Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Monday, February 8, 2010

Municipalities target their school districts: can't we all just get along?

As the budget process for both municipalities and school districts gets increasingly difficult, it seems that municipalities are turning on school districts as the target of their frustrations.

I heard a funny (and yet not funny) story yesterday from a neighboring town. It seems the mayor of said town visited a 2nd grade classroom for a "getting to know you" activity. The mayor proceeded to hold up a dollar bill and say something like, "See this dollar bill? In our town, seventy cents of this dollar pays for your school." Have 2nd graders (what are they, like 7 years old?) even learned about money and cents vs dollars, etc? Apparently the kids were perplexed and this mayor's pathetic attempt at making them feel...I'm not sure, did he want them to feel guilty? -- fell on deaf (but probably cute) little ears.

In Ridgewood, our Village Council wants to reverse the decades-old practice of picking-up our schools' garbage at no charge to the School District. Last year the Village charged the schools an unexpected $35,000 for sewer discharge. I'm scared to think what's next...and you can be sure something will be next.

It's sort of sad to find our officials turning on each other during these tough times, instead of working together.


Anonymous said...

Again a vicious cycle of incompetence the village's part.

"As a response to declining tax revenues, we'll charge the schools, reducing their free cash and reducing the overall quality of education. Thus, home values in Ridgewood will only decline further, and our tax base will continue to dry up"

Is this a village manager or village council decision?

Anonymous said...

Here's what might be happening. The Village Council, under a mountain of skepticism and mistrust, is looking for a partner to share the load, and the sometimes hyper-vitriolic criticism. The Council knows that it has been trying to trim any waste out of its budget through layoffs, attrition and a hiring freeze. I believe it is fully focused on improving its own efficiency.

My guess is that the School District hasn't done this to the satisfaction of most people (except maybe those working in the District) and your budgets seem bloated.

I, for one, can understand this perspective. And, though I am only one taxpayer, I think that the number of administrators (those with the highest salaries on the payroll) who exist in our schools is far too high. The BoE is loathe to even discuss reducing the number of administrators and instead allows the discussion to devolve into a referendum on tenure and/or bad teachers. The tenure discussion is irrelevant until you start cutting from the top.

Bottom line: The Village government doesn't trust you guys to do the right thing in a challenging economy. That's why you're feeling the hammer.

Laurie G said...

Wow, do you work for the Village or what? haha just kidding

I'm just curious what you're basing your analysis of the # of administrators on? Perhaps you are not aware that Ridgewood's ratio of administrators-to-students is relatively low, compared to the rest of the state, the rest of Bergen County, and the rest of the districts in our District Factor Group (DFG)?

That being said, this year's budget challenge is tough enough that we'll be looking EVERYWHERE for cuts. Every cost center -- whether that be schools or administrative departments -- has been charged with making cuts. The Board will start learning about these proposed cuts soon, and I'm not "loathe to discuss" anything at this point.

As for "cutting from the top," don't forget -- because administrators have tenure, too, any reductions in staff would be from "the bottom." If a position is eliminated, there is a "bumping order," that would move that administrator into another position, and bump out a person with less seniority. (Does that make sense? It's sometimes hard to explain and/or grasp.)

I have to disagree with your "bottom line." These issues of trash fees and sewer fees have nothing to do with the Village Council's evaluation of the Board's performance. They need to cut their budget, it's that simple.

This is exactly what I was talking about...I could start with my tit-for-tat evaluation of the Village's performance, but I don't think it would be productive.

Anonymous said...


With all due respect, I think you missed the point. And no, I do not work for the Village.

When I voted for you, my expectation was that you would bring new heat and light to problems that you and I agreed needed to be addressed. One of these things was the number of administrators (e.g. managers) that exist throughout the District.

You've gone soft on that pledge and now you cite statistics from commissions populated by administrators that have determined what the ideal ratio of administrators is for each school system.

Did it ever occur to you that maybe we should throw out all of these national statistics since, in fact, the whole national education system is so completely bollixed up?

I mean if I tell you that the National Tirechangers Association has found that the "ideal number" of tirechangers required to change a tire is six, do I pay all six of them, regardless of what my common sense dictates?

You are supposed to challenge these administrative ratios, instead of being bullied into accepting them as fact.

That's what you said you would do.

As for tenure, I didn't know senior school managers have tenure. They shouldn't. When you reach management you cut a different deal that gets you more responsibility, more money, more benefits and more accountability. If you are not a good administrator you should be fired or demoted. And if you want to return to teaching, you get your previous tenure status back.

I don't want Ridgewood to lose or force out good teachers, especially younger ones. Cut from the top. That's where the most cost savings will come from anyway.

Which brings me back to why the Village Council doesn't trust the Board of Education. As a group (I'm not singling you out) you are, well, loathe, to make the tough calls on the bloated hierarchy that we have now. The BoE continually trots out studies and surveys to demonstrate their spending needs. If the studies and surveys come from the same places that the administrators do, why should they be trusted?

Laurie said...

To 1:02 PM -- The info was transmitted to the District by the Village Manager. I think the way it works, he makes the recommendation to the Council.

Laurie said...

To 9:15 AM,
Hang on. I was simply quoting the math – not making a value judgment. Your comment was that the number of administrators is “far too high.” My first instinct was to compare our number (ratio) to other districts in NJ or Bergen County (not nationally). Just to get some perspective. I didn’t look at any study or commission populated by administrators or career educators or anybody. You would of course right to be skeptical of the objectivity of a study of administrators by administrators…I would challenge such a study, too.

I have to look at our reality. The concept of “too many” administrators means what? How many is too many? Isn’t what matters the result, the effectiveness (and yes this means cost effectiveness, too)?

As for your wish to “cut from the top” because that’s where the cost savings will be. Can’t happen. And if you don’t like the way tenure works, you’ll need to take it up with Trenton.

To the extent that I could predict before I was ever in office, I honestly feel I’m doing exactly what I said I would do. Maybe you can’t always see it all the time. It's definitely harder than I expected. But I'm still working at it, full steam. I try pretty hard to keep you aware of what I’m up to. Any time you want to know, just ask.