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'Picture Rockwood' Process Frames Future, $6.6M Projected Deficit

Now through Dec. 14, Rockwood School District taxpayers have opportunity to share feedback via telephone survey or online feedback form regarding final summaries chosen to guide district's future strategic direction.

The future direction of Missouri's third largest school district now pivots around two visionary "pictures," which actually are recaps of outcomes based on specific assumptions, revenues and expenditures. A multimonth community engagement process to shape Rockwood School District's strategies moving forward has peaked, and district officials will host the final workshop of the process during the first week of January as they move from Phase 1 to 2 of this overall project.

Details of the so-called district "pictures" were supposed to capture broad strategies, not specific action plans, said Rockwood representatives when the project was initiated in October, after Rockwood Board of Education directors approved the project in July.

Background information, documents and videos can be viewed on the distict's webpages devoted to this project. Several hundred community citizens and Rockwood parents helped narrow eight possible "strategic pictures" down to two conceptual ones. The last two recaps were designated as Apple and Orange to avoid any confusion of biases, and they were developed based on the most preferred pictures from Workshop 3.

The goal of attendees at Workshop 4 held Nov. 13 and 15 was to select the "most preferred" and "preferred" picture between the Apple and Orange district summaries.

Picture Apple:  Assumes referendum tax rate increase of 97 cents; also assumes $39 million bond issue to cover capital expenditures and facilities, maintenance and equipment.

  • executes full implementation of curriculum
  • provides tuition-free, full-day kindergarten
  • improves the ability to recruit and retain staff by increasing Rockwood salaries to the median of St. Louis County public schools
  • reduces class size by adding teachers
  • allocates funds for technology in the district's operating budget
  • allows BYOD (bring your own devices) at all levels

Picture Orange:  Assumes referedum tax increase of $1.13; also assumes no bond issue for capital improvements so costs for facilities, maintenance and equipment are included in the regular operating budget. 

  • also includes five of the six attributes reflected in the Apple photo—the component not included is free full-day kindergarten.

District officials indicated the Orange version would have an impact on homeowners of a house valued at $200,000 to the tune of $35.88 per month or $430 a year. In contrast, the Apple version would be $30.60 per month or $370 per year.

Tim Rooney, Rockwood's chief financial officer, said the 2013-2014 budget decisions in January are set up as Track 1 and Track 2. He said all budget requests from schools and departments were submitted during October through November; they were done on a zero-based budget approach.

"The Cabinet (Rockwood senior administrators who report directly to Superintendent Bruce Borchers) is meeting twice a week to go through to prioritize those budget items," said Rooney.

He said they plan to introduce reductions at the Dec. 6 board of education meeting, based on the original $6.6 million projected deficit.

Rooney said feedback was being gathered as part of the Picture Rockwood process regarding a "Proposition Priority," which translates into whether it is time for Rockwood taxpayers to consider a tax levy or bond initiative—again.

He said the two budget tracks are necessary to cover the various options:  "Whether Rockwood board of education directors recommend a tax increase in April, or not. Or if they recomend one and it fails, we have to proceed with reductions."

Community groups now interested in meeting with the 20-member Picture Rockwood Facilitating Team assembled for this project should send an email to PictureRockowod@rockwood.k12.mo.us

The final Picture Rockwood workshops—rescheduled from Dec. 4 and 6—will be held Jan. 7 at the Administrative Annex in Eureka:

  • Morning Workshop:  9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.
  • Evening Workshop:  7-9 p.m.

During Workshop 5, residents will have the opportunity to share their feedback prior to the Facilitating Team's final recommendation to the Board of Education.

During this upcoming phase 2, representatives will take the most recent findings "on the road," said Rockwood's Chief Communications Officer Kim Cranston. She said they plan to use four main methods to communicate:

  1. small groups (chambers of commerce, subdivision groups, Kwanis clubs, religious sectors, PTO presidents, Rockwood booster clubs, private and parochial school leaders)
  2. mass media (ads, spots on online news sources) as well as Rockwood principals using the automated voice notification system
  3. online (Rockwood eNews, the district's Facebook page, and feedback form available online, which can be downloaded and mailed instead); the form also will be available in a paper form at all district locations and it can be faxed
  4. print media (the district's newsletter is mailed three times a year to every single mail address in the district—one is slated for December).

"We want people to be aware of, understand and to react to how the pictures were developed, what the pictures are," said Cranston. "We want to know what you think, and we're open to ideas about how to embellish Phase 2."

In addition to the other forms of gathering feedback, Cranston said a random phone survey will be conducted during the second week of December.

Eileen Tyrrell November 30, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Mike: "Pay to play instead of pay to learn". You would might be surprised at how many parents of athletes are more than willing to pay to play. It would even the playing field for all sports and activities, especially the high school level. According to Rockwood's CFO the district (aka taxpayers) spend $1.8 million a year on extra curricular activities. At Workshop 2, when I brought up the idea of making all extra curricular activities a pay-to-play/self-funded entity, similar to Rockwood Community Education, his response was "I wouldn't want to burden the taxpayer with that cost". When I shared his response with the other citizens at my table, the consensus was, "but you will make us pay for full-time Kindergarten". We put the self-funded/pay-to-play idea on our "picture". However, it didn't end up on the apple or orange picture.
Pam Lieber November 30, 2012 at 02:12 PM
The fact that Rockwood not only charges for full day Kindergarten BUT just INCREASED the tuition AGAIN when so many other districts are offering it for free is just appalling! It is very telling as to what our School Board and Borchers really value.....NOT what's in the best interest for the kids! Parkway, Mellville have free kindergarten just to name a few. It has been proven that full day Kindergarten is a HUGE benefit to learning.......isn't that suppose to be first and foremost?? To them it's about outdoor concession stands......outdoor bathrooms....fancy libraries...and increased pay to the administrators! I am not voting yes for ANY tax increases or bond issues until this district decides to FOCUS on the kids and get their priorities in order!!
PaulRevere November 30, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Not a resident, but suggest all Rockwood concerned parents become informed of "all the Facts", how much money your public schools are costing. THE ADD'L $430 per year is "NOT TRUE". Your Automobile taxes will also be increased. Every Business located in Rockwood District will pay almost 1.5 times more on their real estate and auto taxes. (Hidden school Tax!) Extra business taxes on commercial Real property "WILL" be passed on to every Homeowner as Higher prices for milk , clothing, Hair stylist, pizza, restaurants. Example , a shopping mall might be valued at 1million dollars. They would pay add'l taxes of 7 Times your Homes new tax. (That is $430 X 7 = approx $3,000 more) Rockwood schools already cost over $9,500 for each child going to public school. That is absurd. Most non-public schools can educate your child for much less than that. It's easy for the school board to keep this quiet, but the public should demand to know how much Taxes our Businesses will have to pay with "apple" or Orange" I would urge , this is an appropriate time to ask for a new direction in Pay Structure. You can do it. Parents of children who attend non-public schools should also weigh in. Public school costs inordinately benefit Teacher wages and pensions at the expense of the Residents who earn less than 50%. PubSchool spends avg70cents for teachers & 30cents for children. Time to vote Pay decreases, not rate increases. YOU eventually Pay for 100% of new taxes. That's not "Free PS"?
KM Kramer December 02, 2012 at 12:08 AM
I propose the "Grapefruit" picture - while it may be bitter to some, it is far more realistic than thinking RSD is going to pass a tax rate increase in this economic climate. The plan would- -Continue the current curriculum with dept. chairs/their designate attending the summer workshops, bringing what they learned to update the curriculum. - Enrollment is naturally declining - reduce class sizes through re-distribution of teachers -Increase tuition for Full-Day Kindergarten to a break-even level -Re-think technology expenditures, cut expenditures on technology that is not used/seldom used in the classroom (whiteboards) and technology that is out-dated before implemented. Work a purchase agreement with a computer company to be able to sell computers to students who don't have their own at/near cost - invest in technology for students to do lesson plans on line. -Assumes NO tax increase; cut unnecessary expenses of board retreats/trips, attendance by administration to conventions, hiring of overpaid consultants. Tighten bidding process on all items purchased by the district. Get creative - the district represents a substantial number of households, more than many towns, and a substantial pool for affinity marketing and for advertising to -Reduce the operating budget short term by $1 million dollars -Charge fees for after school and extra curricular activities. Improve sports and academic competitive teams - seek funding for the teams from suppliers, manufacturers.
Eileen Tyrrell December 02, 2012 at 02:56 AM
KM all good solutions and worthy for our elected Board of Education to explore. Please send them via email directely to your elected officials on the Board of Education. A tax increase, of any kind, is not good in this economy. Currently Rockwood receives approximately 60% of our property taxes and 52% of our personal property taxes. If you would have brought these solutions to the table at a Picture Rockwood Workshop, the only way they would have made it "on your groups pictures" is if you got a consensus from other members at your table. The other option is to bring them to the January 7th workshop and see what happens.

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