Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who wants to be a school board member?

There may be no more thankless job in Sisters than being on the Sisters School Board.

Members have volunteered to spend hours and hours trying to steer the school district through the shoals of charter school controversies, the search for a new superintendent, and perhaps the worst financial crisis the district has faced in the past two decades.

Of late, board members have taken some heat for terminating charter schools in the district, sacrificing state funding in the face of a serious budget shortfall.

The recent developments with AllPrep charter schools have vindicated the board's hard line. Seemingly each week brings word of new concerns from the Oregon Department of Education about the practices of the organization that runs the Sisters Web Academy, early college programs and the Sisters Charter Academy of Fine Arts (SCAFA).

The board terminated the web academy charter primarily because it couldn't get reliable financial information to perform oversight duties. The concerns raised at the state level, including a legislative hearing on AllPrep, demonstrate that those concerns were well-placed.

The board terminated SCAFA because members didn't think the school was financially viable. The school's eviction from its school house and the closure announced Tuesday morning show that the board was right there, too. Nobody is happy about it; the board tried to allow the school to operate through the school year, but the school just couldn't make it.

The early departure of Superintendent Elaine Drakulich resolves any tension between board and superintendent, which was evident in the mixed messages recently put out to the public about how to handle the ongoing budget crisis.

But the rough sailing is far from over. The board's most challenging work is yet to come. The issues surrounding AllPrep continue to demand the district's time and attention. The district must find a new leader who can rally the community to pull through hard times. Most importantly, the board is faced with cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars out of a relatively modest $12 million budget over the next two or three years without degrading the quality of education in Sisters.

We'd all like to think that we can pursue an ever-greater level of excellence in Sisters schools. Board members are committed to try.

Nobody wants to state it baldly, but staff, parents, students and board members all know the truth: rising costs and declining revenues make that an impossible task. What our school board is forced to do now is find ways to do the least damage possible as it carves away at a quality school system.

Who really wants that job?

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. IT Is Called KARMA...THEY have done IT...to us ...BAD ..to the children.. we dont want them...anymore

  2. "relatively modest 12 million dollar budget" ... Oh please !! That budget doesn't even take into account the bonds we pay for on our two larger schools. Declining enrollment will/should continue and this issue will get even bigger in the years to come. We have never been realistic in the realities of our schools and our local economy. We just solve the issues with "local options, claiming its all about the kids" and land sale profits from real estate we have been lucky enough to own (thank Bill Reed for that). Those days are gone and it looks like we are finally going to have to make some very difficult decisions. I doubt going back to the well again to DOUBLE the local option will work, but you wait its likely that will be suggested. Answers: Start cutting and plan on cutting twice what you think you need to cut. Its going to be tough on allot of teachers, sure the kids programs will shrink but in the end the children will be just fine.

  3. The Kids will not be just fine. The ultra right agenda to destroy public education is working. Right after WWII America was the most highly educated country in the world due largely to the very strong commitment to public education and public funding of education at all levels school and all levels of government (ie local for k-12 and federall for College via GI bill Pell grants and student loans).

    The Ultra right has been successful in rotting the foundations of our education system through tax revolts that destroyed the ablility of local school boards to raise money for local schools forcing the state to take over what was once a local responsibility.

    We no longer think that it is the birth right of every maerican to get a 1st rate education, but rather think that it is the birth right of every property owner to avoid paying taxes to support the community. The kids will not be all right. They and we will reap the rewards of a second rate education by becoming a second rate county. Better learn Chinese. They are ascendant while we continue to decline.

  4. Anon 3 this a anon 2.

    I think I have made my case !!

    "The Ultra right has been successful in rotting the foundations of our education system through tax revolts that destroyed the ablility of local school boards to raise money for local schools forcing the state to take over what was once a local responsibility."

    1. Trust me (not likely) I am not "ultra right wing" .

    2. What Planet do you live on ? What do you call our local option that has raised millions for our local schools.

    3. Last time I checked, we spend more per child than any other "developed country" in the world.

    4. Education is a birth right ? I rest my case !!

    5. I would be happy to "compare" my tax bill to yours. I checked my very large statement that showed 45% of my bill went to education (not counting the library). People like me do the heavy lifting, so be careful what you wish for. If you want local control, do your research, the "big cities" subsided rural communities to the tune of thousand per child.

    I am not sure if you are just uninformed or ... Well, since I am not in charge of the blog, you can assume my alternative.

  5. Anon 2 from Anon 3:

    Here is the planet I live on: What % of the school budget is funded by state government vs. local option? here is the answer:
    approximately $4.0 million comes from the State School Fund, $5.9 million from
    local property taxes, and $1.0 million from the local levy option.

    This is straight from the school budget for 2009-2010.

    I trust you are h not ultra right -wing , but my point stands that they have sought to destroy public ed for generations. And Ballot measure 5 which created the need for state funding for schools is an example of their methods.

    Im not sure that your statement about per student funding compared to the rest of the world is accurate, i don't have data on that. But even if it is true, the fact remains that we have made it harder for everyone to get a decent education especially a college education. Unless you are wealthy, going to a top school is almost certainly not an option. Tuition, room board and fees tops 55k/year now for these schools. You might be shocked to find out that most other industrialized countries pay for this level of education. Check out what a British citizen has to pay to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Less than 10% of what we pay.

    as for birth right, are you saying that if you cant afford it you should not get an education? That if a child is 5 years old and lives in the wrong part of town... too bad for them? This is the surest way to rot the foundations of our country. I And it is already well progressed. By the way, you should check the writings of founding fathers like George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson who all spoke about education as a birth right.

    People like you do the heavy lifting? does that mean you assume I don't do heavy lifting. That is nothing more than arrogance.

    As for comparing your tax bill to mine, I think you would be very surprised. Again you are making an assumption about who I am that is nothing more than arrogance.

    Schools are rotting. Kids will suffer and our country will rot from within.

  6. I just look at the wonderful schools we have built and wonder where the rotting Anonymous 3 mentions is ? Our children receive a great education, have tremendous teachers and get to study in fantastic buildings. We have been quite blessed over the years not to have to deal with severe financial changes that result in large cuts. We are not immune and we will have to adapt. I for one believe the children will be just fine, they always are.

  7. the school board should all be recalled. The past 5 years have been a night mare of misappropreated funds,secret meetings, revolving administration,favoritism(Swisher's son is now our school district attorney!)cover-ups up to the highest level..there should be a set limit of time for board members to serve..for heavens sake a lawyer was on board and chose to take state funding and put it into a private religious school.Have you ever heard of "seperation of church and state"? I took my kids out of public schools when no one was held accountable for this contitutional right except the taxpayers. The public schools are failing here along with anything the government gets ahold of.We just happen to have a nicer facade here in Sisters.Great teachers??there is just a handful..go to an "open"conference at the high school and if you can get one teacher to look up from their laptop long enough to hope they recognize who you are and match up your child with their "statistics".The local on-line school has just shut down due to misappropreation of funds. Public schools do the same and just want more money for less state mandated education and cover up the facts. It is a tainted system that there is no easy "fix" other than pull your kids out and no longer participate in it.

  8. While the recall idea may be nice to throw our there it is not at all practical. When people think of "Boards" , school boards or otherwise, they think in general, the people on those boards are qualified. School boards are elected (local politics) while corporate boards are chosen, typically by executive committee looking for certain people with certain qualifications. I know, my explanation might be a bit too simplistic for some but its a 90% statement. If you take a look at our board members you will fine really nice/great people but not a lot of true executive experience. Well, why would someone want executive experience ? I am sure someone will bring up GM or Citi Group and try to label me as some right wing nut job set out to destroy our schools. That could not further from the truth. Real horsepower on our school board has been lacking for quite some time. I believe we need to really think about this the next time we go to the ballot box. In the end, its our fault, we elected them and we are paying the price.