To the editor,
As the ACPS budget process moves towards a close, I am anxious to see what current School Board members propose adding, and cutting, in the 2010 ACPS budget. Its a tough economy, with property values and tax revenue continuing to fall, but the superintendent and his staff have done yeomans work.
But I am still concerned at what Im seeing. Why are we cutting Latin at G.W. Middle School, three music education teachers system-wide, a Hammond world language teacher, science paraprofessionals at Cora Kelley and reducing science programs at Maury, Tucker and Ramsey BUT keeping 60 custodians on staff rather than converting them to private contractors?
I know I sound heartless, but custodians, as warm and as wonderful as they are, do not contribute to academic excellence. They are also not in the School Boards new strategic plan. In my view, teaching positions that have a direct impact on children should be the last thing we cut.
Superintendent Sherman wisely proposed converting janitorial staff to contracting positions in an effort to cut costs and better afford new initiatives. All current custodians would have retained their jobs and the system would have saved $500,000 a year. Yet after a meeting with representatives of the labor community, the proposal was nixed.
Were in a bind because about 85 percent of the ACPS budget is spent on staff salary and benefits. If we must reduce our labor costs, isnt there a better way to do it than by eliminating teachers?
As enrollment continues to increase, cuts in teaching positions seem unwise at best. And this is bigger than just custodial staff. What about food service, grounds maintenance and transportation? Would contracting these services help us better afford universal pre-K and the exemplary academic program promised for each school?
If Im elected, I will launch a wholesale review of ACPS staffing and labor costs and assess how we can best address this issue. Well see what other districts have done to learn whats worked and what has not.
If we are truly a community committed to academic excellence, we have some hard choices to make. And for the sake of our children, weve got to get it right.
Mimi Carter is a candidate for the Alexandria School Board in District A.