April 17, 2013
During the spring of 2012, I sat as a concerned parent in on a few school board meetings dealing with budget issues. These meetings were difficult and emotional for everyone present, as declining enrollment in our district as well as budget cuts, were forcing the district and the board to make decisions about teacher lay-offs and program cuts. Indeed there were teacher lay-offs, I know that the agricultural and music and band programs experienced deep cuts and we heard that class sizes had increased to 28-30 students per class.
At these meetings, I found the members of the Douglas County School Board to be compassionate, dedicated professionals who care deeply about the welfare of children in our educational system. The district and the board were doing their best given a very difficult situation and while I did not personally agree with the program cuts, it was very easy to see that everyone cared and was doing their best to find creative solutions to difficult and sometimes nearly impossible problems. The board was very clear that there was zero money available and that everyone involved in the district was looking for creative ways to make dollars go further.
Therefore I was surprised and a little concerned to read in the Jan. 8, 2013, minutes of the Douglas County School Board that a five-year agreement had recently been reached with the Douglas County Administrators Association where administrators had been given what appears to be raises. The minutes stated that "a new section of the traditional salary table was added for performance pay coming out of the new educational reforms." In addition to performance pay increases on top of the new schedule, the board approved four additional work days for administrators.
So the question that arises for me is, "Why are we granting raises and increased work days during a time of declining student enrollment, reductions in revenues, teacher lay-offs, increasing class size and program cuts? Could not those four days at least be absorbed into the approximately 40 days that administrators already work beyond student days, especially in lieu of performance pay increases? After all teachers are not receiving additional pay for their increased class sizes.
I am not against raises for administrators. I think our administrators are top-notch. The board and the district see a bigger picture than I do, and I am sure that they feel that the best way to serve "the welfare of the children of Douglas County" is to give these raises. But it is my personal opinion, that if the district has extra money that the money should be spent first on not cutting our kids programs and maintaining smaller class sizes where possible. If we do have some extra money this year as we apparently do as I read in the Nov. 13, 2012, minutes, I would urge the district and the members of the board this spring to add back some of the programs or even teachers that were cut.
Deborah Jenks Reichhold