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Letter to the editor: Say no to four-day week

From Mark Broin, Larsmont

We hire and pay our school board members, administration and district staff to deliver a “good education” to our kids. They are expected to provide and maintain acceptably high student outcome standards, or they are expected to make reasonable progress towards achieving acceptable high standards. This school district has not delivered on either of those two expectations during the years of the four-day week.

They promised the savings achieved during the four-day week would benefit kids, and that this was the real objective of going to the four-day week. In fact, according to data provided by Superintendent Crandall, essentially all the savings, and additional income dollars from the federal government and the state, have primarily gone toward salary increases and to cover increased costs associated with benefit programs for the staff. At the same time, staff has not been asked to materially participate in sharing the burden of these cost increases.

Truth is, were it not for these increases in compensation and covering of additional benefit expenses by the district, the district would be looking at an operating surplus rather than a $900,000 deficit going into the coming year. This operating deficit will not improve despite the board implementing the new state-authorized $300 per pupil unit levy, without local voter approval, in an effort to help offset compensation and benefit program cost increases. Even this forced annual levy, however, will cover less than two years of past cost increases, and, regardless, the district will still continue operating under a substantial deficit scenario.

So, based upon what these folks promised to deliver to our kids, and the increase in compensation and benefits that have been provided them to do so, has the district management and staff delivered value worthy of the investment the board has made in them? The simple answer is no. Just look at average student test performance outcomes over the past few years. In addition, district science scores appear to be dropping off a cliff.

Has the four-day week significantly benefited the students? Look at their standardized scores. The simple answer is again, no. That is, unless you want to buy in to the premise the students here are so incapable of learning, it takes this kind of spending on staff to just keep students performing at barely acceptable levels of achievement. Really, I don’t believe for a minute any of these kids are “unteachable.” And I do believe they deserve a lot better quality of education than they are getting.

Add to this the increasing concern, based upon student performance in most four-day week programs, the fewer days students spend in the classroom, the worse their performance will get.

No one minds paying for excellent performance, but to continue to tolerate the current results shown by our kids, when paying for better, should simply not be acceptable to anyone.

I do not understand why parents in this school district are not screaming at the top of their lungs for more accountability from their school board. Perhaps now is time for an independent audit by the state, and serious restructuring of the district’s teaching program priorities. And perhaps further serious reconsideration of who should be managing the district through its financial and student performance improvement goals?

These challenging issues are not going to go away by continuing to do the same old things in the same old ways. Nor will more money solve the district’s fundamental problems. The personal and financial futures of the students in this district are seriously at risk, and there has been little courage shown by the current leadership to confront and change this situation.

I encourage every parent, every district resident, and every school employee who cares, to lobby the state department of education to refuse any continuation of the four day week, and to require the district to manage its finances in a manner consistent with better student performance. Our students deserve better, and the citizens of this school district and state deserve more for their money.

Cutting through years of the district’s “good news,”hype and excuse-making, how much simpler can things be viewed?