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.President's Response to Program and Staff Cuts:
Tough economic times call for measured and prudent decisions to ensure success. I’d bet you all have heard the following from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, "If, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…You‘ll be a Man my son!" In contrast is the line "the sky is falling" adapted from a part of the canon of sacred Buddhist literature called the "Jataka Tales."
Schools all over Michigan are facing financial challenges due to our sluggish economy. As a district we need to decide if we are the type of people Kipling describes or the type of people described in the "Jataka Tales."
I say we should avoid the panic that goes with "the sky is falling!"
In 1994 our district closed 11 days early due to the fact that we literally ran out of money. In that crisis, staff levels were maintained and services were not cut. In subsequent years we, as a district, tightened our belt and built a sizeable fund balance while passing a bond to improve our physical plant and to upgrade technology. We did not panic then.
Are we out of money now? No. Should we be panicking? No.
Our board and administration have approached our financial difficulties by taking some drastic steps; student services are being cut as Paraprofessionals are being taken from classrooms. The WB-RC district goal number four states, "All students will improve their reading abilities", yet our Elementary and Middle School librarians have been reassigned which will severely limit the effectiveness of our libraries to address this goal. We should all be doing our part to survive this latest challenge, however, we should not panic…the sky is not falling.
According to the 08-09 budget report the District has a tax payer savings account of 2.7 million dollars beyond the budgeted amount, yet we continue to cut staff and services.
We are not the only school district in the state facing these trying times, and this is not the first time such challenges have presented themselves. As a district we always have been, and will continue to be, fiscally responsible as we weather financial storms.
Let us not forget our mission, as we reaffirm at the beginning of each school board meeting and I quote, "West Branch-Rose City Area Schools, with involvement of parents and community, acknowledge the responsibility to educate all students. Through innovative and aggressive strategies, we will prepare our students to become knowledgeable, caring, and responsible citizens."
Can we accomplish our goal by cutting staff and services while sitting on a sizeable "rainy day fund "?
There have been times when the sky was falling, and we still managed to keep our heads. Today the sky is not falling yet I see panic from our administration and board. I firmly believe we can maintain a quality education for our students without sacrificing badly needed support and instructional staff.
Daniel J. Ahearne
WB-RC EA President
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