Day 2: Kathryn

Although I had a great time with everything we did today, my highlight was the role play that dealt with budgets and decisions in the public school system. When we returned from an imformative meeting with Martha Pelligrino, head Director of Government Relations for Portland, we broke into small groups and were thrown into a challenging simulation. We were told that a certain school district was $600,000 in debt, and we had to provide a way to come up with the money, and present out solution to the school board. We were given data about the number of schools in the district and their performance level, the salaries of certain teaching positions, and the number of employees per position within each school. My group brainstormed for a while, before realizing that there was no “right” answer. We knew that we didn’t want to close any of the schools, so we had to find alternate ways to get the district out of debt.We decided to start by letting go two out of four Vice Principles from each of the three high schools. We still did have the $600,000, so we had to also lay off two custodians from one of the other schools. There were many consequences of laying off the teachers to think about. We thought of ways to compensate for the Vice Principles, such as having class advisors for students. To replace the custodians, we came up with the idea of having the students work for a few minutes each day to clean up their school. Although these were sufficient plans, we felt very badly about laying off the teachers. We decided to let them know with enough warning so that they would have time to find a new job. After we had sorted out the details of our proposal, we presented to the school board.
This simulation taught me how difficult it is to be making these types of decisions, and how there is often not an answer that will satisfy everything and everyone. It was extremely hard to lay people off, even in role play, but there did not seem to be a better option. I also learned to work with my peers in a way that was quite new to me. Overall, this activity was an exciting and fun way to learn more about the school system and the tough decisions that must sometimes be made.

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