Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Another school board meeting another show.... . Glendive decided not to join the Montana Quality Education Coalition because MQEC gets all its money from the taxpayers and is suing the legislature with it. They didn't think the taxpayers should have to sue themselves- YEAH FOR GLENDIVE! Finally someone in the school establishment that cares about democracy and fairness for taxpayers!

A large part of the meeting was a discussion of what to pay the new superintendent. The school board member who talks constantly about poverty- seems to want to send us all there. He wanted us to pay our new superintendent at least ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!! Where does he think this money comes from? SEVENTY PERCENT of our property taxes go to the SCHOOLS!

Billings, a much bigger district than ours, paid a base of $160,000.00 for their new superintendent whom they just had to get rid of. I'll bet Billings paid for a firm for their big mistake too.We used to not hire firms to hire our superintendent.We looked locally and paid modestly and our schools did well- we weren't last in the state in math. The final figure they came up with after much discussion was a range of $135,000- $155,000. In my view this is WAY TOO MUCH  for our little school district- especially considering that housing prices are going down everywhere and this will eventually effect tax receipts(i.e. the school district should be planning on having less MONEY). As was pointed out by one board member, and reaffirmed by the business manager, the superintendent's salary effects all the administrative salaries that surround the superintendent. One of the excuses for this huge amount of money was that our former superintendent got a $144,000.00 package. This was after 15 years of raises as another board member pointed out. So the new guy gets to START where the former superintendent left off. We could get a superintendent that we know for far less and he/she would do a great job- if we hired right.

The principal from Warren School gave a very nice presentation. He had DATA to back up his math and reading scores. They emphasize phonics and computation skills at their school. One teacher told me that he protects them from all the constant demands of the non profits that operate in our schools these days. He protects ACADEMICS. He apparently has worked in high school administration as well as elementary. Why do we have to go out of district and pay $155,000 (plus benefits) to someone we don't know when we have good people that could do the job for less right here?

Frankly the idea of going to the public for input on hiring our superintendent is a ridiculous farce. We are a representative democracy- we vote for representatives to do the hiring. This is not a board that listens to the public anyway as we all witnessed in the sex ed debate. This board is looking for a "professional" educator and by this they mean someone who is on the Federal grant bandwagon. Someone who goes to all the right professional meetings in Denver and has worked for a district where he got all the grants and programs. They don't look for a problem to solve they just look for constant change. Part of their advertisement for the new superintendent is that he will implement change. If their former superintendent really was so wonderful why is their priority after 20 years still "implementing change". Why are our math scores so low and our drop out rates so high?

Could I suggest that we get rid of the non profits and go back to teaching? One new nonprofit is Parent/teacher Home Visit non-profit organization. It comes to us from Sacramento California where they had problems with all the non english speaking families. I mentioned to a board member that we don't have that problem here, he said it helped to have home visits in poor areas. Even if this were true, the Helena School District is not just doing home visits in poor areas, they're doing them everywhere. They don't wait to see if a student is going to be an attendance problem they go there anyway.

Another new program is the academies. It was interesting to hear the Warren principal point out that part of our drop out problem is that kids are bored. I have heard this from so many parents I can't count them. So how are academies that put all grade levels together going to challenge the advanced learners? As the principal pointed out also, individualizing is just not a real possibility- and he is right. The academy experiment is going to dumb down education in our high schools and cause more kids to be bored and drop out.

So we'll have a new very expensive superintendent to keep the experiments going and keep ruining the structure of education in Helena. They talk about outcomes based education but we never see any good outcomes. Education is more than notorious for experimenting and then walking away from programs that never work. The school board trustees move on and the students and taxpayers get left with the problems. Things are going to change significantly in this country real soon, the money is running out. We're all, including school boards, going to have to be more responsible with our money- yeah for Glendive!

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