Are all school board decisions good for kids?

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2006

Last Monday, the superintendent of schools and administration recommended the school board increase the 2007 budget to $118,093,418. A budget too high, and dollars aimed in the wrong direction.

Enrollment numbers are dropping. Should we be adding over $5 million worth of new programs? No. Instead, we should correct the reductions and inequities in basic school functions.

The administration has become comfortable, functioning in financial crisis, maintaining a consistent, desperate need for new money from the state or borough. The new programs can easily be declared “good for kids.” Good at least for some kids — most living in the central area of the borough.

The school board should have sent directions to the administration to use the $5 million to improve existing programs, provide books for each student, additional teaching supplies for classrooms and reprioritize to hire local residents for teaching jobs and education support jobs. Not happening adequately in recent years, this would have been good for kids.

The school board’s Monday night budget increase did little to ease the pain of previous staffing reductions. The increase will not guarantee a status quo situation for most classrooms. Check with your school principal or lead teacher to verify the facts.

Many of our schools do not have important basics.

Ask yourself, will my school have:

· Class sizes small enough for the teacher to effectively teach well?

· A full-time principal and secretary to manage daily order or emergencies?

· An open library? Full-time librarian?

· Music classes? Full-time music teacher?

· A full-time physical education teacher with classes for K-8 children each day?

· A full-time nurse?

· The mechanical shop or wood shop fully utilized this year?

· Understaffed or overworked custodial crew because of reduced hours, barely able to keep the school clean and safe?

· Playground supervision or kitchen staff to prepare hot lunches?

Compare the class offerings and staffing of the larger high schools with Seward, Nikiski, Ninilchik, Seldovia and smaller high schools. Also, note the dramatic difference in staffing and course offerings of middle and elementary schools boroughwide. I am not satisfied solving the problem by using distance delivery methods — video-conference or Internet classes.

A “staffing formula” designed for hiring teachers and support staff is used religiously by the administration. A useful management tool, but effectually guarantees inequity. I suggest changes to make things better.

Another suggestion: The KPBSD Central Office administration has regularly encouraged itself to increase its own budgets, employee numbers and salaries, as boroughwide enrollment has dropped.

Wouldn’t it make sound business sense for the administration to subject itself also to a staffing formula that would reduce administrative staff proportionately as enrollment numbers drop? The savings could be used to build our vocational-technical programs or to pay for hot lunch programs in the more rural areas of the borough. This, too, would be “good for kids.”

Debbie Brown

KPBSD School Board


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