There are some hard realities that our school district needs to face. Consider that we currently have 43 fewer custodians than what is recommended by the state. You already know of the critical bus driver shortage. All along the line on the support side of the house you see chronic failure to address these shortages. Some of it has to do with the toxic work environments maintained by some of the senior administrators and some of it is the non-competitive salary structure in the district. Both of these combined have decimated the ranks of the people that maintain and repair our facilities.
I used the term “decimate” purposely. In the Roman Legion decimation was the practice of punishing a large group of soldiers by dividing them into groups of 10. Then each group would draw lots where one in every 10 soldiers would be executed by the other nine. When you look back at what has been endured by our support staff over the last decade, then you understand that decimation is the only logical term to be used.
We are at a critical point in Clay County. Two years back I fought for making the superintendent an appointed position versus an elected position. My reasoning was simple, the Clay County School District has grown too large to be effectively managed by someone who’s primary qualification is winning a popularity contest. Clay County Schools are the single largest employer in the county and our school board members need to approach it as a corporation and not just a local PTA on steroids.
For years, I have pointed out the brick wall the district has been headed for. For years, our school board has exacerbated the problem by implementing the misguided thinking that all they had to do was spend more money in the classroom. They never considered that they actually needed to spend money on the classroom as well.
We need to focus our efforts on rebuilding the personnel and programs that maintain our facilities. We as citizens need to scream and shout at our elected officials every time they try to nickel and dime a facilities maintenance program. One thing I learned as the leading Fire Control Technician onboard the Cutter Mohawk is that it is always more expensive to repair than to maintain. It is time for us to impart this lesson to our school board. It is time that we rebuild our capacity to maintain our facilities and to adequately cover the services outside the classroom that lead to a better learning environment for our children inside the classroom.