Questions Persist About 3rd Station

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The Payson Town Council’s decision to staff the third fire station this year despite a still-bleak budget picture raises more questions than it answers.

At this writing, the council appears inclined to cancel its mutual aid agreement with neighboring Hellsgate Fire Department and use the money to hire two full-time firefighters. The town will likely then kick in another $60,000 for a third full-timer — and then increase the reserve force. All that will provide the six firefighters necessary to put a two-man crew on a fire truck around the clock.

That means Payson will open the third fire station, mostly to cut a minute or two off the response times in the east end of town, an area that includes two private country clubs. The council members said they must keep faith with the voters — who approved a bond issue five years ago on the promise of three fire stations.

We certainly understand the lure of that third fire station. Moreover, several council members made welcome statements about the need to ensure that the fire department operates efficiently. That means explore the increased use of reserve firefighters, cross training to maximize flexibility and making effective use of battalion chiefs in an emergency.

The council now appears ready to open that station even if Payson doesn’t get a $353,000 federal SAFER grant. It seems unlikely the town will get that grant, which would have made it possible to put a three-man crew on the truck without unhinging the budget.

The most recent council discussion made it sound like the town will go ahead and staff the third station on its own, even if it means mostly giving up on street maintenance, not repaying the water department loan and living with a razor-thin financial reserve.

In truth, we suspect Payson should reconsider its current reliance on expensive, full-time firefighters to not only fight house fires but to answer every medical call in town. Such medical issues account for the vast majority of the department’s calls, with paramedics piled onto fire trucks as private ambulances trail along behind as backup. As a result, taxpayers foot the bill instead of medical insurance policies even for calls that don’t require such a huge expenditure of resources.

So we hope that even if the town moves forward with the third fire station, council members will think hard about the current model.

Treat teachers fairly

Does this seem wrong to you: Lay off seven veteran teachers in April. Then start hiring new teachers in May.

That’s exactly what the Payson Unified School Board seems ready to do.

Now, we know that the situation’s more complicated than that brief description — but we hope the board will pay attention to how things look.

Let us review. In April, the board trimmed about 25 positions, largely through attrition and resignations — but finally by laying off seven teachers. Some of those teachers had many years seniority in careers dedicated to educating our children.

The administration said an $800,000 budget deficit forced it to resort to layoffs. Moreover, the administration noted that state law banned any consideration of seniority in the layoff decision — forcing each principal to come up with an elaborate rating system to figure out who goes and who stays.

All right. Painful. Agonizing. Unfair, even — but necessary. Except, almost as soon as the board approved those layoffs, the district started hiring people.

This week, the district added a math teacher and a science teacher. All right. That makes sense: Math and science teachers remain in short supply. The district couldn’t simply turn one of the laid off elementary school teachers into a high school science teacher.

But then the district made a veteran elementary school teacher into the new principal for Payson Elementary School. That will ultimately require the district to hire a new elementary school teacher to fill her slot.

Here’s where they lose us. The district just laid off four elementary school teachers. So why not cancel one of those layoffs and offer the top teacher on the layoff list the now open spot?

The administration says the laid off teachers can apply for the job — but they won’t get preferential consideration.

That strikes us as unfair.

The district has asked a lot of its teachers, who have taken on larger classes, gone years without a raise, lost treasured fringe benefits. Now, the district has asked them to switch schools, adjust to wholesale changes and soldier on through hard times.

So it seems like the least the district could do in return is honor the service of those teachers by doing everything in its power to save their jobs. Appearances do matter — and so does how you treat people.

Comments

Robert Jones 3 years, 4 months ago

RE: The Teacher portion of your article. You are making the assumption that these (layed off) teachers are/were competent good teachers. For far far too long existing rules basically prevented principals and administrators from "getting rid of" poor performing teachers. Finally (within the last 2 years) these rules have changed. This change was needed and welcome. Seniority is NOT a measure of effective teaching. IF we want our schools to perform better and prepare our youth for the future we MUST have competent Teachers.

This requires that the supervisory personnel (Principals, etc.) MUST have the ability to make staffing decisions unfettered by rules forced on our schools by outside interests (like the NEA, etc.) In order to properly manage the school in question the Administrators need the ability to actually manage (run) the school. Otherwise they get little respect, non-compliance with changes (mostly no-one likes changes), resulting in a situation where the "inmates run the asylum".

Principals have faced this problem for way too long. This comment includes the previous School Administrators as well. I suspect Frank Larby (Middle school principal several years back) would have loved to have had the present tools for personnel decision making. Most likely Roy S. would have been happy to have been unfettered with his employee choices.

We NEED to reward our good teachers amply BUT encourage poor performing teachers into another occupation. Layoffs will help them determine that (at least) one administration concluded that their own teaching performance was unsatisfactory. Repeated layoffs might get the point through that another occupation might be in order. Most other businesses have management that is empowered and able to "hire and fire" as they see fit. Why should principals and school administrators be any different.

PB

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