Archive for February 2011
BACKGROUND: It seems that many resident e-mails are disappearing into a black hole at the County Administration Building these days. On January 12, I requested the instructions for speaking before the Prince George’s County Council, on any topic, as part of their general public hearing process. I could not locate the information on the County’s website, and it took 35 days for the Clerk to provide an initial response, stating that there are no public hearings scheduled before County Council until March 1. Not only was that a completely unacceptable length of time for an e-mail inquiry, the information was also wrong. After contacting my Councilman, Mel Franklin, nine days later (44 days in total), I received a comprehensive response to my question about how the public can sign up to speak at any Council hearing. I thought I would share it with you so we can all become more actively engaged in providing feedback on County issues, especially the upcoming budget process.
Certainly the public, by request to the Clerk, may address the County Council following any Tuesday Council Session. Procedurally, at the conclusion of business outlined on the agenda, the Chair will ask the Clerk if there is anyone from the public who wishes to address the Council. If no one has signed up to speak, the Chair will adjourn the meeting.
Generally, citizens call the Clerk’s Office on 301-952-3600 to indicate their desire to address the Council and would be referred to me. At that time I would ask them to provide their name, address, phone number and brief description of the subject matter they would like to convey. Individuals are all provided a timed (3) minutes with which to make their comments.
If the individual had more to share, they would be asked to perhaps put their comments or concerns in writing and to submit them to the Clerk. In instances when citizens are unaware of the process and have not contacted the Clerk prior to the Session, they would be welcome to approach the Clerk during the Council Session to sign up and would at that time provide the required information. It is always suggested, however, that citizens contact the Clerk’s Office a few days prior to the meeting to confirm the schedule.
When Council is involved with additional evening meetings in conjunction with their regularly scheduled Sessions, the day schedule is often modified to allow a later start for Council’s convening in the regular daytime Session. As we begin the Budget Process and set in the required Budget Hearings, we can most assuredly count on modified daytime scheduling. The night Budget Hearings are scheduled for the convenience of the citizenry and is established for purposes of receiving their testimony regarding budgetary matters that affect the citizens in Prince George’s County.
Although the Council’s Budget Calendar is pending final approval, we can anticipate that the first evening Budget Hearings will be held on Tuesday, April 25, 2011 starting at 6:30 p.m., addressing the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Budget Public Hearing, followed by the Community Development Block Grant Budget Public Hearing tentatively scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Our draft calendar also presently reflects 7:00 p.m., Budget Hearing on Monday, May 2, 2011 regarding the County Budget, Capital Improvement Program, Board of Education and Constant Yield Tax Rate. The last Budget Hearing is currently slated for Wednesday, May 11, 2011 and will address the same issues scheduled on May 2nd again, for citizens convenience. The Budget Adoption is expected to take place on Thursday, May 26, 2011.
Just as added information, the Council historically is in recess during the months of August and December.
I hope the information was helpful to you. Should you have additional questions about the budget process or your ability to address the Council, do contact me.
Redis C. Floyd
Clerk of the County Council
Guest Blog Contributor “RF” Wants to Know What You Think About Communications From Your Councilman
Maybe I’m just a spoiled political activist. Two days after I contacted the current president’s fledgling campaign in a crucial early primary state, I was sitting in the campaign state director’s office explaining my strategic advice in more detail. When I lived in a more conservative electoral district, I received, despite my obvious liberal Democratic stances, personal responses to my e-mails from the Republican state legislators that represented me. Even here in southern Prince George’s county, my Board of Education representative always responds with a personal note.
Thus, when I moved to District 9 in the summer of 2010, I expected personal touch from my County Council candidates. After figuring out that the Democratic primary was the real electoral contest in my new county, I spent some time looking at the candidates. I identified Mel Franklin and another candidate as my top choices, and decided to contact them both regarding my concerns about Prince George’s county schools. The other candidate responded within 24 hours with a lengthy, personal e-mail. I never received a response from Mr. Franklin. The other candidate knocked on my door one August weekend and spent time discussing issues with me. To my knowledge, Mel Franklin never made it to our neighborhood. When the primary day came in September, my choice was easy.
Even though my preferred candidate did not win, I was happy Mel Franklin was going to be my representative on the County Council. He was saying the right things. He was an apparent community activist. I got the feeling he was on my side, fighting for the kind of change I want to see in this county.
In my view, the County Council representative is my most important political ally and conduit. He is the one who represents me in the government entity that affects my daily life the most. Since the election, I have e-mailed Mel Franklin three times about various issues. As of today, I have not received a response to any of my messages.
I understand all of our elected officials receive a large amount of communications from constituents. However, most of these folks are able to respond in one way or another. I don’t expect Mel Franklin to send me a long detailed response to all my e-mails. But, an acknowledgment of some sort of would be nice. “Thanks for your note, I’ll look into this” would suffice. By now, I’m hesitant to spend my time composing a thoughtful note, just to have it disappear into the black hole that Mr. Franklin’s e-mail address appears to be.
I haven’t lost hope. Mel Franklin is an ambitious, intelligent young man, new on the job. But, for him to succeed in the long run, he must step up his constituent communications efforts. I suspect he and his staff are more responsive to individuals they personally know. But to me, the real measure of an elected official is how they respond to the concerns of all their constituents. I’m sure even Jack Johnson was responsive to his friends.
Three headlines have made a lot of noise in Prince George’s County since the ill-fated day of November 12, 2010, when our County Executive, Jack Johnson, was taken away from his home in handcuffs by federal agents. Here’s a quick review:
(1) Jack Johnson Arrested, Indicted on Bribery Charges: Apparently his $174,540 salary wasn’t enough. He spent nearly all of his eight years as County Executive involved in schemes to extract thousands of dollars from developers looking to do business with the county.
(2) Rushern Baker Hosts Lavish Inaugural Celebration: Approximately $525,000 is spent on three days of festivities to celebrate his swearing-in as County Executive. This is more than 100 times the amount spent in neighboring Montgomery County, where Ike Leggett spent $5,000 on his own inauguration.
(3) County Council Spends Thousands on Retreat Outside the County: We still don’t know exactly how much County Council spent on their retreat at a resort outside the County, but according to Council Chair Ingrid Turner, total expenditures are estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. Council spent the funds during a time when the County is facing a $77 million shortfall in its own budget.
The common theme among all these news reports about our elected officials is not corruption, although that has been the major storyline. It’s about the county’s obsession with another issue that has led to it—that making a public display of our wealth matters to us. Our insecurity over whether this county is “good enough” has also motivated our elected officials to try and prove it—in all the wrong ways.
In the case of Jack Johnson, he asks us to overlook the charges against him, by commenting that residents should be focusing on the tremendous growth and progress that the county has made under his administration’s leadership. Yet the indictment alleges that the “growth and progress” have all come with a price tag, allegedly with payoffs directly into Johnson’s pocket. Johnson hopes that having developments like National Harbor or a fancy grocery story like Wegman’s will help us believe we’re really better than other jurisdictions in the region. Even if we don’t believe it, we can at least brag that we’ve got something flashy that others want.
Furthermore, for a public official to stray this far from his churchgoing ideals and prosecutorial roots leads me to believe something else was driving him. Perhaps his greed for more money was based upon his own insecurities about growing up in poverty in racially-divided South Carolina. Maybe in his position as County Executive, he gained some esteem from leveraging his power over others while fattening his bank account. Whatever was driving him, he was so dedicated to keeping the money flowing that he even asked developers to help raise money to get his wife elected to County Council. I’m not quite sure where Johnson lost his way, but one thing I am sure about—no amount of money seemed to satisfy Johnson’s greed. He kept pressing for more, up until the day he was arrested, which was three weeks before he left elected office. Whatever emptiness he sought to fill within himself, no amount of money was able to satisfy it.
In the case of the elaborate inauguration festivities for Rushern Baker, it seemed that he felt compelled to host a lavish celebration to help us all believe that we really are a “good” county and that he will help us make it great. His campaign slogan of “making a good county great” seems to make the assumption that we have an insecurity complex among our residents. Perhaps Baker’s $525,000 affair was just an effort to prove to everyone that after two failed attempts at becoming elected as County Executive, he was finally putting a big exclamation point on his win to show us (or himself) that he really did deserve it. What other explanation could there be, when other similarly-situated counties in our region spent nothing that remotely compares to the inaugural events we held in Prince George’s County?
If $525,000 was going to be raised anyhow, here’s how I might have suggested spending it:
- Hire experienced recruiters to find the best talent and manage the hiring process for the new administration; rather than relying upon former politicians who recycle their old allies into high-paying positions. New blood among the senior leadership team would lend itself to having more political courage in rooting out corruption.
- Bring on transition team auditors who can begin drafting a plan for rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse within the halls of county government.
- Instead of spending time to plan a celebration, pay staff to develop a work plan that will guide the county toward actually implementing the Pledge for Prince George’s County, and aligning its goals and outcomes with the County’s budget process.
These recommendations would probably cost more than $525,000, but at least it would provide us with some real benefits to help pave the way for a difficult transition following Johnson’s arrest.
County Council’s egregious spending on a retreat at a luxury resort makes a statement of its own about how they view their positions as elected officials. Council Chair Turner makes no effort to justify the expense, other than to state that they needed a place where they would not be distracted from their work. It seems that explanation was enough for most people, because we’ve barely heard much of an outcry from residents since the media reported it.
I’ve always thought that, as a county, we’re a bit guilty of treating our elected officials like royalty, instead of reminding them that they are public servants. We don’t run a monarchy, we run a democracy. Yet at a time when the county is facing a $77 million shortfall, Councilwoman Turner’s explanation implies to residents that she chose to spend money on this kind of Council retreat because, quite frankly, the Council deserves it. Why shouldn’t she feel that way, since we pay our Council members more than any others in the entire state of Maryland? We’re sending our own message when we as taxpayers are unwilling to speak out about these issues. I think we should be demanding more accountability from our elected officials, because they are elected to serve the people, not reign over them with a golden scepter.
As a county, we need to come together and recognize that we have some alarming issues to address and tough challenges ahead of us. No amount of money can cover over the problems with our schools, public safety, poor development, and high foreclosure rate. We can’t build McMansions at the outskirts of the County to help us ignore the decline of our inner suburbs. We can’t point to our elite specialty schools and private institutions as justification that options for a great education exist in our county if you’re lucky enough to win the lottery or pay a certain price tag for private education. We can’t blame our homicide rate on drugs and gangs in certain neighborhoods that simply aren’t our neighborhoods. We can’t say our 911 response is sufficient when a few seconds could make the difference in life or death for someone in our household. We can’t brag about the expansion of new, high-end shopping centers and pretend many aging, vacant ones don’t exist. Just because we’re keeping up with our mortgage doesn’t mean that we don’t have neighbors evicted every day as the banks foreclose on the only place they have ever called home. Let’s stand together to fix the problems we face, let’s stand up to those in office who aren’t spending our money to get the right things done, and let’s stand against anybody who stands in the way of that.
I was waiting for the County to post the video on the website (http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov), and staff claim that is has been posted, but I can’t locate it. My public comments to the County Executive and his budget team are posted here, and I hope I’ll be able to locate the video soon so you can view all of the feedback that residents provided at this hearing. Feel free to post a comment if you’re able to find the link to the hearing. Thanks!
Good evening County Executive Baker, honorable elected officials, County staff, and fellow residents. I live in Accokeek, MD, and I represent myself, my husband and 2 young children. We are 8-year residents of White Hall Forest.
My primary reason for being here is that I am a concerned parent worried about funding for our schools. I’d like to make a couple of quick points that I encourage you to consider:
- Superintendent Hite has proposed many cuts to the classroom that will hurt our children. When I did a little research, I learned that more than 700 PGCPS staff make more than $100,000, and only 51 of those employees are directly involved in educating our children. Many admin staff are mid-level bureaucrats who make the same salary as you, Mr. Baker, and have far less responsibility for our county’s future. Please work with Dr. Hite to look at where else cuts can be made in administrative areas before our classrooms.
- In making this point, I also want to let you know my husband and I are public servants who, for the past three years, have endured two-week furloughs, increased health care costs, no pay raises, and no cost-of-living increases. We are Ivy-league educated, highly experienced professionals who could certainly work elsewhere if we wanted six-figure salaries. We chose public service because we love it, and we understand that when times are tight we must make sacrifices for the greater good of the organization. We need to make sure that our school administrators are doing the same, and not crying wolf by putting valuable programs on the chopping block to get the state’s attention, because if the state doesn’t deliver, all that is accomplished with these cuts is stealing our teacher’s joy in the classroom and robbing our children of an education.
My other concern is making sure that the County takes further action to strategically align budgetary priorities with your campaign promises in the Pledge for Prince George’s County. In particular, I want more action on moving toward an open and transparent government. I am a government communications professional, and I know for sure that the Office of Information Technology and Communications should be working together with your staff on this objective. It will require a little money, and a lot of dedication to do it. Here are some initiatives I would like to see:
- Record and post all government meetings online. If I can’t be at the Council, Committee, or Commission meetings, at least I can stay engaged.
- Maintain regular dialogue with residents. This hearing is a good opportunity for that, but as you know, few will seek out this meeting information or dig through press releases on the website to find out. Use your social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, not only to post information but to engage in conversation about County issues, because that’s what social media is intended for.
- Set up web comment boards, so if residents can’t attend meetings to provide input on an issue as important as our budget, ideas can be submitted online for consideration. I am very happy that your ACI Advisory Board has already done that.
Develop a roadmap for getting to 311, which provides one front door to our county’s government. Residents shouldn’t have to sort through 500 phone numbers and multiple departments to fulfill a service request. Offering 311 by phone, online, and through a mobile app on smartphones will let us access services, anywhere and anytime. Let’s get it done, and thank you for your time.
I attended the Prince George’s County School Board’s final work session on Satuday, February 19, and I know many of you have been waiting for the details of what was presented and what more can be done before the School Board is scheduled to adopt the budget on February 24. While I am not jumping for joy just yet, I do think Dr. Hite showed me that they are working harder to identify legitimate cuts that should be made before we all hop on a bus and journey to Annapolis to beg for more money from the state.
Here is an overview of our revenue and expenditures:
- Our revenue breakout: 54% come from state funding, 39% from county funding, and 7 % from federal funding
- Our expenditures breakout: 65% on salaries on wages (but no comparison between admin and teacher split); 18% on benefits; 8% on contracted services; 7% on operating costs; and 2% on supplies and materials
Dr. Hite also summarized our top priorities, which are maintaining current class sizes and retaining highly effective teacdhers and leaders (but I’m not sure how they identify who they are). He stated that the budget does not include any furloughs for teachers or administrators, and that he is getting ready to renegotiate all contracts to address compensation structures. Dr. Hite stated, “We value teachers and their work; and our compensation philosophy should communicate that.” Bravo, I agree. Furthermore, we should take steps to ensure that our administrative functions are not bloating the system with overpaid bureacrats who have no direct responsibility for educating our children.
Dr. Hite then presented additional budget cuts that will result in further reorganization of the central office to save $34.4 million and eliminate 283 full-time employees (FTEs). CORRECTION: New comment points out that my original post is misstated. The central office originally cut $31.7 million, and what was proposed on Saturday was an additional $2.7 million. We still have alot more work to do!
Major new cuts that were presented during the meeting include:
- Merger of Fiscal Compliance and Budget Management Services, eliminating three FTEs and saving $300,000
- Merger of Payroll and Benefits, eliminating five FTEs and saving 450,000 (They plan to move pay stubs to online documents and provide self-service management for employee benefits, leave requests, direct deposit, etc. Many jurisdictions do this already).
- Reorganize Communications into a single department with one director, eliminating seven FTEs and saving $560,000. Some concern was expressed about whether the 14 staff were sufficient to deliver the same level of services. My answer to that question, based on my professional experience, is yes! Be creative about using online communication, hire free and capable interns from the University of Maryland to help out (I have done that for years with great success), and recruit capable PGCPS students to pitch in with television and video production (if they aren’t doing this already).
- Here’s the big one: Use existing FTEs to create three Associate Superintendent Offices and 14 Community Superintendents (each responsible for about 15 schools). Combine School Leadership and Teacher Leadership into Office of Talent Development, which will be placed under the Department of Human Capital. School Improvement and Title One will be merged into a Department of State and Federal Programs. These mergers will result in the elimination of 57 FTEs and save $5 million.
Based largely on School Board member concerns and public outcry at the recent public hearings, Dr. Hite decided to put the following programs back into the budget:
- JROTC (but limit course offerings and eliminate some positions, which will save $1.4 million instead of the $2.8 million originally proposed)
- Evening High School
- Unemployment Insurance (costs expected to rise $1.6 million due to impending layoffs)
- Technical Adjustments: Class Size increases targeted away from high schools and core subjects; Reading Recovery may be saved through use of Title 1 funds, and Schmidt Center saves more money than originally anticipated.
- Transportation to specialty schools could be included back in the budget, but Dr. Hite is examining hub-based systems (central points for student dropoff/pickup for buses) and fee-based systems (sliding scale based on income)
I think alot of the proposed changes make great sense. My heart tells me Dr. Hite is working hard to listen to public concerns and making a genuine effort to figure out how to cut administrative bureacracy that doesn’t contribute to our children’s education. My head tells me the original budget was designed to create public outcry and put more pressure on the state to fully fund our schools. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in-between, but I walked away satisfied in knowing that my comments on administrative salaries hit a nerve with many people (thank you all for your feedback!) and that many of the additional cuts were directed at that concern.
Here’s a final thought for those of you getting on the bus to Annapolis: please take a careful look at the flyer that PGCPS provided to you. When you review the groups that are supporting this February 21 rally, you’ll see a variety of unions supporting this effort: Prince George’s County Educators Association, SEIU locals, Administrative School unions, etc. What I don’t see is a union that represents who is most important – our children. There are many, many talented youth who graduate from our school system each year. I interview some as candidates for admission to the Ivy League university I graduated from, and I’m always impressed by what they have accomplished in their first 18 years of life. They were successful from a combination of factors, starting with engaged and dedicated parents who advocated on their behalf every step of the way, great teachers who inspired and challenged them, and a community that provided them opportunities to excel. They can’t achieve any of those things if we as a community are unable to set aside our personal or union agendas to look out for our children. That must be our goal, and our ultimate outcome from this budget must be doing what’s best for them.
I made public remarks at the February 8, 2011 budget public hearing of the Prince George’s County School Board. I didn’t get to finish my entire statement, but here’s the summary of what I said for those who may have missed it:
I live in Accokeek, MD. I represent myself here tonight, but more than that, I represent my children who are here with me, Faith, 4, and Joshua, 2, who will be future PGCPS students.
If you are a prospective parent like me, and I’m not sure if any of you are, then you would understand the anxiety I feel about placing my children in the kind of classroom we are now facing. Given the resources and compensation we are providing to our teachers, who do the heavy lifting every day, I’m not sure our budget represents our public commitment to making sure that our children come first, as Dr. Hite has promised. If we are truly linking our budget to our stated goal of putting children first, then that’s where the bulk of our money needs to go. Classrooms come first, and everything else is secondary.
Some of you may have heard I recently did a little research on the salaries of our administrators outside the classroom. Just last week, a speaker stated that 723 of PGCPS staff make more than $100,000, and of that amount, Dr. Hite reported back that just 51 employees are directly involved in educating our children. I dug down even further, requesting individual employee salaries within just one of our four human resources divisions, as noted on pages 167-178 of the school’s budget documents. While I didn’t have time to scour the entire 316 pages, what I discovered within those 11 pages really upset me. We are paying $65,000 to data entry clerks, $90,000 to a secretary, and more than $100,000 to several mid-level bureaucrats. The division employs a director for 41 employees, and three additional supervisors. Meanwhile, my future kindergarten student can expect only one teacher to supervise her class of 30, or more, five-year olds. Her teacher can only hope to make over $100,000 after acquiring a master’s degree and several years of teaching experience. So I ask you, where do our priorities really lie?
I don’t bring this up to shame our hard-working HR employees, but to point out the disparity in spending on administrative salaries versus those of our teachers. I wouldn’t expect our human resources staff to recommend cuts to their own salaries, that requires the courage of our elected officials and the community to make those tough decisions. However, the cuts we do make should not unfairly penalize our teachers. I know that of which I speak, because my husband and I are public servants who, for the past three years, have endured two-week furloughs, increased health care costs, no pay raises, and no cost-of-living increases. We are Ivy-league educated, highly experienced professionals who could certainly work elsewhere, but we chose public service because we love it, and we understand that when times are tight we must all make sacrifices for the greater good of the organization.
The School Board needs to ask our administrators how much more can they sacrifice for the people who can’t advocate for themselves—our children. How much are they willing to give, to make sure we have the best teachers, who are properly compensated with the right resources, to help our children succeed? We need to make cuts that will not steal our teacher’s joy for serving in the classroom, and rob our children of an education. The time is now to dig deeper and find the answers quickly if we want to get our schools moving in the right direction and restore public confidence in spending limited tax dollars wisely.
Today’s Washington Post reported that the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) may need to cut more than 1,100 additional positions in order to close the budget shortfall they are facing in FY 2012. Before they rush to distribute pink slips to teachers and increase classroom sizes, perhaps they ought to dig deeper into their own administrative costs.
Yesterday I took some time to review the proposed FY 2012 budget for PGCPS. In particular, I wanted to get a snapshot of how our spending on administrative staff compares with our spending on teachers. As the superintendent states, “Children are our business, and they come first,” and compensating our teachers appropriately and keeping them in the classroom is the most important part of making sure our children’s educational needs are met.
I started with one obvious administrative function of PGPCS, the Department of Human Resources. Beginning on page 167 of this document, you can see for yourself that we are spending millions of dollars each year managing human capital. Now, being a government employee myself, I understand the importance of hiring, benefits, compensation, and other functions that this department performs. However, extravagant spending on human resources management should not be prioritized at the expense of our teachers. Because the FY 2012 budget document indicated that the Human Resources Department had recently reorganized, it was difficult to interpret how the money was being spent, particularly on salaries and wages.
In order to get more transparency, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chief of Human Resources, and copied my school board representative, Vice Chair Donna Hathaway-Beck. I was very pleased with their expedient response. After exchanging some brief e-mail messages, Human Resources provided me with a summary of salaries paid to a total of 41 employees in Human Resources Operations, one of the four divisions represented in the department. I asked specifically for this information after the budget document indicated that $2.9 million was spent on salaries for these 41 employees, and this figure did not include the cost of their benefits. This sum averages out to approximately $70,000 per person. Here’s the additional detail I received regarding the salary information:
FTE = Full Time Employee
- HR Operations Director (One FTE) = $151,192
- Administrative Secretary IV (One FTE) = $89,663
- Secretary III (One FTE) = $68,924.88
- Lead Data Entry Technician (One FTE) = $72,140.40
- Data Entry Technician (Four FTEs) = $255,804.32
- Supervisor, Classification & Compensation (One FTE) = $120,154
- Supervisor, Benefits (One FTE) = $120,154
- Supervisor, HMRS (One FTE) = $99,955
- HR Assistant I (Eight FTEs) = $395,487.68
- HR Assistant II (Five FTEs) = $296,057.52
- HR Clerk (One FTE) = $40,841.28
- HR Specialist I (Two FTEs) = $154,447
- HR Specialist II (One FTE) = $92,941
- HR Specialist III, Absence Mgt (One FTE) = $101,251
- HR Specialist III, Compensation (Three FTEs) = $300,634
- HR Specialist III, HRIS (Two FTEs) = $217,964
- HR Specialist III, Wellness (One FTE) = $108,982
- Records Technician (One FTE) = $89,663
- Records Room Clerk (Five FTEs) = $185,142.96
Grand Total = $2,961,399.04
Now, I’m not sure how these salaries compare to other jurisdictions, but it was difficult for me to get past the first line of the document, indicating that an administrative secretary makes $89,000/year. The Director of this division makes $151,000/year. A Data Entry Technician (yes, that’s data entry, folks) makes an average of $63,750/year, and not surprisingly, a high school diploma is the only education requirement for this position. You can examine these figures for yourself and make your own determination about whether these salaries are fair.
Let’s compare these salaries with our teachers’ compensation. A new teacher who possesses a bachelor’s degree, will begin a PGCPS career making $47,000, according to the latest information provided on the PGCPS website. If that teacher remains at PGCPS for 20 years and obtains a doctorate degree, the earning potential maximum is $110,000. It troubles me that our most important asset, our teachers, make far less than a mid-level human resources bureaucrat, and that a secretary within that organization makes $20,000 less than the earning potential of a highly-educated, experienced teacher. Individuals with teaching degrees could become data-entry technicians and get a $15,000 raise by doing so.
I don’t bring this information to your attention to shame the hard-working employees in the division of Human Resources Operations. I do, however, ask that Dr. Hite and the members of the School Board start to dig deeper into this budget for cuts, before they start handing out pink slips to our teachers. Three-day furloughs for our administrative executives is not going far enough to cut salaries for those making $100,000, or more, in these positions. Even those making less than that should have their jobs benchmarked against other jurisdictions. It will take courage on the part of our elected officials, because it’s tough to ask the human resources staff to benchmark themselves. They have little incentive to find ways to cut their own salaries.
The bottom line here is that we can’t put our children’s education on the chopping block without looking at other alternatives. My children are 4 and 2, and at this point I can’t imagine putting them into a kindergarten class with 25-30 students. I can afford the monetary sacrifice to put them into a private school if necessary, but many other parents do not have that luxury. I share their anxiety about “hoping” their children will get a good education in that kind of challenging environment, and feel the frustration of teachers who are being asked to educate our 5-year olds against those odds. If you feel the same way that I do, please don’t just sit back and be angry. Do something more. Let our school board know your frustration by appearing at their upcoming public hearings, and make sure your voice is heard before it’s too late.