Let’s follow dollars with some sense
True to the old adage, “Careful what you ask for because you just might get it,” the detractors of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District have gotten just what they wanted.
The old board has been ousted and three new board members are now in place. The superintendent recently announced his resignation, and presumably his key people will do the same. The new finance director, who has little experience in the public sector, has been in his job less than a year, replacing a man who had extensive experience with this school district and its financial history.
In short, the old guard has been effectively neutralized.
But the critical question is who is in charge now? The answer to that question will have a far-reaching impact on our schools for years to come.
The impetus for sweeping changes at the district was the contentious three-year battle over teacher salaries. Once a polite conversation among the district and teachers, the debate disintegrated into a nasty yelling match in the past year with each side pointing fingers.
Now the teachers hold most of the cards, or at least a hand with a lot more aces than a year ago.
Among teachers, there is a sense of euphoria. But for others, there is an uneasy feeling of impending chaos.
The new board is relatively unschooled in the workings of community boards – the time school board members have served on community boards totals less than nine years. In addition, at least one member of the board is an unabashed supporter of the teachers union.
The superintendent, who undoubtedly saw the writing on the wall when he announced his resignation this week, had only been superintendent for two years, but he had worked within the district for 11 years. He understood the schools, the board, the community and the state. That kind of experience will be difficult to replace.
In light of this leadership void, there is a justifiable fear that the teachers union will dictate policy or unduly influence the budget. An inexperienced board may look for quick fixes while ignoring long-term ramifications.
Certainly, there is justification for teacher pay raises. Salary negotiations were handled poorly in the past, creating the kind of mistrust and divisiveness that resulted in the current situation.
However, to view teacher pay raises as the only issue, or even the predominate one, is short-sighted. The real issue is how does the school district create excellent schools in the face of declining enrollment and fewer state dollars, but with more strings attached.
The new board will have to rise above the political and highly emotional fray of teacher salaries to see the bigger picture. The board must make decisions that benefit the entire community, and not just those applying to teacher paychecks.
Teacher raises are a good thing, unless those raises put the district in an untenable financial situation. What has been promised in the past may not be achievable. Teachers need to realize this and be willing to make compromises.
The bottom line is the quality of our schools.
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