Thursday, February 11, 2010

GUSD Budget Ideas

The Gilroy Unified School District is $6.3M in the hole (PDF) for next year.  The Superintendent put up a web page for the public to offer suggestions, so I did:

* I was shocked and dismayed to see the Teacher's Union suggest that closing Rucker was a viable and valuable way for dealing with the budget crisis.  The people of Gilroy voted that Rucker was an asset worthy of modernization with Measure P.  Also, as one of the larger pieces of land (12 ac), Rucker has great potential to house students.

* Clearly, increasing student teacher ratios will be a part of the new budget.  While we parents wish this wasn't the case, it is a logical cost savings.

* Several of the schools (Rucker and Las Animas, I know) have large garden plots; is it realistic to think we could save on food costs by growing our own healthy food?  I'm sure volunteers can be found to help.

* You need to help everyone understand that Measure P expenditures are not part of the normal budget. I can see trouble if the public are confused about how we are building new buildings while eliminating teachers.

* Save electricity: Make sure computer labs (and other PCs) are shut down when not in use.

* Can we minimize our expenditures on landscaping? Drought tolerant plantings need less maintenance. Synthetic turf needs no watering or chemicals.

* Base staff assignments on some quality metric instead of seniority (which nearly guarantees you pay the most for any given position).

* I don't completely understand how the elementary school library system works, but it doesn't seem optimally cost effective to me.  Does 2 hours per week for a paid librarian actually make an impact, when teachers build their own in class libraries anyway?

* _If_ there are staff members being paid with no duties in the district (e.g. principals without schools; teachers without classes), these positions should be dealt with. [Listen to This American Life's episode "Human Resources" about New York's Rubber Room: http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=350 ]

* The suggested idea of moving the district office to a rented building and renting out the current one seems optimistic about the fact that there is a lot of vacant space in the area, so rents any rent received would be small.

* Use Measure P funds to dramatically improve energy efficiency throughout the district as quickly as possible. Or more generally, quickly do capital improvements that reduce O&M costs.

* Please don't gut the GATE program at Rucker and the Dual Immersion program at Las Animas (and Rod Kelley) (and any other academic programs like these).  These programs are the shining beacons in a struggling academic environment; they give parents something to be proud of, and show the children that there are benefits to being smart and talented and hard working.

* I believe there is some obligation to provide transportation to students, but perhaps charging fees or reducing routes would save money. Perhaps a hub system like public transit (go to station, and bus goes from there to ultimate destination) could reduce costs? [Although I do love that my son's bus stop is right in front of my house.]

* Is milk necessary for school age kids?  Perhaps cups for the water fountains is all the beverage they need, since many seem to throw away their drinks anyway.

* A couple weeks ago, I saw a GUSD bus at a tutoring place in Morgan Hill.   What is this and is it a program that can be reduced or eliminated?

* What can parents do to help?

* Paper!  Teachers use too much paper and are constantly running out.   Can we move to a less paper based system?  We get 10+ pages a week of homework for my first grader, plus all the in class stuff.

* Does the district recycle cans, bottles, and paper for money?  Is composting of food waste a cheaper alternative than trash? (Why did Costco start composting recently?)

* Use open source and free software instead of expensive solutions like Microsoft Office.  Google Docs is great!  (How much do we spend on LoopNet? Is there a free alternative?)

* In this real estate market, counting on selling or leasing vacant school sites is unlikely.  The real estate development company where I work contacted the District early last year about one of the sites and the price quoted was completely unrealistic for current market conditions.

* Does the District have a grant writer?  Perhaps there are private, federal, or state grants that can help.

Sorry for my long, rambling, semi-coherent ideas!  Good luck.

Craigslist

I am now the book keeper at work.  This means I have had to learn how to use QuickBooks to process bills, write checks, and create reports for the Boss.  It also means, I very recently learned, that I have to deal with some tax issues, specifically sending IRS Form 1099s to consultants.

Luckily, I found how to do it in QuickBooks, but you need to have the OFFICIAL form.  I went to Staples and found a pack of paperwork.   Once I printed a bunch of forms, I realized that I needed two more copies of one of the forms.  Staples would have forced me to buy another $25 pack of too much stuff, so I turned to Craigslist.

I posted an ad to the Morgan Hill community.  A few hours later a kind person in Oakland replied that they had the form I needed.  On Tuesday I sent a self addressed envelope, and the forms arrived today, two days later.

I don't care if this is a boring story; I'm impressed with the speed and generosity that the Internet gives us access to.  Thanks, Internet!