View Poll Results: Do You Agree?

Voters
1. You may not vote on this poll
  • Yes

    1 100.00%
  • No

    0 0%
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 24

Thread: An Open Letter to the School Committee

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    275

    Default An Open Letter to the School Committee

    Folks:

    At least one resident has contacted each of you notating several questions about the proposed budget. The citizens of Wayland deserve answers to her questions. They deserve to know why Dr. Burton is not being held accountable for cutting areas furthest away from our students instead of, as he notes, skillfully dismantling our schools. IT IS YOUR JOB to actively question the administrators and demand accountability, not simply to let them handle it and put your faith in the idea that they are doing the best they can. You are the elected voice of all residents, not an extension of the paid staff.

    Below is a repeat of her list of questions. While I cannot be at tomorrow night's hearing, I look forward to understanding from those who are attending how you respond.

    -Jeff Baron


    The Questions

    1) The Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent each have a secretary (LI 1210/02 and 1220/02). Can one be shared between them? Additionally, under LI 1230/01 "District-Wide Administration", the cost in "Salaries Professional" is $51,000 in 2009 and then jumps to $215,000 the following year. I am assuming this increase captures the salary for the addition of the new WSCP Director. Clearly the addition of this position has not resulted in the assumption of any of the responsibilities previously captured under LI 1230/02, "Salaries Secretarial and Clerical", as this number remains unchanged. This does not make sense. Surely the addition of the WSCP Director negates the need for someone captured in the previous budget, as the responsibilities for this newly created position are not all entirely new. I believe a reduction in LI 1230/02 is called for under these circumstances.

    Could you also please consider consolidating at least two of the secretarial and clerical positions captured under all subdivisions of LI 1200, "District Administration", and LI 1400, "Finance and Administrative Services"… which currently total nearly $400,000… to enable the highest priority staff/pupil ratio to remain unchanged? I strongly believe that more cuts in the administration must be carefully considered BEFORE we cut teachers, as the teachers are the critical link to the success of our students. This consideration has clearly gone unnoticed in Dr. Burton's "FY'11 Personnel Reductions and Additions" budget recommendations.

    2) "Curriculum Directors" versus "Department Heads" versus "Instructional Coordinators/Team Leaders"… budgeting is included for all three categories. Can one individual do the job of all? Why would a Department Head need a Curriculum Director? Is there a strong reason why the 'head' could not also direct the curriculum? Please consider some consolidation of responsibilities in this area.

    3) Under "Professional Development Stipends, Providers, Expenses" why is the LI 2357/06 "Other Expenses" budgeted for $173,000? Could this be broken out further to disclose what we are spending all this "other" money on? Perhaps a savings could be realized here as well if we had more details.

    4) The cost for LI 2800/01, titled "Psychological Services", is $642,000. Is this the cost for outside contracted services through Human Relations Service (HRS) in Wellesley, MA? If not, what is the cost to the district for that contract annually? Also, have we ever considered asking for competitive bids for these services from other contractors (perhaps we could determine what our peer districts are paying for such outside services and with whom they contract these services)?

    Please also keep in mind that psychological services are covered by most health plans. Perhaps we could consider that should a parent request the school to provide for such outside counseling services, we would review the request. Truthfully, most families incur this cost through their health plans and we should look carefully at phasing out the current depth of services in this area unless required by law from families seeking such services through our SPED department.

    Additionally, the Middle School budget has a disproportionately high allocation of dollars for "Guidance/Psychologist" services in consideration of the enrollment. Understandably, the budget for the Guidance Department at the High School is considerably more expensive as they cover a very broad range of services to students… including the very time consuming college selection process… but please consider that Claypit Hill school services only 20 fewer students than the Middle School with two guidance/psychologist professionals.

    Guidance ($601,000)/Psychological services ($153,000) @ the HS = total $754,000/ enrollment 896
    ($841. per student)
    Guidance/Psychological services @ the MS = total $306,000/ enrollment 639
    ($472. per student)
    Guidance ($74,000)/Psychological services ($55,000) @ Happy Hollow = total $129,000/ enrollment 417
    ($309. per student)
    Guidance/Psychological services @ Claypit = total $174,000/ enrollment 609
    ($286. per student)
    Guidance/Psychological services @ Loker = total $9,000/ enrollment 160
    ($56. per student)

    Dr. Burton's Budget Message to the School Committee speaks of increasing class sizes at the Middle School in point #5, however if we are placing the highest budgetary priority on staff/pupil ratios to minimize the impact on student learning, shouldn't the psychological services cost at the Middle School be reduced before simply increasing class sizes, which would more directly impact the education of our students? I would strongly advocate for a cut in psychological services through HRS in Wellesley, MA and the Middle School before we cut teachers and teaching assistants. The result from such cuts would have far less of an impact to students than the cuts that Dr. Burton has proposed.

    5) Under LI 3300/03 "Student Transportation Services"… "Salaries Other" increased by $12,000 for FY11. Why such a huge increase? Can this line item remain flat?

    6) Under LI 3510/04 "Athletic Services"… what is covered under the "Contract Services" for $133,000? Perhaps more detail might yield savings ideas?

    7) Under LI 4110/01 "Custodial Services", why did the budget for "Professional Salaries" increase from $35,000 to $108,000? I would certainly advocate that this line item remain flat and teachers or teaching assistants be restored. I'd rather have a dusty school than an understaffed school.

    8) Under LI 4110/06 "Custodial Services", the actual amount for "Other Expenditures" in FY '09 is $23. FY'11 is budgeted for $95,000. Can you please provide more detailed information with regard to the dramatic increase in this line item expense? Again… increases in areas other than education negate our ability to retain our most valuable assets, the teachers.

    9) Under LI 4230/04 "Maintenance of Equipment", the actual costs have been historically low… around $12,000… but FY'11 is budgeted for $50,000. Is there a reason this line item will more than quadruple? Unless there is a great necessity, I hope we might consider keeping this line item flat for next year (and there's nothing wrong with reductions in some of these areas as well)!

    10) The cost for all line items under the title LI 4000 "Operation of Maintenance and Plant", totals nearly $3. million dollars annually. Would you consider budgeting for an independent audit from an outside firm to address this area of the budget and provide you with important data that could impact future spending? Such an audit should pay for itself through the innovative cost-cutting solutions it would provide for your consideration and implementation (the Selectmen proposed an audit of the Assessor's office recently and I think they are quite pleased with the insight they received).

    Currently, I am certain that no one on the School Committee or in the Administration can claim an expertise in such a complex area of management as plant maintenance. An independent, outside audit is critical to obtain an objective perspective and yield fruitful considerations for future contemplation (my uncle works for Joe DeNucci, our State Auditor, and he said municipalities often contact their office for recommendations of independent firms who conduct such audits… so please let me know if I can be of any help in this area).

    11) In the document titled "FY'11 Budget, Personnel Reductions and Additions" there are two line items under "New Positions or Incremental Additions to FY'11 Budget" adding more than $60,000. to the budget for SPED Teaching Assistants for Children's Way? Is their enrollment changing? Why is such an increase needed?

    12) A significant part of the budget is allocated to Co-Curricular Stipends and Coaching Stipends. Would the SC ever consider soliciting town residents who wish to volunteer their time for free to cover these positions first… before paying stipends to teachers? Many residents are just as qualified, if not more qualified in some cases, to coach or lead extracurricular activities? The savings could offset the need for some budget cuts to teachers and teaching assistants.

    In closing, I hope you will carefully consider that of the 45 cuts proposed to personnel in the FY'11 budget, totaling $1,0161,027 and outlined below for your easy reference, only one cut… for $22,521… will be made to an area other than one that will directly impact student learning or protect the current student/pupil ratio. There were seemingly no reductions that could be realized to administrative positions or their support positions in the Central Office or even proposals to consolidate custodial positions before recommendations were made that will indeed dismantle the quality of education in our schools.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    117

    Default Excellent!

    Thanks for sharing this Jeff B. (And finding out about stuff like this is why eNews is so cool!)

    Who wouldn’t support what this woman proposes, she's asking: “Aren’t there places to economize that don’t directly impact the children’s educational experience?” (And proposes it in such detail!) Or rather, to prioritize the educational harm, cutting the least harmful first? Seems straight forward.

    But, cynically, and honestly, isn’t it standard operational procedure for our government to always cut the most harmful first? Always, it’s the policemen, firemen, schools, etc. that get cut first. I’ve always seen it as a kind of threat. “If you people don’t give us the money we want, we’ll cut the things you’ll feel the most first.”

    I think this is a reasonable analysis, and the woman’s questions/proposal makes this explicit.

    So what’s a citizen to do?

    Jeff B., do you really want us all to vote? I suppose you do since the ballot is there. Do I suppose you just click one of the buttons? Guess we’ll see.

    Thanks again, and say thanks to the woman too!

    donBustin@verizon.net

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Default Not sure what the question is...

    I'm not quite sure what we're being asked to vote on. Do we agree that such questions warrant an answer (my vote: YES!). Do we agree that the implications of each is correct (my vote: not knowing the answers, I'm guessing some probably have merit, others have reasonable explanations, such as cost categories that have been redefined, or new categories of expense that didn't previously exist (one that comes to mind is Virtual High School). So I don't know how to vote, but welcome feedback on what you're asking. Thanks for posting this, Jeff. I agree with Don that this is a very useful aspect of the forum, so please all, discuss away! I certainly agree that we want to keep the impact of these cuts as far from the kids as possible. I voiced my opinion regarding the cut of the Latin program at the last School Committee meeting, and hope to be there tonight be a fly in the ointment on that one.

    I would like to add a question to the list: what are we doing to ensure that we are retaining the very best teachers possible while we go about laying some off? (If the layoff is seniority based only, then have we exercised all of our ability to base layoffs on performance ratings?)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    117

    Default

    Kim, did you go to the School Committee meeting last night? Did they mention any of the above budget issues?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Default

    Hi Don. Yes, I did go to the meeting. Let me share my observations:

    • there were many suggestions made, but I think most really required an advance exchange with the School Committee -- while I believe ALL the participants were well-intentioned, they were not always as well-informed - most recommendations they got were based on erroneous assumptions (I am not saying that the assumptions were not reasonable to have made, just they largely turned out not to be correct)
    • the "temperature" of the meeting was very high, and I think many people took the School Committee as their adversary, when I think they were not acknowledging that the School Committee itself probably has many of the same questions regarding possible changes to the budget
    • the high school students who were in the room were far better behaved than the adults -- they were respectful to the other speakers and the School Committee, even when they disagreed with them; can't say that about all the adults in the room. Bravo to those students for going to the meeting, and for presenting themselves so well
    • I sincerely hope that the School Committee is not going to take as final the recommendations presented to them. I will be extremely disappointed if they do not make changes. There are better options available, and I'm sure with some digging deep there are savings to be had that are further from the students - the students themselves presented one (small) such option last night (arguing against the usefulness of language labs)


    I'll see if I come up with anything else, and would love to hear more from others who were there. (I'll note that the prolific Jeff Dieffenbach was not at the meeting, so I'm not expecting that otherwise likely participant to respond)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayland MA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    But, cynically, and honestly, isn’t it standard operational procedure for our government to always cut the most harmful first? Always, it’s the policemen, firemen, schools, etc. that get cut first. I’ve always seen it as a kind of threat. “If you people don’t give us the money we want, we’ll cut the things you’ll feel the most first.”
    Cynically doesn't necessarily equal honestly.

    Do you have evidence of this happening in Wayland on either the school or municipal side? Setting aside reasonable differences of opinion about where to make cuts, my experience over my 15 years in town government has been that boards make cuts that are least harmful. If the Committee were doing what you suggest, wouldn't the cuts be classroom teachers across the board?

    Also, your "threats" scenario doesn't apply in the way that it would if we were proposing an override cut list (which, in my opinion, haven't been guilty of what you so cavalierly accuse). The budget that will eventually be recommended will be to fit an amount that we already know, not one subject to a future vote.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    117

    Default Jeff, good to see you’re back.

    Yes, I’ve seen in Wayland and other places, many times, the tendency to cut policemen, firemen and teachers first whenever budgets are threatened. You haven’t? And what reason could there be for this, other than making people feel the pain?

    On a more important level, you and I don’t see things the same. I think government has big problems at all levels, whether Wayland, Boston, Washington or Beijing and it will only be the regular taxpaying citizens who make any of them better (the groups that benefit will not do it). You don’t like my negative attitude (you shouldn’t really worry about it, it’s just me talking) and I don’t understand what world you’ve been living in. My friend, I’m still waiting for you say if you think the town is on a solid financial foundation and to make suggestions on how to have better town services at lower cost? Show me today, right now, that the town is working well. I’m all for it.

    So please, ignore my bad attitude and respond to the much more important issues raised by the original posting in this thread. Tells us what’s wrong, or right, with the above proposals and what the School Committee might consider doing about it.

    donBustin@verizon.net

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
    Posts
    382

    Default

    Jeff Baron,

    I see this list of items as a list of questions or requests for more information from the SC. But more than that, its an education piece which would help those that don't follow this stuff closely to begin to think about this.

    This forum is not wide enough to be only contained here.

    I was at the SC meeting last night and emotions did run high. But nothing is wrong with that and disagreement and criticism is not usually disrespect.
    www.WayCAM.tv will replay that meeting on-demand and anybody can watch it and think for themselves whether it was disrespectful or which pieces might have been characterized as being disrespectful.

    But I am very convinced (from my direct experience and observations) that cuts are made towards the greatest point of community pain when cuts are made.
    Its always seems easier to cut the teacher, cut the class and not cut the secretary or cut the administrator. Why? When you cause community pain then you motivate people to 'dig deeper' and the sacrifice is from the community and not the admin or the union. Nobody will convince me otherwise on this point... so don't even try.

    In fact, it seems impossible to cut the salary. It even seems more impossible to have the teacher's unions themselves save each other's jobs by taking uniform and across the board cuts..... its no secret that the WTA and the MTA or any other union is designed to be cut on seniority and therefore, the more senior the employee the more reluctant they would *naturally* be to self-sacrifice for a less senior person who would most probably take the hit.

    I would like to suggest that the author of this text submit it as an Op-Ed piece to the Crier and if that person wishes to remain anonymous then you can act as the submitted and explain that upfront.

    Peer pressure is very powerful in Wayland....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    275

    Default Corrected List Follow SC Meeting

    The author of the list corrected her list of questions after attending the hearing and asked me to repost the corrected list based on the feedback she received about inaccuracies/misunderstandings suirrounding her original questions. Of course, if the SC published a detailed budget, then she wouldn't have had problems decyphering the code in the first place!

    Here it is (and Alan, I will ask her to submit this to the Town Crier):

    Proposals for reductions to minimize the impact on student learning for the FY’11 School Budget:

    1) The Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent share three secretaries between the two of them (LI 1210/02 and 1220/02). Can one be shared between them to enable the restoration of teaching positions on the current personnel reduction proposal? Could you also please consider consolidating at least two of the secretarial and clerical positions captured under all subdivisions of LI 1200, "District Administration", and LI 1400, "Finance and Administrative Services"… which currently total nearly $400,000… to enable the highest priority staff/pupil ratio to remain unchanged? I strongly believe that more cuts in the administration must be carefully considered BEFORE we cut teachers, as the teachers are the critical link to the success of our students. This consideration has clearly gone unnoticed in Dr. Burton's "FY'11 Personnel Reductions and Additions" budget recommendations.

    2) Administrative costs in the proposed FY'11 budget for the Middle School total $463K. Administrative costs in the proposed FY'11 budget for Claypit Hill total $177K. This appears to be reasonable until more careful analysis of the enrollment numbers. The closing of Loker has increased the enrollment at Claypit Hill to 609 students. The Middle School has 639 students. In comparison, the Middle School seemingly requires $286K more in administrative costs to manage 30 additional students… which is more than the cost of the entire administrative budget for Claypit Hill!?

    I believe a large reduction in LI 2200 is called for under these circumstances, which could restore teachers and teaching assistants currently on the cut list. Do we need an Assistant Principal at the Middle School when we do not have one at Claypit Hill and enrollment is virtually the same? When hiring a new Principal, please consider that we do not need to replace the Assistant Principal and the Assistant Principal’s secretarial position so we may restore the teaching positions to the school.

    3) The cost for LI 2800/01, titled "Psychological Services", is $642,000. Additionally, the Middle School budget has a disproportionately high allocation of dollars for "Guidance/Psychologist" services in consideration of the enrollment. Understandably, the budget for the Guidance Department at the High School is considerably more expensive as they cover a very broad range of services to students… including the very time consuming college selection process… but please consider that Claypit Hill school services only 30 fewer students than the Middle School with two guidance/psychologist professionals.

    Guidance ($601,000)/Psychological services ($153,000) @ the HS = total $754,000/ enrollment 896
    ($841. per student)
    Guidance/Psychological services @ the MS = total $306,000/ enrollment 639
    ($472. per student)
    Guidance/Psychological services @ Claypit = total $174,000/ enrollment 609
    ($286. per student)
    Guidance ($74,000)/Psychological services ($55,000) @ Happy Hollow = total $129,000/ enrollment 417
    ($309. per student)
    Guidance/Psychological services @ Loker = total $9,000/ enrollment 160
    ($56. per student)

    Dr. Burton's Budget Message to the School Committee speaks of increasing class sizes at the Middle School in point #5, however if we are placing the highest budgetary priority on staff: pupil ratios to minimize the impact on student learning, shouldn't the cost for psychological services at the Middle School be reduced before simply increasing class sizes, which would more directly impact the education of our students? I would strongly advocate for a cut in “Psychological Services” in the Middle School before we cut teachers and teaching assistants. The result from such cuts would have far less of an impact to students than the cuts that Dr. Burton has proposed.

    4) "Curriculum Directors" versus "Department Heads" versus "Instructional Coordinators/Team Leaders"… budgeting is included for all three categories. Can one individual do the job of all? Why would a Department Head need a Curriculum Director? Is there a strong reason why the 'head' could not also direct the curriculum? Please consider some consolidation of responsibilities in this area.

    5) Under "Professional Development Stipends, Providers, Expenses" why is the LI 2357/06 "Other Expenses" budgeted for $173,000? Could this be broken out further to disclose what we are spending all this "other" money on? Perhaps the restoration of at least one teacher could be realized here as well if we had more details.

    6) Under LI 3300/03 "Student Transportation Services"… "Salaries Other" increased by $12,000 for FY11. Why such a huge increase? Can this line item remain flat?

    7) Under LI 3510/04 "Athletic Services"… what is covered under the "Contract Services" for $133,000? A more detailed breakdown of the costs captured under this line item might yield savings ideas that could restore more of the teaching positions and result in no need to increase class sizes at the High School and Middle School. LI 3510/06 "Athletic Services" for "Other Expenses" is budgeted for $31,610... and this has almost doubled in 2 years! What does this capture?

    8) Under LI 4110/01 "Custodial Services", why did the budget for "Professional Salaries" increase from $35,000 to $108,000? I would certainly advocate that this line item remain flat and teachers or teaching assistants be restored. I'd rather have a dusty school than an understaffed school.

    9) Under LI 4110/06 "Custodial Services", the actual amount for "Other Expenditures" in FY '09 is $23. FY'11 is budgeted for $95,000. There is also no explanation as to why this is budgeted for 7 times more than 3 years ago. Can you please provide more detailed information with regard to the dramatic increase in this line item expense… and why it is under “other”? Again… increases in areas other than education negate our ability to retain our most valuable assets, the teachers.

    Custodians (personnel only):

    Central Office = $150,000 (***not broken out as to what this expense captures)

    High School = $317,675

    Middle School = $176,542

    Claypit Hill = $138,205

    Happy Hollow = $116,534

    Loker = $72,789


    total = $971.745

    Additionally, we will be tearing down the High School buildings in two years. Why has the custodial staff remained the same for FY’11? Is there any savings realized in consideration of the fact that these buildings no longer need to be maintained at the current level of service? Please consider that cutting one custodian from the budget would allow for the restoration of the art teacher’s hours.

    10) In the "Non Personnel" budget under “Central Office/Systemwide”. Could we please ask that this be further broken down… one page for “Central Office” and one page for “Systemwide”? There is a lot of money captured on this one page with very few details. One example, Maintenance is $402K. but absolutely no breakdown is provided. Also, I would like to question why, under “Custodial Services” we have budgeted $10,000 under "Professional Development"? Do the custodians need expensive training of some sort?

    11) In the "Non Personnel" budget under “Central Office/Systemwide”, utilities are planned up over last year… at $1.4 million… but heating costs are down from last year. The number allocated to the budget is also quite large. Would you consider an energy audit?

    12) Under LI 4230/04 "Maintenance of Equipment", the actual costs have been historically low… around $12,000… but FY'11 is budgeted for $50,000. Is there a reason this line item will more than quadruple? Unless there is a great necessity, I hope we might consider keeping this line item flat for next year (and there's nothing wrong with reductions in some of these areas as well)! Seemingly, we are adding to the expense of maintaining equipment in exchange for maintaining a Teaching Assistant.

    13) The cost for all line items under the title LI 4000 "Operation of Maintenance and Plant", totals nearly $3. million dollars annually. Would you consider budgeting for an independent audit from an outside firm to address this area of the budget and provide you with important data that could impact future spending? Such an audit should pay for itself through the innovative cost-cutting solutions it would provide for your consideration and implementation (the Selectmen proposed an audit of the Assessor's office recently and I think they are quite pleased with the insight they received).

    Currently, I am certain that no one on the School Committee or in the Administration can claim an expertise in such a complex area of management as plant maintenance. An independent, outside audit is critical to obtain an objective perspective and yield fruitful considerations for future contemplation. Perhaps a private contractor could provide the maintenance services we require for a fraction of the cost we incur currently to handle this budget category “in-house”.

    14) In the document titled "FY'11 Budget, Personnel Reductions and Additions" there are two line items under "New Positions or Incremental Additions to FY'11 Budget" adding more than $60,000. to the budget for SPED Teaching Assistants for Children's Way? Is their enrollment changing? Why is such an increase needed?

    15) A significant part of the budget is allocated to Co-Curricular Stipends and Coaching Stipends. Would the SC ever consider soliciting town residents who wish to volunteer their time for free to cover these positions first… before paying stipends to teachers? Many residents are just as qualified, if not more qualified in some cases, to coach or lead extracurricular activities? The savings could offset the need for some budget cuts to teachers and teaching assistants.

    16) If you must cut a secretary from the Guidance Department at the high school, please consider budgeting for a temp secretary during peak times, such as college application season.

    17) Could the SC please consider budgeting for an outside accounting firm to rebuild the school budget… capturing every cost and categorizing each expense with utmost accuracy… for FY’12? Such a detailed budget would give all interested parties the ability to conduct a much more thorough, careful analysis of a huge component of the Town’s finances. This budget could also be maintained for use in future years for critical cost comparisons when strategizing to incorporate new expenses.

    In closing, I hope you will carefully consider that of the 45 cuts proposed to personnel in the FY'11 budget, totaling $1,016,027 and outlined below for your easy reference, only one cut… for $22,521… will be made to an area other than one that will directly impact student learning or protect the current student: pupil ratio. There were seemingly no reductions that could be realized to administrative positions or their support positions in the Central Office or even proposals to consolidate custodial positions before recommendations were made that will indeed “dismantle” the quality of education in our schools.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    275

    Default By the Way.....

    Look at Item #1 on the list above:

    "The Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent share three secretaries between the two of them..."

    Are you kidding? This fact alone shows how out of touch this budget is. They should have one at best!

    I guess Burton's "skillfull dismantling of the school system" doesn't include disturbing his own day-to-day life! More interesting and disturbing will be if the SC members agree. I guess we'll see...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    448

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Peer pressure is very powerful in Wayland....
    Indeed it is.
    So much so that some people give in to the pressure by their "friends" and do things that are not really in their own self-interest.

    I agree with Alan that while there were heated moments throughout the evening, people were not disrespectful.
    Angry, passionate and emotional, but not disrespectful.

    Catch it in the reruns on WayCam and decide for yourself.


    .
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
    Posts
    382

    Default

    Jeff Baron:

    In the long list above there are a number of items which ask for more detail to understand lumped values.
    I read that this precision is desired to see if the number itself is justified and/or if some cut can be made based on the components of rolled up value.

    I would strongly suggest that the author (or their representative) send a "Freedom Of Information Act" FOIA letter to the SC with a point by point list of each item needs precision. But the key to getting this information successfully is in the wording of each of the questions.

    So I propose a template to follow:

    Wayland School Committee
    41 Cochituate Road
    Wayland, MA 01778

    Re: Public Records Request

    Date: 1/xx/10

    Dear Members:

    This is a request pursuant to the Massachusetts Public Records Law, G. L. c. 66, § 10, for access to the following public records:

    (1) All details which comprise the rolled up budgetary number pertaining to school budget item LI XXXX/YY. These details may contain or may not be limited to:
    (a) Full descriptions of the budget item and all descriptive values that the item is broken into.
    (b) Geographic / personnel or building parameters including quantity, size, scope and application.
    (c) Justifications behind why these broken out values are needed, necessary, required.

    etc..

    Should you have any questions regarding this request, please contact me at your earliest convenience. Kindly respond within ten days as provided by the public records statute. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


    Very truly yours,


    Of course, you may decide to word the 'meat' of this differently to suit your purposes but without the correct wording you may not get what you want in the break out of the values.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Post Agreed (and not)

    The budget needs to be looked at in excruciating detail. I heard Deb Cohen say at that meeting that she herself had marked many items with questions, and I look forward to seeing the level of scrutiny with which the School Committee reviews the budget. The SC should not rubberstamp the recommendations of the Superintendent's Office. I personally do not believe they are the right set of cuts, and I agree with many of the statements above.

    I also agree that people need to review this stuff and ask their detailed questions. However, I wonder if there is a better way to do it than large numbers of time consuming FOIA requests. Perhaps, for example, the SC could hold a working session at which they go through the budget slowly with the public and take questions about specific items. It would be long and excruciating, but perhaps something useful would be found.

    I do believe there was quite a lot of disrespect at that meeting. Like when one audience member asked a question and demanded an answer right then. That is not required at public forums, and when I went to ask a next question not understanding that she expected an immediate answer to her question, she practically took my head off.

    The direct, personal attack on Lou Jurist because he is a physician and therefore the speaker assumed immune to the current economic climate, I also thought was out of line.

    These meetings are most useful when they remain civil. If Peter Gossels had been there, he would have been banging at the gavel.

    The students, without exception, even when their topics were very emotional and dear to their hearts, still spoke calmly and civilly. They were a model the rest of us can follow.

    The woman who wrote the piece referenced at the start of this topic was very civil in her report. She acknowledged her initial anger which had segued into an understanding of the difficult situation the SC is in and that we are all working to the same goal. Her presentation was constructive, and even though not all of her issues really represented problems to fix, she still had some good ideas, which I thought were fairly received. Another speaker gave a presentation based on some research he had done on teachers and non-teachers. While I did not agree with his mathematical approach, he was civil and respectful. (And I will add, the SC could perhaps have been a bit more civil to him.) So please do not misunderstand my complaint about civility to be connected with speakers who merely disagree.

    We can disagree without being disagreeable. Thanks to the majority there who were.

    Now let's move on and come up with a better budget.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    448

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    The budget needs to be looked at in excruciating detail. ..... However, I wonder if there is a better way to do it than large numbers of time consuming FOIA requests.

    There is!
    The SC must open their books, wide open for all to see.
    Jeff Dieffenbach's argument that the "detailed" 15 page version of our budget is almost as good as Weston's 155 page version is.... well, I will take Kim's cue and not complete that sentence, so as not to be seen as disrespectful. Let's just say I disagree strongly. In spite of any redundancy contained in Weston's 155 pages, it provides a tremendous amount more insight into how they spend their roughly $30 million than how we spend ours.

    As more than one person pointed out at the meeting, it is difficult for the public to provide much input when we have so little detail to go on, and the committee members then tell us we're basing our assumptions on wrong or skewed information, as they did with Shaun Kinney and Donna Bouchard.

    The problem lies with the fact that they give us so little to go on. And if it's true that the SC had no more detailed information than what the public has seen, then how are they supposed to vote on it?

    It's 2009. There is absolutely no excuse for the administration to not be able to click one keystroke and print out a massive spreadsheet that shows our budget in detail down to the last penny. It is no longer a valid argument to say that we can't budget for that kind of software, when you could probably go to Staples right now and for less than $100 buy a package off the shelf that would do just that.

    I agree with Kim completely that the budget needs to be examined in excruciating detail - not only by the SC, but by the public.

    I do have to disagree with her though, about disrespect at the meeting.
    I was sitting behind Kim and I can certainly understand how it must have seemed to her when that woman that turned around and "took her head off". While it didn't seem that way to me, and I suspect anyone looking at the tapes will agree, I can see how if you were the person she turned to face at that moment, you might interpret it that way. However, given that she was angry (not at Kim) and had specifically asked for a response, I saw her words to Kim as very understandable in the moment - she'd asked for a response and she was determined to get it before someone else took the discussion in a different direction.

    I didn't see what was said to Louis as "an attack". Again, I can empathize with him and understand his reaction, even if I don't agree with it. But she was trying to make a valid point. If her comment was presumptuous about Louis' finances, it was hardly an attack and I believe a review of the tape will show that.

    One more point by Kim on which I agree (hell must be getting awfully cold by now), is that the HS kids were terrific! While I don't think that the adults were disrespectful (just angry, and justifiably so), the HS kids were very respectful and made some excellent points.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    I would strongly suggest that the author (or their representative) send a "Freedom Of Information Act" FOIA letter to the SC with a point by point list of each item needs precision.
    Alan, my understanding is that Freedom of Information Act requests entitle people to request and receive existing documents, but not that officials provide tailor-made new representations of the data. So, I reiterate my comment that FOIA requests are probably not the right approach, but agree that more detail and more review is needed, both by the SC and the public.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    I do have to disagree with her though, about disrespect at the meeting.
    I was sitting behind Kim and I can certainly understand how it must have seemed to her when that woman that turned around and "took her head off". While it didn't seem that way to me, and I suspect anyone looking at the tapes will agree, I can see how if you were the person she turned to face at that moment, you might interpret it that way. However, given that she was angry (not at Kim) and had specifically asked for a response, I saw her words to Kim as very understandable in the moment - she'd asked for a response and she was determined to get it before someone else took the discussion in a different direction.

    I didn't see what was said to Louis as "an attack". Again, I can empathize with him and understand his reaction, even if I don't agree with it. But she was trying to make a valid point. If her comment was presumptuous about Louis' finances, it was hardly an attack and I believe a review of the tape will show that.

    One more point by Kim on which I agree (hell must be getting awfully cold by now), is that the HS kids were terrific! While I don't think that the adults were disrespectful (just angry, and justifiably so), the HS kids were very respectful and made some excellent points.
    Sigh, I didn't realize we might only agree when hell was getting cold, John.

    But I guess we just disagree on what being disrespectful is. You can feel angry and remain calm in your speech and demeanor. In my case, I was disrespected, because I was cut-off and yelled at. Her anger was absolutely directed at me at that moment because I was the one who had the gall to ask a follow-up question while she was awaiting her answer, and NOW. You weren't offended by it, and that's fine. I let it go, it was no big deal, and it was nothing compared to the behavior throughout the evening. And by the way, I don't necessarily disagree with her point on the question she was asking. At all. I suspect the camera won't show any of it anyway, because it probably was fixed on the front of the room, but perhaps it was being swiveled around - I don't know. She is probably a very nice person, who just got a little carried away at the moment. I think the behavior of several people was not appropriate for that venue. And if you listen to the words of the students who spoke after, they were clearly shaken by what was going on the room, and the couple I spoke with afterwards were astounded by the behavior they had seen. OK, I'm done with this topic.

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •