Revenue forecast released last week indicate $70,000,000.00 more in state revenue than what was forecast at the close of the longest legislative session in Oregon history. A session which was little more than a free-for-all of partisan refusal to cooperate while blaming the other for not cooperating in making government more efficient and effective and/or finding a sustainable method of funding education and state services! They certainly were attentive to ensuring that legislative costs will be more than ever and that family members could receive special gifts without violating ethics rules.
In view of the legislature's inability or refusal to produce cost-effective state services one would expect reasonable and prudent District Administrators, especially the Board of Education, to heed the concerns expressed by teachers during the current negotiations! What IS the District going to do if the tax surcharge is overturned by voters next February 3rd?
If past practice is any indicator, the District will continue business as usual: Cut days, cut services, or cut staff...ALL of which compel the students and staff to bear the burden of administrative inability or refusal to find systemic changes which will produce innovative funding solutions. Solutions which could be produced if some 'joined-at-the-hip' Board Members were not so preoccupied with inaction, avoiding controversy and making Boardmanship appear to be a big game in which they joke and clown while students and staff are starving for leadership!
It will be a challenge for the District to translate recent Board Goals into sustainable funding which will be LESS dependent upon undependable State revenues. A School Board is comprised of lay citizens whose greatest resource is the community and school patrons who elect them. Wouldn't it be nice if the Board would listen to and grant legitimate consideration of proposals they solicited during budget hearings? Perhaps even ACT upon the recommendations of the Budget Committee and review these proposals in a timely fashion?
Many Oregon Districts develop 2-year budgets or have already begun developing their budgets in December - Molalla may begin their budget process in March, 2004 (probably contingent upon the outcome of the State Tax Surcharge ballot). Many Oregon Districts place a HIGH priority on communicating with District patrons and consulting them on a regular basis. The average umber of students per District Administrator in Oregon is 897.3 - 472.3 in Molalla where a greater number of administrators means a lower student ratio. Many Oregon Districts pay to have their Board Policies online - Molalla had an opportunity to get theirs online without cost, but never followed through on their agreement to do so.
How nice it would be if not only Jill Parker, Ralph Gierke, and Steve Kraxberger, but the entire Molalla River Board of Education were of a mind to accept suggestions and potential solutions in the interest of the students in the Molalla River School District rather than as threats to their fragile egos.
08-08-2003 - Post Term Expiration: Congratulations to Maple Grove Elementary School! According to the Friday, August 8, 2003 Oregonian, Maple Grove turned in the best performance on statewide testing of any school in Oregon! I would personally like to praise the efforts of the staff and students at Maple Grove! I hope that Maple Grove and the other schools in our district will be able to continue their exceptional performance and apply the new technology (TESA), including wireless networking, to maintain their outstanding service to our students!
Unfortunately, during the Budget deliberations the Budget Committee and Deneen Munson's advocacy of an excessively conservative budget compelled Maple Grove to accept a devastating and disproportionate reduction in staff! Even though the Maple Grove Site Council took an unprecedented initiative in researching how utilizing a teacher-administrator and insignificant boundary change could resolve their budgetary shortfall (based on facility recommendations by District Administration)!
The Budget Committee recommended that the Board conduct further review of the proposals to apply carryover funds to maintain smaller classroom sizes. Nevertheless, the Board would not even discuss any of these proposals before approving the Budget that Alice Ericksen (former Superintendent) recommended to Deneen Munson that the Board approve without any further discussion. The results are history. The budget was approved, unchanged, in spite of my efforts to persuade the Board to exercise their responsibilities and at least discuss these and other "out of box" proposals.
- Post Term Expiration: Anybody heard anything from the Board of
Education? Like whether or not the Board is following through with their
agreement to continue budget deliberations with the Budget Committee during the
Summer? I haven't. But I'm certainly in good company, for I don't know of
ANY former Board Members who have even been invited to participate in the
Educational Ambassadors or participate in any other District affairs!
Well, at least the Legislature is giving signs that lobbying efforts by concerned education patrons have been successful to some extent. "A compromise school funding figure of $5.23 billion was being discussed in both houses." ("Budget Talks Said Encouraging", Charles E. Beggs, Associated Press, 8/5/03). This is substantially more than the $4.5 billion my former associates were advocating during the 2003-2004 Budget deliberations! I'd still like to know why the "Bus Barn" fund is decreasing in spite of the Dickey Prairie property sale and Highway 211 funds which were supposed to be added to it!
07-25-2003 - Post Term Expiration: Sour Grapes? I think not. Those who have read editorials in the Molalla Pioneer, or attended Board of Education Meetings will bear witness to the Board's disregard of all proposals for temperance prior to cutting the school calendar as well as all efforts to establish a relationship with the City Council (until the month following the conclusion of my term of office)!
My only regret, aside from my joy that the Board is finally taking some of the actions I'd advocated nearly my entire term of office, is that the students and staff of the school district were held hostage to the contempt of Board members for one of their own associates! Perhaps, now, the Molalla Moms AND the Molalla Dads can get on with the business of ensuring a quality education for the Molalla Youth instead of furthering their personal agendas!
06-12-2003 Regular Board Business Meeting - The $936,130.00 ending fund balance and the budget meetings are now history. The budget proposed and modified multiple times, clear up until the last meeting of the Budget Committee, has now been approved by the Budget Committee without ever having seen all the changes incorporated into a final budget! The $936,130.00 ending fund balance has been redistributed and reassigned to provide for insurance against possible State Funding reductions. This is based upon an MRSD projection of State School Fund revenue at $4.5 billion, well below the estimate of Senator Beyer ($4.6-4.9 billion), estimated by the Governor ($5,051 billion), or the Co-Chairs budget estimate ($4.9 billion). The Board chose to postpone any discussion of expense reductions or revenue increases discussed and/or recommended by the Budget Committee. The Board chose to approve the Budget essentially unchanged from the original proposal, approve reductions in force and approve increased class sizes, keeping nearly $300,000.00 just in case.
Note: If most of the $1.13 million MREA budget reduction proposals had been implemented last year, when they were proposed, instead of in the 2003-2004 budget the Molalla River School District could very likely have had an ending fund balance over $2 million and not been compelled to make ANY staff or calendar reductions in 2002-2003 OR 2003-2004!
04-10-2003 Regular Board Business Meeting - More good news! The teachers, administrators, parents and students have made many sacrifices during the past several months and the fruits of our frugality are beginning to be revealed. At the Board Meeting we received notification of some of the information not available to us in January and we are now looking at an ending fund balance of $936,130.00. The consensus of the Board was that we would gather input from the Unions and the community before making any decisions on how to address these funds. The Board of Education and the District Administration sent out a letter, April 15, 2003, to inform the community of the $936,130.00 revised Ending Fund Balance.
Although many have expressed concern over whether or not this information should have been available sooner, that is not always possible in calculating funding for education (see how these funds are calculated). The only thing we can do with any certainty is delay decisions which will have an adverse affect on students until all the financial data is available and sometimes that may be too late. In extenuating circumstances which currently exist, with legislative budget deficits due to depressed economic conditions, timing is of the essence!
01-09-2003 Regular Board Business Meeting - Good news! The Board of Education has approved the sale of the Highway 211 property near the Molalla Middle School! During the deliberations it was disclosed that the sale would yield $250,000.00! A motion was made to amend the motion to approve this sale subject to the proceeds being added to the funds accrued in the 'Bus Barn Fund' (similar to the action taken in October of 2002 with the Dickey Prairie property). The Chair stated that it was not necessary to specify the funds to be deposited in the 'Bus Barn Fund', as it was a foregone conclusion they would be. The Superintendent stated that it was her understanding that the proceeds from the sale of all surplus property would go into the 'Bus Barn Fund'. This would bring the total in the 'Bus Barn Fund' to approximately $301,500.00.
This was a very heated meeting. Emotions were high. Many concerns were expressed regarding the Administration recommendation that the Board approve a Reduction In Force (RIF) effective February 1, 2003. This is to accomplish the Administrative goal of assuring a 'balanced budget' for the 2001-2002 school year and maximizing the 'cash carryover'. Rarely have I seen a more concerted effort to indict the leadership of the Union. Even to the extent that the Chair felt compelled to take copies of correspondences from the District to the Union leadership out to the audience for a teacher to examine! Nevertheless, the Board voted 6-1 to authorize the District to compile a RIF List which would be withheld until January 21 pending commencement of Union discussions with District Administration regarding a "contingency plan" to reduce days in the school calendar if Measure 28 fails. As the dissenting vote I was compelled to go on record opposing any mid-year Reduction In Force prior to opening discussions with the Union. If the Union does not enter discussions the RIF list will be submitted January 21, 2003. Then, even if Measure 28 passes, 29 teachers will still have been served notice of transfer or discharge effective February 1, 2003 and likely will be seeking other employment.
During the meeting the Board was reminded that a concern had been raised at the December Board of Education Business meeting that we should begin planning for the 'contingency' of ballot measure 28's failure. In December it was pointed out that we will NOT know the actual deficit in the 'cash carryover' until the year is over and that would give us about five months to deliberate alternative measures for addressing the potential deficit such as selling surplus district property or hiring a grant writer. Perhaps we could even engage staff, students, and key communicators in these discussions. The Board of Education has chosen to preclude any method of addressing the deficit other than reduction in calendar days or staff. If the Board has duly deliberated every option available to District Administration and the Board of Education to address the possible deficit subsequent to possible failure of Ballot Measure 28, then NO Board member should be offended if ANYONE questions whether they have done so!
The following highlighted segment was added to this sight prior to the September 12, 2002 Regular Business Meeting of the Molalla River School District Board of Education and before any action was taken by the Board: 09-12-2002 Business Meeting - There has been a great deal of discussion recently concerning changing past policy concerning Board Member attendance at the Fall OSBA conference. This is a conference that allows Board Members and Superintendents to gather information from OSBA lobbyists and Legislative Representatives concerning education related issues of the last legislative sessions. This is of particular importance this year due to the ongoing debate over school funding! The Board Chair suggested that all Board Members should pay for their own dinner ($23, $24, or $25 each - $168.00 if ALL members attended). I can't help wondering why it is beneficial to be frugal over a $25.00 meal when there was absolutely NO support for cutting the Board of Education's legal expenses by 1/3 to save $30,000.00 (based upon the 2001-2002 budget) as suggested by the MREA. It seems that at least one Board member is of the mind that "If you can't afford to pay for the meal.......then don't attend." thus making attendance at an OSBA function subject to one's ability to pay! Seems to me this is like saying that "if you can't afford to be a Board Member then get off the Board!" Now I see that the Board of Education Policy is in the Information/Discussion portion of the Board Packet for the next meeting. Wonder who requested that? Does this mean that those members who seek to impose their beliefs on other Board members will simply vote to deny the opportunity to attend this or other conferences? I guess we'll see what this is all about at the meeting Thursday!
Budget Worksession - Subsequent to this meeting I wrote the following Letter to the Editor of the Molalla
Pioneer after informing my fellow Board Members in an e-mail
to Deneen Munson which was 'carbon copied' to all the members of the Board
of Education who have functional e-mail, as well as Pam Monte (District
Secretary) and Alice Ericksen (Superintendent):