Journey of a Superintendent: In the Eye of the Storm

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of Schools

I believe that part of the work I do is about encouraging the human spirit in every grownup and every child in our organization. I am idealistic enough to believe that with enough effort, we can realize our dreams. I really do believe that, at the end of the day, those of us who commit to evoking the essential goodness of humanity will win out over all those forces that promote evil, selfishness, and the interests of the few over the needs of the many. I guess I am sharing this with you as a reminder to myself that we can do what we need to do, not matter what challenges we face.

We are moving into the season for education in Kansas, that is much like waiting for a strong winter storm to approach. The forecasters are telling us that the economic situation in Kansas is declining. Hearing the projections, we need to be preparing for the worst, bundling up, and staying indoors. As someone who grew up here in Kansas, I’m not afraid of a good storm, and I am preparing to lead this district into the eye of this storm.  The storm will surely come. Every indication is that the State of Kansas can’t afford to continue at its current spending level, continue the current tax cuts, and also meet its obligations.

My question is: “How can we not meet our obligation to our children?” Every decision we make should be to ensure that our children’s education, and their futures, are protected. Now, I want to believe in the goodness of human beings, that we will make the right decisions at the end of the day. Yet I know it won’t be easy. How might we come together to define the quality of life we want in Kansas? Will this quality extend to all, or just to those fortunate enough to live in wealthy communities?

What I worry about is the possibility that our goals, and our hopes and dreams for our kids here in KCK, could be compromised if decisions about school funding are not made to ensure quality education for all students across the state. I know many will say that the money simply is not there. Yes, it is true that we have less revenue, but we do have funds. It’s all in how we choose to use the funds we have available.

I want to believe that no one would choose to balance the state budget on the backs of our children. At the same time, the forecasters are suggesting that school funding may be cut by $330 per student. The reality is that a cut like that would translate, for districts of low wealth, into as much as $633 in cuts, based on the current school finance formula. If decisions are not made that value every child, those who can least afford it will be impacted the most.

We are not in the storm yet, but every indication is that it’s coming. I will share with you in future blog posts, more about what we are doing in KCKPS to prepare ourselves, while protecting the future of our children. I believe my work is to encourage the human spirit. I may need you to encourage mine as the storm draws closer.

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6 Responses to Journey of a Superintendent: In the Eye of the Storm

  1. Erin Gaines says:

    As a current Junior student of Sumner Academy, I can say that I have seen what I would consider signs of the storm that you mention approaching. Some teachers that have taught me or that I’ve seen in the halls have left due to budget cuts, Music classes in risk of becoming smaller or being taken out of Sumner, snack bar during break has been taken out of the school (though I think that was more of a contribution to health improvements which are just as important)…those kinds of things. Hopefully the actual arrival of the storm isn’t too soon in hopes that we as students, and the faculties of the schools and school district have time to prepare.

    Despite our issue regarding money and how it impacts those who do not have much to support those can least afford, I think we will find a good way to support them in education while easing the burn in peoples pockets.
    It may be out of our ability as students who don’t have degrees in teaching, but I would like to present the suggestion that some high school students volunteer some free time to help educate students. This suggestion is mainly directed towards younger stages of school like elementary or middle…but hey! I think high school shouldn’t be out of the question. 🙂 If not core subjects, then maybe some extra-curricular classes…For example, music is something that I believe to be a vital part of a child’s school experience. It gives them an activity to do after school, it teaches them music appreciation, and gives them an outlet for emotions both positive and negative instead of resulting to methods of relieving stress that are not safe or healthy. While not every child and their family can afford (cost-wise) the money to rent/buy an instrument — let alone a music teacher, by volunteering high school students to share their musical knowledge in whichever instrument they know (and maybe even allow the student to play the instrument to get hands-on experience) the child will have had the opportunity to be enriched in music while being cost efficient. Some fixes may need to occur for this plan, but I think it was worth sharing with you. 🙂

    I personally send my feelings of encouragement to you! It doesn’t seem easy to be in such a high position. Reading this post has given me new insight on how I can help my community. Hopefully I am able to contribute to helping educate fellow students in Kansas if not anywhere else in the U.S.

    — Erin.

    • Dr. Lane says:

      Erin,
      I applaud your thinking and suggestions. You are demonstrating courage to make a difference and leadership. Thank you for the suggestions. I challenge others to become involved and join in the work to find solutions.

  2. Collette Chaney says:

    Is this little Erin Gaines from my 2nd grade class at Stony Point North? If it is I am not at all surprised by you! Instead of blame you looked to solve the problem and you made yourself a part of the solution. Bravo! I can’t believe you are a Junior.

  3. Teacher says:

    Many people are worrying about the state cutting education funds, but I think we need to look at how we are spending the money we have. I have been told that millions and millions of dollars are being spent on a program run by outside consultants. I have not spoken to a single teacher or student that has felt benefits from this program. In fact, this program is simply pushing teachers to teach too fast, and dumping more and more testing onto the students.
    The other day, I overheard a teacher complain that she was told to buy more expensive supplies, so that it could be taken out of the right budget.
    I did not write these things just to complain. It just seems like we are wasting the money we have.

    • Dr. Lane says:

      We do need to continue to examine how we are spending all of our resources. We can always improve the decisions we are making. I have learned over the years that it’s important to be sure to examine issues and challenges from multiple perspectives and to validate sources before coming to conclusions about the value of something.

      Standards based instruction is challenging. It’s not a program, but I do understand why it might feel prescriptive. Expectations are ever increasing, with more and more demands for improved results. What’s important is to remember this is our work and our responsibility. If something is not working, how do we make it better? At the end of the day it’s about what our kids need. Our society is asking our kids to know more and more at deeper levels. We may need to have conversations about the amount of time we have with our kids. How might we begin to explore what time is needed to ensure learning occurs at deeper levels and that as professionals we have time to learn and improve our craft? Something to consider. It’s Up to Us.

  4. Another teacher says:

    “I really do believe that, at the end of the day, those of us who commit to evoking the essential goodness of humanity will win out over all those forces that promote evil, selfishness, and the interests of the few over the needs of the many.”

    Bravo!

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