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Community Perspective

Put students first while cutting the fat — not the classroom

I am a local parent and teacher, and my child will be going back to school.

There have been so many letters to the editor, I think it needs to be said that although there is a health risk, from my perspective your child will be welcomed back to school. As a teacher, I am happy and excited to see and teach kids in-person.

To no one’s surprise, returning kids to school will not meet CDC safety guidelines. However, I value education and I appreciate the Fairbanks Independent School District Board of Education listening to the community and giving me and others parents the opportunity to send our children back to school. It is a burden on the teachers, but education is important and it is past time to treat it that way. It is disheartening to listen to teachers say that remote learning is improving and working while parents and students disagree.

Students are failing or not receiving high school credit at twice the normal rate, and that is clear evidence of a problem. I am nervous because I know CDC regulations are not likely to be met, but teachers are professionals and they care and will work hard under tough circumstances. As a teacher, my main objection is having to teach both in-person and remotely at the same time. It is likely to mean both groups will not be fully served since teachers must figure out how to split time. I am happy to finally meet my students and see them improve and learn. Many of us teachers are excited to have students back and welcome their return.

The district administration smartly put out a list of potential cuts for next year due to COVID-19-caused falling enrollment. The list is long, with more than 130 teaching positions cut and 243 total positions removed to try and save $27 million. The superintendent makes a valid point that 87% of the district’s budget is in personnel costs.

I also want to address the lack of cuts to the downtown administration office. Teachers have been asked to do a lot of extra work in the last year, and next year looks to be difficult as well. I would like to ask the school board to prioritize the classroom over downtown educational bureaucracy.

I can only find two to three personnel cuts that appear to be directed at the downtown central office. I’d like the school board to consider serious and deep cuts to the ever-growing educational officials. Frequently, there is a huge disconnect between the classroom teachers and our educational bureaucrats downtown, and many teachers struggle to understand their value.

Before we cut classroom teachers — who are the ones truly making a difference in kids’ lives — let’s look to cut 25-33% of the wasteful educational downtown bureaucrats. One stunning example from one department is the “who to contact in teaching and learning” form on the district webpage. The flow chart has 24 people on it. There are whole schools with less teachers than that — let’s start cutting there.

I know there need to be cuts, but we need to cut the fat and the inefficiencies before the classroom. I hope the school board will continue its leadership and stand up to the administration and make them cut their own department.

Let me finish by saying welcome back to all the students, stay as safe as you can, and good luck on the last few months of school.

Daniel Hackett is a parent and Lathrop High School math teacher.

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