Principiis Obsta…Finem Respice
Resist the Beginning…Consider the End
At the board meeting on July 8th we had a little chat about our request -made at the bitter end of the budget process this year-that we seek an audience with the minister to discuss our Student Success Budget (see attached). We have yet to be summoned to head off and see the wizard but when we do, we expect to be prepared. I imagine that our district is on the same desirability list for a meeting with the ministry right up there with Carrot Top and Kim Jong-il but you never know – they may allow it if we promise to keep schtum and listen to the looped message/mantra – you are getting more than you have ever had, ignore the evidence of your eyes, you are well funded stop whining, you have plenty of money you just don’t know how to allocate, you should stop spending your vast wealth on highballs and tapas.
We are evidently destined to meet as a board at the end of August to design a careful script so we can regale the ministry with the right message .We do not wish to be a bother and we would prefer not to be parboiled or bricked into a heritage closet while we are there – we will be well behaved and positive-yes positive- so as not to offend or cause any discomfort that might echo the discomfort our staff and students endure. Discomfort evidently is for those who have not risen to a higher station in life – the rest of us must arrange our dismay in terms which sound as if we are really quite happy about destroying public education in our copious free time on their behalf and are not going to grumble about it.
Finally I think I understand what this is all about.
It is about sustaining the morale of senior staff and our sainted provincial overseers by never uttering a discouraging word for fear they will collapse with the tulip time vapours – discouraging word being identified as anything that has the merest whiff of critique or dissent. And evidently no one else would have noticed the diminished environment in our schools if some bad apples did not continuously point it out-it would still be our little secret.
While the employees and parents and students are expected to be woven of tougher cloth in dealing daily with the consequences of passing budgets which fail to nurture learning success, we have to tread with care when addressing our pals in the ministry. And we don’t want to alarm ourselves with unpleasant thoughts that may keep us up nights in a cold sweat worrying. If we drop our gaze, smile and carry on as if nothing has happened maybe no one will notice we are in shitstorm of woe.
As trustees we might have expected to govern the district according to our conscience not to mention our elected purpose as stated out loud during election campaigns. We have -as a board- voted through the budget (only 5 to 4 you understand not exactly a landslide) but we must now with all haste dress up the world we have created in frills and speak no more of the impacts of inadequate funding. Anything else would be negative stinking thinking. But what if you believe it is negative thinking not to oppose bad behaviour and farcical approaches to supplying public education for our kids?
I am positive – positive the government in Victoria is not interested in providing quality public education.
This is all the more interesting when you consider our last secretary treasurer never tired of telling us the budget was a dynamic document that lived and breathed – he was I think- quite right in this one instance. When are we as trustees ever really through with any budget process when every step the district takes on every day it functions is a reflection of the budget we live within and the unremitting threats and pressures of this fake austerity?
I got a letter from a dedicated, veteran employee, a very succinct and thoughtful letter -it arrived in my letter drawer and told me this: the impact of our budget deliberations had -among other things- created the imperative to cut the position of reception and processing in the district resource centre from 7 hours a day to 4 hours a day. What does this mean? It means the person responsible for processing books and visual resources for the 21 schools in our district will be hard pressed to perform their duties with the effectiveness required so print and other aids to learning will arrive in a timely way in our classrooms. It is worth noting that due to the relentless cuts to teacher /librarian time in our schools this particular service is crucial and in much demand. Obviously the math tells us with the cut to the hours of this position the time it takes to handle the work will almost double.
Now as any good trustee will tell you, this is a single though fairly dramatic illustration of cuts which have been visited on our schools and the staff and kids in those schools – however it is important as trustees we do not excuse ourselves from our responsibility for all this mayhem simply because we have now accepted the current budget and funding arrangements. The impact is clear – and this is only one example.
It may be time to review… exactly how are we going to return to our classes this fall under the present regime in Victoria which seems hell bent on extracting heroic measures from employees and families rather than funding our classrooms ? We do not have the resources to run our schools properly, to provide quality learning opportunities and suitable working conditions.
The budget has passed but who is to say when we should stop exploring the end result and fight with resolve for our kids needs.
We know that the budget season starts in February in order to run through the cycle by the mandated June 30th deadline. But who says we have to wait – in fact it is obvious we cannot wait. So -in my humble view the budget process starts now because the consequences of the budget are a daily affliction.
I believe we need a motion at the board table to request ’emergency start up funding’ for our district from the ministry. This will be uphill but it is important as part of an ongoing recognition of the budget shortfall and community response to its effects. We must accumulate as many ‘impact statements’ as possible to place before the board in order to build the case for this motion and the approach we wish to take in compelling the ministry to suitably acknowledge our circumstances.
This is a pressure tactic, it is not nice and it will not be welcome. There is now no other way to proceed and I believe beginning at the start of school is fitting – we do not need to delay until spring for a budget process when we already know what our classrooms will look like.
Since we are regularly threatened with the administration haiku (cue delightful Asian accompaniment)
If you think this year
Was bad wait till next year you
-it seems only fair that we take their jolly cautions seriously and hit the ground running.
As for our road trip to Victoria- it could prove a reasonably useful tactic to face the people responsible and tell them in clear terms what their policies and formulas mean day to day in our schools if we could muster the will and the honesty not to couch it.
However- I am positive – positive they already know and frankly they just don’t give a damn.
Back to us…
Your Trustee Pal