"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Voted Against the Budget

Board Meeting: Budget Approval--June 21
The Board Meeting was held on June 21, and included approval of the final budget for 2010-11 and the tentative budget for 2011-12.  The formal budget was available online as of June 1, and I received a hard copy about that same time.  We had 3 weeks to review the budget.  Throughout the year, different items are brought up that impact the budget, and the board more or less approves them at the time.  Also, there are a few budget committee meetings that narrow down and prioritize items to be addressed in the budget, e.g. building maintenance requirements.  However, I would like to see a shift to allow the board and the public more time to address issues in the budget and see revisions, much before the June 22 approval date, as required by law.  Ideally, the proposed budget would be made public near the beginning of May.  The May board meeting would allow the board to discuss different options. I'd, also, suggest having  a public input meeting to take place in May.  Then any changes or suggestions could be incorporated in a revised budget, available June 1.  (Highland City followed this procedure and had a public Open House in May, just before a City Council meeting where the budget was discussed.  I commend them for this step and borrowed liberally from their process.)

My main issue, besides the overall budget schedule, was $860,000 for Common Core implementation.  As you've read previously, I am concerned with the lack of local control that will come with Common Core.  The way it works is the State Office of Education has decided all Utah Schools (district and charter) will adopt the Common Core (including the out-sourced, US Dept of Ed-financed assessments).  What is tested, determines the curriculum.  At the time of the budget adoption, the Board had never discussed Common Core.  We were allocating funds because the State Office said as much.  They dictate, we fund.  The Common Core training began the day before the budget was approved, and about $70,000 was put into the budget to be spent (post-July 1) to pay those teachers participating in the week-long training.  Because this is a fundamental shift of educational responsibility, I felt the board needed to at least address Common Core before allocating funds.  I asked that the $860,000 be "held in abeyance" until the board could discuss Common Core.  I was outvoted on setting that money aside.  As such, I felt I wasn't doing my due diligence in approving the $860,000, even if it was only 1/400 of the budget.  It represents such a large potential change, it didn't seem right for me to approve something that hadn't even been discussed.  I was the only "Nay" vote.  My fellow board member, Paula Hill, voted to abstain, with a comment that she was doing so because of the nearly $1M for Common Core implementation. 

Eagle Mountain Middle School Property
The board approved the purchase of a property for the proposed Middle School in Eagle Mountain.  The decision was between two different pieces of property.  The board weighed the overall costs, necessary improvements, transportation, power, etc. in making this decision.  It was not a decision made lightly, and there was a lot of community input.  In short, when all the different factors were laid out, the SITLA property was the best deal.  One nice thing is that our agreement includes the improvements to be made on the property.  They will make the improvements to our specifications and with our approval prior to closing on escrow.  And the overall price came in lower than the other option. 

Collective Bargaining and Trust Lands Funds
Also approved were the various agreements with the associations: Administrators, Teachers, and Education Support Services.  One of the biggest issues was the healthcare cost increase, due to the "ObamaCare" mandates.  It amounted to about $4M for the year.  The other issue was the board approved a 2% increase for teachers who were not due an increase due to 'step and lane'.  Essentially, the district pay schedule has different lanes that teachers are on, depending on education level.  For example, a teacher with a Bachelor's degree is on a particular lane.  Another teacher with a Master's Degree is on a different lane.  Both start at step 1, if they are brand new.  But the lane for the Bachelor's degree pays less for Step 1, than does the Master's Degree lane.  After so many years, they advance to Step 2, and so forth.  If you are somewhere between Step 1 and Step 2, for example, this year, you will get a one time 2% bonus (probably in November). 

The individual school's submitted their trustlands plans, and the board approved them.

Meeting with Lt. Governor
On July 5, various teachers, employees, administrators, board members, and legislators met with Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and the Governor's education advisor, Christine Kearl.  Different members of the administration outlined some of the things Alpine is doing well:
  • Modified Extended Day schedules:  Many of our elementary schools are set up with AM and PM students.  The AM students come at 8 and leave at 2:15; the PM kids come at 9:15 and leave at 3:30.  This allows each teacher to have smaller class sizes for 150 min each day.
  • Productivity: Teachers who teach more students in a class--whether through modified extended day, or more classes/day--are paid 14 - 23 % more
  • Extended Day Kindergarten (OEK): Kindergarten students who score below a certain level are given the option of attending full day kindergarten.  The class size is an average of 16 students, as compared with 24 or so in the regular kindergarten classes.  Students in OEK out-perform their peers in the regular Kindergarten classes. 
Sen. Howard Stephenson commented on how well ASD does with its finances, as recognized by the Utah Taxpayers' Association.  Board members comments ranged from putting the 'flexible WPU' as an 'above the line' item in the budget (reimburse the districts for what they actually spend on SS and Medicare with state monies, and not just lump that amount into a 'discretionary' category when SS/Medicare are anything but discretionary), experimentation with technology, recognition that ASD does a great job with large classes and a growing population, but it would be better to have smaller class sizes, and my comment: more local control--do not legislate and dictate what the local boards can/should do.  Either we want local control or we don't, but let's not pay lip service to local control.

Agenda for Board Training on July 18--Timberline Middle School
Twice a year, the board has a retreat/training for most of a day.  This is the second one I will be participating in.  Since this meeting constitutes a quorum of the board, it is an open, public meeting.  As a board, we have been asked to submit our comments/suggestions for the Boardmanship discussion, as well as the afternoon discussion items.  You may want to check out the links from the district website for more information on the Code of Conduct and the Board, itself.  Also, if you haven't had a chance to review the Common Core FAQ's, please do so...see especially the final question about Federal involvement.   I welcome your comments and feedback both prior to and after the training.
8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Common Core Review & Discussion: Syd Dickson, USOE

9:00 – 10:00 Discussion of Board Issues: Debbie

10:00 – 10:15 Break

10:15 – 11:15 Continue Discussion of Board Issues

11:15 – 12:00 Review History of District Mission, Vision, Values, Goals: Vern / Debbie

12:00 – 12:45 p.m. Lunch

12:45 – 2:00 Boardsmanship: Debbie

2:00 – 2:15 Break

2:15 – 3:30 Board Training – Discussion of Leadership by Sully: Barry Graff
Board Meeting Agenda: July 19--District Office

4:00 P.M.

The purpose of the study session will be to (1) review details for the November 2011 bond, (2) for Board inservice and (3) to discuss other current issues.


6:00 P.M.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE: Debbie TaylorPresident




CLAIMS FOR JUNE :Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent


1. Budget Report: Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent

2. Personnel Reports

3. Alpine Foundation Report

4. Resolution 2011-011 – Contract with Orem City for Law Enforcement Officers

5. Resolution 2011-012 – Easement Agreement with UDOT for Property Adjacent to Vineyard Elem.


1. 2013-2014 School Calendar: Vernon Henshaw, Superintendent






  1. I read the FAQ's for Common Core. I smell a rat. Too much emphasis on "these are NOT Federal standards". The Federal Government is NOT involved." Does that mean no Fed $$? Common Core "is state-led". There will be a "Public Comment period" where comments from parents, teachers, ... will be incorporated into the standards. If ASD voted to spend $800K to implement CC then is sounds like the puclic comment period happened last year. "The states are independent". "The teacher can teach what and how they want." Except there is a "VALIDATION COMMITTEE" made up of "National Education Experts" and the National PTA, the NEA, CCSSO, NGA, are all involved with promoting Common Core. Excuse me but their involvement scares me because I've read the National PTA and NEA legislative agendas/goals and I don't want those folks near my grandkids. And finally the links for the Validation Committee and the Standards Development Work Group and not active. Given the steady decline in the quality of education in America for the past thirty years, a Common Core curriculum being validated by "National Education Experts" makes me real uneasy. Sorry. I don't trust them.

  2. Wendy, "The Code" [of Conduct] currently says: "The student is always our most important matter."

    The problem with this mindset is that every questionable thing that has been forced into ASD schools over the years (Investigations Math, the "Enculturating the Young" motto, and most recently "Common Core" national standards) is done "for the children."

    The Code should say, instead:
    "Representing the parents in providing for the educational needs of the students is our most important priority."

    Thank you, Wendy, for representing the voters who elected you.

  3. Wendy, The Code says: "when the decision is made, support the board and the administration."

    I think the intent here was well-meaning (be nice to each other) but it ignores the basic fact that board members are elected to represent their voters, in ALL times and in ALL places--not to just rubber-stamp the decisions of the administration. It's not personal, it's just the way the system works. As advocates of "democracy," ASD, of all organizations, should get this! ;)

    Thank you, Wendy, for your courtesy with other board members, AND the courage to represent your constituents--with your voice and your vote.

  4. 1. Common Core: At my Charter School, we have been asked to write goals that relate specifically back to the common core. That sounds wonderful, but sometimes a student has a need in an area that is not covered in thier grade level. For example, if a student's testing shows that they do not have the lexicon, understanding, core receptive language at grade level, then it becomes extremely difficult to write a goal from the 'core' for their grade level. So far the state has not taken the 'letter of the law' approach in this area, but it does concern me. Secondly, I agree with you about the local control issue mostly because it is a dangerous concept to me that a few can dictate for the many and political agendas may be pushed through for the masses.

    2. Budget: Good for you to stand up and not just give a rubber-stamped vote. I think the public needs more education about why the state wishes to adopt the common core and what safeguards have or will be in place to protect the public from politically motivated individuals.