One of the many things I am sharing knowledge with my daughter (and my mother who is now a GA resident) is how the local school board raises taxes without tightening their own belt a little more. As a property owner in RC but not always a resident due to military moves and job that required me to be a road warrior teaching soldiers I did not pay as much attention to my property taxes as I would with my personal finances. I do not know why and I won't worry about it now. But this time the school board and the county commission are proposing tax increases. So I attended one of the three public hearings and a crowd of seven people was present. Out of the seven one was the Augusta Chronicle reporter.
The meeting was opened, a gentleman addressed the tax issue concerning adults over 65 and was quickly shut down as the board addressed the concern as an issue that needs to be taken up with local legislators. Then I took my turn at the microphone. Stated my name for the record and reminded the board that I am not here on behalf of the Butler HS PTSA...just as a concerned tax payer, a grad student, and a parent of a soon to be freshman at ASU. I collected a few comments and emails from individuals who knew I would be attending and requested a link or form be placed on the RCBoEd home page where individuals who could not attend the public hearings could still submit recommendations.
Most people are not aware of their assigned school board member because you may vote for a school board member in your voting district but then your students attend a school which falls under another school board member's district. I also requested that the textbook budget be reviewed for an opportunity to purchase laptops for every student in the district. Because we are a military town, many property owners may be deployed or could not attend the three scheduled meetings but many people are concerned with a school system not making AYP coupled with a graduation rate of 48%, 57%, 62% depending on who publishes the numbers.
I share this link with individuals who are concerned about the budgets (salary & travel) for any of the educational districts, universities, state agencies, technical colleges, and universities. The link for GA Department of Audits and Accounts: https://www.audits.state.ga.us/esa/index.html . This link will take you to the memorandum stating the GA DoAA requirements and require the user to select the "I Understand...Proceed" button. Multiple reports can be pulled from this collected data, so users can compare and contrast positions, school districts, job titles, etc.
The Richmond County School System is not even close to being participants in Classroom 2.0, Students 2.0, the Horizon and Flat Classroom Projects (or the many other wonderful initiatives) because the system is in a state of Paradigm Paralysis. There are people who want to move the school system into the digital world but the number of digital inequities, coupled with the anti computer attitudes of those choosing not to migrate is frustrating.
My hat is off to Dr. Dana Bedden for surviving his first year in the Paradigm Paralysis in Richmond County. Requesting the audit and implementing some suggestions (but not all) and his discovery of the $13.4 million shortfall. I thank him for taking this job, Greg Gelpi from the Augusta Chronicle, and the school board members who make for great research material in my assignments. Nothing like real world application to make educational theories stick. I support Dr. Bedden's efforts and continue to support the students who will eventually become the leaders of Augusta. While I do not support the tax increase because actions exist that could be implemented to reduce the budget and I do not believe in throwing good money after bad. With the tax increase...will we see an improvement in the graduation rate or implement pay reductions for leaders making 3x the starting salary of a new teacher?
I am not a parent who sits on the outside looking in. During the last two years, I took one day off per month from my job and volunteered at the school. I substituted 2x, revitalized the PTSA, connected the parents, students, teachers, and community partners through MySpace, web site, and newsgroup, attended football games for two losing seasons, met Wycliffe Gordon and worked with him as he donated $1000 for the PTSA to host a county wide talent competition, met an awful lot of people who tried to drag me into a paper based world as I reminded them of my digital native status, attended every Saturday school to assist in whatever was needed, provided gum and mints to all students arriving at Butler to take the monthly SAT, and many other events to minor to list here.
As a Google girl, I volunteered at the local library and conducted Google products and scholarship workshops. There are many passionate people in Richmond County concerned about education, but are too busy to speak their mind, intimidated by the past decade of bureaucracy by a lame duck superintendent, jaded by a bureaucratic process that requires parents to jump hurdles to retrieve an answer to specific questions, or those who just do not know where to turn.
Based on the turnout of the two public hearings, the board will hold their 3rd and final public hearing on Monday, July 28, 2008, 4PM. The board will reconvene at 4:30 to pass the vote which will increase our taxes for the second time in one year.
It is said that the sweetest revenge is living good...so I will continue to live the best that I can, while seeking to improve my weaknesses and capitalize on my strengths and remember that school board members have students in the system and that in the end...everyone has to answer to a higher power.