Budget committee hears concerns
Educators, parents and students, many speaking with breaking voices, passionately addressed the school board expressing deep concerns over specific recommended cuts in the 2007-08 Park City School district budget. The meeting took place at Ecker Hill International Middle school, Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Anyone wanting to speak was given three minutes. The school board listened to speakers, but made it clear that they would not be taking any immediate action. We will not be discussing the merits of the various recommendations at this time," Said district board president Kim Carson. Further discussion by the board will take place at the next two school board meetings on March 6, and March 20.
More than 40 speakers spoke in a three-hour meeting.
Concern over the possibility of moving the Learning Center students back into the high school drew a barrage of comments from students and teachers. Ironically, combining the Learning Center with the high school was not one of the committee recommendations, only an idea. Six Learning center students individually took the podium and spoke with passion, eloquence and enthusiasm in support of Learning Center. Learning Center principal Brenda Heddon, who spoke of her 23 years in education, said she had never worked in a school with such pride. "The Learning Center is the district’s best kept secret," she said.
A number of speakers called for the district to take more time in making decisions that impact so many.
"We need to slow down," said Bob Burns, the head of the Park City Education Association. "We need to make sure all the data is accurate. If there are any errors, we have to correct them."
Some spoke of their willingness to pay higher taxes to get the district out of its financial straits.
The public forum, which drew several hundred, was an opportunity for people to react to budget committee recommendations intended to repair the current budget, which has resulted in tapping Rainy-day reserves, now nearly depleted to make ends meet for the 2006-07 school year.
A general concern of speakers was the long-term direction of the decision, and concern there is no such plan.
"Where’s the vision what’s the plan after these reductions," McPolin teacher Kim Jensen asked the board, a concern expressed by several speakers.
Public input centered on the prospects of the Park City district loosing the first-class education system.
After the meeting, Jensen said, "After 34 years in the district, I was surprised," adding that in the past, teachers hearing that he taught in Park City were envious. "This district has been a ‘wow’ district. Not anymore. We need to get back to that. There’s no reason we can’t,"
The budget committee was formed by Acting Superintendent Tom Van Gorder in November, 2007. District employees, community members, parent-teacher organization members and members of the Education Foundation, made up seven sub-committees, each tackling a particular aspect of the budget.
Recommendations were made by the committee as a whole, presented in a distinct board meeting Feb. 7. Committee recommendations were posted on the Park City School District Webpage.
Additional proposed spending cuts:
Eliminating the elementary music program, which the budget committee recommended instead an after-school program, funded by parents.
Hiring part-time contracted janitors possibly replacing full-time district-employed janitors? Increasing the student to counselor ratios,
possible cuts in retirement benefits (which would not effect the retirement benefits afforded by the state, but those benefits currently afforded by the district
reducing "prep time," for teachers,
reworking insurance benefits,
Making class sizes equitable for all teachers, so some aren’t overburdened to make up for those who have small classes.
To view the budget committee recommendations, or to contact sub-committee members or school board members, visit http://www.pcschools.us
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