GRANGEVILLE – Todd Fiske, Superintendent of Mountain View School District, met with the Idaho County Commissioners during their regularly scheduled Nov. 23 meeting. A small group of interested citizens attended the meeting to listen to Fiske’s comments. He acknowledged the recent re-authorization of SRS (Secure Rural Schools) funding helps the school district.
“It seems to muddy the water, with what the need is,” Fiske explained. The district tries to focus SRS money toward building maintenance projects for its aging facilities.
Fiske said that he hopes to run a school levy in March, instead of May when it has been run in recent years. Knowing the financial situation earlier will help the board and staff to make decisions. Fiske is disappointed in the failure of last year’s levy.
“We survived on ESSER,” he said, referring to additional federal funds related to Covid-19.
Depending on levies, a large chunk of the budget is not the Mountain View district’s budget model, it is the State of Idaho’s model, according to Fiske. He explained that 84-85 percent of the school districts in Idaho routinely run school levies. Fiske encourages interested people to attend a Mountain View school district budget workshop meeting on Wednesday Dec. 8, 5:30 p.m. at the Grangeville High School Library.
“I’m a supporter of the supplemental levy,” Commissioner Skip Brandt said, explaining it gives an opportunity for the community to decide. “It gives the responsible citizen a chance to weigh in,” he said. Brandt acknowledged, “some people just don’t support public education.”
After Fiske described the challenge of hiring and retaining people to work at the district, Commissioner Ted Lindsley asked, “Is the school district willing to sweeten the pot, increasing salaries like we did in the county?” Lindsley said that teachers can have a lot of influence on a kid’s future.
“We don’t value them (teachers) like we should,” said Lindsley. Fiske agreed, citing Idaho’s rank every year in the five lowest teacher salaries in the country. “A four-year degree gets you $40,000,” said Fiske, referring to the state of Idaho’s starting salary for a teacher. Fiske questioned the ability of someone being able to afford a house in the area on that salary. Substitute teachers, bus drivers and paraprofessional staff are increasingly challenging to hire as well.
Another issue Fiske hears about is critical race theory. Fiske clarified, “Critical race theory is not taught here; it is not in Mountain View curriculum.”
Fiske described the challenge the district faces with three new trustees joining the five-member school board in January. In addition to the two new trustees elected in November, the board will appoint a third new trustee to replace zone 4 trustee Pam Reidlen, who resigned in October. Several candidates have applied for the seat, according to Fiske.
When the new school board trustees begin there will be a lot of work around board training, “a lot of baptism by fire” for them to learn the job and work together. In addition to the budget and a levy, there is a massive amount of policy to update, Fiske explained.
“I appreciate you coming over and opening that door,” said Brandt, who thanked Fiske for reaching out and meeting with the commissioners. He encouraged Fiske to get out in the community to explain what the school district is doing. Brandt acknowledged that, “we (commissioners) don’t always get out in the county and explain what we’re doing. We gave our employees a 10 percent raise this year.” Brandt suggested that a lack of information can lead to the spread of conspiracy theories.