‘Us’ v. ‘Them’ at Keystone Central needs to end

here’s a widely recognized quote that says, “There are two types of pains, one that hurts you and the other that changes you.”

Well, in the case of Keystone Central School District’s ongoing and agonizing debate over how to eliminate an $8 million deficit so to balance its 2018-2019 budget, the pains the district is feeling will both hurt and change this district, its staff, students, parents, alumni, taxpayers, the business community and supporters.

This is speculation, but we believe part of the reason that a majority of unionized teachers rejected a one-year pay freeze to save $1 million next fiscal year and possibly save jobs and prevent a school closing is because that would just be a Band-Aid on a much deeper financial wound.

Of course, the other reason is probably mistrust over how the administration and board will spend future funds.

But to the first point: We agree that the Keystone Central School Board must fix its long-term financial problems now and not kick the can down the road.

Who among the reasonable stakeholders of Keystone Central wants to put themselves through annual budget wars that cut jobs and programs and ultimately serve to demoralize everyone?

Having said that, here we are: The school board-administration and the teachers’ union are not doing the best they can together to solve Keystone’s challenges.

As usual, it’s “us” versus “them” at Keystone Central.

The leaders of our local public school system cannot seem find much common ground. Sure, there are instances of cooperation — rewriting curriculum a few years ago is one of them.

But comments and reactions at last Thursday’s finance committee meeting now reflect a vengeful environment.

Nothing positive or productive is going to come out of a war between the school board-administration and the teachers’ union.

For sure, Keystone Central is not unlike many districts across the state and nation.

Spending for education is a perennial battle in Pennsylvania.

There’s always too much focus on money; not enough on how best to invest that money to benefit the students.

And maybe that’s just our point: Sadly, Keystone Central is like all of the other public school districts facing financial woes and morale problems while those in positions of decision-making (who are force-fed one-size-fits-all mandates from the federal and state governments) cannot find a way forward that breeds optimism.

There are so many people here who can’t wait for the day that Keystone Central becomes a huge source of pride, not necessarily because of student achievement or service, but because of real unity of purpose.

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