We fully support the direction the board is taking the district in the recently published end statements. We are particularly excited to see a focus on diverse career options, such as vocational education.
We agree that every student deserves to have equitable access to a Douglas County public school that promotes growth in their cognitive, physical, social and emotional needs, and builds on their strengths, as written in statement A. However, we are concerned with HOW to achieve equitable access within the current site based budget model. Our district is a district is filled with inequities, many times based on enrollment numbers. It is not unusual for a low enrollment elementary school to have to cut specials’ times, or even cut some specials entirely. Class sizes of 30 and above are not uncommon, and EAs are few and far between. To add to the disparity, schools in affluent areas often have generous benefactors in the parent community and PTOs that are capable of raising upwards of $100,000 per year. While we think it is amazing that these communities can finance extras, and sometimes even the essentials, what about so many of our students who do not have access to those same opportunities?
Perhaps it is time to again look at a hybrid model of budgeting, where school administration still has a great deal of control over their budget, but the district also works to balance funding between schools.
End statement C states: Every student has equitable opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills that will ensure performance at his/her highest individual potential, is also something on which we agree completely. Again, though, under our current system of site based budgeting, this is not an easily obtainable goal. As parents, we can see for ourselves the educational benefits of a class size of 24 vs. a class size of 30. One EA split between a few classes makes a world of difference, vs. 3 EAs split between an entire elementary school. Our teachers do their best each and every day and the resources in Douglas County are already limited, but in some schools, they are even more scarce.
We would be remiss to not mention that over-enrollment brings its own set of problems, such as classes that are overcrowded, and students vying for a small number of classes which fill up quickly.
In order to achieve the goals set in the end statements, it is our belief that passing a bond/MLO is just the first step. Capping enrollment at schools so there are no schools over 100% enrollment, re-drawing boundaries, re-thinking the SBB model, and carefully considering how to address the 15,500 empty seats next year will be essential for the success of our district and the end goals set by the board.
We would like to thank the board for your transparency, and most importantly, for putting kids at the forefront of all your decisions.