Fighting to Fix BSD’s Fiscal Mismanagement (by Guest Blogger Callie Gil)

dW5pASince I am a product of the Beaverton School System, I have something of a vested interest in what goes on in my former schools. I was disappointed – but not entirely surprised – to read this Oregon Live article from earlier in the month. It would appear that the school district’s funds are being misallocated – but there is one man who is making some noise about it.

As some of you know already, a local option levy was passed in May to bolster teaching jobs, and consequently, lower class sizes. Two weeks after the levy passed, however, the article tells us that the Beaverton School District superintendent was given an $8,000 raise. Some local families are looking on this choice with a critical eye. Chris Johnsen is one such parent who takes exception to the way in which his school district made use of the $8,000. He argues that it could have gone toward school supplies instead; he had to buy a textbook for one of his kids online because the school did not have enough for every student.

Please read the full article here, and consider the following questions when posting your comments.

  • Do you think the superintendent’s raise of $8,000 is a gross mismanagement of district funding, or was it reasonable given the recent 5-year, $15 million levy that was passed?
  • In Johnsen’s position, would you think your time would be better spent communicating one-on-one with the Chairwoman of the School Board, or speaking publicly at the board meeting?

 

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13 thoughts on “Fighting to Fix BSD’s Fiscal Mismanagement (by Guest Blogger Callie Gil)

  1. I always have mixed feelings about this kind of news, on the one hand I understand Johnson’s point, and his attitude toward this perceived injustice. While it is perhaps poor timing, I think it’s important to note the last part of the article which describes how he is running a district of about 50 schools, 40,000 students, and 3,000 employees–that is a huge job, with a lot of responsibilities, $192,000 is a lot of money, but try to imagine any other public entity or business that would make less for the same responsibilities. If the district is struggling so much I think it’s important to ensure you have good leadership, one way to do that is to make sure they are appreciated–it was also noted that he had at least one year of a frozen salary, if he hasn’t agreed to that last year, this high of a raise at once might not have been necessary. All that said I think it is important to call attention to this type of management to keep the Board on their toes, but as mentioned in the article–there hasn’t really been an uproar, Beaverton citizens aren’t really protesting it. Thanks for the great post!

    • Kaitlyn,

      I’m glad that you put things in perspective by reflecting on the responsibilities that come with the superintendent position. The real concern for me, in this case, is the amount of resources being spent on the school district’s upper crust in comparison to how little is being afforded the actual education part of the system.

  2. This definitely can be frustrating. School districts complain about not having funds for school supplies, textbooks, etc. and yet the superintendent will get a raise of $8000, that is crazy to me! I would take the time to talk publically about the issue since I feel the more the merrier to send out the message to everyone.

  3. In and of itself a 4% raise is not extravagant. It pretty much amounts to a cost of living adjustment. I have more of a problem with our school administrators making $200,000 a year to start with. I understand the job has to be a complex nightmare these days, and the argument the to get get people you have to pay them has a certain validity. Still, I think at a time when we are asking our teachers and students to tighten their belts and make due, and tax payers to step up and pitch in just a bit more, it would be really encouraging to see the same degree of dedication and “take one for the team” spirit from our top administrators. This is not something we can force by strident public protest after the fact, though. We need to start putting folks into these positions who have demonstrated their ability and willingness to do what needs to be done to make things better – even if that means surviving on a paltry $100,000 a year,

    • Andy,
      You summarized perfectly my thoughts on this issue. Proportionally, his raise is not that exorbitant. But so much of the time it feels like our education system just continues to create more “fat cats” at the top of the administrative pyramid rather than distributing the funding more equitably. Education is about giving kids the skills they want and need to have successful, fulfilling futures; I’m of the idea that our allocation of available funds should reflect that goal. The money being doled out to top administrative positions is speaking to how little value is truly placed on quality education and the children who are at the receiving end of it.

    • I just can’t help but feel that $200,000.00 as a salary for a highly skilled, highly qualified administrator is not too much in general. I keep thinking about the presentations in class today and the way that the top students in our education system are not being drawn into teaching because of limitations in salary, their ability to move up, etc. If teaching was considered more professional, the salaries would not be on the chopping block every time schools struggle to meet budget. Could attacking administrator and teacher salaries be a red herring? An easy thing to blame for the more systemic problems and the lack of community support for equitable schools?

      • I think Andy and Zapoura make some valid points and provide interesting perspectives on the issue. On the one hand, we are working with a tight budget and a 4% raise adding to the superintendent’s 6-figure income seems excessive in scarce times. On the other hand, there is a need for highly qualified and skilled professionals in the education field, which creating opportunity incentives, whether it being monetary and/or promotion incentives to do good in the field, can draw in the much needed professionalism. I think it is important to look at the legislative complexities in our education infrastructure that currently impedes a lot of development within the system, which are creating these issues. I think this is a great debate post and can bring insight about the epidemic of similar issues happening across the nation.

  4. Callie,

    I understand that they got this large some of money for the school district and the superintendent got 8,000 raise. It doesn’t make sense to me that he got a raise and not every student got a book for school. What I think they should have done is make sure that every school in the district had enough money to provide every kid with new supplies, as needed, so that the parents aren’t having to buy things for the school; especially since they go so much money! If there was money left over after getting everything the school needed and there was some money left over, then fine, you can have a raise or a bonus. But make sure the needs of your schools are met.

  5. Since they did get an increase in money with the levy, I feel that there could be an increase in the salary of the superintendent. However, I don’t think it should be $8,000. Also, my question is did just the superintendent get a raise or were teachers given one too? I feel it would only be fair. I do think Johnsen’s argument is a good one though. With so many high student-teacher ratios and lack of supplies, the money would be better spent if going toward hiring more teachers and getting more supplies to better equip the schools.
    Also, I think a public voice (or voices if he could get more people to follow him) would be best at a school board meeting. I say this because telling just one person (even if it is a person of great power) is not even close to as convincing as telling every person who has a say in the schools’ funds in the district.

    • Lindsay,

      I don’t recall that the article stated whether teachers were given a raise as well. It was implied that the levy was intended to create more teaching positions – and therefore lower class sizes – but it didn’t appear that existing teachers could expect an increase in pay. But that will all depend on the choices that the Beaverton School District makes once the money is at its disposal. The hope, of course, is that the district will be judicious with its spending and put the money where its proverbial mouth is. It remains to be seen, however, whether that will actually happen.

  6. I too came from the Beaverton School District, and have done quite bit of volunteering/practicum in my old elementary school. My thoughts on the first question you asked, is yes, I think that raise money could have been used for something else. With our educational system in such bad shape, I think any “extra” money should go towards the students. I agree with the parent who said the money could have been used for supplies. I did some work in a first grade class last year, and the students were having to use old markers, we were constantly running out of paper, and books were limited (not enough for every student). In my opinion, that $8,000 could have been spent more wisely.

  7. Callie this interesting to read because I know in California where I am from this was a big debate to not long ago. I know that people were complaining because in our school’s district office there were so many extra people working in there that did nothing and people were saying instead of firing teachers get rid of some of those people. I don’t think if we are having a hard time with money and the budget anyone should get a raise because it does cause the issues that that money can be used in a better way instead of giving someone who already is paid a good amount of money a raise. Supplies at school is needed and books I know at my schools there wasn’t always enough books for students and that was tough. What I think what should of been done is distribute the money first to the schools and get what it needs before giving raises and if there is extra in the levy then give the raise but be smart about it because parents will get angry and feel like the money is being mistreated. I think that they should be more open about the budget and where the money goes to the public because it will give parents a better understanding of where the money is going and how it works because it is very confusing.

  8. Callie,

    I have to agree with your post. In a time of extreme belt-tightening for our educational system and with a levy that had just been passed two weeks prior, it seems out of place for the superintendent to get an $8,000 raise. Had they waited a little longer, it could be justifiable to provide a raise for a superintendent who is overseeing 50 different schools with nearly 40,000 students. The superintendent, as well as teachers, deserve raises if they get outstanding evaluations. In the private sector, raises are tied to performance evaluations, which takes many great minds away from the public sector. Keeping these individuals in our public school system is essential to helping our students out with what can be seen as an educational system in need of dire reform. But waiting to ensure all students have the proper supplies and adequate class size would be something that this money could be better served at this time.

    As for the parents, I believe Chris Johnsen did the proper thing of not going to the personal office and waiting for the school board meeting to express his concerns. His message would be a lot more effective if he is out in an open forum as opposed to behind closed doors. Johnsen has a rightful grievance that needs to be addressed. Speaking at the board meeting is the best way to do so.

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