By Dave Timmerman
February 05, 2013
FEEL FREE TO SHARE!!!
This is a call --- no a shout no a scream --- to the community of Ketchikan. Do you want the best possible education for children in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough?
For the last several years, the community has quietly stood by while the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has systematically made it more and more difficult to provide a fantastic education within our school district.
When I got on School Board several years ago the local contribution from the KGB Assembly was in the neighborhood of 9.6 million.
This amount allowed the district to do very many great things for our children. In this day an age of technology the KGBSD was able to keep pace with the rest of the world.
The KGBSD was able to provide teachers in all areas and keep our Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) at a manageable level.
The KGBSD was able to provide counselors, preschool (for everyone), school psychologists, clean/maintained facilities and great curriculum.
Over the last couple of years, the Assembly has decided that the district is doing too good of a job. They have decided that the district does not need as much money as it has in the past. Even though things cost more, technology is speeding up, and graduation rates have seen an uptick in success.
They don't like the level of information they receive. They don t like the format of certain paperwork and the report card to the public. When they receive the level of info they want---they want more.
What is their answer? Let's decrease funding. Let s put pressure on the community. Let s put pressure on the kids. Let s put pressure on the teachers. Let s put pressure on the parents. Let s see what they can do with less.
Recently the School district was directed by the Assembly to prepare a budget based on a 7.7 million contribution. Down from around 8.3 million last year.
The KGBSD will have to make cuts in preschool, supplies, teachers (at every level---elementary through high school), janitorial, technology (let s fall behind!), AP classes, activities and more. This time the cuts will be felt deeply.
The past few years, the board scrambled to catch up to the funding levels the Assembly provided. It should also be noted that the last few years the board was told one set of numbers during the budget building process, and then blindsided by the Assembly with a lesser number. By blindsided I mean---they told the Board one number---the Board then set the budget --- with a prioritized funding list --- and then were told after all the work is done that we would be getting less than what they were originally told. There were even work sessions between the Assembly and Board. Work sessions that were not really cooperative as much as the Assembly telling the School Board this is how it is going to be . Several members of the Assembly unprofessionally used these work sessions to chastise the District for their spending. (I would respectfully ask the community at this point in my ramble if they feel the Assembly has any room to talk about good spending tactics over the last 20 years).
As a coach of very many sports, I also feel I should get my opinion out there on activities funding levels. Before last year there a little less than $400,000 budgeted for activities. After hearing pleas from community members, the Assembly gave the district a grant of $200,000 that was to be used for only activities (which it was). This amount (although bringing the district far short of the $1,000,000 total needed) was very much appreciated. One of the problems associated with accepting the grant was increased oversight by certain Assembly members. To the micro-managerial level. There are several Assembly members who have taken it upon themselves to distrust the School District. To distrust the 7 elected School Board Members. To act as 8th or 9th school board members themselves. (The one or two Assembly members that write an answer to this will prove that).
I admit that I can be a bit hard-headed. It is my nature. But one thing you will always get from me --- and the other 6 members of the board (from what I can tell) is a smile, a handshake and a follow-up on anything you bring to us.
PLEASE REMEMBER that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Board of Education is an elected body. The trust of the community has been put in their hands to guide the educational direction of the district. This trust needs to be remembered by the Assembly when they receive the budget from the Board. The Board has been mandated by the people and is held in trust to bring forth the best budget for the best level of education that our community can provide.
I take exception to witch hunt tactics employed by assembly members --- always looking for something wrong. Always assuming that someone has lost focus on the big picture of educating children.
I take exception to ill-conceived money saving tactics aimed at the district at the expense of the children in this community.
I take exception to the greater than thou attitude of several assembly members.
I take exception when assembly members who have large businesses, oceanfront properties, multiple property holdings and more -- -benefit from lowering the property taxes (on themselves), and I think as a sign of faith they should exempt themselves from such actions. To further explain my point---I have one house. No other properties. I saved a couple hundred bucks in taxes. How much did the assembly members save. Multiple businesses, expensive houses---I would imagine the majority of the assembly members saved a whole heck of a lot more than the vast majority of KGB dwellers. At what expense? The expense of the district. Oh---and that tax money I saved? Due to the lack of funding from the Assembly for the foreseeable future---I will have more out of pocket expenses --- basically I am getting taxed via a lack of funding.
I take exception to Assembly members who agree with me in person that we should fund at higher levels (some even saying to the cap) and then voting unanimously with the rest of the assembly on a much, much lower number. Without a phone call to me explaining the reversal .
So where does this leave us?
It is time for the community to stand up and do something.
I know times are tough economically, but if you want economic development --- there is no better investment than in our children and their education.
Get off your butts Ketchikan!
Every year the School Board has a lot of people come to the podium and tell us what they feel. Not surprisingly the Board feels the same way most of the citizens who give their opinions.
Unfortunately it has become a case of preaching to the choir.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly holds the purse strings to the School District budget.
It is time for anyone who feels the district should be funded at a level at least as high (if not higher) than the School Board requests --- to go to Assembly meetings. Go to the podium. Fill up their comment times so that their meetings are so long that they have to roll them over to the next evening.
Call your assembly members. Email them. Start a petition!
Let them know how you feel. Some of them are even real nice people. They may even understand where you are coming from. They may even be empathetic to your cause. Remind them of their duty to the children.
My children and I will be visiting each one of the Assembly members when the time comes to fund raise for activities that my children are in.
I think the rest of the fund raising community should do the same. So I have included the emails and phone numbers of all of them. Use them. That is what they are there for.
They will give you excuses about the federal government funding. They will give you excuses about the State of Alaska funding. They will point out how it is not their fault. Well until all those other things get fixed, sorry---the bag of money is in their lap.
Let's get the KGBSD the money they need to continue the already excellent education they provide and so they can continue to improve on the areas that need improvement.
Thanks for reading my long-winded ramble---
About:"Concerned citizen. Husband. Parent to 4 children (three in the district). Coach of multiple sports at multiple levels of play. School Board member."
Received February 04, 2013 - Published February 05, 2013
Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:
Representations of fact and opinions in letters are solely those of the author.
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.