December 1, 2020 - Board President Statement
Statement from Board President Terry Seiders
December 1, 2020, School Board Meeting
At recent board meetings, we have heard from numerous citizens asking questions about and expressing concerns for major decisions that the school directors and administration will be discussing over the next several months. As elected officials, hearing from our constituents is paramount to our decision making process. It is at the very crux of local governance and near and dear to all of us on the board. Whether the comments are a reaffirmation of the great work that is occurring in our district or the comments lean more towards concerns, each is vital to our operations and encouraged. We appreciate all who have taken the time to not only address the board but also the countless others that have been attending our meetings virtually to stay connected with what is happening in our schools in our district. Your comments, both public and in written correspondence, are important in our collective decision making. It is quite clear that all parties involved, from our district staff to our elected officials to our concerned residents want the very best for the Elizabethtown Area School District
With that being said, as elected officials, we represent the entire Elizabethtown community, not just our current families. Unknown to many is the fact that roughly 70% of any community’s residents do not have children in the public school system. As board members, it is our job to represent all stakeholders and find that balance between a school system that offers wonderful programs and services yet considers the impact our spending plan has on all taxpayers.
One of the most important responsibilities of any board of school directors is working with district administration to develop an annual budget that acts as the financial blueprint for the district. For our district, we pride ourselves in developing a budget which provides opportunities for quality instruction and educational programs for all students in a fiscally responsible manner. We believe it would be shortsighted for us to only think about budget and planning from a short-term lens. As such, if you have been following our meetings, we have been focused on refining and presenting on a long-range financial plan. While the long range plan puts detail to our financial picture over a one to five year period, our challenge is to ensure fiscal solvency way beyond five years. We need to be just as concerned for students yet to be born as we are for today’s students. Public education is a basic right for all students regardless of when they go through our system. We are cognizant that the decisions we make today have impacts that are far reaching.
Our District makes use of our LIFE READY MODEL to drive our instructional programming for our students with the goal of preparing them to be able to obtain a job that earns a livable wage, allows them to both enroll and be successful in a post-secondary education, and/or join one of our esteemed branches of our armed forces. Our administration actively seeks ways to maximize these opportunities for students in all decision making. We have confidence in our administration that the proposals brought before us have considered not just the impact on instruction but also take into account the social and emotional needs of our students and the greater impact on our tax payers both in the short term and long term.
As board of directors, we do not discount the feedback we receive from stakeholders. The feedback we receive is just one of the many metrics with which we consider in making our decisions. Yes, there are two very important decisions on our plate this year...the transitions of 3rd and 6th grade students to Bear Creek School and the Middle School respectively, and then the future configuration of our primary elementary schools. We recognize these two decisions are causing anxiety in our communities. Unfortunately, the past several months have been spent primarily on safely reopening our schools during an unprecedented pandemic. Now that we have made it through to December, our public conversations as a board are shifting back to these two topics for decision. Please understand. These topics are not brand new. They are part of an ongoing, evolving process. When we completed Bainbridge, as a board we asked the administration to continue to look for ways to reduce debt and streamline operations to become both efficient and effective. We made the decision to renovate the lower level of the middle school to reconfigure our operations and began to implement the next phase of our building plan. And last winter into early spring we worked with our financial consultants as well as architects further analyzing our financial realities and potentially our building capacity.
Later tonight, District administration will update the whole board on the progress to date regarding the preparations for transitioning 3rd and 6th grades for next school year. In addition, as part of our buildings and grounds conversation, Mr. Hummer will share concerns brought forth by the administration regarding additional building re-configurations at the primary level. Please understand that all of this work is a process. As a board, we will continue to conduct all of our work in a public session. We will continue to listen and ask questions and we will continue to keep the public informed as all of us work to make the best decisions for the Elizabethtown Area School District.