One parent’s commentary on the June 18 Beaverton School Board meeting
“I’m sorry, it is our practice not to respond to public questions.” I think school board spokesperson meant to say that they do not directly respond during the public comment period of the school board meeting; but, unfortunately the impression given to concerned parents, teachers and taxpayers on June 18 matched her spoken words exactly. A packed crowd dressed in red and supporting music education attended the meeting asking the board to re-examine their June 4 budget. A dozen plus impassioned arguments questioned figures used in the budget generation, asked for additional union discussion and challenged new programs added for the coming year. The public cry asked the board to re-examine or explain their choices. Instead, the board said very little. One member acknowledged the difficult situation and admitted they had been unaware of some specifics before adopting the budget; but still concluded the board was powerless – at least until the next teacher’s union contract was negotiated. Another board member responded that music programs were not completely cut from the schools. While these answers include truth, both were but partial answers to only a couple of the concerns presented. Among other things, public speakers that evening proposed increasing furlough days to save teaching positions. The board claimed no authority in this area, missing the request to just ASK union leadership to allow teachers to voice their wishes. It was factual that music is not being cut from the schools – but the board failed to even acknowledge why music throughout the district is slated for disproportionate cuts versus other disciplines, and made no comment regarding the fear that music programs will be decimated as award-winning music educators may be replaced by higher-seniority staff without essential experience. On other critical questions posed that evening, the public was left to hope for answers in the themed responses that Dr. Rose promised to release at a future date. At the top of that critical list – 1. Why did they approve a budget prepared using 2011/12 BUDGETED figures as a starting point rather than the significantly lower ACTUAL expenditures? The chair of the school board’s budget committee spoke openly about the need to correct this. 2. Why is the district diverting funds from proven, valuable education programs to add new programs for next year? Significant funding is included in the approved budget for ‘Teacher Collaboration’ and a new Information Technology program. These new programs are being funded as we hear claims that ‘unavoidable cuts’ have forced the district to wipe out BSD’s library program – the original information technology gatekeepers. At the June 4 meeting, Dr. Rose and the board pushed parents and teachers to blame Salem direct budget complaints there. Allusions were made to supporting a new local levy next fall. Well, my opinion is that blame is pointless. My daughter has only two remaining years of high school, and I have no desire to see them compromised to ‘send a message to Salem’. Dr. Rose stated that he had ‘no intention of defending the budget’. As a taxpaying citizen, I believe the public deserves some explanation. As a group, the parents and teachers in red expect to see a 2012-13budget that invests available funds wisely –investigating all options to preserve teachers. We expect to see inclusion of only proven programs. Show us this, and we will focus our energies on Salem and vocally support a fall tax levy for Beaverton Schools. On the other hand, if our concerns are ignored and funds are diverted to support pet projects, public trust and support for a new levy will become harder to find than a BSD librarian.
Southridge High School Parent