Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stinkin' Thinkin'

    Stinkin' thinkin' - a phrase I once heard delivered by a well-known speaker - came to mind as I mulled over the many reasons I am strongly against the Board of Eduction's idea to look into closing the middle school. To be clear, only Board members Hobbs and Stone would speak in favor of examining the impact of closing the middle school while the rest of the BOE remained silent on the issue despite being asked several times if they, too, supported moving ahead with a study of the impact of closing AAK.
    Why do I think the BOE should have thought, contemplated, strategized more before directing the superintendent to begin studying the impact of closing the school? My thinking, as a 13-year veteran of the Board and former public school teacher, is as follows:

  1.  Knee jerk reaction? It looks like a poorly thought out, knee jerk reaction to the projected $1.4 million dollar funding gap at the PCSD. Let's be clear on something: the Board has known for several years that this year's budget planning (for the 2012-13 year) would be especially difficult. We all knew that the tax cap was coming and we knew there would be no Federal bailout. We knew that too many employees had lost their jobs. Since the BOE knew what lay ahead, they should have included the possible closing of AAK on the list of goals they developed last July. Had that been done, they would have exhibited foresight. The idea would have been studied all year long and employees and the public would have been able to provide input for many months. Instead, in the lead up to an effort to get public support for the PCSD budget, there is a sudden idea to close AAK. Yep...I do see this as "stinkin' thinkin" and poor planning.
  2. Scare Tactic? Closing AAK might be seen by many as a scare tactic to get the public to override the tax cap. However, has the BOE considered a backlash to their plan to possibly close AAK?
  3. Backlash: What has likely occurred already is...the BOE looks capricious and short-sighted. Employees at AAK probably feel abandoned by both the BOE and the Superintendent. Morale has surely suffered. At the last public forum, I noted that one of the principals would surely lose a job if AAK closed. Mr. Hobbs refuted my observation by stating something to the effect that laying off a principal wouldn't necessarily occur. What informed individuals know is that the only significant way to save money in a school is to lay off employees. Salaries and benefits are the major costs to a school. Any Board member who supports looking into and, thus, possibly closing AAK is really talking about even more teachers being laid off and, without a doubt, laying off a principal. And, on that matter, the school district may have legal problems with regards to which principal would be laid off. Finally, the backlash to the Superintendent lies in what some see as his passive acquiescence to the suggestion to close AAK. For years, Mr. Brady has strongly supported the notion of middle school education and touted the accomplishments of employees at AAK for being named as a "Schools to Watch." When Board members with no educational background are pressing the Superintendent to undermine what he has said is educationally important (middle school education), then we in the public would like to see our superintendent go to to bat for his educational beliefs. So, while some might vote to override the budget cap out of fear of AAK closing, others might vote against the budget in response to this 11th hour plan to examine closing our middle school. We don't need to alienate voters in these tough educational times. 
  4. Contract Negotiations. When the BOE ratified and the Supt. signed a contract last October, they knew full well that the contract would cost teachers their jobs. There is no debating this point. Maybe last fall, the notion of teachers losing their jobs and students being impacted by such seemed like a far off consequence. Well, the rubber has hit the road now. When the BOE provides the public with a list of reasons teachers are losing their jobs, they need to include "ill-considered, incautious contract negotiations."  Thus, while NYS can be cited for disproportionate funding to rural schools, locally, the BOE and Superintendent can be cited for their contribution to the crisis. Responsible contract negotiations, not closing AAK, should have been a top priority. Our newest teachers, at the bottom of the seniority list, were counting on you.


1 comment:

  1. I agree with Ann wholeheartedly that school officials should have spent this past year considering how the 2012-2013 spending plan would impact the education of our students. For decades, it has not been necessary to consider restructuring as part of the budget development process. Institutional change is always stressful and happens in small increments. Remember the angst when the middle school wanted to switch to block scheduling? I think the topic of moving 7th and 8th graders to the high school is worth considering and said as much at last year's finance meetings. There are several potential advantages to the students. This topic should be discussed, along with others, such as how the high school is structured. Oldtimers may remember that the middle school was needed when there were 200 or more students in a grade. Now there are half as many. Maybe the only thing that can be done is for the Board of Education to stick to their role and tell the administrators how much money they will agree to put to the voters. Then the administrators (our education experts) will put together a plan to expend that money. I know that, as a BOE member behaving in that traditional role, I was often disappointed by the final result. Perhaps fresh points of view are needed.