Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Region 19 Budget that makes sense

I want to propose an alternative Region 19 budget The reason is that the budget being proposed is wholly inadequate to meet the vision and return on investment that constituents I talk to think are important.

I've been reading two books on the future. The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil is a heads up that times and technology are changing everything. Information by Hans Chr Von Baeyer suggests that everything we know about math and quantum physics is deductable to new theories about information. These books represent transcedent changes in the way we need to operate politically, think, and educate our kids.

IMO, Region 19 needs to change the way we educate our youth on a number of counts. Technologically, EO Smith (and I'm being kind) has become a backwater institution of education. Neither the administration nor the majority of faculty seem to educated in information technology skills and, more upsetting, few seem to care. In brief that needs to change.

And although I have wonderful conversations with some truly gifted teachers at EO Smith and elsewhere, far too many faculty at EO seem to be floating downstream. The community is paying top-dollar for education that too often serves too few. And the many are being short-changed mightily. That too needs to change.

There is also a pallid squaller of protest from those who are invested in a mediocre but lucrative status quo. The EO Smith budget process is conducted like a city park shell game where the object needing reform and cutting is always shifted from one place to another. The budget cuts I propose here will be specific , real, and worth your attention.

First, the EOSmith budget must exceed the expections of the taxpayer, the parent, and the student. It must make the administration, faculty, and special interests uncomfortable. In a society where people are afraid for their jobs, making do with less, and uncertain about the future, the schools must recognise the need to cut back, work more efficiently, and shed the crusty hubris they currently hide behind.

EOSmith is on the threshold of two school changing realities. One is that $100K deficit will be carried over to NEXT year's budget. The second is that student enrollment begins dropping in 2008. The budget we vote on for next year has got to have the future in mind.

My budget proposal is different from a sheer budget numbers shell game. I am treating the exercise as a school construction activity. Starting from scratch and reusing as many obligatory pieces as I can, what can we create as a institution next year.

Okay, let's start building next year's school.

Next year's school should cut back one faculty position in World languages (9.4->8.4 teachers). The department head can be asked FOR NEXT YEAR ONLY to teach a fourth subject as an indepent study for advanced world language students. The savings purely in salary will be approximately $60K plus the savings in benefits.

Of those savings I would like he school to invest in at least three smart-boards to be distributed to the most creative teachers EO Smith currently employs in science, english, and mathematics. These boards increase the productivity of teachers and the attention of students. The cost is $40K or so (these teachers will forego the purchase of a classroom projector (-$9K or so).

We will also trim the English faculty by one position (15->14 teachers), the Department head will need to teach a fourth course if necessary. EO Smith has an over-emphasis on fast-track English and not enough on reading. This will save the district $60K. However, I would like the district to hire a reading specialist who can teach English in innovative ways to be hired to work with students who need a more specialized course in reading. I still think we can save some money here.

Any mathematics department hires need to be technically saavy in Java, HTML, and other web based technologies. The days of cyberphobia need to end. Now's the time.

The budget needs to include a Deep Space Imaging camera and a Solar Telescope. Our kids need to become technologically adept. Period. The science department needs to begin developing a more far-reaching use of internet available materials.

The Social Studies department needs to work with the reading specialists to begin to identify materials that serve dual purposes, social studies curriculum and supplemental english/reading socail studies, student special interests materials.

The Music and Art department budgets seem reasonable.

The Information Technology department is spending far too much money on Web site services. This must be reduced from $11K to approximately $2K. The school also needs to convert from expensive commercial Office software to the free OpenOffice suite. There is little if any difference educationally and the savings are substantial to the school, students who use it on home computers, and parents. There is significant savings here as well. So far ignored.

I have also suggested a reduction of cost for new laptops by purchasing refurbished IBM equipment ($16K/unit -> $4k/unit). Ther exists tens of thousands in savings that has been ignored.

Guidance services has $8K allocated to line items for 'temporary students', 'reference books and periodicals', 'Office supplies', and 'software'. I'd like these items to come in at about $2k, saving $6K. Open Source software, internet resources, and a tightening of the belt can help here. Recent NYTimes articles complain about the amount of materials being sent freely by colleges and so on - let's find cheaper ways to do business.

There is $16K in the budget for Professional Developmeent monies. The current salary structure of teachers is a windfall (see my earlier comparisons of income). Teachers need to pay their own way just like the rest of the working world. Times and economics have changed. Membership and Professional dues must be the responsibility of the professional not the tax payer. Thousands can be eliminated there.

The savings here amounts to $47,830.

In educational media, I think a .5 secretary reduction can save at least $6K.
I'd like to see the new library books line item reduced by $2K ($8.6K -> 6.6K). There's way too much material online these days to invest too heavily in hard print.

The principal's office needs to be reduced by one secretary. A savings of approz $30K plus benefits.

Also I would like to see a vice-principal's position reduced by .5%, a %50K+ reduction.

Instructional supplies should be reduced by 10% across the board. $7,847 savings there.

Already part of the EO reductions are .6FTE math teacher (-41,190) and 1FTE Computer Maintenance Tech (-42,190)

By my loose calculations, the budget gets reduced by at least $240K. The school adds a .2FTE music teacher, lots of worthwhile programs are preserved and expanded, technologically the school bulks up, and the quality of education improvers with a renewed emphasis on Math, reading, and so on.

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