Budget should reflect priorities | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
September 25, 2011 · 10:14 AM
To the editor:
A July issue of the Record reports that Leigh Anderson, a school board member for the past three years, “asked Poolman who decides what gets cut and by how much.”
A veteran school board member has to ask the business manager about how budgeting decisions are made? Astonishing. Has she perhaps been suffering from the delusion that this district makes decisions rationally or in the best interests of children?
Does she believe, for example, that teachers assess the needs of students and communicate them to administrators who then work competently to support teachers and kids?
A few examples show how decisions are actually made. After promoting (for PR purposes) the enormously popular and valuable band program as one of the district’s “gems,” former superintendent McCarthy — while enjoying over $136,000 in pay and benefits — cut the middle school band teacher’s position to far less than half time.
Over the past few months, the board cut six teachers, library services by 42 percent, and the Adventure Education program, while, according to union president Val Brown, “administrative costs increased.” Teacher recommendations? Student needs?
Perhaps to fill the void created by the loss of teachers and programs that helped students learn leadership and self-reliance in real, tangible and lasting ways, the board recently approved — upon the recommendation of a counselor and a principal (no mention is made of teachers, parents or students)
— the “Leader in Me” program “for students’ psychological and emotional curriculum” (see Aug. 27 Record).
This intensely marketed package will include “special instruction for a “Lighthouse Team,” a consultant from the training company FranklinCovey and materials” — and doubtless a lot of posters, nifty slogans and “training” of teachers, most of whom would likely prefer to use their planning time to plan. Can you spell s-o-c-i-a-l
e-n-g-i-n-e-e-r-i-n-g? Will anyone remember anything about this fad five years from now?
Recently, the Record reported that “enrollment in the district continues to drop” with most of the decline occurring at Whidbey Island Academy and Bayview School. By contrast, consider that the daily attendance of the entire Bayview School is sometimes smaller than some individual overcrowded classes at the high school.
Yet, despite predictions of declining enrollment, despite the precipitous drop in enrollment since David Pfeiffer took charge of Bayview (and now WIA), and contrary to Ms. Anderson’s statement that “the district is not in the business of providing employment,” Board Chairman Rich Parker’s good friend Pfeiffer was recently promoted from half to full administrative pay.
School budgets are simply — and when articulated transparently (try deciphering the district budget) — a list of priorities that reflect the values of decision makers.
In the absence of community input, too few decision makers will continue to spend our taxes foolishly, cluelessly and to the detriment of our children’s education.