Other Voices: Perspectives on education cuts and student suspensions | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Perspectives on education cuts and student suspensions

Education and schools are hot topics in our community. Lately, this newspaper has carried a number of articles and letters to the editor on local and state issues that have generated strong reactions and much discussion. In my role as superintendent of the local high school district, I feel a responsibility to offer my perspective on those issues.

On the state level, The Union has covered the dramatic budget cuts proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger that will negatively impact schools and numerous other public-supported agencies. I appreciate the efforts by the reporters and the editor of this newspaper as they have written about the effect these cuts will have on our schools. I want our community to know what our district is doing in response.

Our board of trustees passed a resolution at its last meeting that calls on the governor to take steps to ensure adequate funding for public education. Our district leadership team has been working tirelessly to identify ways to reduce our local budget by $1.75 million while still preserving programs that are essential to our students and our community. Hiring freezes and staff layoffs will occur, class sizes will grow and spending reductions will be identified.

We have been open in this process, meeting with our teachers and staff members across the district to inform them of the implications of the budget crisis and to solicit their input in finding solutions. Many good, cost-saving suggestions have been made, including energy conservation measures and a reduction in photocopier costs. We plan to continue to identify ways to limit our costs while maintaining quality programs for our students.

I am asking this community to become a part of our planning process by sharing your thoughts and suggestions with me at the e-mail address below. I also encourage you to take action on behalf of all of our schools by communicating your concerns to the governor and other elected officials in Sacramento. Our kids did not create this budget crisis, and I do not want to see an unfair share of the solution placed on their backs by cutting support for our public schools.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and your suggestions on the development of our budget and also for letting your voice be heard in Sacramento.

On a more local level, I would like to offer my perspective on the situation involving the student/athletes suspended for violating our District Athletic Code at Bear River High School. We must remember that while these young women and men (there were also some male students involved) exercised poor judgment by drinking alcohol at a party, they have also paid the consequences. They have learned an important lesson. They now deserve to be allowed to put this episode behind them and to proceed with their education and their lives without further stigma or persecution from their classmates or the larger community.

Teenage drinking is a serious problem, and the dangers created by teenage drinking and driving are potentially disastrous. As a community, we must send a strong message to our young people that we value them too highly to turn a blind eye to the problem. It is our responsibility to support all efforts intended to discourage teen drinking and the practice of “social hosting” by adults.

But I would caution others (especially students in our schools) to avoid any negative words or actions that target the student/athletes from Bear River High School involved in this particular incident. It is time to look to the future, finish another exciting school year and start making plans for next year’s basketball season.

Bear River is a great school with many rich traditions, including its girls basketball team. It is up to the young women who will be a part of next year’s team to accept their role as the ones who will build on the successes of the past and write the next great chapter in that history. I wish them all the very best.

Ralf Swenson is the superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District and can be reached at rswenson@njuhsd.com.

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