Superintendent's Budget Letter to the Board of Education

December 8, 1999
Members of the Board of Education:

We have the opportunity to provide academic excellence in every school. We already have many successful schools, with outstanding teachers, principals, and support staff who ensure that children receive an exceptional instructional program every day. But we are a long way from ensuring that every student in every classroom in every school receives high quality instruction and support every day. There are significant differences between schools and individual classes. Test score data underscore the wide variance in student achievement across the school system, within clusters, and within schools.

Our responsibility is to provide the leadership and support for all schools to be successful. The Board of Education recognized this with the "Academic Priorities" approved in October. The capital improvement program request adopted in November identified the key facility needs. The "Call to Action" in November clarified the issues, challenges, and "trend benders" necessary to begin a multiyear academic revitalization. Now the recommended operating budget for Fiscal Year 2001 provides the next steps.

Class sizes can be decreased, more teachers can be hired, and training and resources can be focused so that all schools have the internal capacity to implement successful instructional strategies, a stronger curriculum, higher standards, and greater accountability.

We have already begun. The administrative reorganization now underway is realigning resources to support schools more effectively. Staff development planning is changing the way teachers receive new ideas and strategies. New accountability models are being developed. The focus on literacy is being strengthened. Collaboration with parents and the community is increasing, particularly in early childhood success and raising expectations.

We can improve student achievement across the school system, not just for some students but for all students. Academic standards must be rigorous and consistent. The performance gaps among students by race and ethnicity must be eliminated.

The recommended operating budget provides the resources for moving forward quickly, responsively, and effectively. I am mindful of the overall cost, but I am also aware of the current situation. Our schools need help. Repeated budget cuts, program reductions, and elimination of critical support for teachers and principals over the years have eroded essential services for students. My proposals would redirect existing resources to help schools, target the activities of all staff on ways to improve student achievement, and trim another $5 million in savings (on top of a cumulative $218.7 million in annual reductions since 1991). Nonetheless, it is necessary to add a 2.7-percent increase of $30.2 million to address our most pressing instructional and organizational needs. I want to do more, but there are additional expenditures needed for student enrollment increases, negotiated agreements with employees, and other required costs.

In essence, I am proposing that we answer "Our Call to Action" with an initial investment, one that begins the process of change now, because all children matter.


Jerry D. Weast

Superintendent of Schools

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