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Ruffalo: Morose missives part of school districts’ kabuki drama

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Each and every year — and this current one doesn’t seem different — the education community goes through this kabuki theater exercise wherein the drama is whether or not teachers will have a job after the summer vacation. Roughly every springtime or so, the various school districts issue official letters announcing to the less-tenured teachers that due to circumstances completely beyond their control, the sundry administrators have the solemn and sad duty to inform them there may not be enough full-employment spots for all. Also in that annual cycle, usually in late August, we find that somehow, some way, there was enough money after all to ensure full employment and even add a new face or two to the existing faculty. Just proves that the yearly scare letter, like kabuki itself, is more about the gesture than the story. Need proof? Just check out last Thursday’s Journal where a well-written story explained how 20 local teachers will be employed this year despite being told otherwise just a few months ago. What’s really happening? Well, as it was explained to me by several friends toiling in academia, the teachers’ unions insist upon the process, if only to toss in an artificial deadline after which a teacher cannot be laid off unless he or she had already received the morose missive. However, districts have learned to become very punctual when it comes time for the letters. And not as an afterthought, has anybody else noticed that none of those notes are ever sent to an administrator? You know, those folks who are recipients of six-figure salaries and still insist that the taxpayers must also fund the accompanying cell-phone and gasoline credit card. Don’t know about your math, but mine says for every administrator launched from a district, there’d be enough money left over to hire three new teachers. From what I’ve seen, Auburn is blessed with a plethora of proficient teachers. As such, they should not be subjected to that annual shell game of now you’re out of work, and now you’re not. Isn’t it odd that with all of the brainiacs supposedly populating the education community, we still play that game of musical chairs for teachers? How come no viable suggestions on how to conduct the process better and with more concern? Despite my bent for conservative politics, I have always maintained that education — and for that matter, public health — are just as much a part of public safety as are the police, firefighters and EMTs. As such, they should have the highest priority on public funding. If a teacher or public-health worker, or a cop, or a firefighter is laid off while any elected official continues to fund recreation, art, college education, welfare without work requirements — or worst of all — fund the purchasing of additional open space lands, then that elected official quickly needs to join the growing ranks of the unemployed. We can, and we should, do better. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at jimruffalo@yahoo.com.