As this week’s Rowe School Board meeting focused on a “realignment of resources,” it’s clear our local school is in a period of transition. Many California public schools are facing a budget crisis related to escalating pension liabilities. I am a parent of two children at this school, and I am fiscally conservative. I understand the intent of streamlining our staff and making our existing resources more efficient, but not at a cost to our uniquely qualified teachers, and, in turn, our children.
Current staffing is not sustainable because of pension liabilities and rising mandated expenses. We should reduce the number of employees. Public schools must follow legal standards when conducting layoffs, meaning some of our best teachers will be fired because they are more recent hires. I know our board has faced hard decisions and I am grateful for the service each member has given. However, R. Roger Rowe is a school, not a factory churning out widgets. I believe somewhere along the way our leadership has lost sight of this most crucial fact.
The Art of Teaching
Donna Tripi, our new superintendent, touts standardized test performance of her previous school and believes her Roger Rowe plan can produce similar results. Academic excellence is paramount. However, standardized test scores do not, a priori, accurately represent student growth and achievement (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-makes-a-good-school_b_779035). A cursory glance at the La Jolla Elementary website reveals extensive preparation for these tests, likely at the expense of actual learning. Students take practice standardized tests multiple times during the academic year and spend a great deal of time reviewing the test itself. This approach has been successful at improving SBAC scores, but are students cognitively assimilating subject matter or only learning how to take this particular test?
The importance of human connections cannot be underestimated. I care greatly about the quality of instruction my children receive. Teaching is an art, not simply the act of herding students and demanding rote memorization. Our children have thrived at this school because of the quality teachers they have had.
Our Culture of Learning
Focus has been on the number of staff at present versus ten years ago, when the school had a larger population. And I recognize that as a district comprised of only one school, we have a significant amount of overhead that would be distributed in a larger district. But ten years ago when we were just as if not more successful, we did not have the additional administrative staff that we have now. These additional positions are at a cost to our uniquely qualified teachers who have always been the key to our achievement and at the core of our culture of learning.
We are balancing the budget, but at what cost to our children as well? Would it not be more appropriate to condense/combine positions in departments outside of the teaching faculty, such as Business, Development, Fundraising, and IT? Many of these roles did not exist when the school thrived decades earlier. There seems to be some duplication of costly positions that could be combined to not only save a lot of money, but our invaluable instructional positions as well.
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