To all the Middletown residents who will go the polls on April 20, I implore you to vote YES for the school budget. As a result of significant reductions in state aid to school districts, severe cuts are already included in the 2010-11 budget. The budget was developed with significant input from community stakeholders and their suggestions were incorporated into the difficult choices that were made. No area was left untouched.
Middletown has strived for efficiency. We have continually sought fiscally responsible ways to improve on the way we deliver instruction. We have developed programs to keep students in district thereby reducing costly out of district tuitions. We implemented, and will continue, full day kindergarten with the overwhelming support of the community at no additional cost to the taxpayers by strategically restructuring teaching assignments. We have decreased the need for support staff by introducing best practice instructional models in our elementary and middle schools while, at the same time, increasing overall test scores at these levels. We are continuing our efforts to implement the state mandated High School Redesign model at little or no cost to our community.
Middletown has tackled tough issues. We have already achieved cost savings by eliminating traditional insurance plans and increasing employee contributions to health care premiums. We have negotiated caps for accrued sick and vacation time. We have no bogus doctorates and we can assure that no employee of the Middletown school district will retire with a “Golden Parachute”. We are well ahead of the curve.
Despite these efficiencies, significant cuts ($10 million) are included in the Middletown school budget for 2010-11. These have been presented in forums, reported in the local media and outlined on our website www.middletownk12.org so I will not reiterate them here. I do feel, however, that I must address what has become an election target: Administrative Excess. Middletown has, over the years, continuously evaluated and restructured the administrative team based on ever-changing, district -wide needs. It is the administration who brings new initiatives to the district, develops ways to improve instruction, provides training and staff development and supervises the delivery of curriculum. With more than 10,000 students in 17 schools, good administration directly impacts students in the classroom and is required to ensure continuity and equity for all students. Our administrator to student ratio has been, and will continue to be, among the lowest in the county and well below the state average. As in all other areas of the budget, however, we will do more with less. This budget includes the elimination of 15% of the administrative staff in the district.
As community members come to me to speak about our budget, I know there is anger and frustration about what is happening to our schools. No one likes to see cuts of this magnitude. We have tried very hard to make reductions as equitable as possible in all areas without significantly impacting students in the classroom. Be angry, but don’t let that anger get in the way of good judgment. Let this be the worst-case scenario. A defeat to the budget will only bring further cuts to staffing, educational programs and extracurricular activities and the things that make you angry will not have changed. I am not asking you to like this budget but to vote YES because it is the best thing we can do for our children and our community. Our town is measured by the quality of our educational programs. Now is the time to come together as a community and continue to take pride in who we are.
Middletown Township Board of Education