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Kellogg schools face major cuts

by Nick Rotunno
| April 24, 2010 9:00 PM

KELLOGG - The Kellogg School District faces drastic cuts if a two-year, $2.78 million levy fails on Tuesday.

ROTC, band, choir, yearbook, football, volleyball, basketball and many other programs will be on the chopping block, said KSD Superintendent Sandra Pommerening. Some employees will lose their jobs or have their hours severely reduced.

"This is not put on as a scare tactic," Pommerening said gravely. "This is an actual financial situation."

A standing-room only crowd packed into the Kellogg Middle School gymnasium on Wednesday to hear the school board discuss the state's financial emergency for school districts, and review the budget reductions forced by the failure of last month's supplemental levy.

According to KSD, the district cannot maintain its current staff and programs without additional money. The state of Idaho is holding back funds, enrollment is declining, grant and stimulus resources are drying up, and costs are on the rise. When the $3.26 million levy was rejected in March, cuts were the only option.

More than a dozen KSD residents spoke at the meeting.

"Most of the young people are here tonight because they don't want to lose their sports," said Kellogg soccer and track coach Steve Mills. Some will go to other districts to play sports, he added, which would further reduce enrollment. Mills called upon the board to preserve the Kellogg sports programs, using whatever means necessary.

Scott Miller, who was hired to coach Kellogg wrestling but released when the program was cut, argued that strong athletic teams are the mark of a strong school.

"A successful school system has a successful athletic program," Miller said. "If we let (the cuts) happen, we become a bottom-of-the-barrel school. Let's get that special levy going. We're gonna get this one passed, and we're gonna start working immediately on getting the special one passed."

Miller was referring to an additional levy, only feasible if the April 27 levy passes, that could potentially reinstate the lost athletic programs. It's an idea that has been circulating, but the board will make no decisions until after April 27.

Jason Bonnicksen, pastor of American Lutheran Church, shifted the focus back to education.

"If you cut academics, what's your purpose of existing here?" he asked the board. "It needs to be academics first, sports second. If you lose your students, this valley is gonna lose. We have our degrees, we have our jobs. They don't."

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