Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. –Albert Einstein
I usually do my best to not post angry. I’m not going to succeed this time. Two of my son’s teachers/aides have been wrongly pink-slipped in the last twenty-four hours. This attack on our students and their education has got to stop, and it has got to stop now.
Last night a travesty was inflicted upon all the students of Huntsville City Schools. 280 employees including 154 nontenured teachers began receiving pink slips this afternoon. As horrible as that is, and it is horrible, the travesty is that Dr. Richardson has, as seen in a photo of his slide above, cut $23,089,027 from the school budget (or so he claims . . . as they aren’t publishing clear figures, we’ll just have to take his word for it) without giving any consideration at all to cutting anyone in the central office.
Two weeks ago, Dr. Moore claimed that “every group,” including special education, would have to carry part of the burden of the budget cuts.
It seems that “every group” doesn’t actually include the central office. When Mrs. Morrison asked Dr. Richardson about this “oversight” in his presentation, she was told, “we’re looking into it, and we’ll get back to you.”
Respectfully, Dr. Richardson, that should have been the first place that you looked for cuts and not the classroom.
So while I agree with Board President Birney when he states that the cuts are “earth-shattering,” I don’t believe that he is actually living on the same earth as the rest of us. If he were, he would have insisted that the cuts be fairly distributed across all groups. Not all groups excluding the central office.
Some background and statistics are perhaps in order. These statistics are taken from the Alabama Department of Education website:
- Madison County Schools has approximately 19,666 students.
- Huntsville City Schools has approximately 23,140 students.
- Madison County Schools has approximately 11 central office employees.
- Huntsville City Schools has approximately 500 central office employees.
Does Huntsville really need fifty times as much administration as our surrounding county?
Are we getting fifty times the service?
In another interesting difference between Madison County and Huntsville: you can review online, at any time, at this location monthly check registers and financial statements from Madison County. Despite hours of searching, nothing comparable is available from Huntsville.
With the difficulty one faces in reviewing the system’s budget, is it any wonder that the Huntsville City Schools system is facing a $20,000,000 shortfall?
One final statistic: Huntsville City Schools system may be the only system where the student population remained flat (at 23,000) for the past ten years while the population of the city has “grown more than any other city in Alabama.”
Perhaps one explanation of this phenomenon is that our new Huntsvillians are simply refusing to put their children in our public school system.
If the board truly wishes to improve our school system, I would recommend the following actions:
- It’s time to regain the public trust; therefore, make every decision a transparent one. Stop hindering public involvement in the name of “professionalism.”
- Publish our budget and monthly check registers online for public review. This is public information; it’s time it’s made available to the public.
- Stop balancing the budget on the backs of our teachers by placing a hold on the pink-slipping that began today. Until you’ve actually looked at every other possibility, LEAVE OUR TEACHERS AND AIDES ALONE.
- Determine exactly why our system requires 50 times as much administration as a comparable, neighboring system.
- Involve the public in your decisions. Quit approving an outsider’s plans without allowing public review and comment before your vote. (Don’t think we didn’t notice that you moved the Citizen’s Comments section to before the consultant’s presentation last night. If you’re smart enough to play political games like that, you should be smart enough to realize that you’ve lost the public’s confidence and that hiding your actions won’t help you regain it.)
These are five, simple solutions to improve the way we address the issues we’re facing. Mr. Nalley made a few remarkably misguided comments on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce last night. One particularly misguided one was his attack on parents and others for bringing lawsuits against the system. Simply put, Mr. Nalley, when we have people like Mrs. Sledge basically daring us to sue if we disagree with her illegal decisions, what other option do we have?
But Mr. Nalley did say one thing that I agree with. We do need to overcome our differences. Parents are seeking to be involved and to help. Use us. Involve us. Stop limiting our attempts to understand our common problems. You’re supposed to be educators; good educators like questions. They don’t run from them or limit them to three minutes.
The board and the central office must deal honestly with the public. And until they do, overcoming our differences will be far more difficult than putting a man on the moon.