The following letter was submitted to Radnor Patch by Patricia Booker, Radnor resident and member of the Radnor School Board. Send your letters to be published to Sam.Strike@Patch.com.
An organization with an $83 million annual budget and substantial taxing authority shoulders a huge responsibility to the children and families we serve. We must be data-driven and process-oriented when making decisions. We have proven, over and over, that more money doesn’t make a better education, it just makes it possible. I am supporting Jim Link, David Falcone, Martin Heldring, and Susan Michaelson for School Board. Mr. Link and Mr. Heldring, who were both registered Independents before the primary, were compelled to get involved to ensure true transparency and solid financial planning; Mr. Falcone, is a Radnor alum and a parent of young children who are about to enter our schools , he is driven to make sure Radnor schools are the best they can be; and Ms. Michaelson is an educator with a background in finance and a focus on improving our curriculum, and she has served tirelessly in her first term. They understand we need a process to make data-driven decisions and fund programs that will shape all the students we serve and prepare them as future leaders.
There is no doubt the Radnor School District has been a top performing district for decades, but, as a School Board Director, you have to look below the surface to understand the trends and then evolve programming to ensure we stay a top performing district. Since 2008, 90% or more of our student body, as a whole, has scored proficient or advanced in reading, writing, and math. On the surface, this is great news, but, if you peel the onion back a layer and look at the grade breakdown on that 90% in reading, writing, and math, you will see that, by the time our kids get to 11th grade, while their reading and writing scores are 90% or better, the math scores drop off to the low 80s. Then there is science. Since 2008, only 82% of our student body, as a whole, has scored proficient or advanced in science. By the time our students reach 11th grade their collective science scores hover around 63%. This is unacceptable. Yes, we have had an impressive number of National Merit Scholars over the last few years, and those individual students should be congratulated for their remarkable achievement. The district offers many programs to enable the top performers to be challenged and grow. Our duty as a school board is to make sure all students are challenged and perform at their top potential, and, to do that, you must be willing and able to understand the details in the data and not get caught up in the accolades. We must provide math and science programs that will lift all students. The Republican slate understands that and will use their professional skills to peel back the layers and make data-driven decisions that give our educational programming the support needed while drawing upon methods that are proven to be successful.
When it comes to arithmetic, there is no comparison; the Republican slate is far and away more equipped and willing to understand the business of the district. Their opponents have tried to paint the Republican slate as being only focused on the money because they ask tough questions and demand transparency in the district’s finances. Ms. Michaelson and I spent hours laboring over the reports provided by Administration earlier this month, going back through five years of audit reports and budgets to try to make the numbers add up. But this question was still not answered:“If we only had a $660,000 surplus in the general fund, as presented in the reports from the Administration, then why were we being told we had to designate $4.7 million to new capital projects?” Just before our School Board meeting last Tuesday, our auditor provided the answer…the surplus was really $4.67 million. That’s $4 million higher! This was another unplanned, unneeded surplus, bringing the district up to over $20 million in unplanned surpluses in just five years. Moreover, the district has seen a nearly $7 million increase in spending over just two years. We are spending in certain areas because the majority says we can, not because we should. Ms. Michaelson, Mr. Madden and I all opposed the 3.21% tax increase last year and what we believed was an excessive increase in spending, but we were outvoted 6-3. This year we supported a 4% tax decrease but didn’t have the votes to pass it. We need to stop this over taxation and put in place a financial plan to support our strategic initiatives and properly size the tax increases to support that programming. Most importantly, we need to make sure we properly manage those surpluses and not let the money burn a proverbial hole in the district’s pocket. The Republican slate understands that and will use their financial acumen and professional experience to hold the district accountable for the finances while funding programs that will address the real needs of our student body.