Thursday, September 01, 2011

What Will Happen the First Day of School? (Part One)

Dorothy Neville sent an e-mail to the Board with her concerns over the what is likely to be more than one school opening its doors next Wednesday understaffed.  She said it well so below is her e-mail entitled Avoidable chaos:

 "Let me get this straight.
  • We are ending this fiscal year about 6 million in the black, which is about 2 million dollars more than expected.
  • We are in an enrollment upswing, but we don't have a clear understanding of how many kids will actually show up next week.
  • We need to be fiscally conservative because the state's going to cut more money, most likely.
  • Therefore, we cannot be optimistic about enrollment. We cannot hire more core teachers than already budgeted for.
I get all that. I really do. I suspect, as do many, that enrollment projections are low and that we will need more core teaching staff. Alas, I can understand why at least some of that unanticipated hiring must wait until October. 

I believe that this message was made loud and clear at the last Audit and Finance committee meeting. 

But WHY does this mean that there's a hiring freeze for core teaching staff that is already budgeted for? This was absolutely not the position expressed at Thursday's Audit and Finance Committee meeting. I left with the impression that if more kids show up next week than anticipated by the budget set last Spring, then there will have to be substitute teachers until after the October First count. I did not get the impression that the district was going to add to the chaos and not fill positions in the pipeline, positions that are already approved in the budget. Did the board members get that impression?

Duggan Harmon said that if enrollment comes in at the bottom level of projections, then we will be overstaffed at about 15 FTEs. That would be bad and we want to avoid that. I get that. What is not clear is how many of those were teaching positions and how many administration, such as an assistant principal. At least some are administrators, based on his explanation.

So why the hiring freeze which will put many more classrooms into chaos of starting the year overcrowded and with substitutes? Why? The letter said there are about 130 unfilled positions. Assuming principals scramble and get some filled today, that still leaves on the order of 100 teaching positions that are already budgeted for unfilled!

Just a few scattered subs and a few scattered chaotic overcrowdings one can justify. But good golly you are going to get way more than that. Does the district really want that image burned into parents and citizens brains right before the Families and Ed Levy is coming to a vote? When four incumbents are up for reelection? When the decision to start a search to replace the interim superintendent is right around the corner? 

Madness!"
 
Part Two will be the replies from CFO Bob Boesche who took the time (under the direction of Dr. Enfield) to answer Dorothy's concerns.  

But almost seems like a game of chicken. 

I'm with Dorothy - I absolutely get the need to NOT overstaff buildings.  But why not staff what was already budgeted for?  Is it okay (or so it seems) for parents and children to find confusion the first day of school?  Is it okay to allow that confusion to fall at the feet of teachers and principals? 

And frankly, as someone who is going out and stumping for the Families and Education levy, I agree with Dorothy.  It doesn't make for an easy sell if the district continues to look disorganized. 

I'd like to be wrong but I believe what Michael DeBell believes - the school doors will open next Wednesday and more than one school is going to issues. And those issues will NOT be resolved by the end of that week.  I think it is likely to take to the end of the second week. 

How does that help students when every day - according to the district - is vital to learning?

1 comment:

mirmac1 said...

Thank you Dorothy for pushing for answers. Hardly seems logical.