Honor teachers, staff members all of next week

In Durango, our community is fortunate to have a team of dedicated teachers and staff members.

The week of May 6 marks Teacher Appreciation Week across the U.S. I encourage that this recognition include all staff members who work in schools, as all school staff members are critical to our kids’ success. I find this a perfect opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are in Durango. During the last 10 months, I’ve met teachers from the Durango district, Animas High School, Mountain Middle School and many of our private schools around town. There is no doubt that Durango children are in great hands!

I can cite numerous stories of our staff members’ deep commitment in the Durango district. As I talk to students around the district, what never fails is the mentioning of one of our staff members who has made a huge difference in their lives. In the coming week, it is especially important that all parents and students thank staff members for a “Job well done!”

Recently, there’s been some coverage of budget discussions in Durango. The challenges of school finance require that the district continue to examine its financial sustainability under its current practices. The newspaper reported a discussion around the proportion of staffing costs within our budget. I want to be clear that books and materials do not teach our kids and cause increased outcomes. Teachers and support staff members do have a direct effect. My commitment is to manage this difficult financial situation to ensure that we not be put in a situation where the hard work of staff members is not recognized through appropriate pay increases. Durango voters supported 3A a few years ago allowing us to adjust our pay scale to keep and attract quality teachers for our kids.

There is a perception that staff cuts are once again taking place in Durango. The district has gone through a few years of deep cuts, having to restructure and eliminate programs. We are fortunate that this year does not find us in such a position. Our efforts have been focused on closely analyzing the needs of the district and making any necessary cuts as far away from students as possible. There are positions in the district that, when analyzed, are not having the positive impact on our students’ academic success. In some cases, those positions are being eliminated to facilitate effective service delivery and allow greater investment in areas that do directly serve students. Most of these position cuts have been handled with retirements or resignations. With the shifting of some job duties, there is talk that “programs” are being eliminated. Again, the focus is to ensure that the right resources are in place to serve all students. It is unfortunate that change can bring discomfort and sometimes panic. In the end, the question must be: Will students be better served as a result of the changes being made?

As we engage in budget conversations, I ask our community to join the discussion. At 6 p.m. May 8 at Needham Elementary School, we will host a second opportunity to discuss our 2013-14 budget.

As always, please send comments or ideas to DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.

Dan Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District.

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