‘This has to be the best year yet’; State of Education looks at ups, downs of current school year
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – South Lake Tahoe residents got a glimpse of the current school at the State of Education address hosted by the Tahoe Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Todd Cutler addressed the live and virtual audience during the event stating, “this has to be the best year yet.”
“We’ve had a lot of challenges and tough times in the past few years that we’ve had to persevere through, be strong through and I’m really proud of what we’ve done in that. But let’s make this the best year yet,” Cutler said.
He addressed teachers prior to the start of school and told them the way they are going to make this the best year is by supporting everybody.
While there has been controversy in school boards nationwide, even some close to home, Cutler said he’s proud to work for and with the LTUSD Board of Directors, stating they aren’t divisive and they work collaboratively.
The goal the board has set for the school year is to, “develop a strong districtwide team that builds a culture of shared leadership and ownership of all student outcomes.”
Priorities within that goal include student preparation and performance, culture and engagement, professional growth and learning and wellness, which includes creating an environment that is safe and allows students to be who they are.
While Cutler is hopeful for the year, he did talk about budget challenges the district is facing.
Decreasing enrollment has led to cuts in budget. Decreasing enrollment also often leads to decreased staffing due to required staff to student ratios.
Cutler told the Tribune following the address that the district aims to never layoff teachers so if the teacher to student ratio is too high, they’ll either offer retirement incentives or just not fill a position after a teacher leaves.
This year, the district is almost fully staffed. Cutler told the Tribune the district monitors ratios during the first two weeks of school and this year, they decided they need to add an additional elementary school teacher.
Other budget issues include an increase in operating expenses and facility damage. A large portion of the repair budget last year went to repairing potholes and damage caused by the significant winter.
However, the district does have a line item in the budget for Developer Fees, which come from new home construction or remodel fees homeowners in South Lake Tahoe are required to pay. Those fees can only be used for classroom expenses, so they can’t be used to repair buildings.
The district is using those funds to buy new furniture for the classrooms.
“Believe it or not, furniture technology has changed over the years,” Cutler said.
He told the Tribune they have several model classrooms piloting the new furniture. He said the chairs are no longer the hard plastic chairs but are now more ergonomically designed, can rock back and forth, for students who have a hard time sitting and can swivel. The desks are more movable to allow for groups to be easily formed or for the classroom to be quickly rearranged.
This fall, the South Tahoe High School library will be closed for about two months as the inside gets cleaned up and modernized. That will be done using developer fees, as well.
Following Cutler’s address, Adam Eynon, Lake Tahoe Community College’s Dual Enrollment Grant Manager discussed the dual enrollment program.
The program allows students at the High School to take classes that count towards college credit. The program is free to students so Eynon said studies show that it makes low income students more likely to attend college if they can get several credits for free.
He said that Dual Enrollment is more accessible than Advanced Placement courses which can put additional mental strain on students and has a costly test students must take in order to get credits.
“School should not be a competition,” Eynon said when discussing AP.
The classes must be taught by a college accredited teacher so LTCC and LTUSD teachers co-teach the classes.
During the 2022/23 school year, there were 757 Dual Enrollment courses enrolled in.
To watch the whole State of Education Address, go to https://tahoechamber.org/.
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