Does the Great Falls Public School system need a sober coach?

The school district’s affliction is addiction. It is addiction to the status quo. Addiction, no matter what form it takes, tears families, communities, and yes, education systems apart.

What is addiction and how does it affect the community when it strikes the GFPS school district?

Shahram Heshmat, PhD, and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, defines addiction as a “diminished capacity to choose”, where poor decision-making “reflects the interaction of two distinct decision systems in conflict with each other”; the deliberative (goal-directed), and the automatic (habit-based system). “Addiction is a consequence of perturbed balance in favor of the automatic system”.

Do you see habitual decisions to continually seek operational levies from taxpayers by school district administrators? Why are additional funds needed every single year to meet over-budget requirements?

One answer is that with declining enrollment numbers, and with fixed, or growing infrastructure costs the school district gets less than it needs from State tax allocations.

You have no doubt heard the much advertised “80/20” revenue rule for school districts; 80% from the State and 20% from local property owners. The reference is totally misleading. The State places limits on school district base budgets and also the amount for levies that are used to make up deficiencies above base budgets. It is meant to limit the burden on taxpayers by school districts that are living beyond their means.

But the serious addiction problem is further compounded by an absence of leadership on the part of school administrators. Have you witnessed any evidence that these are creative, innovative, out-of-the-box problem solvers?

The only thing you can be sure of is that they are addicted to their over-the-top salaries, taxpayers be damned.

We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency by a school administration which habitually tells us that it’s only more money that will keep the education system in Great Falls afloat.

We must not believe that our best days are over, and that we need to accept mediocrity for a district that was once the envy of the State.

We cannot reward failure when it comes to correcting the trajectory of an unsustainable part of our community — education. Paying school district administrators more will not help, it will only make interdiction harder and change less likely.

Will we be sober coaches, or will we be enablers?

Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

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One Reply to “Addiction”

  1. Seems each new superintendent comes with another raise on top of the most recent raise for the outgoing super from a few months ago..NOW GETS ANOTHER. WOW. I VOTE FOR FAIR RAISES SFTER YOU PROVE YOUR ABILITY. Not on the back of another off cycle raise of a formerly super. Some where there has to be a performance to actually get a change in this system……


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