That’s what Tuesday night’s school board meeting was. It started out well with two exceptional Sassarini students – Marrina Hinkley and Justin Cox – being honored as students of the year. The school site report for Sassarini was no less glowing with Principal Leticia Bhatia (formerly Cruz, congratulations on her recent nuptials) extolling her student’s test scores and accelerated reading levels as well as her school’s PTO and parents who helped raise $5,000 at the annual pasta feed.
Public comment came and went and, ahead of schedule, onward the board moved to agenda item #1: Budget reductions and recommendations. Ick. I could almost feel the room exhale a common sigh.
Over the course of the past four months, the district office and members of the school board have held literally dozens of meetings seeking input from the public, teachers, boosters, principals and directors, certificated staff, the SVHS leadership class and pretty much anyone else who might be interested in learning what’s at stake with this latest round of cuts.
And the cuts are severe: almost $2.6 million for the 2012-2013 school year. But that’s not all. Sacramento continues to make cuts for THIS school year and is thinking about cutting school transportation funding altogether. It seems it will never end.
When Sonoma passed Measure H, I naively thought that the money saved from solar installations at our schools would buy us a little time. That we could coast for a while before Sacramento took notice and dinged us again. Man, was I wrong. We’ve not even hit the solar power switch and we’re in the weeds again.
Which brings up my conundrum. I just can’t believe there is any money left to take. What IS it with Sacramento that finds it acceptable to continue to use education funding to attempt to balance its own messed up budget? It is truly infuriating.
We are on the cusp of cutting school days and teacher development days, class size reduction in second grade, special education and impossibly, the very cleanliness of our schools. Have you been to school lately? Kids are messy. They leave garbage around, they splash water all over the bathrooms, they throw up in class. Teachers are there to teach, not clean up after students. Sure, keeping a tidy classroom comes with the territory but vomit? That’s a whole other matter.
I’ve been witness to other significant budget reductions in our district before. I’ve watched the district staff and the board be incredibly conscientious when evaluating where to cut and why. Believe me, they do not take this job lightly and it saddens them as much as it does you and me. The decisions they make are hard and come at an emotional cost.
So keep that in mind come the next school year – or even today – when you pass a campus or pick a child up from school. If the grass isn’t mowed, blame the Governor, not the school. If you see trash, pick it up. Or get the students to help out. The only way we’re going to get through this is to pitch in, stick together and not point fingers at one another.