Report from the KSD Budget Hearing

At the KSD Budget Hearing on March 29th, Superintendent Vargas and Business Officer Richard Stedrey reviewed the budget and proposed reductions using a worst case scenario forecast.

Audience members expressed a high level of concern regarding the budget survey process and proposed cuts, including the long-term impact of many of the cuts.  The speakers included parents, students, educators and community members. Participants raised a wide range of questions and suggested alternatives. Concerns regarding PE and Music and maintaining K-4 class size were frequently addressed. Many speakers noted the connection between Music and PE and increased academic performance. One elementary student raised $15 at a garage sale to save the PE program and a middle school student said, “Music is my life.”

Kent Education Association Vice-President Connie Compton addressed the School Board and recognized the challenges of the school district budget. She continued, “As the education professionals who work with your students every day in the classrooms across the district, we feel it is absolutely imperative that we be an integral part of the conversation. We respectfully ask the board to invite us to the table to honestly and openly discuss possible alternatives to navigate these troubled economic waters while continuing to provide a high quality and well-rounded education to each and every one of our students. Together we can find a way to reduce the budget while minimizing the impact on our students.”

Audience questions included:

  • What is the end-goal driving budget decisions?
  • What are the priorities and values of our community?
  • Have decisions already been made?
  • Why are Elementary PE and Music being considered?
  • Why do administrators earn top pay for our region, but teachers are at the bottom?
  • Why are neighboring districts able to balance their budgets without impacting classrooms?
  • Why do the Auburn and Tahoma districts have better trust with their communities?
  • Will cutting the middle In-School Suspension program limit discipline options and have unintended consequences?
  • Is PE mandated by the state?
  • Is eliminating PE a contractual issue?

Suggestions for alternative budget reductions or raising revenue:

  • Make cuts that do not impact students.
  • Reduce salary at the top.
  • Run a supplemental levy to raise $3.7 million dollars.
  • 10 summer furlough days for administrators.
  • Cut administrative travel.
  • Freeze administrative pay.
  • Eliminate outside consultants.
  • Delay new curriculum purchases.
  • Use alternative transportation for high school students.
  • Freeze standardized testing.
  • Continue tuition-based full-day kindergarten programs.

The district has responded to some of these issues on the district website. KEA looks forward to responses to the remaining questions and concerns.  As well, we hope that we will be invited to discuss options with the school board.

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12 Responses to “Report from the KSD Budget Hearing”

  1. Richard Says:

    I think it’s very clear what Dr. Vargas is all about. All you need to do is look up his past. Davis Innovations, Stupski Foundation, etc.

    It’s all online, you know. All of it. Everything about Dr. Vargas.

    He’s all about ramrodding change down your throat. It’s clearly stated. Repeatedly.

    He’s going to change things to what he sees as being right.

    The whole “Strategic Plan” isn’t really a strategic plan in any sense of the word. It’s a political charade that creates the illusion of public participation and then overwhelms everyone with so many details that Ed’s real agenda is completely obscured.

    It’s not a part of the school board’s vision. They have no idea what is occurring, either. I can assure you.

    They and the community leadership (politicians, chamber of commerce, etc.) have bought into Ed’s ******** (KEA Censored). Others see right through it.

  2. Richard Says:

    Oh, and by the way, those of you who make this into a union busting issue and yammer about solidarity are completely missing the point and barking up the wrong tree.

    First of all, the politically and community involved people in Kent really don’t care much about that talk. They just want good schools. Union blathering is so utterly alienating to this population because it really does come across as selfish and immaterial.

    Secondly, to look at Vargas as a corporate swine is to also miss the point.

    Vargas is just a sleazy control freak who is making a name for himself on a long list of ******** (KEA edit) about “transformation” and “revolutionizing our schools”. That’s it. Nothing more. And he’s framing the issues so that anyone who opposes him is against much needed transformation and his glorious cultural revolution.

    It’s all pretty sick and twisted, really. Honestly, this guy is here for one reason: tear the district apart, claim victory, and have his expenses paid to every speaking engagement possible. He’ll be gone soon, half a million dollars richer and without a hint of regret.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      I tend to agree with some of what you say about Vargas. I don’t feel as strongly as you do that he is evil personified, mostly because I have spoken to him many times and he’s not that personally forceful, but he is exactly what you get when you dangle a quarter of a million dollars out there for the best self-promoter available. Allowing the district to fail miserably on his watch will not look good on his bio and will not get him the big bucks in consultation fees later on. I do agree with you about the Strategic Plan and I sincerely hope that we (KEA) are able to maintain some control over implementation of it, at least in the areas that affect teachers. That was another one that was “sprung” on us. A few of us happened to be at a school board meeting when it was unveiled and approved by the board. No discussion with KEA, the “education partners” he likes to call us; not even a mention that a strategic plan existed. We kind of sat there in horror as we read the snippets they showed that said, “… by March, 2011, teachers will…,” “… by April, 2012, teachers will be trained on…,” etc. Partners? More like serfs.

      As to the “union busting,” of course that’s what it is. That is the corporate business objective du jour and we have leaders, drunk with power, using it as their reason AND their cure for the ills of society. Here in Kent it is attempted with phony smiles on the faces of the cabinet but with the understanding that they really can’t push too hard because it hurts when we push back. You are right about the people of Kent wanting good schools, but I remember parents and citizens standing alongside us when we were on strike. We received tremendous public support and it was because the parents and citizens of Kent were actually paying attention to the words and deeds of KSD administration and because they saw that teachers were the ones that wanted those good schools, not for show, but because that’s what is good for kids. I REFUSE to accept that KEA is irrelevant, as you surmise. That strike and that cooperation between teachers and the public was made possible because of the COLLECTIVE ACTION that only a unified labor organization can guarantee.

      Sorry to have to edit your quote from the movie, “Gettysburg.” Nice quote, but I wasn’t sure if it was intended to be allegorical or what. If you’d care to elucidate, send it back and we’ll see.

      • Richard Says:

        As to the union busting, that might be what it is. But I think I’m not making my point clear on this. The fact that people support teachers on strike is NOT the same thing is supporting union rhetoric or ideology. The people of Kent that joined on the lines are less about unions, per se, and more about teachers. There is a difference.

        I realize, of course, that KEA is a union organization. And the leaders of union organization naturally are going to conceptualize things in a kind of union rhetoric. But there’s a difference between supporting Kent Educators and supporting KEA, if that makes sense.

        Put another way, I think the people of Kent would respond much more positively to “paying teachers better will mean better teachers come to Kent” than all the union rhetoric imaginable. My experience with many Kent parents is that they have mixed feelings about KEA. There is a perception that teacher’s unions, rightly or wrongly, are more concerned about themselves and protecting their members than they are about excellence. Now, whether or not you or I believe that is what teacher’s unions are all about is really immaterial. A lot of people DO believe it. And to lose sight of that is to risk alienating people.

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        On that, I almost completely agree with you, except for the fact that every union member in KEA IS a teacher or other education professional. I feel that strain in my own building as teachers back off from anything that feels like organization or activism. It’s a difficult time to frame a union argument with perceptions being what they are. That being said, I’ll repeat that in the current political climate, teachers need the protections afforded by a union more than ever, even if that only amounts to the guarantee of due process and the right to bargain. Both of those concepts are under general and specific attack (see 2ESHB1443, which has passed the Senate and is moving to the House) and KEA will continue to support those ideals.

    • Teacher Supporter Says:

      I have to disagree with your statement, “Oh, and by the way, those of you who make this into a union busting issue and yammer about solidarity are completely missing the point and barking up the wrong tree.”

      It’s always been about bashing the union. The district is not interested in what teachers have to say; divide and conquer the teachers is their goal; and the contract is something that can be worked to their advantage by finding loopholes. This district has had more grievances filed against it in 4 years, than most districts have in 12 years or more! This is just a tidbit of a pile of evidence that the district ignores the contract (that they also signed, btw).

      I do however, agree with your statements about the district having an “agenda” and to hell with what the teachers or KEA has to say in this supposed “partnership”. I have heard about Vargas’ reputation, but now, I think I will google his name. Thanks for the advice.

      BTW, overall, from your statements about Vargas and KEA blathering (as you put it) about solidarity, etc, makes me wonder if you aren’t a soon to be terminated administrator. If you are, welcome to the world of resentment–a world that alot of teachers live in almost everyday in the KSD (unless you are on the “favored” list–and we know how people work to get on that list).

      • Richard Says:

        I think many of my comments in the previous reply overlap. I’m not an administrator nor a teacher. I’m a parent of kids in KSD.

        And yes, blathering. As I put it. I can tell you that rhetoric has no resonance whatsoever with me and is fundamentally beside the point. Whether or not it’s true, or the entire issue of union politics and ideology is pretty much beside the point.

        You’re not going to excite me by yelling about the district engaging in union busting. You will excite me by saying, “talented teachers are going elsewhere for better pay and conditions.”

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        Okay, try this: Talented, experienced, quality teachers are leaving Kent and going elsewhere for better pay and better working conditions. This would be a bigger problem if the economy was even a tiny bit better as, right now, there is no place for those teachers to go to. I assure you, though, that many teachers, who otherwise have very strong ties to KSD (they live here, own homes here, etc.) are actively looking for employment elsewhere. As a parent, this should bother you.

      • Richard Says:

        I’ll try to provide a fuller deconstruction of Vargas soon. Stupski refers to all American school kids as “Our Kids”, kind of frightening. And there’s constant references to creating “change” in the face of resistance. It’s dressed up really nice, but the basic point is that people who don’t share the ideology are to be driven over.

        Stupski is all about the idea that every kid should go to college. The tragedy of that is this: most of the kids in Kent aren’t going. We’re raising a generation of kids with both wildly false expectations and at the same time no real useful vocational skills.

        As a long-time property owner in Kent, THAT worries me more than your union talk.

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        I don’t know if you can or do attend KSD School Board meetings, but this is something they should be hearing. That is one place where you have the opportunity to actually shape policy if your argument is compelling enough for them to listen. Some of the ideas presented at board meetings do find their way into action to one degree or another, as evidenced by the outpouring of support that was blasted at the board concerning their plan to possibly eliminate PE and Music from elementaries. They listened, they heard, they acted. You can make a difference or at least you can say you tried. Your kids are worth it. I know that because I work with them every day.

  3. Frustrated ESA Says:

    Where on the district website can you find the information they responded to? I can’t seem to find it and I no longer see the links to the budget information etc.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      That is a great question. Normally, I’d say just go to the KSD website, click on the School Board tab, go to Meeting Agendas and Policies, and then make your way to the documents you desire. I just tried that, however, and when you get to that point, you get an error message that tells you to use your back button to return to the previous page and try again. I did that and you can’t even go back a page, you just get returned to the error message over and over. Helpful, yes? On a related note, I don’t know if you are one of the ones that got the “blue screen” messages on Thursday and Friday on your school computer, but I was and I even had the nice repair guy come out in the middle of one of my classes and mess up one computer completely, while complaining that he couldn’t fix the other. Then I got a longwinded explanation over the intercom from a tech specialist (again during teaching time) explaining that it would be fixed over the weekend. Remember, Kent is the technology district, if only we could get it to work. I remember at a school board meeting last year Thuan Nguyen (he of the Associates Degree pulling down director’s pay) said words to the effect that, without more money being pumped into the system, we would be unable to sustain our present level of service and growth. This is the only time I have heard this mentioned. Maybe we just arrived at the precipice and it’s all down hill from here.

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