School Board Action Sends Wrong Message

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On the whole, the Payson school board and administration have handled the layoffs and budget cuts with intelligence and constraint.

The district has protected its core programs and minimized the increase in class sizes, while staggering through yet another fiscal minefield.

But the shuffle this week that effectively added an administrative position to the payroll while the blood of classroom teachers hadn’t yet dried on the floor seemed fraught with unfortunate symbolism.

On the face of it, the shuffle makes sense.

Last year, the board cut the administrative ranks by 20 percent. As part of that cut, several administrators juggled multiple responsibilities. Payson High School Principal Kathy Ketchem continued to run the alternative charter school and Julia Randall Elementary School Principal Rob Varner also served as athletic director at the high school.

So this week the school board approved a new position that would combine responsibility for running the alternative school and serving as athletic director at the high school.

On paper, this makes perfect sense. The demands of running an elementary school leave little time to run the high school’s athletic program. Moreover administering to the high school seems like a big enough job for any one person.

Still, a decision to add an administrative position while also recruiting for a new elementary school principal seems tone deaf with the cannon fire of the layoffs still echoing through the school corridors.

For instance, one of the teachers laid off was the boys basketball coach — a veteran teacher and coach with a state championship on his resume. Wouldn’t it make sense to make him athletic director and avoided a layoff?

Of course, it’s hazardous to second-guess the nightmarish task of assembling the complicated puzzle of staffing the school district. Matching the intricate burden of the credentials and qualifications required by the state with the demands of the class offerings can be overwhelming.

We understand the administration and the school board worked with great devotion to the students to make the changes forced on them by this unending fiscal crisis.

Still, we wish they had found a way to avoid adding to the ranks of the administration in the same week they approved the painful layoffs of teachers.

Payson’s penny-pinching now getting out of hand

Come on now: $300 to put up a couple of road barriers and then take them down a few hours later? Recently, the Payson Town Council faced a decision on a request from the Cannonball Phoenix Spree group to put up some barriers so event participants could park expensive cars in an area on Main Street.

This would allow the owners of these cars to go in and out of business throughout Payson — and hopefully spend some money.

The town engineer said it will cost the town $300 to send out a couple of guys in a truck to put up the barriers and then collect them once the rally ends.

Faced with this unexpected cost, the event organizers asked the town to waive the fee.

The council said no way will the town waive this never-before imposed fee to accommodate an event that will not only bring business to town — but also benefit local charities.

For starters, we can’t believe it would cost $300 to put up and take down the barriers two hours later this Saturday. After all, the town consistently puts up barriers, safety cones and takes other precautions for First Friday and other Main Street events. What is the difference this time around?

Now, we understand previous decisions to hold the line on building permit fees and other services that involve a real town cost. But charging a fee to protect people and their vehicles while in Payson seems a bit much.

Mayor Kenny Evans coughed up $100 out his own pocket at the meeting last week to help offset the $300 expense. He also abstained from voting.

However, the rest of the council refused to give the organizers a break — citing their previous refusals to accommodate local charities and organizations.

In the meantime, the town continues to spend money on special events, advertising and tourist promotion — recognizing that only tourism has kept local businesses alive these past two awful years.

Seems a little backward.

If you make visitors pay for what amounts to public safety, how will we protect the town’s image in the eyes of those same visitors?

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