Teachers are grateful for the Board’s awareness of the gravity of their decisions and their thoughtful discussions concerning criteria for potential cuts.
Given our experience working directly with students, we are encouraged and support the Board’s movement toward the following criteria:
- Reversibility of any potential cuts
- Keeping cuts furthest away from student learning opportunities to preserve the tradition of excellence.
Going forward toward the December 17 meeting, our teachers would again like to highlight two specific cuts that, based upon their professional experience, they believe would not only negatively impact the current level of academic excellence, but also lean away from reversibility: drastically increasing class size (which would likely reduce course offerings) and radically restructuring the academic Department Chair model.
While the failure of the referendum has motivated the Board’s consideration of a Division Head structure, the drive toward district-wide curriculum equity is also underway. However, the implementation of the recently created strategic plan calls for a work environment where “systems promote staff engagement, collaboration, innovation, satisfaction, and accountability.” Any elimination of Department Chair positions would run counter to the collaborative nature of the Board’s own strategic plan, directly discouraging engagement and innovation.
As teachers, we feel it would be more effective to set a goal and deadline for district-wide curricular equity, working collaboratively within the existing Department Chair structure rather than bringing in new people unfamiliar with the existing curriculum at both campuses to enact what would be perceived as a top down mandate. Keeping the existing Department Chair structure in place during this process builds upon existing relationships and institutional knowledge, while capitalizing upon the academic excellence already in place.
Should the Board eliminate Department Chair positions, students and parents would lose access to a credible administrator capable of providing guidance about grades, course selection, or specific curriculum. Teachers would lose quality instructional support, negatively impacting the excellent education students currently receive. The district would lose the voice of a subject matter expert.
Additionally, the projected savings of moving to a Division Head model—even if not a “robust” model—have proven to be uncertain, fluctuating between each new meeting.
Given the Board’s own strategic plan, advantages of the existing Department Chair structure, and the financial uncertainty of moving to a Division Head model, we believe remaining with the current Department Chair model and giving the strategic plan its stated five-year timeline would provide the greatest opportunity to enhance the academic excellence currently provided.
As teachers we were encouraged that in making these difficult decisions the Board continues to prioritize keeping reductions as far away from student opportunity and academic excellence as possible. This is the way, we believe, to prevent potentially irreversible harm being caused to our tradition of excellence.