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.
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