School disconnect between administration, taxpayers

School disconnect between administration, taxpayers

As a graduate of Smithfield High School and a supporter of Smithfield's public schools, I am intrigued by the continuous shortcoming of the public school budget and the attention that is put on the administration because of this. This past year the School Department brought in auditors from B & E Consulting LLC, Providence to report on their monetary concerns for the school and policy. While I am not a taxpayer myself, I know individuals who are suffering to pay for the increasing taxes that the town is requesting from them even if they do or do not have children in the education system.

From The Valley Breeze & Observer's article "School board seeking $1 million from Smithfield taxpayers," we learn that there is a proposed operating budget of $34,711,822 for the fiscal year 2014-15, which is a 1.3 percent increase from this year's budget. The new proposal which has been approved by the School Committee will provide 1 percent raises for administrators totaling $15,964 while there will be "a limited number of teacher layoffs and the creation of all-day kindergarten," according to The Observer.

What we must consider as members of the town and taxpayers is what the auditors can tell us about the school system. I found a particular interest in the notes on the school's policy manual, which the B&E Consultants suggest is lacking in particular areas. In section 5 of the manual under "instruction" the report by the auditors suggests that this section, which should include governance over curriculum, textbooks, and courses of instruction, "certainly does not meet the committee's responsibility under the law."

Under the new budget proposal three teachers, one guidance counselor, and a reading specialist will lose their jobs. While they are told that they might have some hope later on, the teachers now face the threat of unemployment in a frustrating economy that will challenge them to find new positions. While teachers in this state are receiving salaries from $30,000 to $70,000 for directly working with students, Supt. Robert O'Brien is going to be making $137,000, which he has made over the past three years, and this does not include the raise that he calls for in the upcoming fiscal year. While O'Brien has done commendable work for the town he must realize as an elementary science teacher years ago, that to lose your job as a teacher in a time when it is extremely challenging to find other opportunities that this is basically an invitation to live in poverty.

I think that it should be recognized that another portion of the auditors report suggested a change in the administrative section of the school's manual policy. According to the report, "the Smithfield Manual has no Administrative Section, which is a major failing. The administration section would be where the role of Administration is defined." If the administration were doing great work, which I am sure they are, we wouldn't know because there is a lack of established connection between them and both the student body and the community. Lack of communication can damage both the education and the administrative relationship with the town. Let's end this confusion. Let's think about the future of Smithfield students and improve our public schools by paying more attention to required resources such as quality teachers, textbooks, and course refinements. Education is our past, present, and future and this is what we need to realize.

Billy Bowden