Thursday, July 24, 2014

When You Don't Want My Job

Someone asked me the other day if I have a business card. When I told them that I didn't, they were surprised and commented that most CEO's love to hand out their business cards with their title. I have made a career of not having to do that.

I have been fortunate to establish trust, build relationships, and lead for many years without ever having to say "I'm the boss". I intend to continue that practice. The job itself is very rewarding, enjoyable, and fulfilling. There are times, however, when I have to make decisions that are not popular; but I feel are in the best short and long term interest of the students and our taxpayers. These are the times that you would not want my job.

As a school community you are always entitled to know why I make decisions or recommendations. I always go to bed at night knowing that you have all of the facts to agree or disagree with a decision that has been made. A decision that I have recently made involves the high school dance program.

Since 2009 the dance program has been a topic of conversation during the budget building process. From 2009 to 2011 we had to lay off a significant number of people due to large reductions in state aid. At the time, dance enrollment was beginning to decline. The classes offered are: introduction to dance, intermediate dance, and advanced dance. I did not recommend eliminating the program at that point because I was not comfortable that the students in the program could obtain their Fine Art credit (each student needs one Fine Art credit in order to graduate) in another way in time for graduation.

As we fast forward to present day:

  • The dance program numbers have continued to decline (there are 85 total students registered for the dance program for the fall), and we have been able to calculate that there has been a 30% drop in students moving from introduction to dance to intermediate, and another 30% decline from intermediate to advanced. 
  • At the same time, our other Fine Arts programs have been growing including: ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, and our performance groups. 
  • There has also been interest in expanding offerings to include the graphic arts, which will give students immediate employment opportunities as many of our engineering courses currently do. 
  • Add to this the knowledge that enrollment at the high school will likely drop by approximately 300 students over the next three years, and it is clear that some decisions needed to be made.

Using the information in the previous paragraph, and removing emotion, the decision was made to begin to move away from the dance program and move those resources into the elementary grades where the need is high. This will allow us to pay for the new graphic arts opportunities at the high school level, which is in high demand. The phrase that I would use to describe this is: an expansion through contraction. Below are the different phases of this process:

  • Students who are currently in the dance program would be able to finish the program, provided there is enough enrollment. 
  • For this fall, introduction to dance, intermediate dance, and advanced danced will run. 
  • In 2015-2016 intermediate dance and advanced dance will run. 
  • In 2016-2017 advanced dance will run.  
  • For the 2017-2018 school year, I would be asking the Board of Education to eliminate dance.  
This decision does not take away from the prior success of the dance program and the many accomplishments of the program faculty.

I certainly understand that this decision may trigger feelings, emotion, and opinions; and those are all healthy. I always take great care when making a decision and this was no different. That being said, there is always an impact to every decision and that is why there are times when you might not want my job!  

Over the course of this school year we will also be creating a three-year plan for the high school, specifically as they begin to brace for the decline in student enrollment that the elementary and middle schools have already adjusted for. I will keep you posted.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the summer.