“Half the truth is often a great lie.”

 By Arthur Green with Donna Green

Benjamin Franklin said, “Half the truth is often a great lie.” Did he know Rob Collins?

School board representative from Danville, Rob Collins, is the author of the annual Timberlane District Report Card, otherwise know as the Bible of Spin. This document has recently been approved by the School Board, released by the district and promulgated over social media.

Here is the great lie:  “Timberlane has seen continued declining enrollments and with those declines in students there have been proportional declines in teachers, administrators and staff.”  [Page 21 of TRSD Report Card]  This is not true at all. Total staffing has not declined in proportion to falling enrollment, as you shall see.

Mr. Collins has illustrated his great lie in a lovely graph that is no doubt groping to find a cloth by which to cover its embarrassment:

District Report Card page 22 Students and Teachers

This graph shows the number of classroom teachers declining with enrollment. What it doesn’t say is that this is not TOTAL enrollment nor is it TOTAL staffing.  The truth is that TOTAL STAFFING has declined very little while administration has filled the vacuum; furthermore, the enrollment here does not include Pre-K and Kindergarten.

The graph selectively shows classroom teachers plotted against grades 1-12 enrollment. Both of these measures, while true, are far less than half the story. Therein lies the deception.

Let’s start with enrollment.  Here is the district’s enrollment for ALL students, including  Pre-K and K:

Enrollment chart comparison with Report Card page 22

This shows total enrollment (including Pre-K and K) at its peak in 2007/08 year.  The blue bars show grades 1-12 enrollment, matching the graph in the district Report Card.

2007/08 was the first year Kindergarten was offered, resulting in an enrollment increase and the peak of district enrollment.  If the number of teachers decreased from 2006/07 to 2007/08, it was not a response to decline, it was a program reorganization associated with the startup of kindergarten.

Yes, classroom teachers have declined while administration (and support – defined below) has taken up much of the difference:

Staffing composition teachers vs admin

Since 2006/07, a year selected by Mr. Collins, classroom teachers have declined as a percentage of total enrollment by 7.4 percentage points while administration (and support) has grown by 5.2 percentage points – in the context of steep enrollment declines.

Let’s look at the decline in teachers:

Teache staffing comparison with Report Card page 22

The solid line is data as presented on the Report Card.  The dotted line is TOTAL classroom teachers.

When you look at total staffing, our district has not, as Mr. Collins and the district claims, seen “proportional declines in teachers, administrators and staff.”

Total staffing comparison with report card page 22

Classroom teachers have declined somewhat in proportion to the decline in enrollment, but total staffing has hardly changed.

The district’s own report card proves that the teachers are bearing the brunt of protecting the district staffing levels in the face of declining enrollment.  Since 2006/07, the year Mr. Collins and the district chose as its starting point, 69 teachers have been cut while total staffing is down by a mere 11.
This is a telling echo of Deliberative.  Do you remember Dr. Metzler’s response when Kim Farrah of Danville moved to reduce the proposed 2016/17 budget by $300,000 (on $69 million budget).   The Superintendent immediately shot back that this would result in the loss of 6 teachers.  Ah, how we long for the giant red bull’s eye!

This blog has long criticized the bloated overall staffing numbers of the district. In reply, the district has done their best to divert the discussion to teacher numbers.  This dishonest and manipulative tactic is squarely aimed at parents’ natural concern that education should not be put at risk by heedless budget cutting.  Despite the talk, truthful numbers show the administration sacrificing teaching positions first in order to protect the overall staffing level.

 If there had been proportional declines in “teachers, administrators and staff,” then overall staffing of the district in 2015/16 would be 557, not 677.  Here’s how that was calculated:
  • When we had 4,535 students and 688 staff (2006/07), gross student/staff ratio was 6.6
  • Now we have 3,673 students and 677 staff (2015/16), gross student/staff ratio of 5.4
  • If staffing had really declined in proportion with declining enrollment, the student/staff ratio of 6.6 would still hold, which would mean overall staff of 3,673/6.6 = 557 staff.

During the debate for the 2015/16 budget, we argued for a “responsible budget” based on overall staffing of 649.  We were excoriated for advocating Draconian cuts.  Now is there any doubt the district could have operated perfectly well with 649 staff?

Some technical notes:

  • FTE = “full-time equivalent” staff.  All staffing numbers are FTEs.
  • Our source for enrollment numbers is the annual reports, which reproduce the enrollment reported by the district to the DOE at the beginning of October.  The current year has not appeared yet in the annual report, but is posted on Timberlane’s Budget Committee folder on the district web site.
  • Our source for staffing information is the A12B report– these staffing reports are filed by the district with the DOE each October.  Reports covering 2006/07 through 2014/15 are on the district web site.  The 2015/16 report was provided to us in response to a Right to Know request but is not (yet) published by the district online
  • Administration and Support is a grouping in the A12B report which does not include teaching aids but does include:
    • Principals and Vice Principals
    • Guidance
    • Media specialists and Media Aides
    • Clerical
    • Non-teaching professional staff
    • Custodial and maintenance
  • Mr. Collins’ source for enrollment and staffing comes from DOE reports calculating student/teacher ratio.  These figures are not appropriate for the use to which he is putting them and results in a self-serving half-truth. (The DOE’s definition of student/teacher ratio covers only grades 1-12.)
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3 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

3 responses to ““Half the truth is often a great lie.”

  1. Bananarama

    Is there a reason when you graphed admin staff you used %s and not numbers?

  2. Karen A

    I think in your 3rd graph it would be more helpful to include the bars from the original report card (Enrollment Grades 1-12). For example using the first graph that you presented (Total enrollment vs. Grades 1 through 12) and then including the lines for Total Teachers and Teachers 1 through 12. Then you can compare the difference between what Rob presented vs. what you are presenting. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between the original report card and what you are presenting. The original report card states there is a decline in teachers; By you changing your base to TOTAL enrollment you are just using a larger base but it is still showing a decline in teachers (as well as students). I know you are trying to show that based on the ratio that there should be even fewer teachers, however, graphically I think it is showing the same result.

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