THE COMMUNITY DESERVES TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SCHOOL BUDGET
I write as the President of the BEU. Our Representative Council – with members from every school and every department of the High School– unanimously stands behind this statement.
The BEU believes that key information is missing from the school district budget – and from summaries of it–and that the community deserves to have this information. Furthermore, teachers, too, are entitled to the missing information because we believe that the School Committee hasn’t been fully candid with us. They have told us that every penny from the Override has been carefully allotted in accordance with promises made to the voters, so there is no flexibility when it comes to budgeting.
We have called for remedies to a crushing workload crisis that we believe is damaging learning and teaching and that is taking the eye of educators’ off of a first priority: creating safe classrooms for our student body that is reflective of the inclusion model.
We think there are signs in this budget of a ramping up of a top-down central bureaucracy that is bent on making teachers do more data collection, data entry, and standardized teaching than they are doing now. Voters are entitled to ask whether there are savings to be found in both time and money that could increase support for the kind of education they sought, and expected, when they voted for the Override. Let’s let the community make their own judgment as to whether promises are being kept.
The School Committee boasts that only 10% of the budget goes to central administration, but what about the question of how the central administration is using their time, teachers’ time and students’ time? The budget notes that money for a “newly forming department,” the Office of Strategy and Performance, has been placed in the educational technology budget awaiting a new Technology Plan that does not now exist. Voters were promised that educational technology would be used to enrich students’ use computers for learning and to make that experience equitable across buildings. We want to see a Technology Plan.
The budget document says that at some later date in FY17, the school committee will decide how moneys will allocated to educational technology and this “newly forming department.” We are told that this key part of district restructuring will be focused on “the creation of new student data and staff data” to “drive continuous improvement in learning, achievement, instruction, and operations.” The community has a right to know more about this plan now.
We want to know how much override money and other district funds will be diverted to increasing the number of assessments and standardized tests that involve pulling children away from their peers, and teachers from their classrooms. Parents understand that we cannot afford to spend money and time on more and more one-size-fits-all paperwork that distracts teachers from discovering and fostering the unique talents and needs of each of their students. We believe that the amount of data that is increasing uniformity in teaching is already damaging teachers’ ability to create and nurture a cohesive and joyful sense of community in the classroom.
It is way too late to repair the damage done by this school committee’s failure to catch up with the growing enrollment that seems to have been hiding in plain sight from this School Committee for the last decade. But since they are failing to meet the emergency staffing needs of our buildings in spite of the current hiring, the teachers of this town now expect that they will make it possible for them to put the immediate needs of our students first. That means carefully considering what the priorities are for funding and the use of teacher time.
We think they should publicly release exactly what the allocation of funds, and the workload plans, are for this restructuring of the district that they say they will figure out later.