserve, she said.
“Staff and community haven’t come together,” she said. “We need to go through this with some vision of success that we share. I feel pretty strongly that we have to get somewhere together.”
Benford’s motion failed 4-3.
Benford and the other two board members who voted for her motion, Richard Garcia and Tom Miers, then voted “no” on the original budget.
Next year’s budget is based on enrollment increasing by about 190 students, with state per-pupil funding increasing by $240 a student, to $7,588.
Adding to the revenue side, Boulder Valley voters in November approved an operational tax increase, freeing up money that otherwise would be spent on operational services and bolstering the budget.
On the expenses side, there’s a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase for employees, plus increases for experience and additional education for teachers.
The district is keeping $2 million in reserve to address class size issues that come up after the school year starts. District staff members also committed to class size caps for core classes for ninth- and 10th-graders.
Then there’s about $2.3 million to open Meadowlark, a new PK-8 in Erie, and $1 million to hire more special education staff members.
Districtwide, there’s $2.8 million for new learning materials for K-5 language arts in the general classroom that include phonological awareness and phonics kits, plus $100,000 for teacher training in English language development.
The board also set aside $100,000 for a national superintendent search to replace Bruce Messinger, who was fired in May over an unspecified personnel issue. Cindy Stevenson, former Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent, is filling in as interim superintendent.
Funding requests from two outside school readiness programs — the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition’s PASO program and the Community Foundation of Boulder County’s ELPASO program — didn’t make the cut.
In other business, the school board hired Mike Gradoz as the interim human resources assistant superintendent.
Gradoz, senior director of professional learning at The Colorado Education Initiative, previously worked at the Colorado Department of Education and as a human resources director in the St. Vrain Valley School District.
He replaces Shelly Landgraf, who resigned on May 25.
The board also approved re-hiring Sandy Ripplinger, the assistant superintendent of elementary school leadership.
Ripplinger recently retired, but now will continue in her position for the next year under a “110” plan, allowing her to work 110 days without compromising her retirement benefits.