Hard Choices: Belpre City Schools must weigh options

As has happened for many years, in nearly every school district with fiscal challenges, changing demographics and concerned, involved parents, there is an uproar in Belpre over proposed reductions in force — and the specific positions that may be at risk.

And while it would be wonderful to simply employ as many quality teachers and other school personnel as desired by administrators who want to provide only the best education and safest environment for our kids, the hard truth is those administrators have to find a way to provide the learning environment our kids deserve, with less.

We do not live in a wealthy, highly populated region. Belpre City Schools are at the mercy of a mind-bogglingly outdated state school funding formula (with prospects for change on that front dimming by the day).

Though proponents of keeping as many on the district’s payroll as possible point to the passage of last year’s $1.5 million-a-year emergency operating levy, Superintendent Jeff Greenley is correct in reminding them that even at the time there remained challenges in finding the right staffing level while addressing concerns in a performance audit conducted by the state, and the state funding formula.

Belpre residents were warned a year ago.

“We want to make sure we show sound fiscal stewardship in the way we allocate those resources (from the levy) while we continue the conversation with our stakeholders on what we want our organization to become,” Greenley said.

It is an important conversation, but one in which no one must pretend we have all the money in the world to throw at the school district’s challenges; nor must we pretend we can avoid difficult decisions about staffing and programs.

By all means, if proposed RIFs are a concern to you, attend the meeting at 5 p.m. May 20. But go with the understanding that change for the better is not always easy; does not always look as we wish it would. And go with as much willingness to listen as determination to simply have your voice heard.

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