Last week, Carpinteria Unified School District (CUSD) Superintendent Diana Rigby, presented a series of economic figures that might lead the casual reader to the following conclusion: The sky (over CUSD) is falling! Emergency action is required!
It must be spring, because the annual season of budgetary fear-mongering is here again. Many CUSD staff and faculty have come to anticipate these inflated claims of “crisis,” which are routinely exaggerated to justify otherwise unnecessary actions. As this strategic narrative is spun, Carpinteria is again advised that CUSD is going broke and threats of insolvency can only be avoided by swift administrative action.
Sorry, but we’re not buying it.
For years, employees and families watched CUSD peddle this same tangled tale in an effort to justify unnecessary budget cuts and politically advantageous pet-projects. This year is no different. Over $1 million in new cuts (to resources that directly serve students and families) are being recommended: CHS and CMS after school programs; CHS athletics; transportation/bus services; K-8 fieldtrips; instructional-aides across the district; librarian positions and hours of operation; custodial hours/district health and sanitation services; safety preparedness initiatives and secretarial support at school sites.
Claims that CUSD must double (even triple) cash reserves mandated by the state only add to the contrived crisis. While significant salary increases were awarded the superintendent and other administrative positions in 2018, they maintain their personal professional trajectory by cutting resources critical to teaching and learning in Carpinteria.
Examples include: 1) In her February column, “Reading is key” (“From the superintendent’s desk,” Vol. 25, No. 23), Rigby explained that reading and literacy are paramount to students’ success. One month later, she recommended reducing elementary librarian services by half.
2) Throughout 2017-18, Rigby acknowledged that kindergarten instructional-aides were critical to a full-day kindergarten program, but the district provided only half the aide hours promised for 2018-19. Further aide cuts are recommended for 2019-20.
3) Although our community has invested millions (i.e. MEASURE U) in CUSD’s infrastructure development, the superintendent recommends further cuts to custodial services that maintain CUSD’s sites and facilities. (Note: Sanitation and hygiene in CUSD have reached historic lows, as indicated by recent staff surveys, student surveys and county health inspections.)
4) Although the district cut over 30+ instructional-aide positions in 2018, it increased the number of administrative personnel who do not work with students, further reducing the workload of already well compensated upper-management.
5) While Rigby failed to meet all three stated professional objectives in 2017-18, the school board provided her a positive evaluation based on her fiscal-conservancy.
6) CUSD continues to suffer from autocratic leadership resistant to collaboration. While advising the community that improved administration/faculty relationships are a priority, the superintendent has entirely ignored experiences shared by CUSD’s employee union (i.e. the only elected representatives of employees).
Currently, the “values” of district leadership are in conflict with those who work directly with students. In turn, the success of our children and the efficacy of the entire educational system is undermined. As long as this continues, the business of educating Carpinteria’s youth will suffer from the erratic and impulsive winds of politically fashionable philosophies and budget policies that primarily serve the professional trajectory of select district leadership.