With all the holiday celebrations behind us, we know that Santa Claus did not bring the Sonoma Valley School District three million dollars to avoid making cuts to ongoing programs. And the Three Kings didn’t either.
So this is how we must start this new year, making cuts to an educational system that in reality doesn’t have any room for cuts. A system in which teachers, parents and community have been continually offering their best to improve the conditions that our students face.
At the District English Language Advisory Committee meeting in December a teacher inquired of the District finance director, “And how did we get to this point where we have lost millions of dollars?” The director replied that it doesn’t make any sense to talk about how it happened, because at the end of the day the $3 million have somehow to be cut.
This response and this attitude highlight for me a lack of responsibility on the part of District administration and the board. Parents and community members have the right to question how public funds have been managed, and how it came to be that we must make huge cuts that directly impact our students.
How was it exactly that the school board trustees, resting on their laurels, allowed the administrative staff responsible for finances to misspend over three years the monies that should support our children’s education? Even though we well know that it is of no use to cry over spilt milk, it is of the greatest importance to understand what happened so we can avoid a repetition in the future.
And I want to emphasize the importance of providing explanations to us parents, because we parents are the ones who will have to live with the consequences. For over eight years the District has been attempting to “rectify” the gap for English learners, but there has been very little progress. I fear that these cuts will particularly affect that group of students. And parents who live in extreme poverty cannot provide alternatives for programs cut.
What is it that the District has accomplished over the last eight years under the leadership of Louann Carlomagno, superintendent until last June? A large part appears to have been the creation of relationships with the donor class. But this strategy is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, we can count on help with resources, but on the other there is the danger that private interests begin to dominate the conversation.
This is alarming. Board members of nonprofits end up “representing” and having a deciding interest in the education of our children. People who don’t have children in our schools making decisions, and we parents, when do we get to?
The new year has begun. I want to remain positive. We have here a wonderful opportunity to amend to mistakes of the past. In 2018 we will be hiring a new superintendent, and there will be two seats up for election on the school board.
I hope they invite us parents to the table to talk. I know there has been an online survey, but I mean really asking parents to have an instrumental part in the decisions that concern the education of our children. If we aren’t invited to the table, then I invite the administrators and board to sit down with us to talk. It is our right. We’re talking about our children’s future. It’s the future of our community and the future of the world.