FLORENCE — All three Florence district high schools will hold graduation on the same night next year.
Superintendent Chris Knutsen said the move will make principals happy, as separating the graduation days meant some schools had to have their ceremonies before the last day of class.
“It’s rather difficult to run school when graduation is over,” he said.
This past May, Florence High School and San Tan Foothills High School both had their graduation ceremonies on the same day, while Poston Butte High School graduates had a night of their own. On such occasions, school board members usually get split between the schools.
The idea has been discussed before, but the school board made it official at its June 11 meeting at the district office in Florence. The board also approved a separate revision to the school calendar that specifies graduation night on Thursday, May 21, 2020.
The board also voted to curtail the number of late buses it will offer in the new school year, which is expected to save the district more than $110,000 next year. Last year the district ran buses on 15 late routes each day following after-school activities, even though some of these buses had as few as four passengers. On average, the amount of vacant space was 85 percent and it cost the district $197,625 to provide this service, according to a presentation by district Transportation Director Shannon Weber.
The board voted to provide late routes at the high schools only from Mondays to Thursdays. Fridays are very light on ridership and driver availability due to athletic trips and events, Weber told the board. Late routes are far less common in neighboring districts, with Apache Junction, Higley, J.O. Combs and Queen Creek providing none.
The board approved the publication of its expenditure budget for the new fiscal year. District Business Manager Beverly Myers told the board the district’s “average daily membership” is currently expected to be 9,907. The number is not a big increase because the district is losing children in the K-3 grades, but enrollment continues to grow in higher grades.
The average teacher salary in the district will be $51,752, compared to $49,507 in the old year.
The new budget also includes four additional deans. Knutsen said the district cut positions like those approximately 10 years ago during the recession. But a principal who is busy with dean or assistant principal duties has less time to meet with parents and do other tasks of a principal, Knutsen said. Circle Cross Ranch and Skyline Ranch K-8 schools recently shared a dean but will now have their own dean, and Magma Ranch, Copper Basin and Florence K-8 schools will each also have a dean.
The district will also sell its last $10 million in voter-approved bonds for capital purchases and projects. The district’s voters approved a $25 million bond issue almost two years ago.
The board also heard a presentation from Randi Fielding, dean at Circle Cross Ranch K-8, about national board certification for teachers. This is a voluntary advanced certification which inspires teachers to continue their growth and recognizes accomplished teaching, she told the board. Some teachers say it is more meaningful to them than a master’s degree, she said.
Perhaps 10 teachers are interested in pursuing certification in the upcoming school year. Certification takes a minimum of one full academic year and can take as long as five years. Most teachers complete it in three years, Fielding told the board. It costs $2,000, but certified teachers earn an additional $3,000 per year.