Pine School Board Shows Rare Interest In Teacher Feedback

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The Pine School board made an extraordinary decision in the best interest of children when they chose to meet with teachers Feb. 14 to try to find ways to solve a $138,000 budget shortfall.

What makes the meeting so encouraging is that it's very rare a school board offers to meet with a staff to discuss budget matters.

In 37 years of public school teaching in Phoenix, Tempe, Show Low and Payson, neither I -- nor any teacher I know -- was ever asked to sit down with a school board and offer our opinions on how money should be spent, or saved.

When input was accepted from teachers, it was usually during a budget process between administrators and members of the Arizona Education Association or a district bargaining team.

That bit of leverage was taken away from Payson teachers years ago when former superintendent Russ Kinzer made the arbitrary decision to do away with a district negotiating team in favor of an advisory council.

Pine's decision to listen directly to teachers makes a bold, empowering statement that the opinions of those in the trenches are critical in the budget process. It's also a step in the right direction toward solving the problem.

While attempts are under way to balance the budget, it's important that cooler heads prevail and discussions among board members, Pine School principal Kathe Ketchem, teachers and the public are completely understood before knee-jerk reactions send sparks flying.

With the support of parents and teachers, this year's financial shortfall can be solved and the district can begin the process of finding long-term solutions to Pine's woes.

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