In response to last week’s articles covering the proposed Puntledge closure and the school district’s budget issues, I have framed this as an open letter.
Gloom has prevailed since Supt. Demeo’s “recommendation” to close Puntledge led the public to think the deal is done. But that decision rests with you, our seven trustees on March 15, and I don’t envy your chair. Closing a school is a painfully short-sighted stopgap which will create more financial problems than it solves. And Demeo’s rejection of viable options (like moving NIDES into Lake Trail to preserve its amenities) demands an explanation. If a backroom land deal was waiting in the wings and you didn’t act to safeguard our childrens’ futures, that would be unforgivable.
Plus, our top admin positions aren’t “forever jobs” with pay increases for eternity! While headcounts declined over a decade, admin salaries kept rising to an average of $100K plus $25K in benefits. Elwood came in as Supt. at $125K, leaving with $155K or greater. But anyone can be given notice, and padding our district with high-end positions isn’t normal, it’s negligent.
There’s fear that losing Puntledge will destabilize our neighbourhood. There’s anger at the lack of leadership and at those who think reducing services year after year won’t affect their lives. But the community has raised valuable alternatives. Over four months, Keep Puntledge at Puntledge parents gathered 1,600 signatures, made videos (7,000 views), wrote letters, postcards and a website (SavePuntledge.com) and above all, crunched numbers. We urge you to act for our future growth, and we encourage the public to say as much at our Town Hall at Puntledge on March 8.
Small districts like ours are in a battle for their lives, and need win-win solutions to resist the vendetta against public education. You, the trustees, have the power to get us out of this mess. You must put your heads together in wiseness and fairness, and make yourselves heroes for educational justice.