Posted by: Kate | May 10, 2011

The Death of a Program

Like all school districts, our district is in difficult financial times. I’ve been attending all the public budget meetings, and have come away with a dissatisfied taste in my mouth. There has to be a better way.

The best way would be for better funding, but with the current government that isn’t going to happen. I believe that school districts need to look at their systems as whole entities, rather than piece by piece, and find efficiencies. If you talk to all the parties involved, you realize the amount of work that could be stream-lined,centralized, or done in a better way. Meanwhile death by a thousand cuts is what we are witnessing, and there is little team work, as each section of the team (and each union) fears for itself. Job loss, work downloading, stress stress stress, all of this on people who are trying to give our children the best start they can (well, most of them are, we’ll leave the topic of teachers that really should be done teaching for another day). Whether that be the custodians working with fewer staff, the secretaries taking on more work as the district office downloads, or the teachers taking on more social work roles, all of the members of the school district are working hard.

This year I have taught two more workshops for gifted students. The workshops allow for students who maybe don’t get extra attention in a specific subject to come and explore with like minds for a few days or afternoons. But the gifted program also works with identified students in the schools, trying to make school a better place for the students who need it.

At the last budget meeting the school board of trustees voted to cut the gifted program completely. They felt that cutting it by half (the district staff’s recommendation based on a need to make cuts in all areas to meet this year’s budget numbers) was simply denaturing the program too far. It might as well go completely, they said. I believe they were wrong, and I mourn the death of a program that benefitted many students, including my son. I have written before about the benefits of a gifted program, and I stand by those words.

Next year there will be more cuts, as we have a continued declining student population. The water hole will get smaller.

I’m editing to add that while a smaller student population would make you think you could make less money work well, the problem is the infrastructure doesn’t get smaller. You still have the schools and buildings to maintain, and inflation costs in heating, transportation, as well as rises in teachers’ pension and benefit plans, are eating any cost savings from fewer students.

There must be a better way for public education.

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Responses

  1. I admire your good works, keep up the fight. We need more folks like you who willingly stand up for their words/actions. This may be where the quote, “The greasy wheel gets the oil”? (of course, NOT saying you’re a greasy wheel by all means!).

    School’s definitely need ‘specialized’ classes, such as the gifted students program, art, music, creative writing, etc. Studies have shown these support academic programs, thereby helping students learn & retain their new knowledge much quicker & easier (boy, I need to brush up on my creative writing!!).

    Perhaps home-schooling is another way? This world has become all about stress, stress stress!! We’re not robots and/or computers & it’s no wonder folks are stressed out trying to keep up with relentless computers! ack! Is time to slow down & smell the roses. literally.

    Good work, Kate!

    • I would love to see more parents in general stand up, not just those with special interests, but all parents with children in public schools.

      While I admire home schoolers, and have certainly thought about it in the past, for many reasons it isn’t an ideal solution for us. Nor is it for many families.

      Public education is something we care about in this country, I think, and there must be a way to make public education relevant, useful and successful? Maybe not…. I don’t know the answers here, just thinking out loud and enjoying the conversation!

  2. i sorry kate. i feel your pain, there does have to be a better way but politicians (in both our countries it seems) are heading in the cut-cut-cut direction. it is beyond frustrating.
    i am so sorry that you guys lost your gifted program, my heart goes out to you.

  3. I am sorry you are losing the gifted program in your district. Kamloops decided to close several elementary schools last year and there were many people who were upset over the decision. But the reality is the student population is decreasing and there were more schools than the population warranted. I think that in the long run it was better to go that route than cut back on programs.

    There are no easy solutions. In some ways it is too bad that the immigrant population doesn’t get more evenly dispersed. Surrey and Richmond do not have the problem of declining enrolments.

    You are right when you say home schooling isn’t right for every family, but keep in mind there are many variations of home school now. Some students go for part of a day to the brick and mortar school and do independent schooling for the rest of the day, which allows them to pursue their own interests and needs that might not be met by the regular school. Other students do online programs that are provided by the ministry.

    • You’re right, Kristie, there are many styles of home schooling and we may yet go that route one year. For many reasons, I’d like to keep him in public school, though.

      Our district has closed schools in the past, and next year there may be one or two that will be looked at, but ‘they’ say we are to have a population increase in the elementary schools in about five years, so the district is trying to limp along until then. It is also a municipal election year – there is some speculation that we may see school closures discussed more seriously next year.

  4. That’s such bad news! Those students certainly need some kind of programme relevant to their needs. It’s so hard in mainstream to always cater for their diverse interests and areas of ecxcellence. Sometimes, this can lead to these students displaying behavioural problems, because they are not being challenged sufficiently. I admire your work nd your continued campaigning. Ros

  5. For reasons you are aware of, I feel very sad that the gifted program was cut…yet not surprised. My mom is a teacher and it is painful to talk to her about the school system and the changes being made. I don’t know how the US compares to Canada in this regard but it is no wonder that we are becoming a more ‘ignorant’ country.


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