I want to echo here my comments this evening regarding the passage by our Board of a resolution adopting the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s Standards for Effective School Governance.
I am proud to be on the board and to have the chance to vote, for the first time, in favor of this resolution. I believe these standards reflect years of collected knowledge and insight by multitudes of current and past board members, and I believe they are a clear statement of what it takes to be an effective board and an effective board member.
However, these standards are not just for our Board. I take them personally and, because we represent the community, the adoption of these standards reflects the community’s support for quality leadership of the district and for providing a quality education in Cheltenham.
To be sure, these standards are hard to meet and no board can meet them without community support. I encourage everyone to review these standards, to understand them, to participate in good school governance, and, working together, to support quality throughout our district.
With a nod to fellow PA board blogger at Pride & Promise and his recent post on this same subject, I saved this post until our board had passed our preliminary budget.
With that passage, we have entered what is now officially budget season for Cheltenham as it is for school districts throughout America and, if you search for news on the subject, you won’t have to look far to see that districts everywhere are going to be facing the same challenges that we will be here in Pennsylvania. Tax revenues are down and clearly the growth of the past two or more decades is over.
While I certainly believe we will see a time when budgets can again support the kinds of growth in technology, facilities, and other teaching development and practices that we’ve seen in the recent past; clearly we have our work cut out for us to just keep afloat as we enter the perfect storm of declining revenues, increasing retirement and benefits costs, and increasing demands for high performance from our students as they move into an increasingly competitive global marketplace for skills and talents.
As we move into this period of difficult, even scary, budget times, I don’t want us to forget that America was born out of education, and that our challenge is to review our fundamental principles for democracy. We should reach back and relearn the guidance of our founding fathers that the only way America will survive and thrive will be through an educated populace — one that continually seeks ways to advance knowledge and skills, and one that retains a deep philosophical understanding of the complexities of sustaining a great nation and system of government.
America must fight to keep our government working, learning, evolving, and always maintaining a clear eye on what has been such an essential element of our progress — that element being the continual focus on a high quality, free and appropriate education for ALL of our residents.
These funding challenges are large and ever-present, but our real challenge is to see beyond these tough times to the world that awaits our children and their children, and to know that a quality education is the path we must follow to get there.