This is the time of year when we earnestly begin our wrap-up of the current school year. Yet the administration is also heavily engaged in getting ready for the start of the 2009-10 school year. Thankfully, everyone is fully engaged in all aspects of our work and that makes for smooth sailing even through some difficult waters.The waters have been troubled quite a bit by the economy. I’m sure that isn’t surprising to anyone, but it’s a reality we in the school system must deal with from many perspectives.$2.3 million shortAfter receiving preliminary reports from the state, we have a figure from which to put together our tentative budget for next year. Ouch! Between this year’s and next year’s austerity cuts, we find we’re about $1.5 million short from the state’s coffers. In addition to that, the local economy has taken its toll. We are projecting another shortfall there approaching $500,000. We still must meet required costs as established by legislature. All together, we are looking at a shortfall of about $2.35 million.We’re able to take advantage of some waivers, stimulus money and many creative ideas to reduce our proposed debt to about $750,000. The super stewardship the school board has shown over the years will pick up the slack. Thus, there will be no new taxes and an operation that’s pretty much status quo. As I write this bit of news, I’m told the governor is about to rescind a commitment to release stimulus money for this year. This will put a bigger burden on us now and next year. State revenues just keep shrinking.Because of our different pots of money, our projects keep moving along. SPLOST and QZAB funds have kept walls going up and surfaces being applied. If you haven’t driven by the stadium, please know the track is finished. We’re just waiting for some final touches and inspections here and there and we’ll be done.New stadium openingWe’re anticipating an official opening around May 12. Our spring football game will be played there May 15 and graduation ceremonies will have a new home beginning May 29. By the way, drainage for the field is at a rate of 20 inches per hour. I hope we don’t have to test that bit of information.On the school board front, there are a few items that are noteworthy. We spent more than a half hour recognizing winners and success stories in the school district. Recommendations were made regarding personnel for next year. In other words, teachers now have contracts in their hands. Thankfully, it looks as though these contracts reflect a normal year in terms of days and wages.This is not necessarily the case throughout the state. The board also approved a director for the Fine Arts Center. We’ll share details on that in the near future. The board also voted to shorten their meeting dates for the coming fiscal year to save the district some money. I applaud our board for making such a sacrificial, helpful and tone-setting move. Looking forward a bit, April 28 we’ll recognize over 50 people for their service to Lamar County schools in a variety of capacities. On May 26 we’ll honor those who are retiring.May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank you for joining with me to celebrate one of the most important resources our community has to offer. When I have the opportunity to share about education, I remind the audience just how much school has changed in the past few years. The work, challenges and accountability have altered teaching and learning greatly and permanently. Yet, these selfless and dedicated people keep first things first.If you still want to Take a Teacher to Lunch, your donations are appreciated. Thanks to the many who have and will have contributed to this opportunity to pat our dedicated staff on the back.There are big events at each school as we wrap up spring. There are musical presentations at the elementary school (April 30), middle school (May 7 and 12), and the high school (May 14). Honors night at the high school is May 19 at 7:30 p.m. Grade level honors programs are at the elementary school on May 26-28 for third, fourth and fifth grades respectively ‘“ all at 9 a.m.On April 28 from 6-7 p.m., there will be a free seminar to help people understand social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. This might be a real good idea for parents. It will be held at Spalding High School.Relay for LifeOur schools are busy preparing for the upcoming (May 1) Relay for Life. I hope the rest of Lamar County is as excited as we are about working together, having fun, and making an impact. Get a team together, or join one of ours. We’ll field five teams again this year.