SWHS Budget Cuts Explained


Faith Simon

Students and Teachers put signs in a pile before going into the board meeting at Mount Vernon High School on May 23.

Students and Staff at Mount Vernon School District, furious with their administrators’ decision to implement major cuts, gathered at Madison Elementary School to protest the loss of teachers and sports last May.

Walkouts, rallies,and protests have become a frequent sight at Mt. Vernon High School. With many teachers and staff at Mt. Vernon being let go, it begs the question, how did all this happen and is Sedro-Woolley High School next?

“I just know from what I read in the paper and speaking to my colleagues,” says Brett Greenwood, Executive Director of Business Operations and Student Support for the Sedro-Woolley School District. “Their budget deficit was much larger than ours. So they had to cut deeper.”

Our school district had to cut about $5 million, Greenwood says, but Mt. Vernon needed to cut roughly twice that, resulting in job loss. Five million isn’t a small amount of money either, so is our district doing any better?

“We saw this deficit coming years ago,” said Greenwood. “We started putting reduction plans in place a couple years ago. So that way, we wouldn’t have a big hit like what Mt. Vernon’s got going on right now. We were able to step ourselves into that, to help minimize the pain.”

During Covid, SWSD received funding to address the lower enrollment within the school. The money we received was called the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or the ESSER fund. In our district, we were granted approximately 7 to 8 million over two years to keep everything in check. The district is no longer receiving ESSER support, and enrollment is still down, resulting in loss of funds.
The number of students attending a school plays a critical role in the amount of funding received from the state. The district gets about $10,000 of funding for each student, said Greenwood. “That’s just the basic side. If the student needs additional support, we also can get funding for that.”

With that loss of money, what did we do to soften the blow, and what could Mt. Vernon could have done?

To make up the $5 million, the district formed a committee to discuss what they should cut. The committee was made of teachers, paraeducators, maintenance and others throughout the district.
The committee reached this solution: “We’re going to stop buying supplies for a year. The papers, the crayons, all the travel, we’re stopping the food at meetings, we’re stopping all of that low-hanging fruit,” said Greenwood. “I think we have enough stuff in the warehouse, so you won’t notice a difference in the classroom.”

Aside from holding out on supplies, Sedro-Woolley School District is strategically not filling teacher positions as they leave the district. An example of this is the retiring art teacher at Cascade Middle School. “We decided that we won’t fill it right off the bat,” said Greenwood. “We’ll see if anybody else in the district has the credentials to teach art.”

The last thing we want as students is to give up our beloved teachers, and people in the district feel the same way.

“We consider everyone that works in Sedro-Woolley School District a family,” said Greenwood.