By John Rajcic
Our school board meetings should be more “user” friendly. The board president opens the meeting by reading a board policy that in essence states, “You may say or ask the board anything you please within three minutes. The board will refrain from ever responding.”
Why should the board open a meeting with a Hobson’s Choice? Congressional committee members are more “user” friendly. They respond and engage in a dialogue. During a recent board meeting when the board violated its own policy and asked questions, the entire atmosphere became more friendly and productive.
When addressing the board, especially the first time, one does feel like they are in a caldron. Arthur Miller’s “Crucible.” Even the furniture arrangement is not “user” friendly.
Key tenets of a dictatorship are: there is no compromise and no one asks the question why. A prior superintendent said “the district was not in the PR business.” This seems to be true. If our school system ever needed good PR, it is today.
Too much administrative time is spent writing lengthy policies and amending policies. Policies are merely statements of intent and should be concise. Polices are never just right. Even the Army abandoned its “Zero defects policy.” The superintendent and teachers should be trusted to do the right thing. Policies don’t teach kids, teachers do. Lengthy policies often curtail discretion and prevent people from doing the “right thing.” Administrators may also hide behind policies and not make the hard decisions.
Teachers often comment “no, not another policy or there they go again tinkering with the curriculum!” Leave the teaching and curriculum to the pros, the teachers. There is no one way to teach a thousand kids but a thousand ways to teach one.
Principals continually monitor the “climate” on campus to ensure it is a safe and a healthy place to learn. The principal keeps the staff alert with reminders about a safe learning environment and how to react to various situations. Writing voluminous policies seems to be a way of justifying central administrative cost and nothing else..
People universally seem to believe that too much money is spent on supporting the “bureaucracy.” It is a simple math problem for them, 30 kids x about $6000 (revenue limit) =$180,000. The teachers average composite salary is about $70,000. Where does the other $110,000 go? All the rationale in the world will not convince Joe the Plumber or Dr. Craig that the money is spent for the benefit of kids. Those who drive by the schoolhouse say, “what do they do with all that money?” Those in the schoolhouse say, “if we only had more money!”
Why and how does the district with the lowest administrative costs survive? Let’s set a goal of being the lowest administrative cost district in the county. It would be a significant PR triumph, particularly when the board of necessity will ask the community for additional financial support. I believe this is a conscientious board, trying to do the “right thing,” maybe a little too much pontificating by some members.
This is a Clarion Call to the community to get involved. Be curious and ask the question why? Truth and competence fears no questions. I believe our district needs much more community support. Teachers have a great “product” to sell. Other options are not good for our kids, teachers, support staff, and our community. Everyone benefits from good schools. When you are through learning, you are through. I will help the district in any appropriate way as payback for not only making my grandkids feel good about themselves but countless other kids. May we all do our best to do the “right” thing. Buildings are important, but what goes on in those buildings is doubly important.
John Rajcic is a Ramona resident.