The following is a letter to Dr. Ramos and the South Orange - Maplewood Board of Education, which has been reprinted with permission.
We the undersigned believe that a good public education for all of our students is one of the most important things we can provide to invest in our future as a community.
We also understand that there are often obstacles and difficult decisions need to be made when it comes to keeping costs under control and to keep resulting tax increases to a minimum. That said, it is alarming to see recommendations for cutting teaching staff when our district’s class sizes are already at the upper end of where they should be. We contend that every avenue must be exhausted before we look at cutting teachers or deferring capital improvements to our crumbling buildings.
Related to the aforementioned goal, below are some items we feel you need to consider before making cuts to people who directly serve students on a daily basis:
- It is not prudent for administration to recommend teacher cuts when we only expect class sizes to rise and we continue to see administrator salaries and head count go up.
- The only time teaching staff reduction is prudent is when population growth is stagnant or population is on a downward trend that is not the case here.
- We cannot support whatever comes out of the strategic direction with less teachers. If anything, there would be a need to increase the number of educators in our district.
- What other areas have been examined prior to recommending teacher reduction?
- Have we looked at all the administrative cuts possible before looking to cut 20 full-time staff members?
- Is it necessary that we continue to provide performance bonuses to administrators and supervisors who already receive a good salary?
- Is it necessary to provide opt-out incentives to people who are already covered by a spouse’s insurance coverage?
- We’ve spent over $50K in the last year to hire consultants for things we couldn’t handle internally. We need to look at cutting these costs long before teachers are cut.
- We’ve spent countless dollars (during a budget crunch) on programs that were ill-conceived and poorly implemented like International Baccalaureate, Singapore Math, Win Period at the middle schools, etc.
- Our district’s lack of responsiveness to parents, employees and disagreements have resulted in high-cost settlements of lawsuits that could have been addressed before litigation was necessary.
As our elected representatives, we ask that you work to ensure that administration seeks cost efficiencies in other areas which will have a minimal impact on the students who are the reason we’re all here. We will not make our schools better by laying off the teachers that are the child’s main window to education.
Supporters can add their name to this letter, which is on Change.org, and has 120 signatures as of Feb. 25.