Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Petition Against Cuts in SPS School Budgets

There is a petition against cuts in school clerical staff - which will primarily affect high schools where, frankly, they can least take it - to send a message to the district. 

There is a minute-and-a-half video of the issue by Mary Smith who works in the office at Ingraham.  Mary is a long-time SPS school employee and I have been acquainted with her and her work now for over 10 years.  Mary has served as a PTA president and officer numerous times.  She is probably one of the most kind and trustworthy people I have ever met in my years in SPS.  I trust what she is saying completely.

That this comes as the district is giving all non-contract employees at JSCEE a raise - starting this week - seems quite unseemly.  

I urge you to sign this petition.  I have heard from different people that the budgeting being put forth is going to hurt the schools and I believe every effort should be made to protect school budgets. 


Jon said...

It seems obvious that cuts should come out of central administration first. Very self-serving of them. It leaves little doubt that this bureaucracy exists to perpetuate itself.

RosieReader said...

Jon, I wonder why you "think it's obvious" that there should first be cuts at central admin? Every day in this blog I read about problems which appear caused, at least in part, by inadequate central administration staffing -- from the inability to get tests graded and distributed for potential advanced learners, to the lack of a demographer, to long lines at open enrollment, to the complete inability to properly provide for our special ed students, to long delays in getting construction projects approved and started, etc. And yet you say, without pointing to anything specific, that central admin should be the first place for cuts this year.

In my opinion, nothing is "obvious" at this point. Year after year our legislature fails to solve the funding problem. At some point, what is there left to cut? We all have our favorite targets and we have our rationals for why the cuts should fall here, and not there. You can be sure, though, that someone else is arguing to save precisely what you argue is disposable.

But the simplistic response "cut central administration" isn't helpful.

Yes, I agree with Mary Smith that the proposed cuts to administrative support at schools are crazy, and school's can';t function at that level. It is my understanding that, thankfully, the current draft of Ingraham's budget finds other funds to cover these costs, and I hope the principal can make this work in the end. But cuts will have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere will have to include cuts in the schools.

It sucks, but it's also reality until the legislature fulfills its constitutional obligations.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rosie, those "other funds" that Ingraham found means something else gets cut or has fewer dollars.

I agree that things aren't happening centrally but frankly, choices have been made there about what is important like data warehouses. Fund what is really important.

There is a choice and the district is making it.

Jon said...

Rosie, we should start with where we agree. I agree with you that more funding is needed. Garfield High School, for example, gets an amazingly low $5,731 per student in funding.

It is true that central administration is unresponsive, produces low quality work, and surprisingly often is even out of compliance with policy and laws. The question to ask is whether that is because they need more people or because they have the wrong people.

My view is that central administration has the wrong people. Because of dismal management, throwing more money at them will not improve the situation. The only solutions are (1) replacing people, which is hard and Banda shows no signs of wanting to do or being able to do, or (2) shifting funds and responsibility from central down to the schools, which Banda also is not doing, but would be much easier to get him to do.

In my view, every position in central administration is a position that could have been used to fund another teacher. Every position in central administration should be judged against whether it is more helpful to the education of children than a teacher. Do you disagree with that?

Anonymous said...

Kinda kills the Stay in School initiative when there's no attendance staff to see whether or not the kids show up.

Or is it that the ASB staff should be cut - so that the kids have no ability to enjoy the extracurriculars that make learning a pleasure.

Or is it that the lead administrative assistant should be cut - so that there is no way to coordinate teachers, get in touch with principals, or keep parents informed of what happens within the school.

Or is it that the safety and security help should be cut -- so that we no longer have help in keeping the kids safe and secure.

This is ridiculous.


RosieReader said...

Melissa - you're right. We are robbing from Peter to pay Paul, and the principals that I have interacted with have all worked tirelessly to try to do as much as they can with ever diminishing moneys. Someone's straw is always getting shortened in one way or another.

Jon - I am sure you are right that there are some "wrong people" in central administration. I have no way of knowing whether it is more or less than other large entities.

Whenever someone says that "lots of" teachers are bad and in their place only because of seniority I roll my eyes. Sure, there are some rotten eggs in the District's teaching staff, but mostly I see good and sometimes great educators.

I bring the same skepticism to broad-brush statements that central administration has the wrong people. I have no doubt that there are some rotten eggs there too. But I have also dealt with caring, committed people who are doing absolutely the best they can with extremely limited resources, and the real (and important) burden of public process and public disclosure. In effect, they must respond to 45,800 customers, along with those customers' parents/guardians/interested adults. Plus the entire voting public that scrutinizes them each time a levy is up for a vote. Frankly, I'm surprised anyone would be willing to work in that fishbowl.

So sure, I hope they're looking hard at central administration for cuts. But absent more funds, they have to look everywhere.

Kathy said...

We can't look at cuts to our without considering legislative mandates, and consider the costs of implementing unfunded mandates.

That said, there is increasing amounts of pressure put on teachers and school level administrators to show "growth". We can no longer accept cuts to our schools for unfunded mandates.

Kathy said...

Administrators have asked the board for a raise, while advocating for $3M to be taken from our schools. The board has approved this expenditure, which will cost the district $330K.

It is time to keep dollars in our schools.


n said...

Two thoughts on administrative costs: I worked in a building where I got to know the night custodian fairly well and she had worked in hotel and restaurant service before being hired by the schools. She mentioned to me one night that she had seen the invoice that came with the latest paper towels and bathroom supplies and her comment was that she had never seen an operation as large as the school district's pay such high prices before. She said you can go to Costco and buy it cheaper. She was really quite shocked.

Second, our principals got a huge pay raise some time ago. I'm sorry but as I sit in the classroom sometimes three, four or even five hours after kids have left and my principal dances out of the building at 4 pm I think perhaps the paychecks are little skewed. I guess you could call it class envy? Nah. I would just like to see some equity put back into the profession of teaching.

Somewhere along the line it suddenly became fashionable to pay management huge amounts of money. I think that was the Wall Street effect. Well, I'm sorry but in education all those big paychecks just take away funds from teachers and kids.
I guess I sound a little angry about it and I am. I admit it. I hope we get our priorities straight one of these days.

There's a lot that could be done to save a few bucks here and there.

n said...

I'd like to state one more aggravation: our daytime custodian sits in his office except for the few tasks he finds to do that are apparently mandatory like mopping (poorly) the floor in the lunchroom and getting the boiler going I guess. Anything else? News to me.

We had a custodian years ago for a brief time that actually walked around the school cleaning door knobs. I asked him once about that and he said that this was his school now and he wanted to be proud of it. Well, that didn't last long - mostly because of seniority issues that arose.

I reported cut glasas outside our school once and it was still there the next day.

The night custodian puts up chairs and the teachers walk through the halls taking them all down again. Floors need to be cleaned but couldn't that daytime guy actually put them down again?

Light switches and walls are filthy. I guess teachers are supposed to take care of that too.

At least toilets get the light once-over. I guess I should be thankful for the small things...

A long, long time ago a substitute cleaner came through the room and I mentioned that we were out of paper towels by the sink. He responded, yeah, I got that. I looked at him and I said I've never heard that before - can we keep you? He said he normally works at Stanford and if you don't do your job down there, you get fired.

Ah, management has it sooooo easy.

Anonymous said...

Jon, where do you find the data on how much per pupil spending Garfield receives? I'd like to research this further and compare to other schools.

Thanks, RR