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Let's all take a breath....

Teacher cuts and program losses at PRHS

I shudder every time I read about the budget crisis in Pine-Richland.  I know what’s coming as I read the articles about the $2 million deficit. Teachers and programs are the first to go, as if teachers and programs were the primary cause of this financial debacle.       

The blame is put on salary, benefits, and mostly the PSERS pension plan. Some people may be surprised to learn that the state offered the option to reduce the amount of money school districts pay into teacher pensions about twelve years ago. The economy was better then, and the state took a holiday themselves drastically reducing the growth of the pensions. 

The teachers did not take this "vacation" while the district and the state greatly reduced their contribution to PSERS. The teachers kept up paying their share each month of every year and even increased their contribution. 

It was the administration’s willingness to “take a holiday” from contributing to PSERS that, in part, led them down this road.  The financial mess did not happen overnight or was solely caused by this holiday, but a decade of spending the “found” money from the “holiday”  is now upon us.

To be fair, my explanation is a very simple summary for a very complex problem.

You can read  more about it here: (page 10 of 49)
http:/www.psea.org/uploadedFiles/LegislationAndPolitics/Key_Issues/PSEA-SoundingTheAlarm-March2012.pdf
And here:
http://pattyebenson.org/2012/05/02/pa-school-districts-financial-problems-taxpayers-draw-the-short-straw/

Even though it has been said before, it is important to remember that during this pension vacation the district built a stadium for 11+ million dollars, Eden Hall Elementary for 40+ million dollars, and the current HS addition for 32+ million dollars.

While these structures are impressive to look at, interesting and extravagant components were added that may have been unnecessary, in my opinion. I wonder if saving for a rainy day ever occurred to anyone then?

I realize that all of the above is a moot point now, but it does make one wonder where the administration's priorities lie.  How can they justify cutting teachers when the district is still growing?  

And, how can they build an addition to the high school with many new classrooms and then make headlines about cutting teachers and programs? While money was spent creating aesthetics, approximately 83 million dollars, was an equal amount spent for teachers and programs?  

It begs the question, are we more concerned about how it looks from the outside than the actual education of our students on the inside?

Teachers and programs are the very essence of a school district. As a taxpayer and former teacher in the district, I certainly feel the frustration of all citizens when tax increases are threatened. But to put teachers' cuts in the headlines juxtaposed with 2 million dollar deficit is unfair and unproductive.

Please, let's take a breath and look for other more appropriate ways to move forward to correct this problem.  

Lisa Erb

Retired PRHS teacher

Lifelong Pine-Richland resident and taxpayer

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dan Severino May 21, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Ask any student 20 years after their high school graduation and their greatest memory. I really doubt that the trees and other landscaping of the campus will rate very high; and I really suspect that the special faculty members that inspired and/or encouraged them will rank among the highest. Reminds me of the lyrics from the song in Paint Your Wagon -- I talk to the trees but they don't listen to me.
a mom May 21, 2012 at 01:29 PM
You go girl! It should prove to be an interesting evening. Maybe the board should charge for this event since they are having it in the auditorium. That money would be well spent for the dog and pony show and might make a little $ for the district.
Jeanne Dutel May 21, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I just got back from my daughter's college graduation and read Lisa Erb's commentary on Patch. My three kids are all Pine-Richland alumnae. I am a Retired PR Teacher. We all bleed GREEEN. Still do, even though our affiliation is over. My family's greatest memories are of the PEOPLE of PR who helped teach them, opened doors for them, even encouraged them when they wanted to quit. I share a camaraderie with PR teachers who are my friends, not just old colleagues. I know the committment teachers make in their daily endeavors. Do not cut these loyal teachers. Do not cut programs. Please realize that when you graduate from PRHS, brick and mortar is the farthest thing from your mind. State-of-the-art this n' that do not matter. What is lasting are the committed teachers who bust their rear ends to provide stimulating lessons. What is lasting are the teachers who, long after you've graduated from PR, still keep in touch, still work to push you, still challenge you to be the best you can be. School Board and Staff, please, whatever it takes, think twice about letting your greatest assets go. Do not fire your teachers!
Parent #2 May 21, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Who says the teachers they want to let go are the "great" ones you all allude to? Maybe they are the worst performing and are on the chopping block. Who says teachers are guaranteed a job for life?
Ben Campbell May 24, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Parent #2, The teachers that will be let go are the ones with lowest seniority. This is contractually how the district has to handle these cuts. If not for these protections, the first to be cut in times of tight budgets would be the teachers making the most money, who also happen to have the most experience and years of loyal service to the district. When seniority is the deciding factor, the teachers that are let go are usually recently out of school, equipped with training in the latest educational methods and probably have a stronger grasp of how to use technology in the classroom. They aren't very experienced, but youth and enthusiasm can make up for that. But I am not implying that the senior most teachers are any less great. Some of the most influential teachers I had at PR were at opposite ends of their careers. When I was at PRHS, Mr. Seftas and Mr. Pilat were close to retirement, and the district had recently hired Ms.Switala (a future PA teachers of the year) and Ms. Dryer. All four of them made a lasting impact on my life. I wholeheartedly agree with Mrs. Erb and Mrs. Dutal that the teachers are the lifeblood of a school, and should be last resource to be reduced in tight budget year.

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