Times Hard Enough to Close Stone Spring for a Year?

DebSF -- February 25th, 2009

At last night’s City Council meeting,  councilwoman Carolyn Frank offered the possibility of closing Stone Spring Elementary for a year as a cost-cutting measure intended to help the school board slice an estimated $2.4 million dollars from it’s budget, according to WHSVStone Spring Elementary has the lowest enrollment of any of Harrisonburg’s eight public schools, with about 290 enrolled at the end of 2008. “It would save, I would think, a tremendous amount of money…if the other schools could absorb them without overcrowding,” says Frank.

What do you think?

80 Responses to “Times Hard Enough to Close Stone Spring for a Year?”

  1. seth says:

    well played

  2. Tad says:

    Government is complex because it has to fill out a couple of forms and be held accountable to multiple stakeholders in the course of running its day-to-day operations? Nature is complex, not government. Only the high and mighty hope to dream the impossible dream to understand the many nuances that make up our form of government. Please! Let’s for example say that Doc Ford resigns his position tomorrow. Would Harrisonburg city schools be able to function and meet all required standards and protocals? Yes. If one of the admin or teachers had to leave town for some unknown reason would the schools be able to meet all required standards and protocals? Yes.

  3. JGFitzgerald says:

    “High and mighty”? Your phrase. I’d like for them to be smart.

    Game two, Federal level. The public and your party (choose one at random) insist that the bank you’ve recapitalized in order to try keeping the credit system alive has to give stock to the government to get any more cash. But the bank’s only profitable unit is a Mexican subsidiary it owns, and Mexican law says its banks can’t be owned by firms with more than ten percent of their stock owned by a government. The unemployment rate will go up a point if some more money isn’t introduced into the credit system in the next 12 hours and, by the way, the stock market’s tanking and teachers want a raise.

    Good thing it’s not complicated.

  4. Bill,

    The articles you cite focus on saving transportation costs for rural, I repeat, rural, school districts where given buses run as much as 100 miles per day. When gasoline prices shot up to $4 per gallon, for sure that was a major issue for a lot of those school districts.

    However, this is not a big deal for Harrisonburg. I doubt the savings from not running buses (or running utilities) one day a week is going to amount to all that much, although somebody crunching the numbers precisely might be able to wonk to all of us more accurately and confidently. No, the big savings come from stopping paying some people, so unless you also stop paying the teachers for that lost day a week, I do not think you will get much savings. But cutting teacher pay be 20% across the board is not exactly going to do much for their morale, I suspect.

    Which brings us to Tad’s suggestion about “eliminating administrative fluff” as a way of paying fewer people. On this one I am pretty much in accord with JFG. One may argue that in a high and mightly state of the world in which lofty people arrange everything perfectly, we would not have all the mandates and reporting requirements handed down to the school system from higher levels that we do. I might fully agree. But reality is that the school system must deal with this stuff, and simply declaring that “if one of the admin or teachers had to leave town fro some unknown reason” the schools would be able to meet all the required standards and protocols does not make it so. Actually, I am sure it would be so if all that happened was that we lost “one” such individual. But I think what you are after to close the budget gap by getting rid of “fluff” at the admin office is a good deal more than one person. Without question, the more of those people you fire, the harder it will be to play the Government Game that JFG notes we are stuck in.

  5. Bill says:

    Barkley

    I understand that it might not be a savings for the city, but there are two separate school districts in our locality, the larger of which (12000 students apprx) is rural. I don’t see this thread only as a city issue as it started out to be. It is an area issue and is certainly deserving a boarder discussion.

  6. Bill says:

    Excuse me, a “broader” discussion. I am interested in hearing all suggestions, but I must admit my major concern is with the county.

  7. Lowell says:

    I’ll join in a bit later Bill, and thanks for the information by the way.

    I know my daughters appreciate their teachers very much…

    Our youngest is in Singin in the Rain at BHS this week so I might not be back to the computer until late.

  8. Jamie Smith says:

    Now I get it! Government is complex and we continue to elect people at all levels who don’t do complex. That explains a lot!

  9. Lowell says:

    Jamie,

    You’ve put it as well as I’ve seen done…

  10. JGFitzgerald says:

    Dear Dr. Barkley,

    My initials are JGF, as I am named for two grandfathers (Joseph and Gus) and an illegal immigrant from Germany to Ireland about a thousand years ago (Fitzgerald).

    JFG is a brand of coffee. Good coffee, but still …

    Now back to our game …

  11. Dave Briggman says:

    I know, let’s combine the City and the County schools and loss the school board members from the City, and the City central office staff.

  12. Jamie Smith says:

    Lowell, thank you. I hope some day I can buy you a cup of JGF coffee..perhaps Irish coffee.

  13. Joe,

    Sorry about reversing your initials (yes, I was referring to your arguments). Guess I am getting dyslexic in my old age…

  14. Bubby says:

    I’m with Dave, why do we need so many school boards, administrative overhead, and school duplication? We seem well motivated to revisit our assumptions about how we run public education.

    And then I look at the Virginia House of Delegates – they don’t value representative government (redistricting). We need more change. Lots more.

  15. There might be some efficiencies gained from combining school districts (not that it’s ever been seriously discussed). In the same way, there would also be a lot of efficiencies gained from combining state governments into regional ones. On the other hand, it would probably result in a loss of shared identity and local control, which many people see as really valuable.

    I know it’s easy to knock administrators, but I can honestly say the ones I know are incredibly hard-working, busy public servants. Those who push paper rarely gain accolades, but the work they do so teachers and principals can focus on students is sorely needed, and their workloads have expanded exponentially since No Child Left Behind, and before that when Virginia implemented SOL’s. Getting rid of administrators would mean someone has to pick up their workload – likely, teachers. Compared to teacher salaries it might seem like they’re overpaid, but if you compared their labor to similar positions in private industry I think they’re actually UNDERpaid.

  16. seth says:

    i have a lot of respect for teachers and administrators, but in private industry, people work 12 months a year for their salaries.

  17. seth,

    And is it not the case that those in private industry with equal levels of education and skills make more than at least the teachers (and that the managers in private industry make more than the ed administrators, by and large)?

  18. Jamie Smith says:

    Dr. Rosser, how about President Rose and his gang of VPs and high dollar coaches. A bit off the subject but something to think about. The people that really make the university great won’t get an extra nickel this year, will you?-

  19. David Miller says:

    Also consider that administrators work year round.

  20. Jamie,

    My net pay has actually gone down because my LTD payments went up due to moving into a higher age bracket (oh no, there he goes again, complaining about being old!). I am not going to defend Rose’s pay hike, although it would have gone over better if he had taken it somewhat earlier in the centennial year (and it is true that he is paid a lot less, even after this hike, than some other VA uni prezzes).

    In any case, I was just talking about the local school administrators and not what goes on at JMU. I would seriously challenge anybody who wants to argue that either the teachers or the administrators in the local school systems (let me include the county as well here) are noticeably overpaid.

  21. seth says:

    sort of,
    in my experience though, people who take jobs because they’re trying to work a job where they can make a difference and not hate their lives everyday often end up in roughly the same pay bracket as teachers though. they just don’t get three months of vacation per year from day one.

  22. JGFitzgerald says:

    Uh … teachers are actually off about two months. Someone who works 12 months puts in, more or less, 2,000 hours per year for a comparable salary. Teachers would have to put in 50-plus hours a week to equal that. Do they?

  23. seth says:

    easily.
    people who care about their jobs do what they have to do. as i understand it, newspaper reporters are probably some of the most underpaid professionals in our community.
    aren’t they?

  24. Paul Funkhouser says:

    most DN-R reporters make between 25K-30K. That’s pretty standard rate for the profession.

  25. seth says:

    (and while i’m somewhat surprised that you want to get into keeping score, i do find it entertaining, so i’m game.

    in 08-09 harrisonburg city school teachers will work (generously) 9.5 weeks (that’s work weeks, or 48 work days) less than someone working in ‘private industry.’ call it 1.5 months, but realize that it’s 1.5 months when other people are putting in 8 hour days for every day of that time (weekends previously subtracted). so to work an equal number of hours (which you brought up) a teacher would roughly have to work an additional
    2hrs per day (or 50 hr weeks) every single work day of the year. and while i know that they frequently take their work home, i’d say it’s unlikely they’re on the clock those 2hrs every day of their working lives. i rarely hear teachers overtly complain about being underpaid (it may be helpful to distinguish underpaid from undervalued). while like many of us, some would probably like to make more money, i still think they have a pretty sweet deal.

    why are we talking about this?)

  26. seth says:

    the (off topic) discussion is about comparable education/skills and how they relate to pay. 25-30k sucks when you don’t get your master’s through a 5 year MT program, you have to work 50hr weeks anyway, and a step 1 teacher w/ a graduate degree they got in half the time makes 40 (?!(can that be right)?!).

  27. So, seth, is your solution to the current budget crunch in the local school systems to slash teachers’ salaries to 25-30K per year?

  28. seth says:

    well,
    i think if we’re really starting people w/ BAs @ 38k a year (and MTs @ 40), that could be something to consider.

    for the record though, i never said i thought teachers were overpaid.

    when i was in school in india, we had to provide our own toilet paper. maybe that’s a better idea.

  29. Josh says:

    The starting salaries seem exceptionally strong ($38048 city, $38000 county) for 22yo college graduates with minimal experience. It’s the long-term growth that seems lacking. The cities and counties pay less than 10% extra for 10 years of experience?

  30. Bill says:

    Josh

    The starting salaries are what they are largely because of supply and demand. There are too few teachers, generally, for too many jobs opennings. Harrsionburg and Rockingham have to compete with Prince William, Shenandoah, Fredrick, Loudon and Fairfax for teachers. With the economic slowdown, this should give local school systems a little breathing room for a little while anyway.

    As far as some other comments above, one must keep in mind that teachers are licensed professionals that have to continue their education constatntly for recertification, much like other licensed professionals. Teachers do not get equivilant pay to other licensed professionals. They are contract employees that are salaried for either 10 or 11 months that relates to 200 8 hour contract days if you are 10 month and 220 8 hour days if you are 11 month. During a school year teachers, or maybe I should say most teachers far exceed the hours paid per contract especially when you add in other responsiblities outside of the school contract day, that are not paid, such as supervising students at dances, sporting events, drama productions, academic and scholastic contests, planning for classes, grading, calling and or visiting parents, club sponsorships, do I need to go further???? If I were to need a doctor or a lawyer after they closed the office would they work for free?

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