Monday, April 25, 2011

Our Superintendent Announced Her Retirement Today

In this economic climate, can you blame her? Our district has a budget of about $365 million per year; we'd already planned to cut about $36 million, and with no good news coming from the state it looks like we're going to have to cut $50 million or even more. There's no good way to do that; can you blame her for wanting to spend more time with her grandchildren?

12 comments:

allen (in Michigan) said...

I'm just wondering if you can provide some educational justification for the concept of the school district? I, frankly, don't see any and charters help reinforce that perception of the lack of educational value of the school district.

Darren said...

I know they're your "big bad", and I can't defend them, but I'd rather hear why you think they're a primary cause of our problems.

mazenko said...

"Big Bad"?

Was that a Buffy reference? If so, I love it.

Darren said...

I didn't watch Buffy so didn't intend to make a Buffy reference--but you can love it anyway :)

maxutils said...

I'll give it a try, Allen . . .
If we accept the premise that everyone should be educated to some level, then having a regional office of some sort makes sense, from the standpoint of negotiating better deals on supplies . . . beyond that, you're probably right.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that our CFO just announced his retirement a couple of weeks ago also... Interesting timing.

mazenko said...

Allen, I doubt you'll ever concede that ideology divorces your worldview from reality, but I'll try to explain it anyway.

The educational justification for school districts is fair and equal access to a free and public education, which is enshrined in every state constitution in the Union. Otherwise, a move toward privatization would simply marginalize elements of our population that are less desirable as a place to invest money. Certainly, some private schools set up in lower socioeconomic areas, but that's not the norm.

Charters, you see, are school district backed and funded. Which means they are limited to the confines of the district, and they are simply attempts by individuals to repackage that product. Thus, without the incentive of district boundaries, people would be more likely to set up shop where they can reach more favorable populations. It's like the concept of "food deserts" in depressed urban and rural areas, where private business have less incentive to set up shop.

Mark Roulo said...

"The educational justification for school districts is fair and equal access to a free and public education..."

I don't see how one follows from the other.

I do understand the argument for free (and equal, if you like) public education. I even understand how lots of people then think that the way to do this is to have government run schools.

What I don't get is why this automatically leads to school *districts*. The overhead of the district is pretty obvious ... you can just count the district level employees and point to the buildings. But what does the district *do* that the individual schools can't/won't/don't ... or what does the district do that makes things more cost efficient? Is there a financial argument that, for example, schools in districts are cheaper to run than standalone schools?

This, I think, is/was Allan's question. If it wasn't, then it is mine: What does the district bring to the table to justify its costs? Could these services be provided cheaper to each public school on an as-needed basis by some other (maybe private?) organization?

-Mark Roulo

mazenko said...

Mark, market forces should tell you that the education offered would not be universal. The centralization of a district is the only way a society could guarantee universal access. That goes back to the "food desert" analogy.

Mark Roulo said...

"The centralization of a district is the only way a society could guarantee universal access."

Hmmm ... maybe I wasn't clear.

I understand why you might want a "district" for purposes of assigning students to a school. What I don't get is why I need a "district" in the sense of "people not attached to a school, but still getting paid out of the education budget."

I attended a public school district with 380 students total for K-8. It was split into two schools, but pretty obviously *could* have been run as a single school (in fact, the two schools are now physically adjacent to each other). I just don't see why we need two principals *plus* a district superintendent to manage 380 kids. But this is what they have. I can imagine a private school offering K-8 and getting by with one principal and no superintendent.

Can you elaborate on why you think that we need a district superintendent instead of just schools with principals? I'm not trying to be dense, but I just don't see the necessity ...

-Mark Roulo

mazenko said...

Well, that's just an issue of local control and voter desires, right? Could your school get by with a single principal? Sure. But if they don't want, they'll vote for more. Thus, the original motivation for a district had to be a constituent desire for centralization. The reason for a superintendent would be supervisory, endorsed by a school board, who are elected by the constituents.

Ellen K said...

Our district offered bonuses for early retirement. I know they were hoping that the high end salaried teachers would leave. What is puzzling is that we have administrators making ten times what the average teacher makes, and I am not even talking about the superintendent. Rather than leaving classrooms short handed, couldn't administrators shoulder more responsibility and remove some positions there? Frankly I am of the opinion there are entire layers of administration that exist just to write policy and run off emails.