Editorial: School budget -- some light in the darkness

Feb. 26, 2011

School budget

Some light in the darkness

What can we learn from the pending school budget cuts?

Creativity matters more than ever.

"We need to get started," Superintendent Charlie Beck said Wednesday after a 90-minute work session in which he and other members of his administration spelled out, in sobering detail, the drastic cuts that are to come in 2011-12.

"We have three weeks. We need really, really smart people talking about how we can put this together," Beck said.

The three weeks is the district's self-imposed April 6 deadline to decide on budget cuts - staff reductions in particular - that will be necessary to balance the budget for the school year beginning July 1.

The district has put the budget process on a fast track, in fairness to teachers and other staff who will need to start finding work, possibly in other districts. April 6 is the date when Beck said the district can inform those teachers who lose their jobs in time for them to reasonably submit applications to other districts. The district is to be credited for seeing in this gloom an opportunity to give a measure of control to people caught up in a trying situation.

It's people who make the schools and it's a human gesture, getting the clearest possible picture in order to help those who stand to lose their jobs.

Kudos also to the bargaining groups - classified, confidential and administrative, who have indicated willingness to give contract concessions to help pare the budget.

There is still time for the leadership of the largest local union, the teachers' Hood River Education Association, which has so far indicated it will not make a move toward altering any terms of its existing contract.

Reduction of positions, a 20 percent paring of athletics and activities, and cutting of some child development specialists and elementary PE and music are painful reductions, as is that of repurposing Pine Grove Elementary. But Pine Grove will still remain a place for students. James Sims, the former principal (and current school board member), pointed out, quite astutely, that if the caring parent and volunteer community at Pine Grove takes its same passion for kids to its new environment, at Mid Valley, the school and the students will be the richer for it.

It is that kind of creative thinking that will help the district make the most out of the difficult days ahead.

Flags Lowered

Sgt. Matthew J. DeYoung

Gov. John Kitzhaber has ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff on from sunrise to sunset Saturday, Feb. 26, in memory of United States Marine Sergeant Matthew J. DeYoung.

Sgt. DeYoung, 26, of Talent, died Feb. 18, 2011, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Sgt. DeYoung was an outstanding Marine who served his state and his country with honor and distinction," said Kitzhaber. "His sacrifice for our nation will never be forgotten."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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