Bearden’s closings: More of the old way
Dr. Bearden and board members, as I was reviewing the agenda for tonight’s [April 16] meeting, a sense of deja vu swept over me. I expected to see the budget proposal for 2012-2013 since it is mid-April and the new budget takes effect July 1.
Instead, I saw a proposal for school closings for the 2013-2014 school year with a “fast track” plan for public hearings and a board vote in July.
For those of you new to the system, I was one of many people who asked the board to halt plans to construct Rivers Elementary.
I have also been vocal about strategic planning and communication with the community for the last several years.
I am only one among thousands of people in Fayette County who contend that there has been room for improvement in the fiscal management of our school system.
With the changes in the school district over the last year or so, many of us have patiently waited to see what changes might take place.
Unfortunately, tonight’s agenda leads me to believe that it is business as usual at the Fayette County school system.
While I must applaud the effort to do something, doing something without appropriate planning is inadequate to say the least. The current proposal has no supporting documentation or rationale.
Why, for example, is the recommendation to close schools which are full? Wouldn’t it make more sense to close schools that are significantly below capacity? This would mean that fewer students would need to be disrupted and transported out of their neighborhood school areas.
These are only a few of dozens of questions that should be asked and answered before a proposal is made to disrupt hundreds of families and staff. Proper analysis must be done before recommendations are made.
The proposed timing for public hearings and a board vote also is amiss. It is a disservice to the community to schedule public hearings and board votes on matters of great importance during times when families are most likely to be distracted and unavailable.
The only thing that would be accomplished by this timeframe is to have school closings voted on prior to the upcoming school board elections.
The ability of the community to participate and thorough communication with the community must be considered when public hearings are considered and scheduled.
Also disconcerting is the fact that the budget for the upcoming year appears to have been put on the back burner in order for this fast track plan to be initiated.
The budget which will take effect this summer should be the top priority right now. The Organizational and Operational Effectiveness section of the District Strategic Improvement Plan should specifically address financial competency, planning, budgeting, and timely processes for responsible stewardship of the taxpayers’ money.
The school district and the board have an opportunity to do things the right way. Approaching school closings and redistricting in the same old way didn’t work before and it won’t work now.
Please take the time to do a good job for the students, the district, and the community.
T.R. Morris, Ph.D.
Peachtree City, Ga.