For the first time in 30 years of voting, I may vote no on the school budget. This is not because my taxes are going up but because I am unhappy with what is happening in our district. Voting no feels like the only power I have. Petitions, letters of concern and public comments are being rebuffed.
I have tried to keep up on the HUUSD changes, probably more than the average citizen. I have attended board meetings, read board packets and watched MRVTV board tapings. It has been a tidal wave of information, with many confusing whirlpools of distraction. For example, in November the board voted to start making a plan to consolidate middle schools (starting with a plan is good). But, before any work was put into the plan, they voted twice to not consolidate next school year. Then they passed a budget that combined the schools in seven months without a plan (what?). Decisions are being made before outcomes of those decisions are considered and shared.
I actually support merging schools and consolidating our students into fewer buildings. My no vote on the budget is not to oppose consolidation. I, instead, am against making drastic decisions without thought out plans and considerations to our students, teachers, infrastructure and budget. And if someone has such a plan in hand, please share it.
I am looking for more than just cost savings. What will it require in infrastructure upgrades and bond payments to make it work? How are we preparing students to merge in fifth grade and merge again in seventh grade? What is the impact on teachers and students to expand class sizes? How can we ensure that our core and applied academics will not be compromised with larger schools, larger class sizes and fewer teachers? How will we minimize the educational impact on students attending schools in construction zones? Will construction and long bus rides make out-of-district students leave our district, seating us with a higher tax burden? How do all of these considerations impact our budget?
It also discourages me to see those with the most experience and knowledge of the potential impact being excluded in the planning process. The teaching staff was not invited to the table to discuss these impacts, until the teachers union invoked contractual language to get an audience with the board. At the February 12 board meeting, teacher representatives shared the potential impact on school programming and teacher/student relationships. The conversation ended with a motion that was tabled until February 19 to reevaluate finding savings in places other than staff cuts. I was further disappointed to hear on February 14 that as many as 40 teachers have been notified of cuts to their positions or hours or have been given reassignments.