Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As a member of the staff at Washington Technology Magnet Middle school, I am deeply effected by the proposed changes and budget cuts within ISD 625 (St. Paul Public Schools). This isn't the first time I have been bitten by the budget bug. You may recall that I was once a member of the EXPO Middle (later changed to Wilson) program that fell victim to the axe back in '04. I shared my frustration back then, and even included alternate solutions. But the district moved on, spending a dollar to save a dime. Now the tough decisions have to m be made, and it looks like the new Superintendent is not afraid to make them.

First, the top heavy administration is getting streamlined, a long overdue process that is a must in order to add credibility to the budget process. How can you slice and dice academic programs while preserving multi level admins at the White Ivory tower on Colborne. The Super put a stop to that:
The Superintendent announced her plan to restructure the District. In her presentation the superintendent indicated that as the District prepare for a new school year with fewer dollars and continued high expectations for student achievement, we must refocus our energy and resources for future success. "Given our fiscal picture I will regrettably have to eliminate the positions of some wonderful leaders," Supt. Silva said. "In other cases, I will create new positions or redefine existing positions as we continue to refocus our work. In either case, my goal is to ensure that we have staff in place to implement the strategies we believe will propel our students to even greater gains."

In an attempt to realign district leadership to reduce fragmentation, increase accountability and create a coordinated team to implement the superintendent's 2010-2015 work plan and goals, Supt. Silva has made several major changes. The new organization structure is projected to save as much as $945,000. The superintendent also point out that this is only the beginning of central administrative cuts. More positions will be eliminated once departments and schools finalize their budgets.Those reductions will be identified by the end of April or first week in May.
A million dollar savings beginning with the elimination of 8 central administration positions. I had always said I would find it difficult to support further referendum if significant cuts in admin didn't take place. I am finally seeing what should have happened years ago.

Along with the admin cuts, several programs will be consolidated or co-located. And the most controversial of the proposal as is the closing of Arlington Senior high Program, but not the building. A domino effect will take place as my program, the Washington Technology Magnet Middle School will take its BioSmart curriculum and move to the Arlington site to rebrand the building. See, the Arlington program has been struggling for some time, and with that tumult, came declining enrollment and a stigma that could not be overcome. By having a clean break from the former, and moving the successful Washington Program to this newer building, the district can capitalize on one of its newer assets, and create a Washington Technology Secondary Program, which in the end will serve 7 - 12 grade students. It is somewhat of a surprise that this resident cynic of the district is fully supportive of this transition, and recognizes that the positives outweigh the concerns being expressed by current Arlington community members.

The burgeoning Paul and Sheila Wellstone School will transition to the Washington Building site, with all the new upgrades and remodels that are in place. It will allow for the continued use of this state of the art building and allow the Welsstone school to continue its growth.

These are tough decisions in difficult times. There was passionate community input last night that clearly was heard by the Board. But now leadership must take the place of emotion. I don't envy the Board, or the new Super, but it is refreshing that they understand they need to make long term transitional moves, and not be caught up in the emotions. That's called leadership, something that hasn't always been a part of the St. Paul School Board. Now it is front and center. I applaud their courage.


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