School superintendent speaks to home builders
By Lee Grace
Dr. George Kazanas, superintendent of Wichita Falls ISD, discussed the school budget, future goals, and problems encountered during the present economy with the members of the North Texas Home Builders Association during the May luncheon held Thursday, May 5, at the Wellington Convention Center.
Kazanas, who received his undergraduate and master’s degree from Baylor University and his Ed.D from Tarleton State University, said the administration and teachers are working hard to deal with the many problems caused by the state and national economic malaise.
He said the school system enrollment is holding steady at 14,630 students. Of that total, 30 percent is Hispanic, while black students represent 20 percent of the total. Sixty percent of the students qualify for the free-reduced lunch program. He noted that figure was slightly above the state-wide average of 55 percent.
While the 2006 bond program allowed the building of two new elementary schools (and the closing of two schools), any future bond programs will probably deal with secondary schools.
While the school system budget is approximately $134 million, WFISD is currently facing a potential $6 million to $11.4 million shortfall from the state legislature, though the final bill has yet to pass.
Dr. Kazanas said therefore, they have to plan to accommodate an $11.4 million shortfall. “Since the state budget still has not been approved, there is a strong possibility of a special session.”
He said the $28 billion shortfall facing the Texas Legislature not only affects school systems throughout the state, but also nursing homes, higher education, and transportation.
He said since 80 percent of the WFISD budget concerns personnel, they are looking are several options including reductions in salaries, a salary freeze, reductions in health care contributions, elimination of programs, and cuts in maintenance, facilities, support areas, and personnel.
He added, “We still feel like we are in a position to provide a quality education to our students.”
In the future, they will look at the facility needs including number of junior high and high schools. “We are not considering any school closings for the coming school year. However, we will be forming a Facility Action Committee to look at secondary schools.”
As the city’s second largest employer (behind Sheppard Air Force Base), the WFISD employs more than 2,000 persons. “We are an industry of service,” he stressed. “Our people are our greatest resource.”
Dr. Kazanas noted that one indication of the quality education provided by the WFISD is that more than 40 senior students received more than $10 million in scholarships for the upcoming school year.
In other business, association president Doug McCulloch recognized the members with May birthdays. He also reminded everyone about the upcoming Parade of Homes scheduled for June 4 through June 12. The kickoff luncheon is set for June 3 at Landmark Title Company.