Guest Opinion

Monday, June 7, 2004

SC: A matter of economics, not 'confidence'

There has been a lot of controversy over the recent board meetings in the Sioux Central school district. Right, wrong or indifferent the three of the four administrators received a 3 percent raise after the school board reconvened. The fourth administrator, the superintendent, will be on an upcoming agenda. Who won? I don't know, I think only time will tell if the school district can afford the pay raise.

Politics are politics. As an individual pointed out while in an engaging democrat vs. republican debate on the issue (or as I would call it, one person wanting to loosen purse strings and the other wanting to tighten the belt) he said people argue about politics from the White House on down to the lowly 'ol public school system - it's human nature. He then followed up the statement with "can't we all just get along?" I realized at that point, "all of us getting along" means agreeing with his point of view.

I didn't attend the first meeting, but I went a week later to the continuation meeting along with, I would say, 100 other people. I went simply to see the public's reaction. I do not have a child, but when I do I would like to think the right decisions were made so that Sioux Central is still a viable education option. I honestly did not know where the public stood on the issue. I can tell you I thought there would be a lot more voices stating their opinion, only a handful of people took the opportunity.

If there is a loser in all this, I think it would be the Sioux Central school district. What a political spin I saw being spun. Some of the administration was quoted several times that the prolonged pay raise decision was a vote of "no confidence" by the school board. I don't know how many times I read that quote and then when the board approved the raise I read, "the board approving the raise was a 'vote of confidence'." Seemed right on cue.

Let's just for a moment rewind the scenario. The night the school board wanted to think about the raises instead of give them out automatically. Let's look at the glass half full instead of half empty (seeing it as no confidence).

You have a school board willing to mull over the idea of paying the four administrators a combined amount of $300,000 or in that neighborhood. With an increase in gas prices, increase in insurance costs, down enrollment, quite possibly an unsuspected debt of $200,000 in fitness equipment, shared programs with AC-T and the travel to those events and I am sure a phenomenal amount of other costs -should a superintendent take it for granted that higher ups automatically receive a raise at contract time? All the while the teachers in that district had been on a three-year salary freeze.

Wasn't the board doing the "confident" thing by putting the district and the public's money at the forefront and taking time to weigh out the decision instead of cruising on auto pilot?

As an analogy, imagine a person working in management for a private business. Sales were down that year (enrollment), profits were down (state funding), and a new business venture to the tune of a quarter million dollars has fallen flat on it's face (fitness equipment) and an employee demanded a raise to the business owner and if not he/she was walking out the door. I don't know any person that wouldn't feel the door hit them in the 'you know what' on the way out. As we are taught in sports/life - no one is irreplaceable.

I attended the meeting wanting to hear the administrator's side of the issue. Maybe that wasn't/isn't the time or place, maybe it wasn't on the agenda, or maybe that is done behind closed doors. I would hate to think that the district has conditioned people into thinking that at contract time, automatically a pay increase must come. I hope for the sake of the school that every increase is earned and throughly considered.

No doubt the administration has brought to Sioux Central different avenues of funding in these tough times, in the way of state and federal grants. I am sure that Sioux Central has gained some open enrollment due to these opportunities. There is no criticism on that, no vote of "no confidence."

The field in which these people practice is education. Fortunately, I would say, this is a field that is not supposed to be rewarded purely in monetary values, but rather in rewards of doing right by the people, more importantly the children walking the halls.

True leadership should welcome an evaluation to "toot your own horn," even if it isn't immediate gratification.

Point out what exactly has been done for the kids, for the district and how you have improved the school system. Or true leadership might come in the form of not taking a pay increase this year and allowing the teachers to have a favorable increase since they "took the bench" the last three years. After all, these are the employees doing the day in and day out work with the children.

I hope everyone can view this situation as what it is: the board wanting to make the right economic decision in these crucial financial times, not a vote of no confidence. In fact, it seems they have the confidence to do right by the entire district. Now - can't we all just get along!