Even in budget crisis, Ashland schools remain strong

The Ashland School District faces its greatest financial threat in memory. At the same time, our students continue to excel in every area. All our schools are well above state averages on benchmarks in academic tests. We just set a record-low high school dropout rate: 1.7 percent. We have extraordinary teachers, inquisitive and hard-working students, engaged parents and as supportive a community as any district could hope for. This is the foundation which keeps our schools exceptional. The "Ashland Advantage" is real, and it is still strong.

The current collapse in revenue to the state of Oregon has created the most severe budget crisis in our history. State money coming to our schools will be reduced by at least 15 percent. Because of this, each Oregon school district's budget will have to be accordingly reduced, and here in Ashland, our superintendent and business manager have been working literally night and day to adjust next year's budget to meet the expected reduction in revenue. They have chosen a proactive and open approach to this budget crunch.

Last December, the administrative team showed leadership by accepting a complete pay freeze for the next two years. Over the past few months, cuts have been made to every program and across every group in all our schools. Our goal remains to keep the excellence of Ashland schools while staying realistic about the diminished revenues we will receive.

There are many ways you can personally help our schools get through this financial crisis. Giving a donation of any amount to the Ashland Schools Foundation helps tremendously. Give our state legislators a call or send them an email to let them know you believe that education in Oregon is a top priority.

You can speak to members of the State Ways and Means committee (chaired by our own House Representative Peter Buckley) on April 30 at 5:30 p.m. in the Rogue River Room of Southern Oregon University's Stevenson Union. Finally, call your child's principal and volunteer to help at school.

The Ashland School Board is confident that with the continued support of our community, our district will remain strong. We will move into the future with continued commitment to providing our students the absolute best education we can offer.

The Ashland School District Board of Directors is made up of Ruth Alexander, Mat Marr, Keith Massie, Heidi Parker and Amy Patton.

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