Tuesday, April 21, 2009


"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.


Anonymous said...

Well Written!

We do not need another assistant superintendent nor do we need a human resource director. Why is it that the superintendent, assistant superintendent and the principals in this district cannot interview and hire the staff they need for the central office and schools respectively? That is the way it used to work. Why do we continue to think we need so many vice principals at the high school? I have been in and seen schools in the past that had just as many students and only one principal and one vice principal. If anything we need more guidance people to assist the students in the high school better, and we would have the money for them if we unloaded all the dead weight mentioned above. We cannot afford to having the taxes go up hundreds of dollars each year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for speaking out on behalf of the hard working taxpayers of Roxbury! And congratulations on your re-election to the board. Thankfully, the taxpayers finally had their chance to speak yesterday by voting down the budget and voting in newcomers to the board. The fact that you are the only incumbent to be re-elected obviously speaks volumes since you are the only board member with the guts and integrity to speak out against the school budget and the teacher raises. Clearly, the taxpayers agree with you!

At a time when so many of our residents are either being laid off, or suffering pay cuts, or no raises (not even cost of living raises), it's extremely difficult knowing that our tax dollars are going towards these outrageous raises where a teacher earning the average salary in Roxbury will soon have a $12,000 raise thanks to the settlement. That plus extra administration positions is just TOO MUCH for the taxpayers to take!!

Finally, I just have to add that I think it is disgusting how the new superintendent developed a tricky little way to try to get parents out to vote on this budget. We all know that they push all the parents to vote for the budget, because "It's for the children...". They target parents because they think people with children in the school system are most likely to approve the budget. So, his little plan backfired - he came up with this whole "Kids Vote" idea, where the kids were all able to vote on a new name for the Roxbury mascot. Hmm, if this was supposed to be for the children, WHY couldn't they vote for this DURING THE SCHOOL DAY? No, the "Kids Vote" was held only from 4 pm to 8 pm. Well, I happened to be there after 4 pm and could not believe how many people were showing up with kids in tow to go vote, because their kids wanted to vote for the mascot name. Nice little trick, huh? My child, like so many others, was fed all this stuff about being able to vote for the mascot, so like the others, I was talked into voting after 4 pm (I would have voted anyway, but earlier in the day).

The superintendent's motives were SO transparent! He obviously thought this was a nifty little trick to get more parents out to vote, and of course, they always assume all parents approve the budget. I'm also annoyed by all the "Instant Alerts" he sent out leading to this, including the night before the vote and the day of the vote. The last "Instant Alert" was a text to my cell phone and an email alerting me that it was after 4 pm and the Kids Voting was now available. I'm so glad his pathetic little plan didn't work. What stunt will he come up with next time? What a pathetic joke!

Anonymous said...

So it is a bad thing that Rossi pushed to get people to vote? Pushing to get people to vote is a good thing. It is ridiculous that in a town this size only 4000 people come out to vote, and that is a huge number compared to normal. And there were many parents that did the same thing I did, vote myself in the morning and then bring my child to the Kids Vote later in the evening so I didn't have to wait on the lines from people who work during the day. Kids Vote is a nationwide initiative to give kids a civics lesson and help them to become better citizens.

Anonymous said...

If Kids Vote is really a civics lesson for the children, it should be done during the school day, not from 4 to 8 pm only. And why is it orchestrated to coincide with the school election and not the general state and/or national elections in November?

Also, it is definitely a good thing to try to get more people to turn out and vote, but this stunt was obviously targeted only at parents, because the assumption is that people with children in the school district are much more likely to vote in favor of the school budget.

If the objective really is to get more Roxbury taxpayers to vote, I would like to know where else these efforts were directed, other than at parents. Did the superintendent address a senior citizens meeting recently in order to talk about the school budget? Or, perhaps a Rotary Club meeting? Were any taxpayers other than parents targeted about the importance of voting in the school election? Most importantly, if we really want to do anything about the dismal turnout for school elections, they should be held on Election Day in November. But, I won't hold my breath on that one.

Anonymous said...

learn where the excess monies are being spent, come up with a plan to cut and then ask that it be put on a referendum