Tag Archives: purpose

Public Information (and a new blog address)

This is a modified version of the post I left on my previous blog site —

After several suggestions from folks around the state, I am relocating my commentary and efforts to this site  from  http://TESD2009.wordpress.com  Asking Questions of School Boards (TESD). 
WHY? Because an address of TESD2009 is too local a name for the broad issue of school spending. While I live here, and was a member of the TESD board for 3 terms, this blog is not meant to be narrowly focused on TE.

TE does a great job. Don’t get my scrutiny confused with criticism. Having said that, however, I was somewhat appalled (confused, really) at a Public Information meeting this past week when the Board’s president Betsy Fadem said that TE wants to be first in education, but not transparency. Board member Debbie Bookstaber, along with Karen Cruikshank and Pat Wood did not seem to agree with this assessment. Caution in what to disclose is prudent, but openly suggesting that we aren’t about disclosure is something else.  I pointed out the denials I had received in my request for open records — and the charge I was asked to pay for a copy of the TE Teacher’s Contract ($9 for 36 pages scanned — in random order — which apparently means that our Administration does not have an electronic word copy of our major negotiation document).

Consistent with that hesitation about transparency however, the Board’s president had summoned a presentation (a paid presentation) by the District’s solicitor at this same meeting, attended by all of 3 members of the public.  Not that I don’t enjoy hearing a legal presentation on Open Records, but there was no decision to be made at this meeting, and paying several hundred dollars for his appearance  just in case a question came up seems a bit wasteful. Mr. Roos had prepared a memorandum on the topic and distributed it to the audience. That seemed to have been sufficient for the process, and his presence may have been a bit unnecessary as billable time. (Note that the District’s Open Records Officer and the Superintendent were not present at the meeting — perfectly customary in this case as the administration was well represented by other staff, but if the Board felt that the Solicitor needed to be present, perhaps they might have ensured additional administrative support).

So — welcome to my new site.  I have stopped posting on TESD2009 (for now anyway) and will try to follow the request of some of my followers — to advise readers about school spending and what kinds of questions you might ask of your own board (while examining my own local board’s budget and process.)

 

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Jan 19, 2009 Getting Started

eagle-graphic1I am not in a good mood right now, but with the loss of the Eagles today, I now have time to focus on this blog — something I have considered for several months. I am a former 3-term member of the TE Board of School Directors, and I’m doing this blog to share my observations and conclusions about the current operation of the District. I believe the current board is working hard, but does not seem to be asking enough questions (public deliberation) about the recommendations from Administration that are becoming policy.

T-E is a very successful program — and I have no interest in tearing it down. I think it’s a rightful source of community pride. I believe the School Board today and in my time work hard to get things done and to elevate the level of discourse in the community. My motivation, however, comes from a the “tax to the cap” mentality that is bearing down on all school boards. It’s turning into an artificial floor rather than a ceiling. It does not tell the story of the increase in expenditures, which up to now has gone well beyond the cap. But those are details that will follow. This is just an introduction to why I’m doing this.

I encourage you to comment and share information that you have. I have made a formal request to the district for information on salaries, benefits, contracts, retirement contributions, capital budgets, fund balance and investment capital. I look forward to sharing that information with the public as I review and analyze it.

Thanks for stopping by. I don’t expect this to be a forever blog — but I hope it will be useful during budget seasons and as T-E reacts to a dramatically changing economic climate.

Please indulge me as I close with a quotation. I share it as a cautionary tale, not as a conclusion or a prediction:

The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato