When I was a kid I would on occasion watch “The Red Green Show,” a Canadian comedy show that aired in the Untied States on PBS. The show was a sketch comedy show featuring the title character Red Green.
Red was a handyman who found that often the key solution to fixing most things around the home was plenty of “The Handyman’s Secret Weapon” – duct tape. In one episode he attempted to make a kiddie ride by duct taping a barstool to the agitator of a washing machine. He would often say “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”
After reading about the condemnation of Raymond James Stadium I am convinced that the Hamilton County School Board members were huge fans of “The Red Green Show.”
The state of this stadium is indicative of the state of our school system. Our fine teachers are working hard to teach their students while the walls literally crumble around them. Huge gaps in the budget are met off the backs of taxpayers, and generosity of municipalities, business, PTA groups and other organizations.
The school stops the art program. No problem, because in wealthy neighborhoods the parents write a check. The school stops mowing the football field or taking care of the baseball field; the city steps up to the plate.
The school board when discussing the budget situation and the need for school fees readily admitted the budget was held together by bailing wire and duct tape. If this is a known fact why is nothing being done about it? Why are the school board members grandstanding for the public and to appease the complaining parents but not doing anything about it? The Superintendent asks for a tax increase. Was it so he could adequately supply the teachers, and fill in budget gaps. Nope. He was giving everyone a raise and spending money on Pre K and secondary languages in elementary schools. I agree that early secondary languages would be beneficial to our children as adults, but wouldn’t making sure the teachers didn’t have to buy crayons and paper out of their paychecks be more beneficial?
That tax increase didn’t pass and in my opinion it shouldn’t have. The answer for problems from this schools administration is to ask for more. More from parents, more from educators, more from taxpayers. When I asked Rick Smith at East Ridge Middle School point blank where he had initiated cost saving measures, he told me he hasn’t because he feels they run a pretty lean ship. How can the citizens be asked to contribute more money when you are not doing everything in your power to make sure the money being spent is maximized to its fullest potential?
An example I think of is office supplies. Every school from what I’ve been told is left blowing in the breeze when it comes to some of these things. They receive textbooks from the county but are forced to buy office supplies on their own. The reason given is that they can negotiate a better deal buying textbooks for the whole county at once. Have they never tried to buy paper in bulk? Toner in bulk? I once bought two years of toner, $1000 worth, because it was on sale and the more I bought the cheaper it was. The school uses the money they receive from school fees to buy PE equipment. Don’t you think we could buy 400 basketballs cheaper than just 10? I’m sure if the school went straight to major distributors and bought large quantities of bulk supplies they could save thousands of dollars.
I’ve seen multiple members of the East Ridge High School staff come before the City Council asking for tiny things that they were unable to obtain from the school or county directly. Things like seeding a field, mowing, a windscreen for tennis courts and a few trees trimmed.
The City Council approved a vast majority of these requests and helped place a fresh piece of duct tape on the county’s budget.
The question I have is why they are having an issue with minor and simple things when according to the Activity Fund Balance Sheet from June 2014 there was $40,000 surplus in the high school’s athletic budget. The school started fiscal year 2014 with a $29,000 fund balance. They took in from fees and other resources $112,000 and spent only $100,000 running the program leaving a $41,000 fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2014.
They couldn’t have mowed the grass a few times on their own dime?
I understand they’ve got to keep a lid on the cookie jar or the cookies will be all gone. Any good parent knows when you have two kids and one cookie each gets half. The school system instead keeps the cookie and sends the kid to the City Council because are they really going to refuse to help the kids? “There goes the councilman who wouldn’t even mow the grass so the kids could play ball.” How’s that going to go over at election time?
Now let me state clearly that I’m not against helping the children. My kids go to public school in East Ridge. I think giving money to help the school afford elementary school art or so the tennis team has a net is vitally important. Its great that we support our own community and when we can afford to pick up the tab on things that are considered “extras” we should. Those children are our future.
However, basic school supplies are not extras. A net for a tennis team isn’t an extra. Grass on a baseball field isn’t a pleasure. These are the basics. They are being ignored.
As a parent and taxpayer I have to wonder two things: Where is the money going? How does the the school system operate a budget of more than $300 million and not have paper planned into the mix at some point? How is it that other school systems, while they have problems, get by without charging near as many fees as taxpayers and parents see in Hamilton County? Where is the fly in our ointment or the hole in our piggy bank that we can’t even handle the essentials?
What’s going on below the surface? If the football stadium is so bad its literally crumbling and has to be condemned by the city, what else is failing just below the surface? County Commissioner Tim Boyd, at a discussion he held at the East Ridge Community Center earlier this year, stated that the school system when it came to routine maintenance was far off the eight ball. He stated that schools that are not very old are already having issues simply due to neglect.
Walls not painted. Ceiling tiles left to mold. In past years when something like this was brought to County Commissioners’ attention they would use discretionary funds to address the issue. They added another fresh layer of duct tape and bailing wire.
However, this year that is no longer the case as the Commission was made aware of an opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General that stated counties could not use general fund money to supplement the school system.
This means that hundreds of thousands of dollars that used to go annually to athletic programs, school activities and other programs will no longer be available. The fresh layers of duct tape and bailing wire once made generously available by the County Commission are gone. The Hamilton County School System will have to tap another resource for the funds or shockingly maybe figure out how to fund something on their own.
Its not going to be easy, pretty, or fun. Its gonna be rough, hard, and painful, but someone needs to pull the bailing wire and duct tape off the budget and figure out how to make the numbers work without it. Maybe it means taxpayers pay a few dollars more. Maybe it means a few less $100,000 paydays in the central office.
Until the school system is forced to live within its own means nothing will change and a blind eye to failing grades and crumbling stadiums will remain the status quo.