Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Program selection for cuts reveals another motive.

For the many of you that could not attend last night's board meeting, here is a brief overview.

First, Nick performed a total reversal on the issue of half day "kindie-garten". (Why people like Nick pronounce it this way is just bewildering.) While attending the community input meetings he was adamant that no reliable, valid or objective evidence has ever been shown to support the strength of half-day programming for kindergartners. At last night's meeting he mentioned "legal" research that helped staff decide to retain the half-day kindergarten programming and appeared to have an epiphany regarding the wisdom of half-day programs. Should a superintendent be performing research about the strength of early childhood development AFTER announcing that such programming would be cut? Wouldn't it have been better to know the strengths and weaknesses of an issue BEFORE blasting a hole through it?

In my opinion, the District is retaining the half-day program for two primary reasons. The first reason is that the community knows how vital such a program is and it came through in their comments. Sadly, our community seems to more in touch with the research associated with early childhood development than district leadership. It is the role of our educational leadership to know what works and what doesn't. This just seems a little too sloppy on Nick's part. I suspect another motive.

Whenever budget cuts are proposed, the District routinely threatens to slash programs they know will never be cut. I am convinced that such suggestions are made for no other purpose than to inflame the sensitivities of this community. I am convinced that mentioning half-day kindergarten programs on the list of potential cuts served no other purpose than to quickly rally support behind the District in an effort to cut anything else. So, the District is either misinformed on fundamental matters relating to education or they are manipulating us. I am convinced of the latter.

The same can be said about librarians at "smaller" schools.

The District also proposes to reduce the size of the Superintendent's Office. One path forward is to revert some of the six assistant superintendents back to "executive directors". However, since salaries will not be changing, how is this a budget reduction? Nick mentioned that administrators have been discussing furlough days, but such days only offer a temporary suspension of budget problems. The same salaries are being paid and the same level of retirement contributions are being made. Vacation and sick days are accumulated at the same rate as usual and COLAs still move these administrators further into the stratosphere.

Real and lasting cuts can be accomplished by cutting administration. The District needs to shift away from the model that assigns a correlation between salary and qualifications and toward a model that strengthens the organization as a whole. The District needs to become a place where people want to work and desire to be a part of something exciting. We already have a lot of teachers that have such a passion to teach, where are the administrators that have a passion to lead and care a little less about earning obscene salaries?

Just take a few minutes and ponder this point. If everyone had all of their bills and mortgages dissolved overnight, what percentage of our teachers would continue teaching as salaries moved toward zero? What percentage of district administration would continue to work for this community as their salaries moved toward zero? I am sure there are many great administrators within the District, but there are also far too many assistant superintendent salaries being paid. We might as well start calling them Governors because their salaries are nearly as much as our governor's.

Another point from last night's meeting stuck in my head. A teacher from Cedar Way suggested that a "pay-to-play" fee be evaluated for music programs at the District. Nick's response was some senseless drivel about music needing to be free because it is required under the auspices of the Basic Education Act. Well then why would you cut the program all together? I suspect if parents had the choice to pay a fee or see a program be cut they would likely start paying a fee. Such logic was applied to district athletic programming why would it not be at least considered in lieu of total elimination?

As the son of a librarian, I am still irritated by the District's insistence that librarians in smaller schools do not mean as much as librarians in larger schools. They are quick to reduce the level of service of librarians but why not apply the same reasoning to principals? Splitting librarians across two schools apparently wouldn't adversely impact students, why not split principals across the same two schools? In fact, let them car pool. Like many others, I am left wondering why a small school like Maplewood wouldn't be in danger of losing their librarian? Is it simply a matter of catering to the most vocal parents rather than advocating for the needs of ALL students?


Anonymous said...

It is amazing that the district demands improvement in various basic areas--reading, writing, math, science, and yet lessens the support students receive by removing Librarians who aid and encourage the reading of interesting and age appropriate materials. Raising the number of students in the classroom and removing the excellent para educators decreases contact time, especially for those who need the most directive and encouraging leadership.
However, the current leadership (I do use the term loosely) has never been one to use inspiring and involving curriculum. At MM they destroyed programs that children bought into, such as integrated curriculum in teams at grade 8. They appear to lack understanding of the most basic tennants of learning--you have to present material to people in a meaningful way. Bit this is obvious in the public meetings or building meetings. The leadership is ME oriented, not child or learning oriented.
Pitty the children. Shame on the community for not doing more--and I do not mean those of you who are trying. Shame on the State of Wahington for failing to reform a system where there is so much waste. We may need regional services such as supplies, legal experts, and management, but the people hired in those positions should have goals and evaluations on the statelevel.
Greed and self-interest have no more place in public education than in public finance. Oversight is a must.

Transgal said...

I attended the board meeting and was disappointed in the turnout. Out of hundred+ employees in my department, only 8 showed up. Yet the people that sit in our "rec" room and moan and groan, b-tch and complain, day in and day out about the same thing over and over never made an appearance. I'm now convinced they're really not that concerned about this district and just like to hear the sound of their own voice and seeing who agrees with them. Working for the district for over 17years, I am still learning the intricacies of administration and all that goes on "behind the scenes" and to say I'm not happy would be an understatement. From working at different schools, I've also learned the teachers, educational assistants and other staff truly feel that their hands are tied. It's frustrating and stressful to realize that just a handfull of people are permitted to make decisions that affect so many lives and our future leaders. I saw a reporter from the Herald there but, to date, there hasn't been one word in that paper about our situation. Do they think it's not that important either?
As for the woman from Redmond who posted, obviously someone struck a nerve for her to be so defensive. Something must have been true but she didn't want to face it?
Kind of like the school board who just sat there, shakeing their head(s), agreeing with at every issue brought up. They reminded me of a bunch of bobble heads. I don't think they realized how much courage it took for some of the presenters to speak, I wish more people had that kind of courage, to speak up when you know something is just wrong, wrong wrong!!

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned about the remaining cuts as well, and that they are more strategic than based on sound educational practices. This problem doesn't seem unique to schools either. It's hard for honest citizens to even understand the mindset.

The past legislative session might be a good example. Citizens voted for lower class sizes and pay teachers cost of living. But the powers that be, cut these first. What the legislature wants is the chance to raise more taxes.

In the same way, maybe the administration deserves way more credit for understanding how important librarians are to the public, and how they are the perfect pawn in increasing revenue. It is only in the context that I can accept the cuts as a means to a larger pot. Without a larger pot, music, athletics, transportation and librarians are going down.
I'm optimistic that administration WANTS librarians, and the current situation is only temporary. The alternative is to disenfranchise the public further and reduce the chances at a larger pot. It IS sad for the children in the mean time.

Transgal- you may want to read an article online:

Anonymous said...

According to the most current info on the OSPI website from 07-08, Maplewood has 455 students. Was the school smaller in the 08-09 school year? 455 sounds like a fairly large school to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I can agree with the previous poster. If the administration wanted to use Librarians as a pawn, they would have made the cuts unilaterally instead of picking the 4 "small" schools. The lack of state funding is the foundational problem, but how the district is choosing to deal with the problem is the exception I take. If the district's priorities were basic education, then the recent recommendations to restore funding would have focused on the restoration of funding to academic areas such as instructional support, not athletics.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: remember that Maplewood is a K-8 school so 455 is a very small school when looking at a school that serves 9 grade levels. The middle schools that serve only 2 grades according to the same OPSI report have at the least 570 students. Alderwood Middle: 792, Meadowdale Middle 666, Brier Terrace 570 and College Place 589.

Anonymous said...

As far as 455 being a "large" school? Martha Lake has around 680 and they are a K-6!! and that's not including the rats! The Library cuts were targeting schools with 429 students and below. One school considered "small" and in the target, has approximately 398 students in a K-6. Maplewood has 455 with its K-8. Remove the
7th and 8th grades and Maplewood is SMALLER than at least one of the affected schools... unless they only have 28 kids in each 7th and 8th grade??. You might be able to argue that because they do have two more grades to support, the librarian is needed more but the middle school LMS model doesn't have librarians teaching "sections/ or classes" such as the elementary librarians. That is another argument to look at only k-6 at Maplewood when considerring cuts to the LMS. Had Maplewood been looked at by K-6, they should have been in the target before one of the "small" schools. Of course, if the district had just cut fairly across the board, this point would be moot... but just like good political machine, the ESD spins the data, and the results to justify what ever will gain them the support of the vocal groups.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to me that with the proposed music cuts (really just 5th grade band/orchestra) and the amount of support from the booster clubs at the community meetings that not one music person (save one former, somewhat uninformed student)signed up to speak at the board meeting. Nor were they represented en masse in the audience. Could it be that their department was informed ahead of time what Dr. Brossoit's recommendation was going to be? Athletics obviously had no such notice as they turned out in droves to ask for a reconsideration of the proposed cuts.

Regarding the librarians - the cuts do not make sense unless you listened to Nick's comment about his sister in Federal Way being a librarian. In her district the librarians have become itinerant staff, going from school to school. If we leave the cuts as is, with a few libraries having to share a librarian, it will be easier to do the same in subsequent year because 'it worked'.

Clearly the board has no intention of truly listening to those that took time to write and bring forth comments and opinions. Look at the results of the 'input' given at the community meetings. If they had truly looked at that then libraries would still be fully staffed as it ranked higher than other reductions that affected fewer people.