Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

Newly appointed Grove Superintendent Sandy Harper faces a challenging first year amid substantial budget cuts, new one-way streets and new bus routes.

“It’s stressful to start my first year with budget cuts,” she said. “But a lot of good things are happening despite the budget.”

Harper explained that the State of Oklahoma has cut its public school budget by 11.8 percent, which translates to a loss of $617,000 in funding for Grove Schools.

“It’s not going to be great – everything is very tight,” she said.

Harper said the school is reining in spending in every possible area. This year, instead of allowing each school site to order its own supplies, the school consolidated all supplies and ordered them from one supplier to get a better price.

In addition, Harper said school officials would be keeping a close watch on lights and air conditioning in an effort to reduce utility costs. And substitute teachers will not be called unless it is absolutely necessary.

“We won’t sacrifice the quality of the education our students receive, but if someone can fill in, we won’t be calling substitutes,” Harper said.

Perhaps the two largest impacts of the reduced budget have been the cutting back of bus routes and the laying off of 21 teachers.

“Two additional teachers gave notice, so that was a total of 23,” Harper said.

She noted that approximately ten of the teachers who were laid off were rehired.

However, that still leaves the school system with 13 less teachers than it had last year.

And school buses will now be stopping at designated community stops (see inset), rather than picking up students who live within one and one-half miles of the school in front of their homes.

“We will have someone from the staff overseeing the new stops to make sure everything is working,” Harper said. “If it doesn’t work out we will change it.”

She noted that the rumors about there no longer being buses to daycares were not true.

“We have provided a bus and the daycares will donate fuel,” she explained.

Despite all the obstacles she faces, Harper prefers to look on the positive side.

“The educators we have are excellent and we live in a truly wonderful community,” she said.

She noted that the Grove Education Foundation For Excellence has stepped up and donated $26,700 to the schools. That money will be used to buy much-needed equipment.

Meanwhile, Harper said parents might find the new one-way streets around the school a bit difficult to adjust to.

“Old habits die hard,” she said, noting that she has made a few wrong turns since the streets were changed. “It’s a transition for the community, but we believe in safety first.”

She said the construction projects are going well.

“We are adding on to every site on campus,” she said. “The old WPA building is down and we got some grass seed for that area, so it will look really nice.”

Harper said she foresees great things for Grove even though the school is currently facing a challenging time.

“I want Grove to be the best school in Oklahoma,” she said.