The North Platte Public School Board is making an effort to reduce the 2017-18 school budget that has an estimated shortfall of more than $1 million from taxpayer receipts.The board recently relied on information and recommendations from the administrative staff -- to reduce the extended contract days for counselors, psychologists and industrial technologists.
Those affected were entitled to a hearing that nine of 13 requested, and their request was honored on May 15.
I was there from the opening of the meeting until the final vote.
Here are my observations and reactions to the embarrassing evening.
Our elected school board represents us without any pay. They each have many duties and materials to read and review, and subcommittee meetings to attend. I’m sure they rely greatly on accurate and truthful information from the administrative staff.
They have much more contact with the top three administrators than any other group of school employees, including teachers.
On Monday evening, all but one board member showed their loyalty to the superintendent they hired, even after he and the associate superintendent testified they did not know the duties of the positions they were recommending to decrease, with a lack of plans to cover the decreased days. The administration’s offer of less pay to perform some of the unknown duties seemed inappropriate.
A very important fact is that the administration totally ignored the North Platte Education Association and the rules they set forth concerning changes in negotiated contracts, and the required time frame.
I assume this hearing cost the district money, subtracted from the $31,000 savings to the budget by the reduction in extended contracts. It also has negative effects on the reputation of our schools and community. This gives credence to the feeling that administration runs the school board and does anything they want – even not following the outlined rules concerning negotiated contracts.
I believe the administration needs to look elsewhere for their $30,000 or so in savings.
Administrators allowed the school board to make an unresearched decision, affecting not just 13 employees but also their 13 families – mothers, fathers, children and grandparents, as well as students, teachers, principals and others, changing the lives of many.
It is demoralizing to think that after 5-10-40 years of employment, any part of the staff's work suddenly is worth only some faction of a year ago.
To the board – I would support you in admitting your mistake and returning all extended day contracts for the school year 2017-18, allowing time to work through the most effective and profitable changes and with less dramatic effects.
Another alternative might be to reverse the action and withdraw the raises approved April 10 for administrators. You would gain about $40,000 -- $10,000 more than the hoped-for savings from eliminating the extended contract days, minus legal fees.
To the public – the school board needs your help. You need to call your representative, or any school board member, with your concerns and suggestions. We need to stick together and influence the decisions of our elected board, as much as the administration has done when it put their own raises one item ahead on the agenda of the fatal item – “Contract amendment reduction in force (RIF) notification.”
After the hearing on May 15, with overwhelming lack of knowledge, 5 out of 6 board members voted to make unknown changes in personnel who make a significant contribution to graduating successful students.
Meet me Monday, June 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the McKinley Education Center (301 West F) for the next school board.
Also, the proposed budget hearing for the 2017-18 school year will be held at 4 p.m. Aug. 1. The hearing will also be held at the McKinley Center.
By Bernice Ziegler, North Platte