Friday, June 14, 2013
New Bedford School Committee deserves a failing grade ...by Nancy Smith
I've had some time to mull over the New Bedford Public Schools District budget mess and I have many questions. The almost daily articles in The Standard-Times give hope (School Department budget is still fluid) to those who are in danger of losing their jobs, and then other articles make it very clear that 250 jobs are definitely going to be eliminated. Granted there are some jobs that should be eliminated — we have too many superintendents, supervisors and directors — the school department is so top-heavy, I am actually surprised that it hasn't collapsed sooner than this.
And what about the School Committee? Where were they and what were they doing while the budget process was going on? I am of the opinion that one of the duties of the School Committee is to oversee the budget. Seems to me that none of the committee members had any suggestions, questions, or positive or negative feedback to offer concerning last year's budget. They allowed the former financial officer to create a budget that has a $3 million shortfall for this year.
Did the School Committee not know this in September or October — what steps did they take to correct this error? Not one of them had the presence of mind to check the budget and see what was happening. It is obvious to me that they either did not care or trusted the financial officer with millions of dollars. The School Department has a budget that should be handled by people who are knowledgeable about how to create a budget that works for that particular department. It should never be left in the hands of someone who is irresponsible or incompetent — which appears to have been the case. I blame the School Committee.
As a result of last year's budget shortfall, the School Department has approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that is funded at the state minimum. Who is going to suffer as a result? Not the new superintendent who is going to make $185,000 (at least three teachers could keep their jobs for that amount) — and certainly not the aforementioned "top heavy" administrators.
First and foremost, the children of this city will bear the brunt of the mistakes that were made. Eliminating teaching positions will increase class sizes. If you are concerned about MCAS scores, which are currently in the cellar, you can expect more of the same. How much lower can they go? The School Committee seems to think it is a good idea to practically eliminate the arts. If anyone of the committee members actually took the time to visit the schools to see what is going on they would realize just how important art and music programs are to our children.I don't understand why there has been no mention of any sports programs being eliminated. Along with the children are the employees who are going to join the ranks of the unemployed. Where does the School Committee expect these people to find another job? Most of them are going to lose their health care and some of them will lose their homes.
Another of my "burning" questions is this one: How can the School Committee justify the approval and now inevitable funding of the innovation school? That school will give a select group of children an abundance of services including the "arts" that the rest of the school population will not get. How is that fair? Do those School Committee members who voted in favor of the school see that this is not the time to allow a school to go forward that will drain money out of an already "bare bones" budget? Why not put it on hold for this year or until the budget mess is straightened out?
Isn't enough money already sucked out of the budget by the charter schools? Why add another one at this time?
And now to the School Committee: I am giving you a grade on your performance in serving the citizens of New Bedford. Your grade is an "F." You were elected to do a job and you have failed the children of this city, the employees of the School Department, and the rest of us who live here. Each of you should appear before the citizens of this city to answer whatever questions are addressed to you. I wonder if any of you have the courage to do it.
I hope the parents of the children who attend a public school in New Bedford and the voters are outraged by this situation. One step that can be taken by those of us who are concerned by the School Department budget crisis is this — vote out every member of the School Committee when their current terms expire.
Posted by NBEA