Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 11, 2011

Mid-week furlough day? Puh-lease

It’s time for another round-up of items that make me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable puh-lease.

I’m shaking my head over the way the Morgan Hill Unified School District handled a furlough day, which it is calling a “non-instructional” day.

Empty Classroom from the Flickr photostream of Max Klingensmith's Photostream

The state of California, due to education funding cuts, allowed school districts to reduce the number of school days in a school year from 180 to 175. MHUSD’s board of trustees voted to impose a furlough or “non-instructional” day on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and might impose another one in March.

I understand that GUSD is considering imposing furlough days, and if it does go ahead, will likely simply end the school year a few days early.

I understand the school districts’ budget woes and am not taking issue with decisions to reduce the number of school days. Instead, I’m concerned about two things: the short notice for MHUSD parents and the placement of a furlough day in the middle of the week.

MHUSD trustees approved Tuesday, Oct. 4, as furlough day at their Sept. 13 board meeting. I received an automated call about the furlough day on Sept. 26, the first I heard about it. Fortunately, my only school-age child is old enough that she doesn’t need day care if school is closed. But that’s not the case for every parent.

Working parents of young children could very well need more than eight days notice to either arrange for time off work or for alternate day care plans.

Moreover, I’m concerned that the school district’s decision to put the furlough day in the middle of the week maximized the negative effect of the furlough day on student learning. The start-stop-start of the week of Oct. 3 had to impede learning and retention.

This suspicious choice of days was the subject of a recent Morgan Hill Times Red Phone question. Superintendent Wes Smith explained that MHUSD placed the furlough day on a Tuesday “because we did not want our community to misconstrue our purpose. We are not trying to create a three-day weekend for students and employees. We are taking painful, necessary actions to operate within our means as a result of state under-funding.”

Pardon my eye roll.

What purpose? To make the furlough day as painful to parents as possible? If so, mission accomplished, and I hope it doesn’t backfire when the district goes to the community to ask for a parcel tax or other financial support, as many expect it to do.

However, if the MHUSD’s purpose is to protect the educational experience of students, as it ought to be, it missed with this furlough day decision. I suggest that trustees and administrators look to their counterparts in Gilroy for a much better example of how to handle these unfortunately necessary furlough days.

•••

I’m rolling my eyes over the furor in Gilroy over the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau’s decision sell retail items at its welcome center in the Gilroy Premium Outlets.

The complaints I’ve seen center on the idea that the government should not “compete” with private business and that because the Gilroy Visitor Bureau receives some funding from the city of Gilroy, it ought not to sell retail items in its location.

First, let’s congratulate the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau on a location that has already dramatically increased the number of people it reaches.

Second, I dispute the notion that it should not “compete” with business. We have public schools and private schools, public hospitals and private hospitals, public recreation facilities and private recreation facilities. The argument that the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau should be barred from any fundraising activity that competes with Gilroy businesses is poppycock. The more that the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau can be self-supporting, and need less public funding, the better.

Third, I can’t think of better way to tempt outlet shoppers into the welcome center than with items to browse and purchase. How attractive are desks and literature stands to shoppers? While shoppers are browsing, they’re learning more about Gilroy’s many tourist attractions. And isn’t the ultimate goal of the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau to get the word out about hidden treasures scattered throughout Gilroy and South Valley?

Local businesses should applaud the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau for its smart new location and creative approach to informing more people about Gilroy’s many charms. Complaining to City Hall about a creative agency that’s working to improve the service it offers and potentially reduce its cost to the city? Puh-lease.

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