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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Art, life & hard choices.

I took a little break from budget stuff tonight and attended the Student Art Show at the Ed Center. I always love the art show -- so many talented students, it takes your breath away. And I love seeing all the little kids with their parents, posing for pictures in front of their masterpiece, watching their parents talk to their art teacher or principal. All while the student string quartet plays beautifully in the background.

I took my son with me and he was OK with chit-chatting with various parents and teachers. After a short time, however, he started getting tired of all the gloomy budget talk. Every conversation seemed to quickly become some version of, "Wow,I feel so bad for you this time of year." Or "What's the story with the librarians?" Or "Who decides what cuts get made?" And even, "I never thought I would see these things happen in Ridgewood."

Wow, it's enough to take all the fun out of a nice little evening of art! On that last comment about "these things" happening in Ridgewood, I can say, "you and me both!" Even though we've been saying for months that millions of dollars would have to be cut from the budget, I understand it's hard for people to react until they start to hear about specific people being let go. Then it becomes real. Believe me, if there were a way to save all this money without cutting people, we'd do it. Anything. But the dollar amount we have to achieve with cuts is just too much. Instead, on any list of proposed cuts I've seen, there is not a single cut that is "good." There is not a single cut that promises to make our Ridgewood education better. That's really something. So far, I have seen with my own eyes that the cuts are comprehensive. They touch all schools, all levels. Everything has been studied and discussed and considered, from an overall-benefit-to-the-district standpoint. Principals suggested cuts at their buildings' levels, and there were additional district-wide cuts. The superintendent, who is "CEO" of the district, makes his recommendations to the Board, and the Board discusses and argues and questions and pushes back and suggests alternatives.

Three different people today asked me if the Board has "anything" to do with the cuts, or if the Ed Center just gets to do whatever they want and we "rubber stamp" it. (I guess I'm glad that people feel free to ask me these types of questions!)

It's important for me to express this and make it clear: The Board discusses all of it. We don't always agree with the administration. We don't always agree with each other. We are five different people with five different perspectives. That's what happens on a Board. Throughout, though, we are all trying to do what's best for the students of the district. And like I mentioned above, when all the choices are "bad" choices, well...it's going to be a long five weeks. And before you know it, one day we'll have to get up and implement these changes together.


Anonymous said...

What about cutting at the Ed center?

Anonymous said...

Let's take a real hard look at the ed center. Do we need all those administrators?

Laurie said...

The district (and by that I mean the administration and the BOE) are taking real, hard looks at everything.

As I've mentioned before, and as Dr. Fishbein has also explained, until everyone who will be affected has been notified, we cannot speak publicly about specific cuts. The process is more complicated than most people realize due to tenure rights, seniority and "bumping." Bumping is what happens when a position is eliminated, but that person has tenure and has the right to bump another like-certified employee from another position -- possibly at another school or department in the district. Since employees' salaries are different, this bumping changes the results of the "cut" and starts a chain reaction that has implications beyond what may have appeared to be a simple cut. The preliminary budget that was discussed at last week's BOE meeting may have shown 43 positions cut, but that could mean over 100 conversations taking place.

I'm not making excuses, just trying to explain the process as best I can.

We WILL be speaking in more detail soon. I am honestly not sure if that will be this Monday 3/15 or if it will be Monday 3/22. I will let you know as soon as I know.

I know it's frustrating and I'm sorry for that.

Anonymous said...

After everyone has been notified, will the specific positions cut by school be released?

Laurie said...


Laurie said...

Can I just clarify my previous comment...when I say 100 "conversations," I mean there could be 100 people who might have their jobs changed -- whether cut or bumped into something else. And BTW I'm totally making that number up!!! Please don't read anything into it...it's hypothetical...I'm trying to make a point!!!

Anonymous said...

administrators, assistants, secretaries....how many does the district really need, how many does the Ed center really need? It is frustrating not to know how the BOE feels about it.