Posted by Concerned Parent, a member of the Corte Madera School community, on Jun 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm
I agree that the quality of education that kids receive should be the central focus- unfortunately, there is more to this issue than a momentary budget "crisis." The current financial situation is only one aspect of a core incompetence in both the school board and the recent administration- Carol Piraino and Tim Hanretty. Each aspect directly or indirectly affects the quality of the student experience in the schools.
The central method of this top-down administration is a total lack of transparency which allows disproportionate influence by a few who believe they know what is best for everyone. “Helicopter” parents and a school board of armchair quarterbacks were given the keys to the school bus, so to speak.
This led to literally millions of dollars in technology expenditures (certainly a potentially valuable tool) that were planned and implemented top-down in a rather hurried and reckless manner, leading to uneven application and even more uneven result for the students.
Furthermore, the district has gone on a parent-based hiring bender, both of parents as employees and of additional teachers to circumvent teachers that some parents disliked. This is also extremely expensive with no real benefit to the student. Not everyone will like every teacher, but dealing with diverse circumstances and making the best of what you get is a lesson bigger than any given course, “You can’t always get what you want/ but if you try real hard...”
These recent hires, as nice as they may be, have certainly not improved the quality for the students as many have been untrained, inexperienced, and generally unqualified for the positions. Portola Valley has a pay scale and student population that attracts hundreds of top-level applicants- why not hire experienced and accomplished teachers and staff instead of just hiring a local parent who needs a job?
The final element that may not be financial but is certainly hurting student learning is the dramatic lowering of teacher morale and the professional teaching environment in the last two to three years. Teacher turnover has increased due to micro-managing and outright hostile parents who have been given free reign to impose their own individual ideas about teaching and child development into the classroom. In fact, the new administration has participated in hounding and harassing the teaching staff. Imagine if every parent of every child told you how to plan your own child’s birthday party, and kept interrupting with emails and phone calls to complain about everything from the time and location of the party to the frosting and candles on the cake. Even having the Sheriff come by to inspect your home in the process... Good teaching is impossible in this environment.
The sad irony is that in the end a few influential parents who just want the best for their kids (at any cost to others) are actually lowering the value of their own children’s education along with the rest of the class.
The good news is that cutting two millions dollars from such a bloated and inefficient budget should be easy- release all the recent hires, consultants, and non-tenured staff, and put a pause on technology expenditures. Cost will go down and student value will increase.