The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Commentary: Victory for Davis Schools

A few weeks ago the community looked on at impending doom with the school system. Instead of panicking however, the Davis community said collectively, not here and not now.

Students and parents flooded school board meetings, marching down Davis streets, rallied in the parks to keep their teachers employed and their school open.

As they looked toward the school board to find a way, it was the community that found a way.

The Davis Schools Foundation was able to raise $1.77 million for the Davis schools. That was enough to "buy back" more than two dozen positions for teachers and libraries.

But it was not the Davis Schools Foundation alone that made Thursday's victory possible. The governor's revised state budget gave the Davis school district another $1.2 million to work with.

In all over 100 teaching positions were saved. The crisis averted. Four positions still need to be cut by eight elementary schools. Another 7.3 junior high and high school positions. While not painless, certainly manageable.

As always, it was Amanda Lopez-Lara the student representative to the board that spoke for all:
"I've never seen the community come together like this--families, students, people of all races. I'll never be able to thank you enough for bringing back the teachers."
Music has been saved. Athletics have been saved.

That is the good news. And it is good. But the challenges will remain.

The school district faces financial ramifications of declining enrollment and an ongoing structural budget deficit.

The school district cannot rely on the schools foundation to provide a permanent source of funding. The $1.77 million marks a crisis-averting surge of donation, but it is not sustainable long term.

The school district will hire a pollster to determine where the community would support another parcel tax this fall.

However, even with another parcel tax, the district needs to adjust its programs. Projections suggest that enrollment will decline for a couple more years before flattening out and even beginning to rise.

We must also be mindful of the statewide economic situation and the statewide budget. The revised budget has added money, but the economic situation looks rather bleak at the moment.

These are all issues that we must deal with in the near future.

We are fortunate that we live in a community that has the ability and the inclination to keep our teachers employed and our schools open, but we should also not forget the hundreds of other districts in this state that are not nearly so lucky.

Today we can breathe a sigh of relief. The school board members, deserve a nice spa and vacation. The stress they have been under the last six months has been unreal and it has taken a toll on them.

The hard work unfortunately will begin again soon enough. In the meantime, let us just rejoice knowing that just once, we have changed the course of the future of a large number of students and a community has shown its ultimate commitment to education.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting