In my recent Woonsocket Patch piece “Why Woonsocket Teachers Should Not Get Laid Off” http://woonsocket.patch.com/articles/why-woonsocket-teachers-should-not-be-laid-off, one of the main points I made was that while teacher layoffs might save the Woonsocket School Department money in the short run, this action can be expected to generate many negative economic effects in the long run to the rest of the already distressed City.
Superintendent Donoyan has compared her job in the Woonsocket Education Department to steering a big ship through troubled waters. In my opinion, the Woonsocket Education Department should not be throwing experienced crew members overboard. In fact, they need to keep as many crew members on board as possible in order to stop the ship from going down in the storm.
In October of 2011, I attended the 50thAnnual Financial Literacy and Economic Education teachers’ conference in Chicago at my own expense and with the requested use of my own personal days. At this conference, I learned a lot about the importance of communities working together to build strong educational and economic systems.
I believe significant budgetary decisions, such as massive layoffs, that potentially impact all the City’s residents should be evaluated in a holistic fashion. Laying off large numbers of teachers to generate savings in one City department should not be done when it causes damage to children’s education and potentially much higher losses in other City departments.
In my Patch article, I also addressed the importance of honoring teacher contracts and respecting the long-term commitments that teachers have made to Woonsocket children and their families. Any efforts to move our great City forward should build on these positive and long-standing relationships, and not seek to destroy them. The contracts that the City has made with its employees should be followed so that the City’s credibility can be maintained and the loyalty of its dedicated workers preserved. Generations of trust should not be replaced by generations of fear.
I urge city leaders to work together with all members of our community to find a comprehensive solution to Woonsocket’s budgetary problems.
Some of my ideas for moving forward and increasing the City’s sources of revenue include:
- Recover any lost monies that may have been incorrectly disbursed from the School Department’s budget and return those funds to the School Department’s budget. Identify the reason(s) for the recent Woonsocket Education Department’s budget deficits and implement new accounting procedures and oversight to make sure these problems don’t happen again.
- Create a comprehensive Task Force that includes a diverse group of Woonsocket residents and parents, as well as representatives from Woonsocket’s schools, businesses, banks, and organizations. The purpose of the Task Force will be to bring everyone together for discussions and to develop new partnerships that can bring in local funding and provide ongoing community support for the City’s education programs.
- Form a Woonsocket Education Department Grant Committee right away to identify new sources of external funding and to write increased numbers of grant applications. All WED administrators should be encouraged to join and support the activities of the Grant Committee. Through weekly meetings, the Grant Committee will seek innovative ways of bringing additional money into the City to support education from government, corporate, and private foundation sources.
- Explore new ways of marketing the positive aspects of the City of Woonsocket to outsiders and insiders alike. Encourage City residents to support local businesses by buying their goods and services in Woonsocket.
- Solicit community involvement and engagement by inviting all of the City’s citizens to share their ideas and to participate in the planning process. Ideas for building positive community interactions could range from holding town meetings, to setting up suggestion boxes in public locations, to establishing mentoring programs.
Let’s work together as a community to brainstorm positive ways of building a stronger future for all of our City’s residents – and most importantly, for the children.
Your ideas can make a difference in navigating our City’s schools to new and better horizons.
Woonsocket Middle School