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District head count down 98, but FTEs are up by 10



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October 09, 2013 - Count Day showed 98 less students attending Oxford Community Schools than last year, lowering the district's total to 5,590 pupils.

But Superintendent Dr. William Skilling said the number Full-Time-Equivalent (FTE) students is up by approximately 10 students.

"For our (state) funding, the FTEs are important, not the head count," Skilling said. "We greatly reduced our part-time students from last year who were in OVA (Oxford Virtual Academy). More OVA students as a percentage are full-time instead of part-time when compared with last year. This accounts for a lower overall head count, i.e. 98, but a higher overall FTE, i.e. 10."

Communications Coordinator Jenny Matteson explained whether a student is full-time or part-time determines how much funding the district receives for that student. "We receive a different amount from the state based on a student's FTE status. For example, we receive full state funding for one FTE, we receive half the funding for .5 FTE, a quarter for .25 FTE, etc," she said.

Matteson illustrated her point by discussing a hypothetical classroom of 100 kids where 50 are full-time and 50 are part-time.

"We receive funding for 75 full-time equivalency students from the state because the 50 part-time students only came to an equivalent of 25 full-time students," she said. "We only receive a partial FTE if a student is only taking one or two classes."

However, if there was a classroom of 100 kids and zero part-time students, the district would receive 100 full-time equivalency students from the state, which is currently set at $7,145 per pupil.

As for how much Oxford will receive this year from the state, the district won't know until it receives the state-audited FTE numbers in November, according to Matteson.

With regard to the head count at the five elementary schools, Clear Lake had 34 less students, Leonard had 34 less, Oxford Elementary had 28 less and Lakeville had nine less. However, Daniel Axford increased by 16 students.

At the upper levels, Oxford Middle School increased by 63 students and Oxford High School gained 71 students. Oxford's Early College program also increased by 19 students from last year.

"Our high school, middle school and early college increased 153 in student head count, while our kindergarten class decreased by 95 students," Skilling said. "The kindergarten class numbers tend to rise and fall with birth rates."

OVA is where the district took the biggest hit with a decrease of 96 students. However, this was not a surprise to the district. Skilling said they knew their numbers would fall some due to "severing ties with the Homeschool Connections for-profit organization."

"As a result of this experience, we have chosen to no longer partner with for-profit homeschool organizations. We will only partner with nonprofit homeschool groups where there is more accountability and transparency," he added. "Regardless of the enrollment impact, we had no choice but to take appropriate action and sever the relationship."

Money from the state isn't the only thing tied to this year's FTE numbers; teacher and administrator salaries are included as well.

In order to fix the district's budget last June, teachers and administrators agreed to take pay cuts across the board based on student population growth this year.

"Our FTE count is up, but it's not what we hoped it would be based on our contract with the teachers. What we're trying to work out right now is making sure we have a balanced budget and still not having to reduce the staff's salaries," explained Skilling. "We're working with the union leadership and hopefully will have an answer later this week."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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