President Barclift, Vice President Lehman, Directors Miller, Shirley, and Wilson, and Student Representative Hoekje:
Near the end of the second act of Romeo and Juliet--sorry, it's what I've been memorizing lately--Friar Laurence warns Romeo, "Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast." The padre's not too great at practicing his preaching, though, consenting to marry the "star-crossed lovers" in an ill-conceived attempt to reconcile their warring families.
Regardless, it's still good advice. I was glad to read that you're not hurrying to make a decision on the Superintendent's proposed budget. Too much is at stake.
I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't gut, ax, trim, or nix. You've already heard enough from the community to know what's viable, and what will set Olympia on fire. My sympathies lie with parents who want to keep cuts "as far away from the students as possible," but I also understand that personnel are 85% of the budget, and it's tough, mathematically, to pare 2.4 million without paring staff. (Easy for me to say: I'll still have a job.)
Instead, I'll stick to the things within my expertise. Just as we learned tough lessons from the previous budget crunch, there are several lessons we can learn from this experience.
1. We need transparency in the budget process. It is impossible, without extreme assistance, for the average person to see how and where specific cuts can be made. The District-provided materials are excellent, but don't approach the level of detail needed, which is program- and building-specific numbers. If you desire informed public input, you have to press District administrators to fully inform its public.
2. We need to better use technology to facilitate citizen involvement. I applaud the District for making so much information available. However, an Adobe PDF file isn't very useful when trying to calculate costs. Instead, press the District to release proposed changes in an interactive format, like the spreadsheet I created. Give them a chance to see just how difficult your job is--and how this can make it at least a little easier.
3. We need to keep lobbying the state. We're hardly the only district in this pinch: just look at this list. Until the state develops a stable funding formula, we're going to skim from crisis to crisis. So, for those of you who've been putting the squeeze on your friends in the legislature, keep it up.
Thanks for your commitment to the students, families, teachers, administrators, and constituents of the Olympia School District. Good luck navigating these choppy waters.