Several years ago I wrote an article urging voters to consider a "bottom up" approach to casting their vote based on my belief that the offices and candidates at the bottom of the ballot have more effect on our day-to-day quality of life than those who serve us in Washington, D.C., or even at the state Capitol.
It seems to me that the recent debate in Kyrene about budgets and programs and how to best serve our children and our community has only added validity to that argument. The decisions being made in Kyrene and in local school districts across America will profoundly affect the day-to-day lives and future of children and families across this nation.
Since January, in light of the daunting 2011 budgetary realities we face, the Kyrene School District Governing Board has considered and debated a variety of current and future programs and the relative merit and value of all-day kindergarten, music, art, physical education, library, social workers and intervention specialists, and of math and literacy coaches. We have examined and debated the role of our school board as a voice for parents and the community. We have encouraged our superintendent and our administration to analyze and re-analyze how to spend limited resources in a manner that maximizes the benefit to our 18,000 students. The five Kyrene governing board members and our superintendent come from very different backgrounds, but we share a belief that public debate is necessary when the well-being of our children and the future of our state and our nation will be affected by the decisions that we make. As such, we have sought to be as transparent as possible in our deliberations and in our decision making. We have consistently reached out to our community, both internal and external, for input on current and future programs and on allocation of resources.
For years, Kyrene has been among the most efficient school districts in Arizona in spending money "in the classroom." Therefore, despite our continuing efforts to streamline operations, we do not have the luxury of significant administrative "fat" to cut. Further, for many years, Kyrene has prudently managed its finances, which has allowed us to build up reserves for "rainy days," like we are experiencing now. In the course of our recent budget discussions, we have debated how much is enough and how much is too much, when expending our cash reserves.
Finally, we have considered the welfare of hard-working Kyrene teachers, support staff and administrators, none of whom have seen a pay increase in recent years.
And so, with the 2011-2012 budget season coming to a close, we in Kyrene, like our peers in districts throughout Arizona and the nation, are faced with the hard budget-balancing choices that local voters elected us to make. While the decisions we are facing are very difficult, the job is what we all signed up for when we ran for the office. And I am pleased to report that we in Kyrene are up for the challenge and that we are leaving no viable options unconsidered. Will everyone agree with our upcoming decisions? Certainly not.
Unfortunately, very few districts are in a position to satisfy all constituents or guarantee outcomes of the decision-making process. What we can guarantee to the Kyrene community is an effective and open process and the continuation of the best public education that we can offer to our children.
• Ross Robb is a member of the Kyrene School District Governing Board.