Recently, in letters to the editor, there have been many negative comments regarding the reduction in staff (RIF) made by the Payson Unified School District’s governing board. However, there has been little discussion regarding the context in which these reductions were made — the $1.2 million that had to be cut from an already anemic budget.
As a longtime teacher at PHS, it was painful to watch my colleagues learn of the loss of their jobs, and I’m sure it had to sting and hurt. For most board members, those decisions that had to be made were also painful; a thankless job. However, it appears that their decisions were made in the best interest of students. Once the governing board learned that they would be required to cut such a massive amount from the budget, they came up with board goals. Two of their main goals were: to protect the classroom as much as possible and to keep our best teachers. These goals were a reflection of the board’s belief in protecting the students of PUSD.
Also, there have been many comments that these decisions were made without input. As a member of the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee (SAC), as soon as Superintendent O’Brien learned of the $1.2 million that needed to be cut, he convened SAC and instructed all site representatives to go back to their respective schools and solicit feedback from employees regarding their thoughts, ideas and concerns on what he referred to as budget guiding principles. Superintendent O’Brien wanted input from all employees. employees. He even went as far as to set up boxes in each school site office where employees could anonymously make their suggestions. Although not all employees responded to this request for input, all employees had the opportunity to provide their input regarding this issue.
Unfortunately, as hard as the recent budget cuts were, there is the possibility that more cuts may be required. PUSD’s student population continues to decline, and our budget is dependent on the economic recovery as well as November’s election results. If more budget cuts are on the horizon, then those who have to make those cuts will have yet another exceedingly painful and thankless job to do. If more budget cuts are required, this time it will be even more difficult to protect the students of PUSD.
Finally, at the beginning of this year I was as apprehensive as anyone regarding the success of this school year. However, I have been impressed with the new administrative team of Kathe Ketchem and Anna VanZile. This year the school is as secure as ever, kids are in class more, more kids are passing their classes, students are being held more accountable for their decisions, there is a better use of technology and there is a real effort to consistently enforce PHS rules and district policy. And, I have never seen an assistant principal work as hard as Anna VanZile. I know it is early, but so far I like what I see.