Tuesday, April 21, 2009
A "NO" ON THE SCHOOL BUDGET IS A VOTE FOR CHANGE
"If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning".....Carl Rogers
It's not easy as a school board member to say I don’t support our budget, but the choice is made clear when it’s a budget that shortchanges our students and places too much of a financial burden on the taxpayers which I feel is the case with this budget.
Approximately 85% of our budget is made up of employee salaries and benefits. We are now paying for an egregious teacher contract settlement of more than 18% over 4 years. We are also paying for an additional assistant superintendent that cost us an additional $110,000 in salary and added dollars in benefits. Approximately $600,000 that should have gone towards our educational programs will be shelled out for pension payback. If the largest piece of the budget is salaries and entitlements, what's left for our students? Scraps as far I'm concerned. And where does it leave the taxpayers? With another property tax increase they can ill afford.
How, then, can our Superintendent and Board continue to defend the hiring of an additional central office administrator? How can they defend the recent teacher contract settlement as fair to all parties? In my opinion, to defend these expenditures and claim the outcome of these actions do not compromise the education of our students and the financial well-being of our taxpayers is disingenuous to say the least.
I’ve no doubt in my mind our administrators, our board members, and everyone in the school district and community all want the same thing for our students - to provide them with the greatest opportunity for an excellent education. But I feel there's an unwillingness by the school board and central office administration to take responsibility for our budget and a resistance to change the way we do business.
I understand there are variables and issues that make our job difficult, but we can’t keep pointing the finger of blame elsewhere and complaining about the cards we’ve been dealt with. This is our budget and we have to start taking responsibility for it. The public is tired of hearing a litany of excuses and who can blame them? If we're going to gain public support, we certainly can’t keep placing our bureaucratic and governmental missteps and blunders on the backs of the taxpayers - they’re tapped out.
The school board and administration have to let go of conventional practices and start thinking out of the box. Dire situations call for bold measures. We can’t expect our vision of a 21st century education to become a reality by using 20th century financial planning.
The school board also needs to be proactive by reaching out to our local municipal governing body, state legislators, other school districts, and the community and work together to find solutions because we're in this together. Everyone working in the school system has to start asking themselves what they can do, what part they can play, to work towards the common goal of balancing our educational mission at a cost the taxpayers can afford. But it starts at the top. There can be no more excuses. We need to take responsibility and a course of action that will make the needed changes happen.
In his recent letter to the editor in the Daily Record, Mr. Bednarcik stated his reasons why the children of Roxbury need us to vote "yes" on the school budget. He asserted that education is a town's "major industry" and "a budget rejection is neither the positive example needed for youth, nor in the best interests of the community".
What we need to recognize is these are not normal times and even those running the major industry of education have the obligation to analyze their resources and rethink how to best spend their time and money. By conducting business as usual and asking voters to approve a budget with a tax levy increase of over 6% during a very difficult economic crisis is just plain irresponsible. In my opinion, it's the Roxbury school board who should be looked upon as failing in it's obligation to set a positive example for our students and keeping the best interests of the community in mind.
As a nation of people we are, by and large, highly educated and hard-working, yet here we are left in an economic mess that’s compromised our country’s solvency, it’s ideals and values, and in turn, our children’s future. Why? We read and hear the answer to that question every day - far too many have chosen a path of greed and self-interest instead of working for the greater good. This begs the questions: have we learned from our mistakes and are we doing all we should be doing to turn things around? It’s evident in the Roxbury school district the answer to both those questions is NO.
Though undoubtedly our teachers have continually done an excellent job producing literate, confident, capable students, are our children learning to do the right thing as the leaders of tomorrow? It's imperative they are taught to avoid the mistakes we’ve made and understand that, as capable citizens, they have a responsibility to their fellow man. This means making sacrifices during hard times and working together for a common purpose.
The children of Roxbury are watching and learning from us - the adults. Right now they do not need a "yes" vote on a bloated school budget that will only cause their families and community an additional financial burden. What they need is an invaluable lesson from the role models in their life about the honor and rewards that come from selflessness, sacrifice, and looking out for one another while persevering through tough times.