Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When the ax comes down

The budget ax is on the neck of Sisters schools.

With a cut in state funding looming due to the economic recession and a projected decline in enrollment, the Sisters School District is looking at a shortfall in the neighborhood of $300,000. It could be worse than that; it’s not a good bet to hope it will be better.

If local option goes down at the polls, that shortfall balloons to $1.3 million in what school board chair Chris Jones describes as “a perfect storm.”

Wielding the budget ax is a trickier business than it seems on the surface.

It’s not easy to size public education to fit a declining student population at a given time, at least not while maintaining viable class sizes. You can’t cut enough teaching positions to backfill a hole created by a significant decline in enrollment — you’re still left with a big deficit in per-student funding (we delve into the numbers in a page 1 story on this subject in this week’s Nugget).

The schools are also saddled with almost $1 million in educational mandates, to say nothing of hundreds of thousands of dollars in mandated food and transportation services.

Mandated means you can’t cut ’em, even though the money to pay for them is shrinking.

It makes for a complicated and unpleasant job for the school board. The board will start prioritizing cuts next month and they are looking for public input. Start here. What would you cut to make up $300,000? More?

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim:

    Some of the numbers in your front-page story don’t make sense and need an explanation.

    A $1,133,000 pass through for the charter school must be a mistake. Unless the enrollment has skyrocketed, the number of students is at most 30. This would equal an operating budget of $38,000 per student; four times the cost at the public schools.

    If there are 93 teachers, why does the district insist that the average class size is 23? With enrollment at 1323, average class size should be much lower, closer to 15. At 23, there would be 58 classrooms and 1.6 teachers per classroom. In 2006 there was 0.6 instructional aides and classified employees for every teacher. Assuming that ratio is the same today then each current classroom is supported by 1.6 teachers and 1.0 other personnel, a total of 2.6 persons per classroom.

    A reduction of 90 students at 23 students per classroom means 3.9 classrooms would need to be eliminated. 3.9 times 2.6 means a reduction of 10 people is required to accommodate a reduction of 90 students.

    Given this analysis, the following statement from Christine Jones makes no sense: “...if we lose 90 kids…to maintain class sizes you would eliminate three positions.”

    Per data on the ODE website for 2005-2006, the first year after the option was last approved, enrollment was 1384 with 73.5 teachers. Today we have 61 less students and 20 more teachers. I think there might be room for cost reductions without horrific consequences.

  2. To correct and clarify: The $1.13 million is directed to the Sisters Charter Academy of Fine Arts and two Web Academies, also designated as charter schools.

    Jim Cornelius, Editor

  3. Jim:

    The public needs a better explanation of this expenditure. Your article suggests this is a net negative to the district that takes away from funds available for “teaching and learning.” However, I recall the web academies were pitched as a win-win and a net revenue generator. The charter school was pitched as an alternative program that would benefit the district because it would serve some students better than traditional schools and 15% of the funding from ODE would stay in the district.

    The following is a quote from a Nugget article dated January 8, 2008 regarding the proposed creation of two web-based programs:

    “In general, this proposed school would not have a significant adverse impact on the Sisters School District. It does have the potential to bring increased revenue…the web academy would provide several benefits to the Sisters School District with little or no identifiable adverse impact.”

    It’s inconsistent to pitch a benefit to get initial support then pitch an adverse impact when funding tightens up. This looks like more smoke and mirrors.

  4. Student enrollment divided by the number of teachers does not indicate average class size. This number is also not found by dividing enrollment by the number of classes.

    A simple example shows how to actually determine average class size: School X has 100 students. There are 5 periods per day, and four separate classes per period. If each of the 20 total classes has 25 students, then the average class size is 25.

    However, if you divide enrollment by the total number of classes, you would get an incorrect average class size of 5 students per class. And suppose that School X has 10 "teachers"? Using this metric, the average class size would incorrectly be 10. This must be taken into account when determining average class size. You can't have it both ways. In fact, you can't have it either way.

    A second fact to consider when running the numbers is that some employees listed as "teachers" may, for example, be counselors who don't necessarily teach any classes. This would incorrectly lower the average class size using Mr. Morgan's exemplified calculation.

    Thirdly, in middle school and high school, students do, in fact, rotate to different classes (as in my example), and teachers also have preparation hours, which, if not taken into account, will lower the average class size using the enrollment/teacher method.

    A final point is that there are actually only 90 teachers on staff at the three schools (as far as I could tell by looking at the staff directories), as three of them split their teaching duties between two of our schools, such as the band instructor, who teaches at the high school and middle school (I'm quite sure this person doesn't draw TWO salaries). Again, if not properly taken into account, the enrollment/teacher method leads us to the conclusion that class sizes are much smaller than the district is reporting.

    I think it is safe to say that an average class size of 15 is probably a result of erroneous math. I don't know what the "true" average class size is, but I would confidently guess that it really is much closer to 23 than 15 (although I didn't see the number 23 anywhere in the Nugget's story). As such, it's not accurate to say that a class size average of 23 students would result in 58 classes here in Sisters, as this is derived from enrollment/average class size, which doesn't say anything about the total number of classes.

    I don't know how many total classes there actually are at all three of Sisters schools. But in order to more correctly come up with the numbers as per Mr. Morgan's analysis, one would need to know that. So I am not sure that you should need to reduce staff by 10 if enrollment drops by 90, as the number of total classes would probably not change. In fact, if we use Mr. Morgan's example and assume there really are 58 total classes, a reduction of 90 students would lead to a drop of about 1.5 students per class, assuming the students were evenly distributed amongst all 58 classes. Thus class size would decrease, but not necessarily the number of classes. I would guess there may be more than 58 total classes, so class size would actually drop only negligibly under this scenario. This might mean that a reduction of only three staff positions could accommodate a reduction in 90 students.

    Please vote your conscience in the upcoming School District measure. And isn't it also true that the repeal of Oregon's "double majority" law will mean that the majority vote of those who actually voted will determine the outcome of this ballot measure?

  5. It never ceases to amaze me that folks will blindly support billions in spending by Washington, where we have little or no say how the money is used, and then vote against local taxes that stay in our own community. It's a well-known axiom that the farther the money gets from home, the more it's wasted. That's why I normally don't mind paying local taxes. However, I fear that by March, our federal government's "stimulus" spending orgy will have sufficiently soured voters and destroyed any hope of passing the Local Option.

  6. Jim,

    Thanks for an excellent story on the School district numbers. As the comments suggest, there are many ways to slice and dice the numbers, especially when figuring averages. You do the community and the district a great service when you tackle such a subject, and I thought you did it very well.

    From the story:
    "Administrative salaries include:

    Superintendent: $108,150

    High School Principal: $91,587

    Middle School Principal: $84,872

    Elementary School Principal: $81,689

    High School Vice Principal: $76,650

    The district also employs a business manager at $55,208, a director of operations at $52,118, and a technology director at $63,448, among other positions, including clerks and secretaries.

    All employees receive an insurance contribution capped at $973 and retirement fund contributions amounting to six percent of gross pay."

    One question for clarification:
    All of the above salary numbers are annual figures. Is that true for the "insurance contribution capped at $973"?

    If the insurance number of $973 is actually a monthly number, then each employee is getting an $11,676 annual benefit.

    That would change the total compensation number for the top 15 teachers from $62,500 (not including insurance and retirement) to $77,900 when including insurance and retirement benefits.

    Please let me know about the monthly or annual insurance compensation number.

    And thanks again for such an informative story.

  7. I would like to point out my own error. I cannot accurately say that a reduction in 90 students would lead to a class size reduction of 1.5. In the high school, each student registers for 5 classes (I would assume), so a reduction of 90 high school students would lead to a reduction of 450 "registrants". Without knowing how many classes there are, I can't say what this reduction would do to class size. Sorry for this misleading math in my own analysis.

  8. Steve,

    I think you are right about the insurance being monthly, as Christine Jones commented that a reduction of 3 positions would reduce costs by 225K in salary and benefits. Hence 75K per position is much closer to your 77K. Good catch.

  9. Too many people are looking at details and not looking at the big picture. The district acknowledges that 85% of its operating budget is the cost of personnel. It’s axiomatic that in a labor-intensive business the number of employees must be proportional to demand and the expense to revenue ratio must remain constant. Regardless of how you slice and dice, less students means the district must eliminate a proportionate number of employees and less revenue per student means expenses must be cut proportionately to keep the expense to revenue ratio in balance.

    This is how we do it in the real world and it’s the only way that works. Trying to balance a budget with declining revenue by scraping whole programs or services rarely works. The market place won’t accept that. Cuts must be made as evenly as possible across all programs to keep the “product” in balance. The customer wants as little change in the product as possible.

    The most important information in my big picture analysis is we now have 61 fewer students and 20 more teachers compared to 2005-2006. It’s safe to assume that we also have a proportionate increase in other support personnel.

    If we only eliminate three positions per loss of 90 students as suggested by Christine Jones then eliminating all 1323 students would reduce total district employment by 44. If the reductions were all teachers, we would still have 49 teachers and all current support and administrative personnel and no students. This makes no sense but this is what our district leaders are trying to sell.

    If we want quality education in a poor economy the fear tactics and emotional arguments must stop and be replaced with strong management based on sound financial principles.

  10. Jim:

    I’m going to try one more time to get you and the taxpayers to see and understand the big picture.

    The Sisters School District has been on a manic spending spree for three years and now doesn’t want to deal with the consequences.

    Facts: 1384 students in 2005-2006 with 73.5 teachers; 1323 students today with 93 teachers. Simple arithmetic yields 5.31 teachers per 100 students three years ago versus 7.03 today. This is a 32% increase in the number of teachers per 100 students in just three years!

    This is critical information relevant to any decision on continuation of the local option levy. I trust the Nugget will be addressing the magnitude of increased spending over the last three years in an article prior to the March 10 vote.

  11. Thank-you to everyone who is contributing information to this blog, it really helps to get some facts instead of all the sentimental/emotional repetion of "this is for our kids"crap.This is about business management and lack of accountability for prior bad choices made.Already I see the signs going up around town..how much did those cost? along with the stamped letter we received from Mr. McCauley last week?If they are hurting they should go to all the real estate dealers and developers who have advertised and sold out our "desirable Sisters school district" in their TV and printed media and have them give up a percentage of their profits.To run this campaign again and so soon is another big mistake on the boards decision.A concerned group of citizens are now forming their own"VOTE NO" campaign.We are tapped out!

  12. From the Oregonian:
    "Top Sherwood school officials agree to a salary freeze
    by Melissa Navas, The Oregonian
    Thursday February 12, 2009, 5:30 PM

    Sherwood School District's superintendent and three other executive staff members are voluntarily freezing their salaries next year, saving the district nearly $24,000.

    Superintendent Dan Jamison said his executive staff wanted to show leadership as the district faces further budget cuts this year. The district's general fund is approximately $32 million.

    The others freezing their salaries are Wayne Lowry, director of finance and operations; Erin Prince, assistant superintendent; and Patty Arrigoni, the superintendent's executive assistant."

  13. When it comes to money, people tend to get pretty emotional. "Facts" are tossed around like snowballs and "figures" get manipulated. The bottom line is this: If we want quality education in Sisters we need to pay for it. A strong school system is good for our entire economy and with the way things are going the least we can do is give our young people high quality education in schools that are safe, vibrant, and connected to the community. Anyone who has been in the school buildings during school hours knows that great things are happening here in Sisters schools. Those who have not be on the campuses tend to lob snowballs. I challenge any of you folks out there who think your no vote is going to be in the best interests of the community to think again. Talk to kids, talk to school personnel. Find out everything you can before deciding. This blog contains a lot of convoluted mathematics and erroneous figures mostly by a man who makes it his passion to stir the pot with an air of authority. He doesn't care about kids, he cares about trying to convince people he is right. If he would put half his energy into becoming a real contributor in Sisters (not by just writing checks, but by working with people) the impact would be awesome. Maybe he could help start a debate club and have the role of perpetual devil's advocate.
    For those who are tempted to get drawn into the argument about the idea that any of the school personnel are overpaid for the jobs they do, do yourself a favor and check the facts. There is abundant information that Sisters School district employees earn less than their colleagues in other Central Oregon communities nad pay more to live here. 'Nuf said.
    For those out there who honestly and truly can't afford a few hundred dollars a year, a no vote may be your only option, but I am betting that the vast majority can afford it and, if honest, will be able to find a payoff down the road in well-educated, involved young people who not only contribute to the community, but make Sisters such attractive place for families to live. I guarantee that families and businesses are drawn here in large measure because of the schools and the surrounding beauty. Vote yes on the local option and keep the whole community strong.

  14. I went to the Oregon Department of Education web site, and I queried its database and got back enrollment and financial numbers for Sisters School District 6. Here are the results (here is the link: http://www.ode.state.or.us/sfda/reports/r0067Select2.asp) :

    Total enrollment in Sisters School District as of October 1, 2008: 1559
    Charter Academy: 33
    Early College Academy: 17
    Elementary School: 337
    Middle School: 423
    High School: 543
    Web Academy: 206

    In 2007-2008, total enrollment was 1431. In 2006-2007, it was 1503, and in 2005-2006 it was, as Mr. Morgan points out, 1384. The Sisters Web Academy (SWA) and Charter School accounts for all of the difference between the oft used number of 1323 students and the actual total from the ODE database.

    The SWA students are a part of the enrollment for Sisters School District, and cannot be excluded in any analysis. The funding for them comes, in part, from the $1,133,000 state pass through (the Charter school is also a part of this). The math says that this is a state expenditure of $4801 per student (236 total students). For the remainder of the students, this year's expenditures per student are $9109 using a budget amount of $12,051,971. Combined, it's $8457. Some historical Sisters per student expenditures for comparison:

    07-08 No Data (it would be good to have this data)
    06-07 $9151
    05-06 $8727
    04-05 $7900.

    Statewide data for the same years is as follows:

    07-08, $8001
    06-07, $8973
    05-06, $8616
    04-05, $8233

    This year, Sisters per student spending is lower than it was in 06-07. As you can see, the state numbers rise, but then fall in 2007. Sisters numbers are correlated with the state, with the exception of the missing data for 07-08.

    You decide if these numbers point to a spending spree, are consistent with state levels, or actually point to a reduction in spending.

    No crap, no emotion, just facts.

  15. WOW! This is such a nice place that people hide behind anonymity to launch personal attacks against people they don’t even know. I’m not ashamed that I can read and understand the plain language of Oregon law, I can research facts, do basic math, and I put my money where my mouth is. Do you?

    The taxpayers of this district are not stupid and when people like anonymous treat us as such we rebel. Name-calling, personal attacks, scare tactics, and blackmail are very unattractive traits but are common in this community. This would be a much better place if people could be civil to one another and debate issues on the merits instead of practicing the politics of personal destruction.

  16. I believe if you look around the state there plenty of districts "that provide a quality education" without a local option. Schools are not "businesses" and they should not be looked at in the same light. With that said, they need to be run effectively and efficiently with the dollars available. It appears to many that we do not run either way. The local option is simply a drug we have become addicted to where there is not end in sight. Remember, when we all signed on to this may years ago, it was simply a 3 year fix to provide badly needed repairs and text books, with the tax to sunset. Send the Redmond/Bend kids back to their own towns, lower enrollment, right size the staff, make some hard choices and deal with it. Or, continue this madness for years to come, it is only going to get worse.

  17. All I can say, Mike, is that you better not be referring to me.

  18. Steve:

    The insurance cap is monthly.

    Jim Cornelius, Editor

  19. Matt:

    Or else what? I applaud your courage in going public with your views behind your real name; however, I think you need to learn some manners. Your last post reads like a schoolyard threat. I was obviously not referring to you because you don’t hide behind anonymity. With all due respect your logic, math, data, and conclusions are all flawed.

    In your first post you give an example of a school with 100 students and 20 total classes and then state, “If each of the 20 total classes has 25 students, then the average class size is 25.” It’s impossible to have 20 classes with 25 students each when the whole school only has 100 students. Everything you say past this point is therefore flawed.

    I can’t confirm your numbers in your more recent post because the website link you provided is incorrect and/or does not work. However, you cannot include the students in the web-based schools in the current budget analysis because the district spends very little per each participating student. See my second post for more information on how the web schools affect the district.

    The 1323 number is the current enrollment figure that Christine Jones has repeatedly used in the public discussion regarding the local option levy. If you think that number is wrong your fight is with her not me.

    Comparing apples to apples, the undisputed facts are we have 61 fewer students today and twenty more teachers than we had in 2005-2006. That sounds like a spending spree to me.

  20. Mr Morgan, one of the niceties of being able to blog is to be able to do it anonymously. Some people may not want their names known, or their families ridiculed in the papers or called arrogant and other innuendos’. Speaking of being civil, the tone of your comments are far from being civil. Have you made personal attacks and called people names? Lastly, the rules of this blog allow us to be anonymous, so if you don’t like the rules, play somewhere else.

  21. Thank-you Mike Morgan and everyone who is researching this topic..I must remain anonymous because of school affliations..I think the comments made by another "anonymous" show nothing but disrespect and lack of education on the issues.The words they use are defensive and argumentative,and assumes everyone can or wants to support a strong school system. This reminds me of what is happening on the corporate bail-out level.The school wants us to "bail-them out with money and with their track record I simply do not want to use my hard earned bucks to support the current administration and board..they have lost their accountability ,trust and my vote. I will be emcouraging my neighbors to send a strong message to the school board..NO

  22. Posting under "Anonymous" is perfectly legitimate in the cyber world.

    Given this forum is vetted before a post is made public there is an additional safeguard in terms of questionable material or statements, personal or otherwise.

    Those who challenge folks who choose to post under "Anonymous" make the best case for this catagory. Too often they're just the kind of personality who will call you up, hunt you down, confront you on the street or at the post office, just because "they" want to continue the discussion "face to face" ... meaning their opinion is sound as yours/mine is ignorant.

    In some cases, and with some personalities, this could lead to the previous editorial on "Fightin' Words" ...

    Say your piece, respect others' right to do the same, and remember we also vote on an anonymous basis as well - it's part of our inherent Right to Privacy.

  23. Anonymous:

    I agree that it’s perfectly acceptable to post anonymously. What I disagree with is hiding behind anonymity to launch personal attacks against those of us, specifically including Matt, who have the courage to post comments under our real name. That’s akin to firing a sniper rifle from a thousand yards away. It’s only fair to know who is shooting at you. If you’re going to get personal, come out from behind your rock.

    Part of my agenda is getting people to pay attention to what their elected officials are doing. Sometimes throwing a bomb over the fence or starting a catfight is the only way to get people interested. Telling the truth sometimes stings but is not a personal attack unless it is exclusively intended to demean, embarrass, or ridicule. When someone assigns motive to the actions and arguments of another it’s time to look in the mirror because that action changes the debate from the merits to the character of the person. This I find unacceptable.

  24. Mike,

    Thanks for engaging me. And I apologize if you perceived my last post as a "schoolyard" threat, as that was not my intention. I was being tongue-in-cheek. I appreciate what you are saying.

    Now, my math is absolutely correct. In my example, the total number of classes (each 1 hour in length, say, as in a high school) for a five period day, with 4 classes per period, would be 20, would it not? Yes, it would, as 5 X 4 = 20. Since each student attends five classes during the day, at any given period, all 100 are in attendance and spread amongst the four classes offered. I simplified it so that the students were evenly distributed (in the real world, this probably would not be the case, however, all 100 students would be in one of the four classes), which means 25 per class. Therefore, for 20 classes, each with 25 students, that ABSOLUTELY and UNEQUIVICALLY equates to a class size average of 25.

    20 classes X 25 students per class / 20 classes = 25.

    I defy anyone anywhere to tell me this is wrong, and show the math that proves it. It is not wrong. It is fundamentally correct. Therefore, my additional conclusions are not based on flawed math at all, and I stand by this and them.

    As for the link, you need to cut and paste it. I just cut and pasted it into my browser, and it worked just fine, so I don't know why it did not work for you, unless you just tried to click on it. But here are more explicit directions with a click-able link:

    Go to http://www.ode.state.or.us
    Click on "reports" on the left
    Then click on "Districts"
    Scroll down to the Finance/Funding section and you can see all the reports for many years there.

    Finally, I didn't include the SWA or Charter school in deriving my number of $9109 for our current spending per student (and I also removed the 1.133MM pass through). This per student number was derived using the post pass through budget and the 1323 enrollment number, and it is still lower than that spent per student in 06-07 by our district.

    As for more teachers and less students, if it reads like a spending spree, it doesn't mean that it is a spending spree. My numbers seem to read otherwise.

    Thanks for reading.

  25. Well one thing I have decided after reading all these previous posts is that the school is NOT a business because someone or somebodies should have been fired or resigned after allowing a 1.2 million mistake to be made. Missing in the salary costs is head football coach and athletic directors? Does any one know these cost ?

  26. Matt:

    Thank you. I now understand the point you were trying to make. However, you originally lost me at, “If each of the 20 total classes has 25 students, then the average class size is 25”. This is technically impossible in a school with only 100 students that has 20 classes on any given day because there would have to be 500 students for all 20 classes on that day to average 25 students per class. Every class, every period, would have to have 25 students. Anything less in any of the classes would drop the average below 25. The same students can’t be in two or more different classes at the same time.

  27. Mike,

    You're confusion is understandable, as I can see how my wording could have been much better. And you are right that if all the classes took place at the same time, my example is flawed. But I never meant this, as that was never a part of my original example.

    The bottom line for me with our exchange (I guess you could call it my motivation and agenda for commenting in the first place) is that as a scientist, if I am presented with a hypothesis, including my own, it's my job to try to prove it wrong (I don't always engage, you have to pick your battles). If I can't prove it wrong, then I start to accept that it might be the logical explanation.

    Whether or not the Sisters school district is spending it's money properly is a worthy debate, and I am not yet prepared to say they are or are not. But when I looked at the numbers that you had used to support your hypotheses (you had many), I found that there were errors and inconsistencies within them that severely weakened your original hypotheses, and I felt obligated to point them out, since I care deeply about this area and its schools, and as a libertarian, I am constantly dismayed at our government and its continual yearning for taxing the citizenry. It's a battle worth fighting. I am quite sure that you would do the same thing, to my hypotheses, or anyone elses, and we need this type of debate, serious thought and questioning of the status quo in order to make things better. Thanks for the useful back and forth. Speaking for myself, I feel that I am at a better place now, I hope you feel the same.

  28. Mr. Morgan, would you kindly, and I mean that sincerely, give your opinion about how you think the schools will look without the local option? Doing so will probably require you to come and look around on a school day and see what class sizes look like now. You could also find out why staff have been added over the years by finding out about things like special education and alternative education programs that have low teacher/staff ratios out of absolute necessity. You could see the many volunteers that come in and help in the buildings. You could also see the high quality of teaching that is going on throughout the district. It would be great to hear your philosophy about quality education and not just complaints about money and its management. There are stories behind the numbers that are worth investigating. Why not call the superintendent and arrange for a tour of the district and see if any of your views change. At least you would be more fully informed, which is always a good thing. (I've learned some things from you even though I disagree with your stance.) Let's keep it civil and above board as you suggest. What do you say?

  29. I am not sure why we are putting compensation of district employees into this discussion. Teachers make more than many people but they also have more education and responsibility than most. I think adding compensation to the discussion is going to sway some people to vote no because they don't like that teachers make more than them. Maybe that is the point of the people bringing up compensation. If you think they make too much, maybe you should change jobs.

    Knowing something about public sector compensation, I would say the district has done a good job by limiting their monthly contribution to benefits. Most places have committed to pay for the benefits and don't have a monthly limit that protects the district if the rates increase. Someone did a good job in the union negotiations on that one.

  30. Jim:

    Thanks for having coffee with me yesterday.

    In a letter to you published September 16, 2008 I asked questions that I wanted answered by the district before the November election. I received no answer and I have yet to receive an answer to the suggestions made in my recent guest editorial.

    Your argument that the local option levy is about the cost of a cup of coffee a day misses the point and is not representative of the frustration that I see and hear in the community. The issue is trust, accountability, transparency, and being approachable, candid, open, and honest in providing responsive answers to taxpayer questions. People believe they give an awful lot to the schools and they aren't sure that it's being spent as well as it could be. We’re not sure the district leadership can discern the difference between what people need versus what they want.

    In a poor economy the district must focus on needs and forgo wants until a better day. If the district taxpayers withhold approval of the levy it will be because they want to send a message to the board that they work for all of us, not just for the parents of the local school children or the local business and real estate interests that benefit financially from promoting the school district. It’s absolutely not about the cost of a cup of coffee, a few hundred dollars a year is not that relevant. Getting the message across is. It’s that simple.

  31. It's not about a cup of coffee, it's about quality education. Let's talk about quality education and why that is important. Please Mr. Morgan, let's focus on that for a while. I've lived here 15 years and have witnessed a lot of ups and downs surrounding the school district. I come back to "What is best for the school-aged children?" as my foundational question when I consider school issues. School districts do need accountability and I think right now we have a lot of it here in some part because of people like you,Mr. Morgan. So, with that said, what do you think about our school-aged children? What are we really accomplishing by voting "no" that is related to the well-being of children? In the real big picture, will you be able to look back and say, "Good thing we didn't pass the local option."? I have child about to enter high school. I'm thinking I want to help do what's best for my child's education for the next four years. I want my child prepared to contribute to society as an adult. Even if I didn't have a child in the district, I would feel the same for other people's children. We can do a lot to help the young people of Sisters for a relatively low cost. Let's hear your position on what quality education looks like.

  32. To Anonymous:

    It would take a lot more than a simple tour to gather the information necessary to make the best decisions on how available funding should be spent to retain the highest quality of education. However, the process starts with a firm understanding of the big picture and how we got into the current crisis from where we were a few years ago.

    In May 2006, the district forecasted enrollment increasing to 1,450 by 2008. Enrollment has gone down, not up. This forecast certainly had some influence on the fact that today we have 1323 students with 93 teachers versus 1384 in 2005-2006 with 73.5 teachers. Simple arithmetic yields 5.31 teachers per 100 students three years ago versus 7.03 today. This is a 32% increase in the number of teachers per 100 students in just three years! Lacking current information, I will assume the growth in classified personnel has been equivalent, about 10.6% per year.

    We know that the contract pay of all certified and classified personnel goes up at least enough to cover the rate of inflation anticipated at the time the contracts were executed. Therefore, it’s relatively safe to assume that the district has added resources and increased the total cost of personnel by 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation for each of the last three years. Personnel costs account for 85% of the operating budget. Therefore, if the district is forced to reduce the budget by 10% what remains of district staffing should look very much like it did just a year or two ago.

    District management must look at recent growth in personnel that was caused at least in part by an anticipated increase in enrollment that did not happen. One area of spending that deserves special attention is transportation. The Oregonian, in an editorial published February 8, makes the same recommendation. Currently, about 20% of district children on average ride the school busses to and from school. Twenty years ago the percentage was much higher. This downward trend is not unique to Sisters, it’s happening everywhere. The decrease is due to many reasons, parents concerns about safety, getting a ride from parents is more convenient, older students have cars, and a high percentage of students participate in before or after school activities that makes their schedule incompatible with the bus schedule.

    The district spends approximately $500K per year to run the bus program. Are we going to continue to spend this much money when participation falls to 10%, 5%, or lower? Maybe it’s time to think outside the box to save money where it can be saved so more is available for more pressing needs elsewhere. Ultimately, the problem of getting all kids to and from school will be solved in a way that is much more cost effective than the process we use today.

    I would also look at food service. I went to public schools in San Francisco in the 50’s. All were at least 30 years old and none had a cafeteria. We didn’t starve, we all brought lunch from home. We are for the most part a wealthy district, why are we subsidizing on-site professionally prepared food at all three schools? Hospitals years ago shut down their kitchens and contracted for food service. Is there a lesson here?

    I am aware that some educational costs and programs, including both I just mentioned, are mandated by State and Federal regulations. However, I would suggest that maybe it’s time to lobby law and policy makers to ease restrictions that are outdated, expensive, and no longer serve the best interest of our district. I’m sure we give OSBA a lot of money; lets pressure them to lobby in our collective best interest.

    A 10% cut should not be that difficult based on representations that Sisters is an excellent school district. Two years ago district and community leaders were hyping Sisters as the best of the best. If the quality of education was oversold then it’s likely to take a few years to correct that perception. The district can’t have it both ways, the best when money is up, not worth a crap when the money is down. We’re not stupid. We know spin when we see it.

  33. Anonymous,

    I urge you to consider the data in my posts as well, which show that per student expenditures for this year's budget are lower than they were in 2006-2007, unless, of course, the roughly 12MM budget number that Jim used in his story is inaccurate. This is derived using an enrollment number of 1323. There are also an additional 236 students enrolled in the SWA and Charter school, which are funded at a level lower than the 1323. Also, without knowing what the +16.5 teacher salaries are (there are currently 90, not 93 teachers, according to the contact pages for each school), and whether they are all full time, half time (which is what 0.5 teachers would suggest), part time, etc., it is not clear that it can be said that an increases in 16.5 teachers must result in an increase in spending, especially considering that per student expenditures are down this year. I also don't know if teachers might have retired on the upper end of the salary schedule, and if new ones were hired in at the lower end. It may very well be that we are spending much more on teachers than we did a few years ago, but I can't (and won't, nor should anyone else) say that without knowing the details of salaries, full time vs. part time status, etc. All things must be considered when proposing and supporting a hypothesis.

  34. Matt:

    The 93 number has been used by Christine Jones and is also on the website of the group supporting the option levy. Average class size of 23 is an extrapolation of the 20 to 26 number also used by Christine.

    You can't include the web based students in any analysis because very little of the district's operating revenue is used to support this effort. It was sold as a program that would be, at a minimum, self supporting. I'm not certain but I believe the charter school students are included in the 1323 number.

    I think we can agree with certainty that we need more information to make a rational decision on the proposed levy. That's all I want and it's all I've asked for.

    The following is an email that I sent to the Nugget editor and copied Christine Jones. It addressed her letter to the editor supporting the local option that was in response to my guest editorial.

    I have corrected some math errors in the paragraph that compares 2005-2006 to 2008-2009. These corrections made the increase per year more than first reported because I divided the total increase by 4 years instead of the correct three years.


    Christine Jones misstates my numbers then uses smoke and mirrors to craft numbers that serve her purpose.

    http://nuggetnews.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=14580&SectionID=8&SubSectionID=&S=1 is the link to your story last June regarding the school budget that was approved for 2008-2009, the total was $13,184,972. Per Jones, the current enrollment is 1323; therefore, total budget per current enrolled student is $9966, times 23 students per classroom equals $229,217 per classroom; I rounded it off to $230K. Funding in the current year is not based on current enrollment, it’s based on Average Daily Membership (ADM) and this is a calculated number based on the previous years actual attendance.

    I think she is understating the current approved budget and overstating current enrollment. Therefore, real operating costs per student and classroom is higher than her calculations would suggest. Drakulich has been quoted in the Bulletin estimating a reduction in enrollment next year to slightly less than 1200. My figures were estimates for 2009-2010.

    Here is a better way to get at the facts on the actual increase in funding per student. My editorial did contain one error. The first school year after the levy was last approved was 2005-2006. I will compare that year to the current year. I use ODE data from their website for ADM numbers. For school year 2005-2006, go to page 46 at:


    For school year 2008-2009, go to page 42 at:


    ADM in 2005-2006 was 1308. The approved budget for that year was $9.58M as reported in the Nugget at:


    Therefore, cost per ADM student was $7324 in year 2005-2006.

    ADM in 2008-2009 was 1341. The approved budget for that year was $13.18M as reported in the Nugget at:


    Therefore, cost per ADM student was $9828 in the current year 2008-2009.

    Comparing cost per ADM student between 2005-2006 and the current year shows an increase of 34% over a three-year period, or an average increase of 11.3% per year. This is at least an 8% increase per year over inflation. Therefore, if we don’t pass the local option we should be at least equal to where we were one to two years ago. Nobody in this district would suggest we had anything but the best district in the state two years ago!

    Perhaps it’s time to start talking about the real cost of educating students. Go to ODE at: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=14. You will find that we have been discussing the General Fund, which does not include much of the cost of operating the district. If we add the Debt Service Fund and the other listed funds the total cost of operating the Sisters School District approaches $20M per year. At 1341 ADM students for the current year, this equates to $15K per student and $345K per classroom. This is the real cost and should be explained to the public in a way they can understand. However, the actual cost is even higher. We also pay for ODE and pension fund bonds that are sold to make up the shortfall in the PERS account. You should explore these costs as well.

    Mike Morgan

  35. Mike,

    This is excellent data! I will go and look at these numbers as you've done. Thanks!

  36. Matt:

    I’ve run the numbers two ways and get 32% to 34% increased spending over the last three years. Christine Jones in her letter published February 4, 2009 said: “Spending per pupil increased by about 33 percent between 2004-05 and 2008-09, not the 50 percent stated last week.” The 50% number she refers to is my estimate for the increase over four years through and including next year published January 28, 2009 in my guest editorial. Since then I have researched better data and done the calculations previously posted on this blog. Christine’s number is stated most favorably to make the point that I was wrong. What she has really done is confirm my latest calculations.

    I’m going to take a break and hope some others post data helpful to understanding what appears to be significant growth during a period of declining enrollment. Maybe the Nugget will do its own research. You have been very helpful in forcing me to challenge both my thinking and my data. Thank you.

  37. Mike,

    I am taking a break as well. We both deserve one. You have helped me to much better understand this issue as well. Have a good President's day.

  38. It's not about the money... what guarentees do we have that our kids will have a better quality education based on money? The high-school system failed my kid. I have seen the current board and administration make so many fiscal mistakes w/ no apologizes,that last weeks letters to the editor ring true..The board is like a spoiled kid asking for more more more after being told no. Its currently such a tight time economically that it is a reality check for the schools to buck up to the facts that they helped create this current mess with their demands on us. I will be voting no once more.

  39. For those of you who still think the debate about the local option levy can be reduced to the cost of a cup of coffee a day; let me explain the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t the last piece of straw that did the camel in, it was the heavy load that it was forced to carry too long and too far.

    Twenty additional teachers added to the load in the last three years plus some unknown number of support personnel would increase the capacity of the schools by 400 students. Instead, we’ve had a decrease of about 200. This increase in personnel represents the financial load that if not corrected will break the camel’s back.

    Sometimes management must look at the entire load, not just the small incremental increase that seems insignificant at the time. Now is that time! The capacity of our schools specifically including personnel must be sized to demand, that means the number of personnel must be proportionate to the number of kids in the seats. It’s that simple.

  40. Mr Morgan, when was the last time you asked a student what they thought about the local option, or what they thought about the quality of education they have received, or how they’ll feel if the local option fails. These kids are our future, they are the ones who will be paying for the trillions of dollars of debt that our government has amassed, Let’s prepare them and provide them with the best education we can, and if that means we have to pay a little extra now, so be it. Forget about the miscues of the past, because that’s in the past, we need to think of the future and move forward. In your previous work experience in California, when mistakes were made, did you continue to dwell on the mistakes and not move forward or did you learn from those mistakes. I believe you used mistakes to improve on future decisions. I believe our school board and administration has done the same. You have helped them realize these miscues and they have learned from them. Let’s not punish our children and continue to dwell on the past, let’s move forward and do what we can for our kids, and the future of this country. It has been proven a smaller class improves learning. I believe there is a correlation between the greater percentages of Merit Scholars, Honor Roll students and Valedictorians in our district with the class sizes we currently have. Let’s keep it this way so we can produce even more Merit Scholars! I hope everyone joins me and votes yes on the Local Option.

  41. Anonymous:

    I appreciate your sincerity, however more is not always better and there is insufficient evidence to conclude the current board has learned from past mistakes.

    I was in court this week listening to a lawyer paid for by taxpayers argue that I don’t have the right to challenge the actions of the school board that result in encumbering privately owned property. This lawyer also argued that the district could circumvent the legal requirements for incurring bond debt by simply calling the financial instrument something other than a bond. Calling a duck a pig does not make it a pig! If we have great education in Sisters why does this board continue to assume we’re stupid? This board should have learned from the first lawsuit I filed and won that I research legal issues very carefully. Based on what I have seen to date in the bond case, this board has not learned that lesson. I have given copies of all my legal briefs to the Nugget. Why don’t you demand they put a link to these on their website?

    In Silicon Valley I learned that more is not always better, in fact it guarantees failure. More is better is the mentality that has caused the current depression. More credit is better than less credit, more house is better than less house, more government programs is better than less programs, etc. It can easily be argued that more teachers is always better than less teachers but look at California, they have a $40+ billion budget deficit. The more is better mentality is very close to causing complete failure in California. If more is always better in education we should be the best in the world. We’re not. We’re not even in the top twenty; we’re right down there with the third world countries. If you took calculus you know that more is better means that the cost of any product goes ultimately to infinity. No society can afford programs that are infinitely expensive.

    In high tech more engineers is not better than less engineers. Less engineers gets any product designed faster and at a lower cost, what you want is the best engineers. Too many engineers means the product will likely miss the marketing window and will cost too much. Do that a few times and you’re out of business.

    I have put a lot of data on this blog regarding an apparent significant increase in classroom personnel during a period of declining enrollment. Why don’t you demand your school board respond to this information? Force them to explain why we need so many new employees when we have significantly less kids to educate. This is an educated community, we really can understand. Treat us like we’re stupid and we will rebel.

  42. All district taxpayers and anyone else who believes elected officials should comply with the sprit and intent of Oregon law should be outraged. I just received my Voters’ Pamphlet and sure enough there are three statements in favor of the local option and none opposed.

    When I read the story in the Nugget that the school board had voted to put the levy on the ballot for March 10, I called the elections office only to learn that it was too late to file any statement to be included in the pamphlet. There can be no doubt; this was a calculated, well-thought out plan to stifle any opposition.

    Is this the lesson we want our kids to learn? Cheat if you must, bend the rules if you must, violate the law if you must, but by god win. Fair play be damn, win at any cost. I don’t think so and I’m optimistic enough to believe most of the people in this district will agree with me, this is a terrible lesson to be teaching our kids.

  43. Mr. Morgan, your posts constitute a full third of all the posts on this topic. You obviously have a passion for this issue. Collectively your comments indicate a couple of things:
    1. You have no faith in our school's leadership and show a tendency for disdain about elected leadership in general. Your latest conspiracy theory about the voter's pamphlet is ludicrous. How did the three pro statements get in there. Was it some sort of "inside job"?
    2. You don't really understand that the whole point of having more teachers is to have lower class sizes. Teachers cost money. The local option generates money. Teachers are hired. Class sizes are smaller. The superintendent and the board will have their work cut out for them in determining how many teachers we can afford over the next years. Having the local option will allow for much better choices.
    It is likely that there will be some reduction in staff for next year due to budget shortfalls and some lessening of pupils in certain grade levels, but to absorb a million dollar loss of revenue from the local option will mean much larger class sizes and a lowering of educational quality. With the economic forecast looking gloomy for some years to come, the people of Sisters should take matters into their own hands and pass the local option to pay for our own students. It's the least we can do to help our young people. In so doing we will get the benefit of keeping and even attracting families to Sisters who value quality public education. I think you underestimate how important our school district's health is to our local economy, which gives us two very good reasons to vote YES on the local option.
    As another writer suggested, you ought to arrange a visit to the schools so you can see first hand the good work being done. Go ahead and keep being a watchdog as well, but you may want to adjust your strategy if you want people to listen to you.
    I do happen to know you. I disagree with nearly everything you write and I am fairly certain most others dismiss you for the same reasons I do: You come across as arrogant, pushy, condescending, and down-right mean-spirited. And yes, I will be anonymous for now. After the election, I may call you and see if we can come to a better understanding of one another.

  44. The last anonymous post has their head in a cloud and obvious ties to the school.The anger and defensive manner in which it is written shows me how wrong they are and living in la la land.This last anounymous post has cast my previosly undecided vote to vote NO!

  45. The last anonymous post attacking Mr. Morgan is well, the pot calling the kettle black! And not even having manners to leave a name. they assume so much...I don't want to attract any more famlies here and after seeing how the the school has swept away and covered up for their own..yes the lack of opposition in the voters pamphlet is probebly well conceived in an executive session. Thank-you to everyone who is contributing facts and figures..it has helped me to cast my vote..NO

  46. A few comments to anonymous who claims to know me:

    1. Your post attacks the messenger and not the merits of his message; you refuse to address specific information regarding the wisdom and economic viability of significant increases in staffing during declining enrollment.

    2. The three pro statements got in the voters pamphlet because they are all from insiders. They knew exactly when the deadlines were and the school board timed the vote in reference to the Nugget’s news cycle so that the vast majority of voters would have no time to respond. Neat, huh!

    3. Much larger class size? The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation has determined through actual experience that the most important element to effective learning is to put a great teacher in every classroom, it’s not class size. Besides, we now have 14 teachers per student, the best ratio in the state. How low does it have to be for you to be happy? We could drive the ratio to one teacher per student, is that low enough? At some point your demand that more is better must be tempered with economic reality. The object of any economic evaluation is to determine how to produce the best product for the least cost. You school folks never want to consider the cost part of the analysis. Your mantra is the more the better. That’s the mantra that has caused the current depression and results in the failure of any private sector business. If you can’t provide a good product at a competitive price you will ultimately fail. Public education is not an exception to this fundamental economic rule.

    There are some things I am having trouble understanding; perhaps you can enlighten me. One of the pro statements in the voter’s pamphlet says the local option revenue results in a reduction in class size of 5 to 7 students. How could this be when we have only 14 students per teacher? Are you people telling me that a 10% reduction in operating revenue will increase class size by 50%? Even if this were mathematically possible, increasing the ratio to 21 students per teacher puts the district on a par with the best districts in the state. How is that a “perfect storm”? Please explain.

    Every day I read in the papers about school districts being forced to reduce the number of school days due to budget cuts. We have some great teachers in Sisters, why would we ever want to reduce their days in the classroom? Maybe we should do a reduction in force and weed out some not so good personnel. I have reviewed the district’s contract with the teacher’s union and it seems that performance can be considered in a reduction of force. That way we get a higher percentage of great teachers and more days in the classroom. Both are consistent with the findings of the Gates Foundation. Seems like a win-win to me. Comments?

  47. Even I screw up! I meant to say in paragraph 3: "...14 students per teacher..." not "...14 teachers per student..."

    I'll go to the woodshed and give myself ten lashes with the belt!

  48. Anonymous on 2/22 at 10:54, you blasted a previous anonymous blogger for not having the manners to leave a name. And how did you sign you post? Remember, the rules of this blog allow bloggers to leave messages anonymously.

    Signed by another manner-less blogger!

  49. I am in the school now and then and have yet to see a classroom with 14 students other than for special education students. At the middle school the smallest class of fifth graders has 22 students, the average size of an 8th grade language arts class is 23 (115 students divided by 5 sections), and the average class size of 8th grade science is 27. The only class that I know of that is close to 14 students is an art class funded by outside sources.
    In Mike Morgan's last post, he again brings up the question of class size. I believe that somewhere the "averages" you are coming up with Mike indicate an error somewhere in your base information. I know for a fact that if you stepped into any class at the middle or high school you would find more than 14 students in nearly every one. Now and then a section of a class doesn't load or there is an imbalance, but even then the average is more than 14. I am guessing that the number of actual classroom teachers is off. I will do some checking and see if I can shine some light on this.
    I like what you said about quality teachers. There is a limit of effectiveness if classes get too big however. Even the best teachers would tell you that.
    I'll check back after some research.

  50. Anonymous:

    You could be right. There might be a lot of teachers in non-teaching positions. If so, that needs to be explained by the district. Regardless, the facts are there has been a significant increase in personnel during a period of declining enrollment. This needs an explanation.

    To clarify, the 93 number comes from Christine Jones and is on the website for the pro-levy group. The 73 number comes from ODE reports for the year 2005-2006. Maybe I should stop using the words “average class size” even though district leaders often use these words. Christine has recently reported that the average class size is currently 20 to 26 students. ODE uses different language to report the same information. They use student per teacher numbers. If you review ODE data you will find most districts report a ratio between 20 to 22 students per teacher. If all teachers were in classroom teaching all of the time then the two methods would yield the same result. This might be confusing to some people.

    Thanks for looking into the numbers.

  51. Anonymous:

    Check out my posts, I pointed out how to accurately calculate class size average, and also pointed out that dividing enrollment by the number of teachers doesn't give you class size average. Instead that gives you the student/teacher ratio. This has been already been hashed out and debated by Mike and me.

    In order to know what class size averages area, you need the population for each class and the total number of classes. This data isn't at the ODE as far as I could tell.

  52. Matt:

    You’re right. ODE does not report average class size. They report student per teacher data for all school district to allow a valid apple-to-apple comparison between districts. This is a good way to compare relative teaching resources per student across all Oregon school districts. The inference is that the lower the number of students per teacher the more able a district is to effectively teach district children.

    I think this is a good approach since average class size is subject to many more variables; i.e., special education classes, ratio of elementary enrollment to high school enrollment, number of handicapped and learning challenged, number of gifted, etc.

    At 14 students per teacher Sisters has the best ratio in the state based on my search of ODE data.

  53. I quote Mr. Dolson from today’s edition of the Nugget: “So the possible revenue loss actually ranges from a fairly certain half a million dollars to nearly $2.3 million.”

    So in a few weeks we’ve gone from talking about a $300K cut to a certain $500K cut to what could be a $2.3M cut. If this isn’t fear mongering I don’t know what is. Not passing the local option can only reduce revenue by approximately 9%. All this other stuff is speculation and if it turns out to be true all districts in this sate would be equally affected, as would all taxpayers. The economy would have to tank way beyond where it is now for this hypothetical worse case scenario. Why are we so unwilling to be on an equal footing with other districts in this state including some with performance records as good as ours? There must be other reasons driving this hysteria, what are they?

  54. Mr Morgan,

    What is the correct level of funding for sisters school district. Who should get laid off to achieve that level of funding. What level of performance should we expect from the resulting school system.

  55. Mike,

    The average class size data is at the ODE page, but not after 2005-2006. There is no data for any years after 2006, at least none that I could find.

    Would you mind pointing me to the data that shows that a student/instructional staff ratio of 14.2 (which is what you get when you divide 1323 by 93) for the Sisters school district is the best in the state? I cannot find this data anywhere at the ODE page. All of the data I can find at ODE is from 2005-2006 or earlier for student/teacher ratios. I cannot find anything after these years that would allow a district to district comparison. You said that you found this data at the ODE web page. A web link, or some other pointer to this data would suffice. Or instructions on how you did your search.

    Until you show this data, I can't do anything useful with your statement about student/teacher ratios (I see we've moved off of class size averages, since we both know they can't be calculated with the data we have available to us). I really think you need to show this data, with a link to it. I don't know if your data is correct or wrong because you didn't provide it. Until I see this data, I cannot make a rational decision about whether it is cause for alarm, consistent with similar districts (as you say it is not), or irrelevant.

  56. Mike Morgan said...
    "Why are we so unwilling to be on an equal footing with other districts in this state including some with performance records as good as ours? There must be other reasons driving this hysteria, what are they?"

    I think the above paragraph sums up Mike Morgan nicely. He questions why we're unwilling to be on equal footing with other school districts in the state...some good, some bad.

    I'm a selfish bastard, Mike. I personally want my children to be in the BEST damned school distict in the state. And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is. Yes, some of it will get wasted. It always does. But some of it will stick and do very good things for the kids in Sisters, Oregon. And yes, my family has had to cut back in these hard times, too. Everyone has.

    As for hysteria, I haven't seen hysteria. Not one bit of it. I've just seen a lot of people that are deeply concerned about the quality of education that their children receive. And even though some of us (including me) see some opportunity for belt tightening in the Sisters School District, we're unwilling to send that message right now, at the expense of our kid's education. Mike, I'm not hysterical.

  57. Anonymous, I believe I’ve already answered all your questions as best I can with the limited information available to the public. If we really have great leadership and at least some great teachers, which I know we do, we should be able to get back to funding and staffing levels of one to two years ago with minimal impact on the quality of education.

    Matt, you are right. There is no hard data on the ODE website beyond 2006 for teacher to student ratios. To get to my conclusion required a search of 2005-2006 data for similar sized districts then a search of: http://www.ode.state.or.us/sfda/reports/r0051Select2.asp
    for 2007-2008 revenue per student data for similar sized districts. Then I penciled out an extrapolation of that data to predict probable ratios in similar districts. It’s far from perfect but I think we can have a reasonably high confidence that the conclusion reached in accurate. However, if someone were to spend hours pouring over this data they may find an exception but does this really deter from the basic argument that increasing staff significantly during declining enrollment is likely not justified? We don’t have enough information to get to a 100% confidence level on any hypothesis. All we can do is the best we can with what the industry gives us.

  58. Mike,

    Extrapolation is always a dangerous game, interpolation is much safer. Neither are perfect. I've built a successful career by modeling chemical phenomena through interpolation for the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore, without further proof, I can't agree that your extrapolated ratios are correct. I think we should ask the District to provide these numbers for this year and last year. I think they exist, but haven't been added to the ODE database. I'll ask the District if they can get this data.

    I also would ask that you clarify what you mean by similar sized. Just so I don't do something different from you, is similar a district with a population within +/- 100 students of Sisters? 200? 500? I don't really care what number you used, I just would like to know the number.

    The bottom line, as this election nears, is that you've not convinced me that I should vote no based on your arguments, and my own research, and I think I've done a solid job documenting why.

    Just for clarity, none of what I am saying is meant to suggest that you are wrong to say that you, I, or anyone else should vote no, just that I can't see a reason from the data you've presented.

  59. Mr Morgan,

    It is hard for me to tell if you have answered any questions. You have posted a lot of commentary and numbers, but have not been able to find one specific number: the correct level of funding for Sisters School district. I thought you should be able tell us that, since you are so certain that current level is too high. Too high by how much? $1, $1,000, $1,000,000, $5,000,0000?

  60. Matt:

    My agenda is not to convince you or anyone else to vote yes or no in the March 10 election. My agenda is to get as many people as possible to understand the available facts and to support my requests for more information. I will do everything possible to counter scare tactics, emotional arguments, and smoke and mirror corruption of data intended to manipulate the taxpayer into making a decision based on a flawed analysis of the available information.

    I’m a retired Industrial Engineer, manager and entrepreneur from Silicon Valley. I have similar technical expertise in data analysis, modeling, hypothesis testing, linear programming, game theory, etc., applied to semiconductor and computer manufacturing operations, and large field engineering and technical support organizations.

    I think similar size needs to be within 20% of Sisters to be very relevant. However, my whole point is the addition of significant staff during a reduction in enrollment. All other data and calculations are to better understand the impact of that decision compared to available resources in other districts. The most important comparison is the district currently against where it was a year or two ago.

    I can tell you are younger than me so your analytical skills are probably sharper than mine; however, a good ballpark analysis is about the best we can do given current information.

  61. Anonymous:

    Your demand for a specific funding number indicates to me that you don’t have the background or technical expertise to understand the dialog between Matt and me regarding the proper interpretation of available data. I said before I have made the best recommendations possible given the available information. Please note that nobody else on this blog has even come close to making any specific recommendations. At least I’ve done the best I can. I’ve also made myself available to participate in the advisory committee being formed to review and recommend possible budget cuts. The bottom line is the funding will be whatever the taxpayers can afford and are willing to pay given the current state of the economy. My agenda has been to prepare myself and others to make the best decision possible.

  62. Mr. Chandler:

    I have no problem with you wanting the best for your children; we all do. What I have a problem with is elected officials using scare tactics, emotional arguments, and smoke and mirrors to manipulate the taxpayer into making a decision based on a flawed analysis of the available information.

    Some of our elderly can’t participate in government programs because our elected officials intentionally make them too hard to access and use. Elected officials hide loopholes in legislation for the benefit of the privileged. Elected officials twist facts and information to get things past the voters. As I said in a much earlier post, calling a duck a pig does not make it a pig.

    All of us need to realize that the economy has tanked. Egregious conduct by elected officials during good times does not hurt as much as in lean times. Wanting the best for your children does not give you or anybody else the moral right to “con” the taxpayers. We’re all in this depression together. Lets not pit the children against the elderly, the handicapped versus the mentally ill, etc. Let’s be honest about the resources available and share as best we can. It’s time we all pull together.

  63. Mr Morgan,

    you said "...you don’t have the background or technical expertise to understand the dialog between Matt and me regarding the proper interpretation of available data".

    Nice. So it is your position that I am ignorant and therefore my question is not valid? By the way, you have no information from which you could conclude what my background is or what technical expertise I have. It appears that you have jumped to a conclusion with no supporting data.

    In the case of Sisters School funding, It seems to me that you have fallen into analysis paralysis. Just endless slicing and dicing without progressing to a solution or conclusion. All I was attempting to do was to get you to a conclusion based on your "background and technical expertise".

    It is always easier to produce analysis than solutions because when you analyze a problem, you don't have to decide anything; when you solve a problem you have to decide everything.

  64. Anonymous, I didn’t say you were ignorant. That’s your word not mine. You are either unable or unwilling to understand what I have said in previous posts to this blog. I have given you the best answers I can given information and data currently available. If you want more precise answers the district needs to respond to the questions and information presented here and elsewhere regarding a significant increase in classroom personnel during a period of declining enrollment. Specifically, how many total employees have been added in the past three years, what’s their job function, what programs or courses have been added, are there new state or federal mandates, and is the decline in enrollment mostly in the elementary school? You sound like a school district insider, answer these questions and I’ll try to be more precise. Otherwise please get off my case.

  65. Mr Morgan,

    I am not a "school insider". Another assumption by you with no supporting data. But you have confirmed what I suspected. You only have criticisms and personal attacks. No solutions. And ,. no I will not "get off your case". If you cant take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  66. Mr Morgan

    I too am a product of Silicon Valley and have worked for one of the largest most successful tech companies in the world. During the down turns in the technology field the “best of the best”, take advantage of the down turn and spend more in their research and development, so that when business turns around they have an advantage over their competition. This idea can be attained here in Sisters. We have already seen other districts decide to cut class time and lay off teachers. We have an opportunity to do the opposite, so when other districts testing results and education deteriorates, ours will stay even to what it is today or maybe even improve. Isn’t that good for just the cost of one large latte a week!

    Also, read again Wes Ford’s and Kathleen Greaney’s “In My View” article in the Bulletin – they are a product of the education in Sisters School District. Quality education produces quality students.

  67. Mike

    Speaking of “smoke and mirrors” isn’t that what you’re doing. In the Bulletin, the Nugget and on this blog, all you do is throw around a lot of data and not recommend any solutions, then you brag about your statistical data gathering skills and then whine that no one will talk with you or give you accurate information.

    Here is some data for you to chew on. If we have produced about 10 merit scholars in the last three years and probably around 18 valedictorians in the same time period, isn’t that a good enough reason to keep our class sizes small. Look at the quantity and percentage of honor students we produce each semester, it’s published in the Nugget. The above accomplishments of our students are the results of the smaller class size and it just keeps getting better. I may not be as statically savvy, or have the data modeling skills you have, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make a correlation between the smaller class size and the results this data suggests.

    Yes the economy has tanked, but for only a few dollars a week we can keep the class size small and continue to produce top notch students who will lead our country in the future. And that’s why a yes vote is important on the School Levy!

  68. Anonymous, I posted the following on this blog on February 26. "I believe I’ve already answered all your questions as best I can with the limited information available to the public. If we really have great leadership and at least some great teachers, which I know we do, we should be able to get back to funding and staffing levels of one to two years ago with minimal impact on the quality of education."

    You have not offered one suggestion for cutting costs which was the question asked in the editor’s post nor have you, the district, or any district insider answered any of the questions regarding the wisdom of adding significant classroom personnel during a period of declining enrollment. Until this is done, all of you on the pro-levy side are doing your best to get another one by the taxpayer. I don’t think that’s right. Full disclosure, honesty, and candor are fundamental requirements of our elected officials. When they refuse to answer questions we have no alternative but to reject their arguments as flawed and incomplete.

    I have made specific recommendations for areas to cut, have outlined the process, and stressed the importance of cutting costs across the board to keep the look of the product the same. I’ve discussed the importance of comparing the district today versus three years ago. You, on the other hand, have contributed absolutely nothing to the original question posed by the editor. You can keep launching personal attacks but most voters will react negatively to that approach.

  69. To All Attacking Mr. Morgan : You are all doing the same thing :angry and hostile emotion based on opinions and ideas. Fact:The school board funneled state money to a religious school. No one ever was held accountable except our kids !"Nice" Fact: the school board passed another type bond with out voter approval."Nice" Fact: Mr. Morgan took the time and energy to address and make the school board come out of their private"executive" meetings and make the minutes available for the public.Quit attacking him and take your questions to the school board!!

  70. Note re: last anonymous comment. The decision regarding the recording of executive session minutes does not make those minutes public. Executive session discussions remain privileged, though minutes could be released on a court order.

  71. Mr Morgan

    It's not clear if you have called the school board and asked for the addtional information. I know you have stated its needed in the papers and on this blog. Have you called them and what was their response?

  72. I’ve sent some emails to Christine Jones with no response. I’ve tried direct communication with board members before, was patted on the head and told everything was all right. It was an unsatisfactory experience.

    The last time the voters passed the local option was in 2004 when people felt flush. We had a superheated economy driven by easy credit that caused many to spend beyond their means. Now we have bank failures, foreclosures, high unemployment, and people have lost half their wealth. During the boom years of 2004 to 2007, income to the school district went up considerably, at least 8% per year over inflation. In retrospect, those years were an aberration. We can’t afford to fund anything today as well as we could then.

    I would have been fired if I tried to justify any budget based on a belief that the company could afford it. I’ve fired managers for less. The levy is not about what the district thinks we can afford, it’s about what the district can justify. Comparing the district now to a year or two ago is a valid analysis. Taxpayers need to know what resources have been added during a period of declining enrollment. District leaders have a duty to answer questions and we have a duty to react negatively if they don’t.

    When I went to school there was one valedictorian, it was impossible to get more than a 4.0 GPA, and a tough grading standard limited the honor roll to 20% of all students. My generation put man in space, invented the semiconductor, created the computer industry and made Silicon Valley. Our schools might be among the best but they also produce the kids that work in the local shops that can’t make change and the ones that die before they’re 25 because of alcohol and drug abuse. More money, more electives, more field trips, and more sports, art, and music don’t solve all problems. We might have to focus on doing more with less, which might be good for all of us.

  73. Mr Morgan,

    You are unbelievable! Not only do you insult your fellow bloggers, but now you insult an entire generation of kids! Shame on you! I know the kids in our schools, I know the courses they take and in particular I know the kids who get higher than 4.0 GPA.

    These kids get high GPA because of High achievement, taking college level courses in high school, working in volunteer organizations out side of school, supporting community organizations and charities.

    Your implication that these kids don't study as hard or achieve as much as our generation is completely false. And your implication that they somehow have higher levels of substance abuse than our generation is laughable in a extreme.

    You dont know our kids. Your endless blathering about teacher to student ratios does nothing to support these kids and now it is apparent that you have no interest in supporting our kids, just hearing yourself talk and patting yourself on the back for your superior background and technical expertise. What a crock!

  74. Mr Morgan

    You owe an apology to the parents of the couple of kids who have tragically died this last year, and in fact you owe an apology to the whole community. To use their tragedy as an opportunity to get your point across is in very bad form and disgraceful

  75. Wow! Mike Morgan...you should be ashamed of yourself. Do you even know any of the 4.0 (or higher) students that have graduated from SHS over the past 10 years?

    How dare you imply that these kids who are our best and brightest are not working hard? I have admit that I, myself, as a parent of a 2008 Sisters' graduate and current HS sophomore, have questioned whether we (SSD) are guilty of 'dumbing down' the quality of education provided for our kids.
    But, would never accuse the district being responsible for last years' tragic deaths of Ian & Kyle. Did you ever have the opportunity to meet either of these young men? Or their families?

    Like that 'selfish bastard' Bob Chandler, I (as do most of us) want the best for our children, and everyone else's for that matter. If I had not already cast my YES vote...YOU would have single-handedly made my choice an easy one. I urge everyone who has not yet returned their ballot to vote YES for OUR kids...even those who are destined to be, heaven forbid Valedictorians, Salutatorians and National Merit Scholars.

    By the way have you read Jim's editorial "Fightin' Words"?

  76. More personal attacks by people that can’t look at reality and want to sweep things under the rug. Talk to any law enforcement officer, judge, or emergency room doctor over the age of 60 and you will learn that the teen drug and alcohol problem today is orders of magnitude worse than forty years ago. The stuff we smoked isn’t even close to what they smoke now. Technology has increased potency ten fold. Crack and meth weren’t even invented. Ask the Nugget to research the number of local drug and alcohol related deaths in young people over the last ten years specifically including accidents, suicides, and overdoses. Ask for data on the number of MIP citations issued over the last few years and the number of young people diverted to drug court, rehab programs, AA, and NA.

    Forty years ago this country had the best public education system in the world. Now we’re lucky to be in the top thirty. Kids coming out of school today have a sense of entitlement, are very fragile and difficult to manage. Give a twenty something a bad review and you might get a phone call from a parent. There’s a reason all big companies have huge HR departments; the work force is getting very difficult to manage. That’s why companies are moving operations elsewhere, that’s why companies support higher immigration quotas, that’s why we encourage so many to come north from Mexico to work here.

    Think I’m wrong? Google Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and T. J. Rodgers. Read what these titans of high tech say about the current state of public education and its effect on industry. Get your head out of the sand. Things aren’t as rosy as you think.

    And yes I know a lot of good kids, some have gone on to med school, become engineers, and scientists. However, I also know some that are in rehab, jail, or in the ground. You can’t effectively deal with reality if you won’t look at all of it.

  77. All,

    I agree with Jim C. We should let this one rest and move on...

    Please vote in the upcoming election.

  78. Shame on all of you who do not question"the authority " who has created this divide in our community!!!The school board crossed constitutional rights when they funded a private religious school! And they only ask for more ! With no excuses for derailing and raping our community! If you really look at the numbers (this system only serves about 65% of our kids) and quit attacking people who are involved with trying to get us involved with questioning our current tainted system (gee I wonder where that comes from ?) Again, money thrown at a system that is fast becoming out -dated..clumsey,union ruled-,state-mandated information, class-ruled and the deveopers just want to bring more growth in as fast as they can and all our infrastruces will fail!Get a grip all you quibling children..no one is going to fix this and one can only hope your vote does count anymore!

  79. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAh, BLah, Blah, blah, bla, bl, b...

  80. And on that note, folks, we'll close off the discussion on Sisters local option.

    Thanks for weighing in. Don't forget to vote.

    Jim Cornelius, Editor