Tonight we’re sharing budget information about the Salt Lake School District. Ah the legislature! SB1 includes a 7 percent cut and growth. Ouch. Whenever they take funds and redistribute them, it could be a cut for the district. This means $9.6 million in cuts and redistributions (for at-risk students and accelerated students).
Apparently, the legislature is looking at making block grants out of at-risk funding, so no one knows yet what that’s going to look like. The district is still hopeful that these cuts won’t materialize.
But, the district is pretty sure that they’ll lose about $1.15 million in one-time money – things like the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program.
Janet Roberts wants us to notice that SB1 has already cut $91.2 million, although some committee chairs are merrily putting money back into their pet projects. Then in an exercise meant to depress everyone, Janet showed how much the district has cut itself over the last three years. Bottom line: more than $3 million in efficiencies, etc.
We have a $250 million budget, and still we’re able to add certain positions like assistant principals for elementaries. Janet has categorized all the programs in the district to show us where we can cut, but our eyes are glazing over already.
The Base Program apparently accounts for almost 70 percent of the budget, and this is the area that the district can go hacking away at. Now we’re hearing how wonderful NCLB is because it has provided money for things like class-size reduction. Can’t touch that – unless the legislature decides to kick out the feds.
Heather Bennett notes that even though they said it last year, they didn’t make themselves clear to the public. It’s that don’t-blame-us thing, because of course, it’s not their fault.
Superintendent McKell Withers notes that the legislature is talking about current-year cuts, too.
Now that everyone’s totally flummoxed by the figures, we turn to policy revisions. Rosemary Emery isn’t in favor of policy changes because of something teachers worry about. Don’t ask teachers to put something in the computer weekly if you have 200 students. She doesn’t think it’s educationally sound.
She thinks it’s the principal’s duty to, I guess, handle the teachers.
She can tell us that making a tentative calendar is fruitless. No you can’t do it. If you teach to a calendar, you won’t teach to the child. Or whatever.
Doug Nelson has had some frustrating experiences with ESIS, which is the computer program he’s supposed to look at as a parent. Rosemary says she wants to say “regular basis” instead of “weekly.”
OK, Doug says, a first-year teacher might have trouble putting out a calendar, but geez they know when the report cards are coming out. How about modifying it? He wants to see the “game plan” even if you change it.
Rosemary’s having none of this. She’s taught for over 37 years, and this ain’t the reality. She’s never met her calendar expectations once. Egad.
Amanda Thorderson wants to know if there are big projects in a class, and when approximately they’re due. Her kids aren’t too good at telling her when the cheese is getting binding.
Heather says if you don’t have anything to report, don’t put it in.
Rosemary says it’s an issue for the core teachers. Math, English, Social Studies teachers can’t get them in on time. Leave it up to the principals. Somehow this isn’t different than letting kids into the halls early. hmmm
Doug can’t “live” with the statement that teachers don’t have time to tell parents what’s going on with their kids. Rosemary now says she’s put in a lot of zeros in her career.
Alama Uluave has crunched the numbers and figures that teachers have to spend 16 hours additionally each week to write a report. Other board members are looking quizzical.
Rosemary says your main goal is to prep for the kids, not to put things into ESIS. Student board member Bianca Ramirez was pretty darned smart, saying she can see both sides of this. Maybe weekly is too much.
Heather wonders if biweekly would work. Rosemary just wants it to say “regularly.” This apparently is a huge issue for the board. Heather says they avoided certain words like “syllibus,” because no one wanted to create one.
Kristi Swett says the principals say they’re having a tough time getting their teachers to use ESIS. Meanwhile, there’s a constant flow of parents who call in frustrated by the lack of information. Where’s the compromise?
Doug says you need to be specific to principals about what they should do.
Doug went to a teacher conference last week and half of his kids’ teachers hadn’t put anything in ESIS. Kristi notes that the principals want direction from policy, and that’s the reason they’re putting weekly in.
McKell says explicit directions help parents and kids. Heather says it’s been really helpful to read a teacher’s blog or post on UEN, even if it’s general, but at least they’re communicating.
Oh, BTW Laurel Young is a disembodied voice again, but she really doesn’t know what to say. No easy answers – semantics. Hey, bring it to a vote, she says.
Now Kristi wants a little feedback on what people want. Oh no! This sounds like a survey! Doug wonders if they put how many interactions with a child – two or three – before they make some kind of notation.
This is a point in kids’ lives when they really have to have expectations, Heather says. While Kristi wants to put this off because it is, after all, painful to listen to, McKell says the principals have asked for this kind of direction. So this will be an action item for the next board meeting. Unbelievable!
Alama thinks there should be some other options, but he doesn’t know what. He’s not against the communication thing, but hey, he’s got a self-motivated daughter, sooooo. On the other hand, he has a kid he has to check every day. Ask more than a week or greater than 7 days, he says. I’m still processing that one.
Heather wonders if he’s saying every parent should tell a teacher how often they want to be communicated with. Now Alama wants to tweak technology without one shoe fits all – whatever that means.
McKell says, gee, this is just access to current information about the student. It’s not a report.
Finally, Kristi shuts this down and says it was a great conversation. I guess she must have understood it.
Now that they’ve turned to School Board Legal Status, Responsibilities, and Ethics, Alama says he doesn’t feel comfortable with it – something about the board’s interaction with the media. He doesn’t have specifics, but wants to discuss it more.
Oh, he has some reflections he wants to share. The relationship with the superintendent. His question is about the policymaking arrangement they have. He thinks the committee model is a bottleneck and needs to be opened up. How do the rest of us participate in the formation of policy. He has some serious concerns about the way the system is set up, and I think he means he’s feeling left out.
If it’s their primary duty to set policy, then everybody needs to be equal – or something. Heather notes that anybody can request to be on a committee and she’s happy to yield her seat. But Alama isn’t happy. He wants more rotation. Enough to make you dizzy.
Oh there’s another issue – the evaluation of the district. Heather tries to say the policymaking committee should prevent hours and hours of discussion over one word – oh! didn’t that just happen? – and the board as a whole makes policy. So what’s the problem?
Alama says he’s just looking at the system, whatever that means. Amanda says hey, let’s tell everybody monthly what policies they’re going to address. God help us. I’m thinking an intervention is in order.
Kristi wants more feedback. Haha, so what’s new? I think this is feedback, isn’t it? Rosemary seems to know what Alama means. “Clearly we are losing students,” she says. Dropouts is what she’s talking about. She’d like to know what’s happening in the schools and that’s the kind of district evaluation she wants. Maybe they need a committee to look at the whole thing.
OK committee is the answer.
McKell remembers when they used to bring department level reports, but the board said it was too much. That was 3 or 4 years ago.
Alama’s thinking is you need a separate committee for the district evaluation or else he’s not doing his job … only half his job, which he notes is 50 percent.
Doug says a couple times they’ve faced really complicated stuff and they held meetings with a few board members to kind of educate them. Is that a precedent? Get a limited number of board members together for a purpose. I can think of what that purpose would be. I’ve seen it on Criminal Minds.
Calendar feedback: This is what the board asked for from schools. They’ll discuss this feedback at the next meeting, but who knows if they’ll change anything.