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:
- small groups (chambers of commerce, subdivision groups, Kwanis clubs, religious sectors, PTO presidents, Rockwood booster clubs, private and parochial school leaders)
- mass media (ads, spots on online news sources) as well as Rockwood principals using the automated voice notification system
- 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
- 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.