Guest Commentary: State denial was right decisionEducation Commissioner Alice Seagren rejected a proposal by Lake Superior School District last week for approval to implement a four-day week.
By: Mark Broin, www.vote381.com, Lake County News Chronicle
Education Commissioner Alice Seagren rejected a proposal by Lake Superior School District last week for approval to implement a four-day week.
Many in our community believed the district had not been forthright in doing its best to assure the fully informed and proactive participation of all affected parties. It offered no options to a four-day week for public consideration or support. It appeared to understate stakeholder’s rights to understand, contribute toward, and influence a decision on the four-day week proposal.
It certainly precluded affected parties from any significant active participation in choosing a different financial and operations path to manage the district’s expenses. Too many folks believed the obligation to constructively hear out their concerns, and mitigate negative impacts on their lives, went largely unheeded
Many also felt the district presented little meaningful cost-saving and other information to its stakeholders in pursuit of a four-day school week. This led to poor meeting attendance, reduced morale of non-professional district employees, a sense of unfairness with regard to the sharing of financial sacrifice, the impression the community at large and affected families had no real say in the process, and serious personal financial and work scheduling concerns amongst families with school-age children.
In a letter to Commissioner Seagren, I urged her to consider the positions of several thousand people, who implicitly voted against, directly spoke out against, or would be negatively impacted in various aspects of their personal and financial lives, if the district’s four-day week proposal was approved.
I also asked the commissioner to think carefully about whether or not the district’s proposal fairly “spread the sacrificial pain” of today’s economic realities across the spectrum of affected parties, or whether it unnecessarily targeted the most vulnerable district employees and families of students.
I implored her to judge the circumstances of the district’s request on the facts, and avoid making a decision which allowed the district to continue operating in a manner which did not respect the personal circumstances of those it served.
I asked the commissioner to help them put the school district in a position where it had no option but to face up to its difficult choices – and to make tough financial, program and operating decisions now rather than being enabled to put those decisions off for the future.
The objective of those opposing the four-day week is to create an atmosphere conducive to bringing about greater respect for openness, accountability, fact-based decision making, courageous management, pro-active public involvement, and an improved focus on the delivery of a high quality education to the children of our district.
This goal was in support of a mandate to the school board, clearly delivered by nearly 70 percent of the voters in the referendum results, to operate the school district within the means of its current funding resources, and to implicitly do so in a manner consistent with maintaining a five-day school week. Opponents asked the Department of Education to recognize, respect and support this overwhelming public mandate.
The commissioner’s decision was appropriate, and her reasoning for rejecting the proposal was based upon an accurate and professional assessment of the law governing the requirements associated with the school board’s methodology.
We contended for months the board had not respected the directive, the intent or the spirit of the law when it came to the process they chose to follow. Many believe the facts supported this contention, and it appears the Department of Education staff arrived at the same conclusion.
This is an outcome supported by people committed to the continued focus of their efforts on realistic and appropriate ways to deliver responsive, quality, valued, service-oriented and cost-effective education to our community.
More comments on the four-day school week are welcome from readers. Email us at chroncicle@lcnews chronicle.com or mail to the address on this page.