This is not a major issue, but I’m upset with myself about it, and I just want to admit that I don’t think I handled it well. At last night’s Education Committee meeting, the school board heard a proposal to bring back the funding for seventh-grade football. Seventh-grade tackle football was one of the things the district cut two years ago when it had to cut $3.6 million from its annual budget. The cut saved the district $30,000, a relatively small amount in the scheme of things. Other cuts included fourth-grade orchestra ($444,000), junior high foreign languages ($239,000), and high school German ($124,000), among many other things.
At the meeting, we heard a brief presentation of the proposal. Given the dollar amount, a formal board vote wasn’t requested (which couldn’t have occurred at a committee meeting anyway). But it’s a sufficiently sensitive topic that the administration (understandably) didn’t want to act without getting a reaction from the board first. We talked about it and there seemed to be a consensus that it wasn’t objectionable and that the superintendent could go ahead with it.
As soon as the meeting was over, I regretted not speaking up to slow the process down. Even though the issue didn’t actually require a vote, once we signaled support for the idea, we owned it. I wasn’t ready to, and I should have said something.
The proposal might well be a worthy one. I’d like to bring back all the things the district cut. But I don’t like the idea of addressing one of them in isolation from the others (and from other possible uses of scarce general fund money) just because that one happened to work its way onto our agenda. Just a few weeks ago we made a major cut to discretionary busing for many neighborhoods that had grown to rely on it. The dollar amounts are not comparable, but if we’re cutting services, we need to be sensitive to how we’re making decisions about competing items, no matter how minor. I should have suggested that we sleep on it, solicit additional viewpoints, and revisit it at a board meeting where there could be community comment. We may well have reached the same decision in the end, but the process matters.
Not blaming anyone but myself here. So many things come at us on these agendas that being on the board sometimes feels like being the goalie in some crazy video game. I just need to do a better job of recognizing when something is rushing past that ought to be explored more fully before we act on it.