payson school board member
During the past two weeks I have received a number of questions regarding the decisions surrounding the reductions that were made in order to meet the state Legislature’s allowed budget.
Although I cannot answer for any other board member or the superintendent, I can answer for myself, and I have chosen to share my rationale with you.
With regard the question “Why?” the only respectful and appropriate answer is because I believe these decisions will form the strongest foundation on which to rebuild our education program when funding returns.
Any other answers or explanations would only become argumentative because of the differences of experiences and opinions; or would require analyzing and evaluating each person’s strengths in a public forum, which would become a destructive element in our community. So, we do not go there.
In answer to the question, “How does an organization go about deciding on what action to take?” the following is provided. I can only answer this question from my experiences in private industry, government and my six years of teaching here at the high school.
It is this board’s responsibility to establish policy, provide leadership and direction to the superintendent, and hold the superintendent accountable for meeting the mission, vision and goals while following the core values that the board has established.
Very much like teaching, leading and managing an organization is an art, not a science. There is no magic formula that, if followed, guarantees success. I have learned during my 35-year career in management positions to respect time-proven techniques with regard to managing an organization during economic downturns.
There are some proven best practices that have proved successful in the majority of situations. They start with the problem-solving formula:
Identify in detail the issue to be resolved, which in this case is that there are insufficient funds to operate the Payson Unified School District in the manner with which it had been operating in the past. This issue was identified almost two years ago, leading to reduction in costs last year with the understanding and awareness that additional reductions would be required this year. What wasn’t known was the magnitude of the reductions.
Identify alternatives, which are all of the ways this budget reduction could be achieved. If you remember, last year at this time the district was able to absorb the decrease in budget by eliminating all of the operational costs that were not absolutely necessary and by not replacing faculty and/or staff for those positions that were not critical. This included the use of the contingency funds that typically are budgeted to cover the unforeseen emergencies that inevitably happen. However, at that time it was made very clear that there were going to be additional cuts that would affect faculty and staff positions during this budget cycle.
Select actions from the alternatives that would minimize the negative effect on the district. When it comes to a reduction of costs, this means prioritizing all programs and activities with regard to which are most critical to the mission, vision and goals, while following the core values of the district. In business, those who are being held accountable for the success of the company make these decisions. Typically they are made after obtaining input from experienced, knowledgeable and respected sources. For PUSD, these decisions are the responsibility of the superintendent because the superintendent is being held accountable for the day-to-day leadership, management and success of this district. I know for a fact that these decisions have been made after a significant amount of input from many knowledgeable and respected sources and after a great deal of pain and anguish over the affect these decisions would have on the lives of those involved, which include those losing their positions as well as those who will remain to pick up the additional workload.
Through this point, the process — the identification of the problem, the identification of alternatives and the decisions as to which alternatives to put into action — is strictly rationally calculated and unemotional. It has been proven that emotional decision making leads to poor decisions. However, at this point the process becomes extremely emotional and stressful.
Put decisions into place. This requires communicating the decisions to those who will be directly affected in a respectful and empathetic manner. In this case of people losing their source of income, each person is provided an independent and private meeting where the effect on that person’s personal life becomes evident. In most cases this is a very painful and emotional process.
The final element is evaluating the results of the decisions, which is a continuous process and will lead to new issues and new decisions. This part of the process is the future and we will all form our opinions over the next year as to the wisdom of the decisions that have been made over the past two weeks.
From my perspective, I am confident that our superintendent has followed this or a very similar process in developing a budget within the limitations set by the state Legislature. This is a very stressful time for everyone. Those who received new contracts will experience emotions from guilt to relief and many in between as well as facing additional issues due to the effect of these decisions.
There are and will continue to be contrary opinions; however, what is needed at this time and going forward is for all of us to work together in the best interests of our students.
This is a time for all of us to work at understanding and providing support and assistance to each other because all of us have been affected in one way or another.
I appeal to everyone to become involved to help us to achieve our mission, “To educate and prepare students in a safe and supportive environment that promotes academic excellence for success in a changing world.”
Unless you become involved, your voice cannot be heard and your expectations cannot be understood.