The Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors made a $1.26 million commitment to the Marysville School District on Thursday, Feb. 10, to fund educational programs that had fallen victim to the legislature's budget axe.
The grant consists of $860,000 in immediate funding, followed by four quarterly payments beginning March 2011.
Following an unprecedented mid-year budget reduction by the state legislature-a take-back of funding already promised by the state--the Marysville School Board was forced to cut about $2 million from its current year's budget. Immediately, the board voted to suspend out-of-district travel, lower its ending fund balance, reduce building supply budgets by an additional 18 percent, and restrict hiring and overtime pay. In addition, with the loss of voter-approved funding for Initiative 728 and 732, the district eliminated extended-day educational programs, professional development activities, and postponed the planned purchase of math and science textbooks and the start of varsity sports at Getchell High School.
As the district shared the grim news with the community, Tulalip tribal leaders began to discuss ways to provide some help.
"We knew if there was a way to help, we would like to stand up and be part of our larger community that helps out those in need," said Mel Sheldon, chairman of the Tribes' Board of Directors.
Initially, the Tulalip board talked about providing funding for the varsity sports program at the new high school, an issue that has struck a chord with many parents and student athletes.
"Our original intention was to fund Getchell sports," said board member Glen Gobin, "but as we looked deeper, it very quickly became apparent that the money needed to go to educational needs."
The Tulalip board started the discussion with the school district with a plan to provide about $400,000. School administrators compiled a wish list of $1.26 million in program funding, assuming that the Tribes would choose from among the options. Instead, the 7-member Tulalip board unanimously agreed to take on the entire list.
The current commitment is in addition to the Tribes' ongoing support of education initiatives, which amounts to about $1.8 million annually.
Grant funds are specifically targeted to purchase new science curriculum and professional development for middle schools; new math text books and materials, professional development and two math coaches; a new data system, developed by the Burlington-Edison School District, to track and analyze student achievement and corrective processes; all-day kindergarten classes and reduction in class sizes at Tulalip and Quil Ceda elementary schools; and program funding to foster respect and awareness of diverse cultures among staff members. The grant also directs $10,000 for C-squad sports in the district.
"In these tough economic times, we are thankful that our successful tribal business ventures allow us to provide these critical resources for our members and the entire community," said Sheldon.
While Marysville School District officials were elated by the unexpected gift, superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland noted that it doesn't eliminate the need for more difficult financial decisions by the district.
"We really need to know what the legislature is doing so we can complete the reductions needed in this year's budget," said Nyland. "We're still expecting another $400,000 to $650,000 in mid-year cuts from the state."
School board members also expressed their gratitude for the Tulalip Tribes' donation.
"I was amazed at the generosity," said board member Chris Nation. "They have always been good partners and good supporters for our schools, but this level of support is incredible, and both needed and appreciated."
Board president Cindy Erickson agreed, "This gift means so much to our students and staff. Education wouldn't be the same in our community without [the Tribes'] support."
The next scheduled school board meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 in the district's board room, 4220-80th St. NE. Anticipated agenda items include staff furloughs, reducing the ending balance, and a delay in Marysville Getchell varsity sports programs.
For more information, visit www.msvl.k12.wa.us.
Do you know an outstanding local student?
We need your help to profile exceptional local teens in the Student Spotlight feature.
Send us your suggestions for young people who are making a difference in the community, their church or at school, those with unusual hobbies or talents, the students who excel at academics or athletics. We want to shine a spotlight on their achievements!