Lance Scranton: A View from the “trenches”
January 27, 2015
Times are tough, but times are tough all over, I thought, while speaking with one of our county commissioners this past week. I asked if there was any positive or inspiring news about our county in general. He stated that the commissioners are definitely going on the offensive this year and plan to do all they can to promote our county and the possibilities that exist in our expansive area.
School board members, quoted in the paper, stated that input from, staff, taxpayers and "everybody" would be appreciated as part of their challenging budget process (inspiring). Another board member was clear that we needed to plan for the worst and hope for the best (not exactly inspiring) even though important monetary figures won't be known until April. A finalized budget must be adopted by June and some big questions are being considered.
Do we dip into budget reserves, ask for a mill levy override, or start considering the impact of programs on classroom instruction? Does saying no to an override necessarily equate to a community that doesn't value education? During tough economic times all of us are asked to do more with less and activate the money we have in savings to fill in for budgets that are reduced for different reasons.
District-wide, our teachers are over-burdened by a flurry of improvement plans intended to help meet state and federal requirements without much financial support. Educators are being asked to make system-wide changes to help raise local test scores and meet the needs of every student. Teachers are evaluated based on how their methods are adapted for each learner's style while making certain students feel good about themselves, are academically successful, are challenged and enriched or supported and remediated in every class, are taking standardized tests seriously, are having a great extra-curricular experience and are displaying a positive attitude. It is exhausting and made even more difficult when budget cuts threaten to hinder an already monumental challenge.
Schools are in the business of teaching and it seems that having teachers in the classroom doing the work of educating should be our highest priority because students are definitely our most important responsibility. Sacrificing instruction for programs should be examined very carefully in light of our responsibility to meet our important educational mission.
Your input is valuable and should be heard, so I challenge each community member to take up the school board on their offer to listen to your input. It is your voice and your involvement that makes our community stronger and ensures that it reflects your values.