Lack of communication between the State School Board and local boards often leads to misunderstandings, as well as difficulty in implementing programs, local officials say.
The board met Thursday with school officials from Beaver, Iron, Washington, Kane and Garfield counties to allow local representatives to discuss local grievances.Steve Adams, president of the Iron County Board of Education, listed several concerns, and he criticized the dissension among state board members themselves.
"You're entitled to your differences," Adams said, "but after a vote, you should unite behind your decision." Adams said differences among state board members are being circulated through the educational grapevine.
The local school officials included among their concerns:
- Teacher certification. Requirements that teachers be certified in the academic field in which they teach have left many small districts scrambling to fill positions. Officials suggested the criteria be loosened to help small districts meet their staffing needs.
- The block grant program. Districts are concerned that "no-strings-attached" money being experimented with could become "meat on the table" in negotiations with district personnel. The officials also feared that if the block grant program is implemented statewide, the Legislature would change its mind and withdraw the block-grant option. (Six districts are making plans to receive about 10 percent of their funding in a block grant with no specific requirements.)
- Alteration of school competition classifications. School superintendents complained that the Utah School Activities Association has usurped decisions that should rest with the districts. The association should be answerable to a higher authority, probably the state board.
- Consolidating school districts. The small districts do not want to be forced to consolidate. Small populations and great distances create particular problems with consolidation and would dilute public input.
The local districts also complained about funding, particularly reductions in budgets that have already been implemented. Washington County Superintendent Steve Peterson spoke for the group in saying, "We're in a survival business. I don't know that we've ever been in a tougher spot. We're not in a position to take on new ideas. We're just trying to survive."
The state board could help the small districts survive by keeping paperwork at a minimum, analyzing the effects of new programs before they are implemented and not expecting districts to pick up expensive pilot programs that have been tested on a small scale.