What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

On Tuesday, I attended the first Budget Review Committee (BRC) meeting for the 2010-2011 school year. Here are my thoughts: 

The meeting began with introductions and a brief explanation from Assistant Superintendent Mays Kakish regarding the process and responsibility of the committee. There were 25-30 participants. In attendance were 2 parents, 2 teachers, 2 Board Members (David Sanchez and Susie Lara) and a community member, the remainder of the group were employees of the district.  

Assistant Superintendent Steve Hovey began the meeting by asking the committee to adopt a verbal “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” agreement (my words), his words were more like, “what happens in the committee meeting room should stay in the committee meeting room”. Someone, I think it was Mrs. Kakish, mentioned that she felt it was important to be able to communicate with our stakeholders but felt it was more important that some of the radical crazy ideas we discuss don’t raise too many concerns from the parents (oops, my words again, I think they used “community”).  

This reminded me of some of the ideas this group discussed last year.

Ideas such as:

  • Closing a school
  • Across the board elimination of class size reduction, all classes 31-33 students.
  • Elimination of Transportation for K-5
  • Eliminate Kindergarten Classes
  • Elimination of Palm’s Dual Immersion program
  • Reduce the number of school days 

Then Hovey and Kakish asked if everyone was in agreement. No one objected.  

Later, I started thinking; no one was too concerned because all the stakeholder groups, except parents, have direct daily contact with the people they represent. Parents have limited access to any committee members, including me. I try to provide access to parents I represent through this website and blog.  

Over the past year, I’ve been asking the district to put together a Parent Involvement Plan. No one, not a single board member, cabinet member, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent or district employee has acknowledge that the district’s legally required Parent Involvement Policy is more than 3 years out of date and non-compliant. I’ve also asked the district to establish a parent communication network (email) for the district but there has been no serious response. Since the President of our School Board has the opinion that technology is a convenience, I’m not holding my breath. 

I realize now I should have objected. I think parents should be aware of what is on the table for discussion, what programs and services may be eliminated or reduced. This would help parents realize how complicated and serious the district’s budget situation is. I think if more parents had been made aware of the details of the budget review early in the process last year, it would have been a less contentious atmosphere. I will bring it back up for discussion at the next meeting. For now I will honor the verbal agreement that no one, including I, objected to.  

I will provide a high level summary of the meeting but I will leave out the details until the BRC reconsiders this agreement. I am ok if the district would provide the details of the meeting, maybe through an audio recording, but I think it is very important to be transparent in our discussions. I realize that an audio recording involves technology, a convenience, and this may not happen anytime soon. 

The meeting was scheduled from 3:30 to 4:30; I had another obligation and had to leave at 4:35. Before I left, no programs or services were discussed. I don’t know what happened after I left.  

Most of the time I was there, was dedicated to a “State of the District” presentation. It appears the budget deficit this year is considerably lower than last year and, in Mays Kakish opinion, we are in a much better position than many other districts. There is still a deficit and some budget reduction will be necessary. But, depending on our state elected officials, and I hate to ever depend on them, this year doesn’t appear to be shaping up as bad as last year.  

At the end of her presentation, Kakish told us she doesn’t expect to have to lay off any staff this year but she wouldn’t make any promises about the next two years. I don’t know if this was something I am allow to share, but since I am sure every teacher and district employee found out about this in the next couple days, I’m may climbing out on a limb to inform parents (community).  

As I as getting ready to go, Mrs. Kakish informed us there is a postioin open for a parent representative on the Measure Z Oversight Committee. The committee meets two times a year and appears not to be too time demanding. If you are interested, a parent, and not a district employee, please contact the district office and let them know you are interested.