Editorial — Budget should determine school boundaries

We won’t say the Rochester public schools are engaged in a three-front war. But it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of challenges ahead for the school board, administrators and teachers.

People have wondered aloud why President-elect Barack Obama would even want the job that lies ahead of him. The same thing probably could be said of Superintendent Romain Dallemand, his staff and the school board.

For starters, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that if the district actually cuts $10 million from its budget for the 2009-2010 school year, jobs will be lost. We won’t speculate about the number, but in a budget crisis seven years ago, 75 full-time teachers were cut, as were a similar number of the paraprofessionals who play an important role in the classroom.

If anything approaching that number of job cuts occurs this time, the pain will be very real, both for those who lose their jobs and for those who are left to cope with the bigger class sizes that will result.

Further complicating matters is the fact that these budget cuts come at a time when the district needs to be doing more than holding its own. Our school system has invested significant time and resources in an effort to improve student performance, which is hard enough to do even in the best of circumstances. Teachers are only human, and concerns about possible staff reductions won’t do much for morale.


Meanwhile, hundreds of families await a final decision on changes to the district’s attendance boundaries. Among the most significant possibilities is the shifting of the Montessori program from Ben Franklin Elementary in southeastern Rochester to Sunset Terrace on the northwest side. It’s also possible that Gage East Elementary, which needs nearly $3 million in repairs and mold-abatement work, may close.

The discussions about budget cuts and boundary changes are taking place on somewhat parallel planes, and obviously, we would prefer that most parents and students are content with where they end up going to school.

But budgetary considerations should play a significant role — perhaps the primary role — in the final decision on attendance boundaries. If one of the four plans under consideration offers financial advantages in terms of transportation, maintenance costs and efficient use of staff, then that option should move to the top of the list.

That might mean some students won’t attend their school of choice. But in this situation, there are no win-win solutions.

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