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Best of a broken system

School administrators feel bruised. They feel battered and beaten. They’ve been shoved from one end of the room to the other. Squeezed to the limit and then brought back again.

They’ve been asked for the impossible and then asked to achieve new heights.

In a process that has felt as if it has lasted for years rather than months, the Suffolk Public Schools seem just one step away from a finalized 2010-11 budget – a budget without school closures, without layoffs and without sizeable project cuts.

Earlier this week, the school board approved the new budget, ending a ridiculously long process to budget process that took the battle from Richmond to North Main Street back to Richmond back to North Main Street and has finally wound up in front of the Suffolk City Council.

It is now the council’s responsibility to determine the amount of local support the school system will receive in the coming year. And even though the school budget calls for equal funding from the city as it received last year, leaders are fully prepared for and expecting a least 5 percent less in funding.

Throughout the budget process, we have called on school leaders to make every possible cut before doing anything that would affect the learning experience in the classroom.

We challenged the schools to adopt more businesslike habits to trim the budget rather than trimming staff, arts programs and pre-K curriculums.

We asked them to look at every perk afforded administrators, every thermostat setting and every person assigned with turning out the lights when they left.

And, by the looks of the approved budget, they did just that.

For that we congratulate them and applaud the effort put forth.

But, at the same time, we applaud the effort put forth on the part of the vocal teachers and parents who fought for the quality of education that should be afforded our children.

We congratulate the students who asked that their programs be spared and the everyday citizens who expect Suffolk to lead the way when it comes to education.

While the budget process our schools must go through each year is a broken system — putting too much control of our children’s’ education in the hands of elected leaders who know nothing of education — it did prove the power of public input and the great things that can be accomplished when we have a common goal.