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Gazette Opinion – Letters to the Editor

March 4, 2011

Here are some Letters to the Editor published over the last few months in the Colorado Springs Gazette regarding D-38.

December 10, 2010

Changes at District 38

So many radical changes to School District 38’s culture this year, thanks to the reconfiguration. That was supposed to save big bucks, but the district still needs to cut more for next year. Here’s a really radical next step that could save millions without affecting students and the classroom: Eliminate District 38’s central administration.

Negotiate to purchase all administrative services from Academy School District 20, our neighbor to the south who shares similar values, culture, and achievement. Lewis Palmer’s principals could answer to an assistant superintendent under the superintendent of District 20. The District 38 online budget indicates the salaries and benefits alone (without the cost of operating the “Big Red” building) amount to about $4.9 million.

Why consider such an idea? Besides dismantling the culture of District 38, what else has changed this year? Where are the detailed exhibits of what was spent (e.g. playgrounds installed at the former Creekside) to carry out the reconfiguration and where exactly are the savings?

The benefits for working with D-20? With more students, larger districts provide more services and programs at less cost per student. For example, in 2008-2009, District 20 had almost 22,000 students compared to District 38’s 5,800. Just the salary/benefits of the LP’s superintendent cost $23.75 per student while District 20’s was $9.92 per student (Pikes Peak Education Association 10/2009).

This may seem unthinkable because we love local control, but our local leaders have proved ineffective, much like our current leadership in Washington — well intended, but can’t get the job done.

Under interim superintendent, Ted Bauman, a task force has been selected to identify how costs can be cut for next year without impacting the classroom. Is anyone looking at the obvious? Why does Lewis-Palmer leadership continue to operate eight schools and the administration building? The district’s largest facility, Lewis-Palmer High School, has an enrollment that is less than 60 percent of its capacity.

The leadership in District 20 has been making great strides over the past years while Lewis-Palmer has floundered. Maybe it’s time for a true change, at least for a few years, until District 38 can be helped back on its path toward excellence.

Stephen Boyd

Larkspur

Read more (including comments): http://www.gazette.com/articles/hikes-109422-whom-letter.html#ixzz1FeM7hF3p

February 5, 2011
Tale of two school districts

Recently, 14 school districts were accredited by the Colorado Department of Education as the top 10 percent of districts in Colorado based on academic test scores. Lewis Palmer was honored as one of those school districts. This is a direct reflection on the community’s high standards and the dedication of the classroom teachers in this district.

Another distinction the district received from the state of Colorado is that D-38 was one of 19 school districts identified as fiscally unsound.

The state has several benchmarks called indicators that alert them to financial solvency problems within a district. No district in Colorado has more than two indicators, and some of these districts only recently appeared on the state’s radar. D-38 has the additional distinction of having had two indicators for multiple years. The board of education, superintendent and central administration are responsible for the financial health of the district.

How were the dedicated teachers and concerned community rewarded for their hard work in academics?

Fifty teachers lost their jobs, the remaining teacher work loads increased substantially, class sizes were increased, the middle school model was dismantled, and a middle school was closed and converted to an elementary school despite a five-year decline in elementary numbers.

How were those responsible for this financial crisis reprimanded?

Former Superintendent Raymond Blanch was given letters of recommendation and paid $70,000 to leave. The assistant superintendent of operations (finance) kept her job.

The board of education members continue to make myopic decisions in spite of myriad input from community members.

When will the D-38 taxpayers demand better fiscal responsibility by replacing the current board members and requiring the financial transparency they deserve?

Stephen Boyd

Larkspur

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/schools-112367-streetlights-recent.html#ixzz1FeFfEO1w

February 14, 2011

Not without pain

I was pleased to read Stephen Boyd’s recent letter to The Gazette editor. (Feb. 6) In his letter, he cited the Colorado Department of Education’s recent accreditation of Lewis-Palmer School District 38 as one of 14 districts ranked in the top 10 percent of all Districts in the State of Colorado. Lewis-Palmer schools have a long-standing tradition of excellence in all areas of education — academic, extra curricular, and service to the community. The state’s accreditation is but one more marker recognizing our outstanding schools.

In that same letter, Boyd also stated that District 38 is identified as financially unsound by the state, apparently referring to the state’s most recent watch list which is based on June 2009 data. Based on the financial data ending in June 2010, we no longer warrant being on the watch list, and we anticipate being removed from the watch list in the fall of 2011 (the State will not update the watch list with June 2010 data until September 2011).

Our position on the watch list is a result of overspending that occurred in budgets of several years past. But in December 2007, our recently hired Assistant Superintendent for Operations, Cheryl Wangeman, briefed the Board of Education on this situation and we directed the superintendent to develop a plan to walk us out of this spending paradigm. Despite the unforeseen economic downturn of the past two years that so severely impacted the economy, our district turned the corner and last summer reestablished the standards set by the state.

Getting this done was not without pain. Typically, about 85 percent of a school district’s budget goes to personnel costs; making substantial cuts in spending are inevitably born by personnel. However, as Boyd points out, our schools continue to lead the state in student performance. This reflects the highest credit on our staff, our students, and our community.

Despite the financial uncertainties of the state’s budget and the peculiarities of the budget process, we continue to plan for the future and we are thoroughly engaged with the community as we do so. This is a reflection of our community’s commitment to our children, to their education, and to their future. Our continued tradition of excellence makes the Lewis-Palmer School District a great place to live and to raise our children!

On behalf of the board,

John Mann

President, Lewis-Palmer District 38
Board of Education

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/health-112861-boyd-read.html#ixzz1FeGPQntZ

March 3, 2011
Selection process skewed

It was intriguing to watch the District 38 superintendent search morph from a very transparent, inclusive process to the pretense of such. Bob Cito, the consultant paid by the district to assist with the search laid out a plan that could have helped to rebuild community trust and identify characteristics, experience, and credentials that would benefit District 38 the most.

What Cito envisioned as a transparent, vigorous, and informative selection process became skewed into one in which committee members were hand chosen by current board of education and administration and, unlike Cito’s suggestions, following the lengthy interviews, none of the committees were allowed to rank, order or recommend the candidates.

They were only allowed to give information about strengths and ‘concerns’. It was clearly communicated that only the board of education would be making the choice.

Why the charade? No other candidate but one who works in the district could meet the criteria. Why did we spend almost $15K and an inordinate amount of volunteer time for a conclusion that was predicted by many, both inside and outside the district, at the end of last summer?

I wish John Borman the best in his endeavor to turn this district around. I would also like to apologize to the two other candidates for wasting their time.

Stephen Boyd

Larkspur

Read more (including comments): http://www.gazette.com/articles/new-113900-elementary-things.html#ixzz1FeBDxRxn

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