Who's Holding The Gun Now?

Three years ago, the budget discussion was much different than today. The school board held public forums where hundreds of members of the community had the opportunity to voice their opinions, offer suggestions and provide the board and the administration some insight as to where the community wanted to see the necessary cuts made. The administration presented the board and the public two plans, Plan A and Plan B; each providing a different level of cuts. Each plan listed specific items to be eliminated that the administration believed would keep the district solvent while keeping the sacrifices as far away from the classrooms as possible.

The plans weren't perfect. Neither plan proposed any serious sacrifices for the administrators. Plan A's proposed cuts were so deep it was clear that Plan B was the only plan the administration really wanted considered. The board followed the administration's lead and approved Plan B. In hindsight, the entire process may have been a show to strengthen the administration's bargaining position. It made it easier for the administration to get the concessions they wanted from the employee unions.

Regardless of the motives of the board and Superintendent, the public was well aware of the proposed cuts as early as February and, when pink slips were finalized, we were better prepared. We had a better understanding why class sizes were increasing and transportation for middle and high school students was being eliminated. This time around has been much different.

There were no public forums. A list of relatively insignificant cuts proposed by Dr. Kayrell's advisory Budget Review Committee (BRC) was presented to the board in a workshop with limited public input. When board members not part of The Collective (the three board members who rarely show any opposition to The Superintendent), asked for details on the recommended items and asked for an opportunity to vote on the items, the administration told the board the BRC process wasn't complete. They were told when Dr. Kayrell was ready, they would be given the opportunity to approve the cuts. Dr. Kayrell called out the Non-Collective members by name and warned them not to "hold a gun to his head" during negotiations with the employee unions.

The board approved the preliminary pink slips and tonight, by a vote of 3-2, no surprise there,  they authorized the finalization of almost all the pink slips. We still haven't heard of any plan from the administration. What is so different from three years ago? Why does the district believe they can go this alone this time? What has changed? Well, it began right after the last budget crisis.

Here's how it happened:

* Contracts for The Assistant Superintendents were extended and their compensation increased

* Dr. Kayrell's Contract was extended and his retirement package improved

* The Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, the districts CFO (chief financial officer) was replaced and the traditional practice of limiting a new CFO's authorization level during a probation period was not followed by the board.

* The board reduced the public's access by limiting speaking time

* The traditional practice of rotating the Board President position among board members was ignored and The Collective remained in control of the chair.

Extending Dr. Kayrell's contract was the key development. He is now under contract for another 24 months with an 18 month buyout clause. This means our kids would have to pay him 18 months of salary to remove him. Since Dr. Kayrell will probably retire at the end of this contract and his buyout clause is prohibitive for a cash strapped district, he has become untouchable. He no longer needs any public support for his actions and he only needs to count to three, the number of votes he needs from the board.

Tonight, we are being expected to accept that The Superintendent and The Collective know what's best. Our kids, our teachers and classified staff are being asked to blindly accept more sacrifices. We know the administration wants to eliminate all busing and that they believe they must reduce staff but parents have no idea if there are any other cuts necessary or where additional cuts will be made.

Are there any cuts proposed for the administration? Will any of our Assistant Superintendents and their six figure salaries be reduced? How many school days will our kids lose? What a difference three years makes. Who's holding the gun now?