[Editor's Note: The following is an Oct. 5 blog posting by Belmont Redwood Shores School District board of trustees president Brian Matthews, brianmatthewsj.wordpress.com/]
By Brian Matthews
What will our schools look like next year? Will our kids have the benefit of a full school year? Will they have the opportunity to learn in a productive environment–one where they will get some individualized focus?
Most years we can confidently say, yes. Next year, however, isn’t like most years. Steadily increasing enrollment in an environment of flat to negative revenues has led to deficit spending. We were able to manage this for several years because we had prudently saved our reserves. Now, however, they are running out.
The District and Board have run out of options. We have tried to make cuts over the years in areas that have the least impact on kids. But there is nothing left to cut that will have a significant enough impact on our bottom line. Our Budget Advisory Committee is recommending we stop deficit spending and make up the difference through 12 furlough days (read–a shorter school year) and larger class sizes (think 30:1 K-3). These recommendations are fiscally responsible…though they don’t really comport with the vision any of us holds for our District.
The Board and District want to reach out to our community–both parents and non-parents–for help. Part of our outreach efforts include two upcoming community meetings. The first will be held on October 17, 2012 at 7 pm at Redwood Shores Elementary (Multi-use room) and the second will be on October 22 at 7 pm at Central Elementary (Multi-use room). Nellie Hungerford, our Co-Superintendent in charge of business services and I will make a presentation and take questions.
We are facing the most serious budget crisis of my tenure, and probably much longer. The crisis offers us a choice–we can either make a renewed commitment to become educated and active in finding a solution or we will find ourselves in a District that isn’t serving the needs of the kids. The school district can’t do it alone–we need help from the entire community. Whether your interest lies with children or with the impact good schools have on property values, now is the time to answer the call.
How can you get involved? First, attend one or both of the community meetings. Second, go to the Friends of Belmont-Redwood Shores School District Facebook group and website. Third, go to the School-Force website and donate. Fourth, attend a school-force board meeting or contact me to find other ways to get involved. Last, attend Save the Music and contribute.
People are beginning to come together to collectively respond to this crisis. Our community believes in our children, their futures, and our collective responsibility to ensure they enjoy at the least the opportunities we had. Getting involved is how we prove it.
This is not a made-up crisis. In the past, we have been able to use creative accounting and significant jumps in fundraising to bridge gaps–those days are over. And make no mistake, we are in this together. When the lights go out in BRSSD, they will go out everywhere. No school will be able to hold itself harmless.
As a Board Member, I truly see the potential of voting to reduce the school year significantly–and I don’t want to do it. That is why I am trying to streamline fundraising efforts, exploring options for revenue generation, and looking for ways to deliver opportunity in efficient ways. Please get involved and lend a hand. Ultimately, it is for the kids–yours and mine. I hope to see you–and your friends and neighbors–at the community meetings.