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Nome School Board Focuses on Budget Challenges

Last night’s Board of Education Meeting at Nome Elementary School touched on a wide array of topics, everything from recognizing end of the year accomplishments to lamenting low standardized test results. But the real focus was money. Or lack thereof.

After a difficult meeting between the Board of Ed and Nome Common Council Monday evening, the school district is addressing a budget shortfall that keeps growing.

“I’m extremely concerned about the upcoming budget for Nome Public Schools, and what that’s going to mean to be able to provide a quality education to our kids,” said board member Barb Nickels.

Nickels said the district’s expenses keep rising even as funding levels have stayed the same.

“This comes directly along with the high cost of living in Nome, and we cannot continue to provide quality education of funding that we’ve received the last few years.”

Simply put: the same amount of money doesn’t stretch as far.

At one point in the meeting, the likely prospect staff reductions if city funding stays flat was brought up.

“It’s going to hit us in the classroom—we’re going to be laying off teachers, we’re going to be laying off certified staff,” Nickels said. “If we cannot work with the city for them to increase funding.”

It isn’t that the board didn’t plan for the possibility of a low funding amount. But instead that the worse-case-scenario budget everyone hoped to avoid looks increasingly likely.

The city is facing it’s own financial pressure to keep services funded amid shrinking revenues and state aid. But as Board members pointed out, those same pressures hit Nome Public Schools, as well.

As the school year winds down, principals, teachers, and board members had plenty of praise for activities going on across the district. The meeting itself started on a sad but celebratory note, as three retiring educators—Marie Saclamana, Nancy Tungwenuk, and Mari Lammer—were honored for more than 60 years of combined service.

The Nome-Beltz graduation is scheduled for the Thursday, May 22nd at 6 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.