A dramatic, emotion-filled video accompanied the Erie School District’s announcement Wednesday which proposes numerous program cuts and the possible closure of all city high schools.
Erie’s Public Schools coordinator of community relations, Daria Devlin, said Thursday the video was produced in-house by their Instructional Media Department.
Devlin clarified speculation that the video was made to coincide specifically with Wednesday’s announcement, saying the district produced the video three months ago and “have been waiting; we were not sure ourselves when the right moment would be but [Wednesday], it just was clear that the community was paying attention and people wanted to know more. So, it was the perfect moment to put that out there and let people see exactly what we were talking about.”
“Putting that message to the pictures of the reality of the buildings, it just immediately came together like that,” said Devlin, who disagrees with the suggestion that the video or high school closure proposals were a ploy for headlines. “In no way was that grandstanding; it was simply an idea that we are out of options. In spending so much time over these past years looking at our internal finances, we haven’t paid much attention to what we were getting from the state and whether or not that was fair. For about the past 25 years, we have not been fairly funded by the state and so very, very slowly over that time, it has grown and grown and grown to that inequity that we now have no ability to fix our buildings ourselves.”
Devlin said the video has extended beyond Erie, even reaching Harrisburg.
“It did wake everyone up and it made everybody pay attention; so it just was the right moment to really show them the reality and as I said, if you’re not in our buildings, you really don’t understand what a crumbling school building looks like,” said Devlin.
Former state senator and current attorney, Buzz Andrezeski, commended the district on the video’s production and appeal.
However, Andrezeksi calls the district’s proposal to close high schools and cut programs, mere “scare tactics”, suggesting that a democratic city like Erie with democratic state legislators, should have more input and clout with Pennsylvania’s democratic governor.
“You have people that don’t even know how the education funding formula works to derive the per student costs in Erie,” said Andrezeski. “The end problem is you have to have people who know how to negotiate a formula that helps the Erie School District. If you can’t even go and see a governor of your own party to be included in a final draft, then there is something wrong. I don’t think we should be using scare tactics on all of the citizens of Erie or closing all of your high schools.”
The Erie School Board is expected to vote on a proposed final budget for 2016-2017 Wednesday, May 25.