It seems everywhere I go in town, people are mad as hell about Federal Way Public Schools.
This year there is something for everyone. Blood is boiling over superintendent’s $42,000-per-year “performance” raise, the school board’s $80,000-plus travel budget, the poor grades given to our schools by the state, and finally, the arrest of the school board's president.
Last but not least, I recently learned that the Wildwood Elementary staff are, understandably, upset that I suggested their school be closed after receiving an “F” grade.
Unless you’re willing to take action, being mad as hell is only going to result in high blood pressure and maybe an ulcer. Before we form a lynch mob, let’s first get some perspective.
Community ire with FWPS started when it was announced that the superintendent received a $42,000 raise, putting his salary (not including benefits) at $240,000. Rob Neu is now tied for second highest paid superintendent in the state, despite being the eighth largest district and ranking 129th in test scores.
While Neu’s salary may seem absurd, you would be hard-pressed to find a CEO of a company with $204 million of revenue who isn’t being paid significantly more than Neu. On the other hand, the governor oversees a budget of $32 billion for a “mere” $166,000 salary.
Just as this fire was getting started, the community realized that the superintendent and school board will be spending some $80,000 to travel the world. Ignoring that one of the country’s top education consultants lives in Federal Way, or that the Gates Foundation is just up the road, the school board decided that the grass was greenest outside of the U.S.
In fairness to the school board, $80,000 represents just 0.04 percent of the district’s annual budget. This would be similar to a family earning $100,000 and spending $40 on a couple of self-help books. On the other hand, you could almost hire two teachers with the school board’s travel budget.
If these two items weren’t enough to sharpen the pitchforks, school board president Tony Moore was arrested on charges of felony theft. In my mind, this is a non-issue. If he is found guilty, I’ll be the first to demand his resignation. Until proven guilty, Moore is innocent and should be treated as such.
If you’re still mad as hell, I suggest one or more of the following actions:
• Volunteer at your local school
• Write a letter to the editor
• Actively support school board candidates who are running against an incumbent
In addition to these actions, perhaps it is time to start our own charter school. With no disrespect to the fine teachers and administrators in our district (including those at Wildwood Elementary), our current system is broken. While charter schools are hardly a miracle cure, we might get better results than the trips to Europe. If this is an idea that you are interested in supporting, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If there is enough support, we can put together a couple of community meetings to pursue this idea.
Either way, posting on Facebook — even if you post in ALL CAPS — doesn’t do a damn thing. If you’re angry about Federal Way Public Schools, do something about it. Otherwise, find some Tums and ask your doctor to check your blood pressure.