Learning to say "No!"

I'm not good at saying no. I like to give people what they need and support them in whatever way I can.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

I'm not good at saying no. I like to give people what they need and support them in whatever way I can. This particular philosophy works fine when you're volunteering at a bake sale, but not as well when it's budgeting time.

These are only our first passes at budgets for FY10, but we know that our outlook for state and local aid is fairly dismal. If we're level-funded, we'll be very lucky. Of course, level-funding translates to programmatic or staff cuts given contracted salary increases, rising health care costs, etc. So as people come to me with their technology wish lists, I have to say no.

The problem is that we've been pretty lean for a lot of years in this district; the last two years have seen an influx of technology money, but really only enough to keep us competitive with other districts in our area. Suffice to say, our technology programs are in their infancy. That being said, people have learned to ask for very little and only what they can justify fairly easily. Often, we can find less expensive alternatives, but the need for particular hardware or software remains.

This year, in my first year as technology director and during the only year of the last three in which money for technology will be quite scarce, I need to learn to say no. I'm not exactly saying no to Alienware laptops and DJ equipment. I'm asking if special education departments really need dictation software to accommodate physical disabilities or if we really need to purchase headphones to work with literacy software.

In a way, though, it would be easier if there was absolutely no technology money. However, the district has made a commitment to technology integration, even during tough times, so there is some money to continue expanded instructional use of computers and devices. If there was nothing to be had, then I could just say no to everyone. You can't squeeze blood from a rock, as they say.

However, since some money is floating about, I have to make tough decisions based on critical needs within the district or based on long-term planning and goals, many of which may not be perceived as equitable.

This is why they hired me, of course. Someone needs to ensure that requirements are being satisfied and the maximum number of students benefit from our initiatives. It's never easy saying no, though, to a well-justified reasonable request.

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