We’re sharing with you the latest MCAS Newsletter which went out this morning, 2/20/2015. Please take note of the section on the budget, as it is especially urgent. We hope to see you at the BOE meeting on Monday evening.
MCAS Newsletter – February 20, 2015
As we expect you know, Superintendent MacCormack has submitted her resignation.
This news came days before the board of education will present a draft budget that by many accounts will show a deficit of several million dollars.
Several of us from MCAS sent a statement to the board members Thursday asking that in light of the difficult budget process that is about to start, they accept the superintendent’s resignation effective immediately. We share that statement with you below.
We also want to alert you about the serious budget issues the district may face this coming year.
Please try to come to the board meeting Monday, Feb. 23.
Make your voice heard. It is crucial at this time for all of us to to ensure that any budget cuts do not hurt our classrooms and schools.
Here’s the statement we sent:
Dear Board of Education members:
With the news of the resignation of Superintendent MacCormack, we as members of Montclair Cares About Schools are writing to respectfully request that the Board of Education accept her resignation effective immediately and appoint an interim superintendent to steer our community through the difficult school budget process that is about to begin.
The announcement of the superintendent’s resignation comes less than a week before the board is expected to release a draft budget that, by many accounts, includes a shortfall of several million dollars.
This deficit comes on the heels of a 4.1 percent tax increase this year coupled with the spending down of millions of dollars in surplus.
It is critical that our community be able to address the issues surrounding this deficit – including how it happened and how to address it – with an open, honest and respectful dialogue.
As the Rev. William Barber, head of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, has said: A budget is a moral document.
We need a budget in Montclair that reflects our community’s values by supporting children, educators and our children’s classrooms over all else.
Unfortunately, the current district leadership has very often caused parents, educators and other community members to feel unheard and disregarded. The current leadership has also failed to provide straight answers or accurate and timely information, all of which are crucial to an open and productive budget process.
An interim superintendent who is respectful of Montclair’s values and history of integrated schools and who has a demonstrated commitment to progressive public education could help to change this dynamic now at this crucial time when our board is about to make spending decisions that may affect our district for years to come.
We and many other parents and community members hope that this change in leadership will mark a positive turning point, leading to a decision-making process in our district that is more inclusive and genuinely welcoming of the views of parents, educators and other residents.
In light of the budget decisions before us, we believe it is critical that the district begin that new more open and inclusive approach now with new, interim leadership.
Thank you very much for your attention and consideration of this matter.
The board is expected to release a draft budget Monday that will require cuts, a tax increase or both.
We’re writing to ask each of you to try to attend the meeting this Monday, to pay close attention to the school budget this year and to make your voice heard.
Where: MHS auditorium on Park Street
When: Monday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m., with signup for public comments usually beginning around 6:30
The district is by many accounts projecting a shortfall of several million dollars.
We want to remind you that this shortfall comes after the district raised taxes 4.1 percent this year and spent millions of dollars in surplus funds. This raises key questions:
- Where did the money go?
- Will budget cuts hit our children’s classrooms and schools? Or will they be kept far from the classroom?
Over the last few years, we have seen troubling trends in how the district has spent our tax dollars:
- Central Services has bulked up, adding so many new administrators and other staff that the total number of staff has grown by 50 percentsince 2008-09, from 33.4 to 51, as of last fall. This increase came over a period when district enrollment stayed about the same.
- Legal fees have skyrocketed from $167,000 in 2011-12 to more than $500,000 last year and $350,000 budgeted this year.
- Technology spending has soared, totaling about $2 million or more this year alone – much of it to prepare for the PARCC – and without the district’s bothering to create a technology plan to ensure that the new technology enhances learning.
- Communications costs more than doubled in the first nine months of this year over what was budgeted, $125,000 budgeted vs. $288,000 actual. Most of this is for new communications staff to handle what is essentially public relations for the superintendent.
As the district has gone on this spending spree with money outside the classroom, our paraprofessionals – the teachers’ aides who serve as a lifeline to our most vulnerable children – are increasingly hired only as substitutes with no benefits and no job security.
Our school budget should reflect our values and vision for our schools. The budget plays a large part in determining what happens in our schools and classrooms each day:
- When paraprofessionals are brought on as substitutes with no benefits and low pay, that hurts the morale and reduces the stability of the workforce of educators whom our children depend on.
- When programs are cut and never restored – such as elementary school instrumental music and Writer’s Room – that reduces the learning opportunities open to our children.
As parents and community members, we can make sure that our district’s budget reflects our community’s values and our education goals for our children.
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Thank you and stay warm!
All of us at Montclair Voices