Some light in the darkness
What can we learn from the pending school budget cuts?
Creativity matters more than ever.
"We need to get started," Superintendent Charlie Beck said Wednesday after a 90-minute work session in which he and other members of his administration spelled out, in sobering detail, the drastic cuts that are to come in 2011-12.
"We have three weeks. We need really, really smart people talking about how we can put this together," Beck said.
The three weeks is the district's self-imposed April 6 deadline to decide on budget cuts - staff reductions in particular - that will be necessary to balance the budget for the school year beginning July 1.
The district has put the budget process on a fast track, in fairness to teachers and other staff who will need to start finding work, possibly in other districts. April 6 is the date when Beck said the district can inform those teachers who lose their jobs in time for them to reasonably submit applications to other districts. The district is to be credited for seeing in this gloom an opportunity to give a measure of control to people caught up in a trying situation.
It's people who make the schools and it's a human gesture, getting the clearest possible picture in order to help those who stand to lose their jobs.
Kudos also to the bargaining groups - classified, confidential and administrative, who have indicated willingness to give contract concessions to help pare the budget.
There is still time for the leadership of the largest local union, the teachers' Hood River Education Association, which has so far indicated it will not make a move toward altering any terms of its existing contract.
Reduction of positions, a 20 percent paring of athletics and activities, and cutting of some child development specialists and elementary PE and music are painful reductions, as is that of repurposing Pine Grove Elementary. But Pine Grove will still remain a place for students. James Sims, the former principal (and current school board member), pointed out, quite astutely, that if the caring parent and volunteer community at Pine Grove takes its same passion for kids to its new environment, at Mid Valley, the school and the students will be the richer for it.
It is that kind of creative thinking that will help the district make the most out of the difficult days ahead.
Sgt. Matthew J. DeYoung
Gov. John Kitzhaber has ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff on from sunrise to sunset Saturday, Feb. 26, in memory of United States Marine Sergeant Matthew J. DeYoung.
Sgt. DeYoung, 26, of Talent, died Feb. 18, 2011, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"Sgt. DeYoung was an outstanding Marine who served his state and his country with honor and distinction," said Kitzhaber. "His sacrifice for our nation will never be forgotten."