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The New Superintendent Faces the Same Budget Challenges

Photographer Aaron Dupske

Photographer Aaron Dupske

By Christopher St. Aubin

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This year, FHSD has a new superintendent, Mary Hendricks-Harris. She inherits this job at a time when the district has been running a deficit budget for the past year. With a new tax levy, Proposition Howell, on the ballot in November, FHSD is hopeful to make up for lost revenue in order to provide essential student services. FHSD and Hendricks-Harris face an eminent challenge in the coming months.

“Immediately it is certainly our financial situation,” Hendricks-Harris said. “So right now we have Proposition Howell that will be on the ballot in November that will help with that.”

Last August, Proposition Y was placed on the ballot. This was another tax levy that was larger than Proposition Howell by 30 cents per $100. The proposition was defeated as last year’s school year started. The money that the district was not able to obtain after the proposition failed directly affected students and school activities.

“Examples of that will be, right now we have a freeze on technology, we are not able to provide new textbooks in areas where curriculum has been updated, we have cut interventions for our students, we have cut some AP classes, we have cut extracurricular activities,” Hendricks-Harris said. “We need to put all those things in place in order to continue being a leading district.”

Before becoming the new superintendent, Hendricks-Harris worked closely with former superintendent Pam Sloan during the election season last year when Proposition Y was introduced.

“Having gone through an initial attempt at a tax levy, it is a learning process for anyone who is bringing about such a thing,” Principal Andy Downs said. “I think that is a perspective that [Hendricks-Harris] is able to bring that others have not been able to. When you have an opportunity to do something and reflect on it, that gives you perspective the next time you take on the same sort of task.”

FHN teacher Donna Malkmus has worked closely with Hendricks-Harris while Hendricks-Harris was the Chief Academic Officer of the school district. Malkmus is an officer for the teacher’s association in FHSD, so she has had many meetings with Hendricks-Harris.

“I think that the school board and Dr. Hendricks-Harris have both realized that in order to maintain high standards, we have to pass this tax levy… and I think she is a person who will work well with the school board and with the community, and I think she will do a fantastic job of that,” Malkmus said.

Proposition Howell is on the ballot on Nov. 8. FHSD is expecting an 80 percent voter turnout for that day because of the presidential election. To spread more information, FHSD is having various informational nights at the three high schools. The Proposition Howell information night at FHN is on Oct. 8 in the auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

“We want to provide the community with information on where we stand and where we go from here,” Hendricks-Harris said.

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The New Superintendent Faces the Same Budget Challenges