Nampa superintendent confident district will have money to get through school year

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by Scott Evans

NWCN.com

Posted on December 6, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 9:24 AM

NAMPA -- Getting back on track, that's the goal of the new superintendent of the Nampa School District, and that is not going to be an easy task.

The district is short over $4 million, and there's a chance it won't have enough money to get to the end of its fiscal year. This is a serious issue that the new superintendent is just beginning to tackle.

We sat down with Dr. Tom Michaelson Thursday for his first one-on-one TV interview since taking over and he talked about his plans to get the district back in the black.

Dr. Michaelson says he's looking at the district's financial troubles in as positive of a way that he can. But if the district cannot get things together, and fast, it won't be the only ones short on money.

For a man who just entered retirement and is fairly new to Nampa, one has to ask, why take a job with a district facing serious financial problems.

"I didn't know the depth at that time,” Michaelson said. “But I thought, well, if I'm the type of guy with my experience and with my credentials, I could help out, then I certainly would want to provide that opportunity to work together with folks that want to solve the problem together.

Michaelson is a retired superintendent from California. He is no stranger to heading a district with money trouble.

"The depths of the problems were about similar and we did set up similar types of patterns and problems and processes to get through that problem," said Michaelson.

In Nampa, the problem is climbing out of a $4.3 million hole discovered around 10 months ago. That's created problems throughout the district.

Classrooms and teachers have to get creative since there's no money to buy paper. There's also the reality that there's not enough money to get the district through the current fiscal year. That means teachers and venders won't get paid.

But the district is not sitting idle. It's looking at taking out a loan to get them through the year. Michaelson thinks that will happen.

"I'm going to look positively on it regardless of what the situation is," said Michaelson.

He's also working on formulating a committee that will decide and prioritize cuts.

"We don't know about the timeline yet on that, part of that depends on the size of the mountain that we have to climb, but I think we can certainly set in place steps to adequately get to our goals of financial stability," said Michaelson.

Realistically, Michaelson says it's going to take time to get the district back to sure financial footing - somewhere between 18 and 24 months.

At the center of all of this is the students and their education. Michaelson says they have and will continue to put an emphasis on cuts that will not affect learning, teachers and what's happening in the classroom.

At the same time, he says people are going to have to do a little give and take.

The discussion to find solutions continues Tuesday night at the district's school board meeting. There the board could make some decisions on cuts or options for additional revenue.

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