Thursday, September 09, 2010

Permanent Vacation

Just back from a week's vacation in Sedona, AZ. A beautiful city and beautiful people.

Obviously, a nice change of pace from hanging around the Fraters Libertas headquarters and crew.

One of the most beautiful buildings in Sedona is Red Rock High School. Located very near our posh resort location, we passed it daily heading into the city and its majesty and always drew pause. It was so grandiose, initially I thought it had to be a Fortune 500 corporate campus or MPR broadcasting facility. But no, it is a public high school, paid for with government money.

It's hard to begrudge the good people of Sedona such a facility, especially since they probably approved it via one referendum or another. If nothing but the finest money can buy is good enough for them, then let them eat cake!

I'm sure the students and staff are loving it, secure in the lap of tax payer approved, government provided luxury. Alas, it seems all is not well in paradise. Developments this week, as reported in the Red Rock News:

After a little more than two years on the job, Sedona-Oak Creek School District Superintendent Mike Aylstock resigned his position earlier this week.

Aylstock had been the superintendent of the district since July 1, 2008, and his retirement ends a 19-year tenure as a school district superintendent in Arizona and a 34-year career in public education.

He reiterated this decision was made for his own well-being.

Three decades teaching and sacrificing for our children. And not looking back in anger. A refreshing change from the increasingly bitter demeanor of public employees. Fare the well, good and faithful public servant.

Those expecting a feel-good ending should stop reading now. Conservatives and other masochists know there is another shoe to drop.

It turns out there was one reason for stepping away. And it's looking you in the mirror, you heartless budget cutters:

In his letter to the Governing Board, Aylstock stated the negative aspects of the superintendent job have grown to the point that his well-being has been adversely affected.

Education budgets have changed so much it causes districts to make cuts not in the best interests of students, he said. Facing bright energetic new teachers and laying off new employees because of budget concerns were difficult to do.

Laying off teachers and making cuts due to the state’s budget concerns took a toll on Aylstock, [Governing Board President Bonnie Surber] said. “That was certainly what he talked about,” she said. “He has been an extremely good superintendent.”

That is a shame. Budget cuts not in the best interest of students. Resulting in the bright and energetic new employees getting canned. If only there was a way to fire the dull and tired old employees instead. Of course, we all know that is an absolute impossibility.

If the budget cuts result in the firing of prized teachers, it's obvious they've already eliminated the fat in Sedona and they're down to cutting the bone. Right?

Wrong, cue another shoe:

The solar project at the high school and the construction projects, Aylstock said, are two main accomplishments he helped lead during his time as superintendent.

"The Performing Arts Center will be so nice for the school district and the community," he said.

I'm sure it will be nice. It would also be nice to find out if the tax payers in Sedona consider this more important than the bright, energetic new teachers getting axed for lack of funding.

How many new teachers might have been saved? Details on the new Performing Arts Center:

On Oct. 9, the [Sedona Oak Creek School District] board agreed to fund the $10.5 million design of the center, although it had originally budgeted $7.1 million of bond money for the project. In November 2007, district residents passed a $73 million bond for school construction and renovations.

According to ARCADIS project manager, Dave Young, the district has $4.7 million left over in a line item in the bond for energy efficiency. The district can put $3.4 million of that toward the performing arts center without affecting other projects to reach the $10.5 million.

You've got to like the shell game of appropriating money for "energy efficiency" and getting a performing arts center. But 10.5 mil! Even with their Cadillac health care plans and retirement benefits, that ought to pay for at least a few more teachers.

I suppose we can't dwell on past spending decisions. Let’s focus on what the citizens will be getting for their hard earned money:

The performing arts center will go from a 262-seat auditorium to a 750-seat, two-tiered, state-of-the-art performance venue. The stage will be enlarged by about one-third and the set construction area is being expanded.

The area above the stage - the fly loft - will be increased from 30 feet to 65 feet, Young said. Plans call for new men's and women's dressing rooms, a makeup room and a green room with a shower.

A practice room will be built the same size as the proscenium opening - the area between the curtain and the orchestra - so full-scale practices can take place while the stage is being used.

Over twice the fly space from the old performing arts theater! Maleducated children seem to be a small price to pay for that.