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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Greeley Colorado District 6 School Superintendent: Up to $16 Million in Cuts

Ranelle Lang, Superintendent of Greeley Colorado District 6 School system, has proposed that all department heads produce multiple budget scenarios preparing for cuts of anywhere between eight, ten, to twelve percent or more according to a letter distributed by email (so much for Ms. Lang's personal touch and consideration) to District 6 employees.

Strength is what we need locally over the next several months and even years. We have significant challenges. The State of Colorado, reeling from the recession, must severely reduce the amount of money for K-12 education. These cuts will result in us having to pare $9 million to $16 million from our budget for the 2010-11 school year.

Have those department heads been given any guidance on what to trim? Is the least favorite employee to go? Do they not see the need for this program or that? Out it goes. Who is Captain of this ship anyhow? Where is the strategic planning for the budget cuts? Is the public going to be allowed to determine cuts? "Let's lose educating all those poor and brown people because they are, well, poor, and brown." What a recipe for disaster.

What Ms. Lang doesn't mention is any culpability on District 6's administrative watch. Relying on the fact that people assume all school districts are facing cuts is not quite the same as illustrating the depth of the problem and the history of the problem in D6 schools. Where are the reserves Ms. Lang? In economic good times reserves are created to be spent to soften the blows in economic downturns. Will you be voluntarily taking a twenty percent pay reduction for your own part? Will Mr. Eads, the custodial worker turned manager of operations turned administrative mouthpiece, be turning over his spacious and elegant official digs to save facility costs? Will the administrative offices be closed and the paper-pushers be given a seat in the back of an overcrowded classroom? Will the expansive payroll department be moved to a smaller, less costly, outside facility?

My beef isn't that Colorado is facing a downturn, although Ms. Lang would be well advised to understand the nature and trends in the recession before writing about it, it is that not once, in this letter or any other pseudo communication does the primary mission of the District rule the pages. All signs point to the fact that the Board and Administration in place do not have the skills to be managing a sinking ship. A fully floating ship might be fine under their direction but the 'Shari Lewis Lamb-Chop approach' to fixing this situation is really hard to stomach.

Education. It is about education. Education is the goal here folks. Money is the tool to achieve the goal but the goal must still be met.

Will jobs be lost and will that impact the surrounding economy? Of course it will. It doesn't take a college degree to figure that out. But it does take some intellect, some integrity, and a whole lot of spine to ensure that the cuts made impact the outcome of the educational integrity of the school district in the least intrusive way. And it takes even more character than that to admit that D6 has created, with poor management choices, a much bigger problem than any other school district faces. The voters of Greeley shouldn't escape being chastised either.

This is what Ms. Lang isn't discussing--educational outcomes. She is discussing people. She is discussing shared sacrifice between the adults and she is discussing ways for the community to help balance the checkbook. She isn't discussing educational impacts. She isn't discussing the fact that each student in this district is going to pay a price much bigger over time than any adult will be likely to pay.

District 6 already performs dismally. What is 20% less efficient than dismal?

Ms. Lang needs to be challenged to prove she is worth the money paid. Stand up to the crisis. Demand that educational value be delivered. Hold classes on the field if needed. Go camp on the doorstep of the legislators. Send the kids in who will be paying the price of these cuts for years if not decades. Let them march on Denver. Make them visible so they too can be counted.

Extend the school district into red tape and then let the State explain why it demands the board fire you when you are doing your job of educating the public--and defend yourself with that fact. Is the State really going to subsidize those oil & energy company interests when it has education bills to pay? It is extreme but then again so is the situation and the voters of Greeley just don't get it. They are looking at the checkbook online rather than the objective. They are mad because the checkbook doesn't balance!

Who cares about educational quality?

Meanwhile, behind the curtains, the job is simply not being done--seeing to the education of the youth in this district even when the tools to do the job are not being provided. Get a backbone and make EDUCATION the priority. Do something.

Do anything besides disappear from view and write comfort letters while the executioner runs the guillotine 24/7. Superintendent is a leadership position. The job is to see to the education of the youth and to communicate needs to the community in a way that is clear, concise, and delivers an accurate assessment of needs and brings home the bacon. The community and the State's job is to fund the means to make it happen. The Board's job is to see Superintendents have the tools to do their own job. Put the consequences where they belong on these groups and not upon the backs of the very students without resources in the first place to fight the political battles.

We can fund the military complex but not education? We can fund prisons but not education? We can fund Wal-Mart but not education? What is wrong with this picture? Leaders need to point to the failings of the system not be a jockey on the horse that dissembles the education system for the underclasses. And sometimes it takes a whole lot of courage to stand up and point to the real priorities.

And, by the way, it would also be nice if Ms. Lang attended to the job in person instead of distant, touchy-feeling letters of heart felt consideration as heads of your organization are about to cut off other heads with the axe. Be real. Look the people in the eye and tell them that education is the most important thing to provide when cuts come calling. Look them in the eye and tell them that you truly feel for them while you spend your own corporate salary and Mr. Eads gives operational management suggestions for cuts that will effectively slaughter what remains of the quality of education in this district.

"I am also certain about this: Together we will figure this out. We have no choice given the cards we have been dealt."

Really? From behind a desk you are going to develop camaraderie with those who will suffer? Have you talked to the kids that are about to be thrown into larger class sizes, lose their favorite teachers, or will be turned away by their college of choice because they need remedial coursework just to be accepted? Have you commiserated with those teachers who had a contract forced down their throats or did you send Mr. Eads to do the dirty work? Go to the Greeley Education Association meetings and face the music like a professional should and bring Mr. Eads.

Okay, I'm done with this rant. You asked for my input Ms. Lang and I have given it. In the same cold impersonal way you've delivered your messages. In writing.

Comments :

5 comments to “Greeley Colorado District 6 School Superintendent: Up to $16 Million in Cuts”

John said...

Another item that needs to be looked at does every school need a principal and assistance principal(s)? Could one principal be in charge of more than one school?

Jane Paudaux said...

Yes I would think it is a possibility. Although the savings might not be as great as expected. If a principle is handed 200 more responsibilities to manage then he/she is going to expect additional compensation for the extra duties. Also efficiency levels might drop depending on how things are structured. Principles also could go back into the classroom and teach a full day but then you are paying a higher wage for the teaching than you would for a regular teacher and parents wouldn't have access to the principle during regular class hours. These don't diminish the possibilities of course it just demonstrates there are hurdles to be dissolved or countered. It also is appealing to think that if 87% are personnel expenses (note she doesn't say what all is included in that category) then if all personnel would take a 12% pay reduction for a year or two it would be significant. But on closer examination one person giving up 12% who is making 70,000 a year and another giving up 12% at 20,000 a year--they are not making the same sacrifice quantitatively. However jobs might be saved this way if people who can afford, and are willing to, take a 12% pay cut (maybe in return for future benefits gained--like time off) volunteered to do so. I wouldn't expect many people to fall into this category unless their incomes are already above average.

NonyaBidness said...

In a down turned economy, with people expected to do more with less. I can't help but to wonder why the school district can't be expected to follow suit. I hope that D6 focus their attention to the children. D6, reminds me of the boy who cried wolf. Flash bulletion Superintendent Lang. No one is getting more money. Maybe it is your time to demonstrate leadership like our Police and Fire departments do. Reduce your pay (for the children) and when the economy returns to where hard working people have jobs. Perhaps only then you can ask for some additional money....

Jane Paudaux said...

I don't think anyone has any reservations about encouraging D6 to be prudent. But to reply to your thoughts why the school district can't follow business in a recession in exactly the same way is because they aren't a business. They are a public service/good. In business during a recession demand drops, businesses end up with too much supply, therefore prices drop, income is drastically lowered, banks stop lending and expansion dries up. In a school district you still have the same 19,300 kids to service. Demand stays the same or even increases (as education becomes important and a down time is a time to concentrate efforts on education). The mission goals of appropriate education levels do not change. But, in this D6, is right--since everyone else around them, public and private are affected by diminishing income the school district has less money to meet that demand. This is why, my personal opinion, to run a good tight sound ship during good economic times and pile up those reserves. The reserves help (not as much in the public sector as there are restrictions)to weather the storm. In D6's case they are coming into the recession storm with a sinking ship already and now they are bailing as fast as they can. I want to know that the process they are using is to the best advantage of the student's education--not the best advantage of the Board and Administration.

Anonymous said...

As an outsider watching this circus between board members, the board and its disdain for any public involvement, and the lack of any real progress in the education of the children in district 6, is very disheartening. Just when this country needs our children to be excelling in order to meet the challenges of the new world order, they are stagnent and losing ground relative to the rest of the developed nations. We have a school board that is completely oblivious, and uncaring, of the fear and paranoia the front line teachers are forced to work in. While Ms Lang puts her most caring face on she sets her intimidator Kathy VanSoest loose to keep the troops in line. Ask any teacher in this district about this program of vindictive behavior and reprisals for any one that crosses this pair of "admistrators". Take the time and ask. Take a poll of these beleaguered teachers and principals. Its one thing to ask for loyalty, its another to force it thru intimidation.
Someone please help !!!!

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