Tag Archives: economy

Report of the Superintendent of Schools 2009

During the 2009 school year, new administrative job descriptions were adopted. This work culminated in the design and implementation of a superintendent evaluation process that will serve as a model for the evaluation of all administrative staff. The results of the superintendent evaluation were reduced down to specific organizational priorities. These priorities can be viewed on the BRSU website.

These priorities focus on strengthening our instructional systems, personalizing learning opportunities for students through the use of technology, and improving the efficiency of our operations. In terms of operational efficiency, the accounting services for the Manchester School District were shifted to the BRSU office in Sunderland. This change will save Manchester approximately $37,000 a year and will greatly enhance our financial reporting capabilities. The Mettawee School District transitioned their accounting services to the central office in 2008. Consolidating our back office operations saves money, streamlines audit processes, and provides greater oversight to board members and the public.

Another major structural change being implemented pertains to our early education programs. The supervisory union and its districts are navigating a new law, Act 62, which provides incentives for the expansion of early education programs. Based on these changes, we will be eliminating a full-time director position at the BRSU and some of the responsibilities for administering the school-based early education programs will be shifted to administrators in the schools.

We have made substantial progress in improving the efficiency of our operations, but there is still more work to be done in this area. Since 80% of our costs are attributed to personnel, our major strategy for achieving greater efficiency will be to seek opportunities to share personnel and services among our districts. I believe this points to the necessity for governance reform; our current structure of 9 districts and 10 boards is too cumbersome and inhibits our ability to respond to changing economic circumstances and declining student numbers. Governance reform is being considered at the state level, but our districts are not waiting for these decisions to be made in Montpelier. We are engaged in a serious review of our systems and will be organizing opportunities in the coming months for broad community input on this topic as our boards establish Ends policies.

Through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), our districts have received additional federal “stimulus” funds. These funds have been received through federal formula programs and must be spent in accordance with the guidelines of these programs. We have received approximately $90,000 in Title I and $400,000 in IDEAB or special education. All of these funds are one-time funds and must be spent in two years. The Title I funds are being allocated to the three BRSU districts that are eligible to receive these funds (Currier, Mettawee, and Sunderland), and the IDEAB funds will be spent centrally to reduce the costs of our special education programs. Most likely we will use these funds to establish special education programs at the supervisory union level in order to reduce costs for sending students out of the district for these services. We will also be reviewing the transportation costs of these programs to see if it would be more cost effective to run our own transportation services.

In spite of these additional funds, all of our districts have struggled this year to adopt budgets that are both fiscally responsive and sensitive to student program needs. The majority of our districts, however, have been able to achieve decreases in their expenditure budgets which is no small accomplishment considering many of our fixed costs are increasing. We will need your continued involvement and support to ensure we can navigate these challenging economic circumstances while at the same time ensuring our children obtain a quality education. Thank you for your support.

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We need to modernize our education infrastructure

I enjoyed hearing Daniel Pink a few weeks ago when he spoke to the teachers of Chittenden County.  He made some remarks about how we needed improve our education infrastructure.  He characterized many of our schools as being 40 years old and asked, “would you take your car to repair shop that had 40 year old infrastructure?  Would you go to a hospital or clinic that had 40 year old infrastructure and technology?”

I found a similar theme in a recent op ed piece by Thomas Friedman.  The quality of our public infrastructure reflects the relative importance we, as a country, place on education.  This needs to change.

When I attended the BLC conference this summer I was able to mingle with education leaders from Europe and Africa.  They get it.  They see education as a national priority directly connected to their economic competitiveness.

Letting market forces alone guide our improvements is not going to cut it in an era where other countries are urgently focusing their national resources on improving education infrastructure – we are in a global education arms race but we have not figured it out yet.

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Governor’s Budget Address

Governor Douglas gave his budget address last week.  In a paragraph of that speech, he cited federal stimulus funds that will most likely come to Vermont:

Many of the ideas being discussed in Washington are familiar to Vermonters. Proposals to reduce health care costs by using information technology and increased investment in preventive care are in line with Vermont’s groundbreaking Blueprint for Health. Increased funding for weatherization and energy-efficiency programs is consistent with steps we have taken to help businesses and families save money by consuming less. New investments to expand broadband internet access to rural areas would support our e-State initiative. And funding to transform the nation’s energy transmission and distribution system goes hand-in-hand with a Smart Grid for Vermont – part of my Economic Growth Plan.

Interesting that he failed to mention any stimulus funds that will be targeted to public education including:

  • $41 billion to local school districts through Title I ($13 billion), IDEA ($13 billion), a new School Modernization and Repair Program ($14 billion), and the Education Technology program ($1 billion).
  • $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas, $15 billion to states as bonus grants as a reward for meeting key performance measures, and $25 billion to states for other high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education.

A cynical person might think he might have had some other purpose for failing to mention such a significant amount of proposed investment in our public school system.

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Stuff We Own

The foreclosures in this Newshour story highlight the degree of personal tragedy associated with the recent economic downturn. I am saddened to see the material nature of our culture exposed for what it is – an empty pursuit. As a country, we need to figure this out. We can’t afford to continue to consume more than we need.

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