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Thread: An Open Letter to the School Committee

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
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    A few points...

    1. Louis may not be as immune to the downturn as one believes. Medicare reimbursements, insurance adjustments in payments downward, cost of doing business in general with his employee's (ie. their own health insurance and their COL)... so if Louis bristled it was most likely because he thought he felt the pain too and he does. My own PCP explained all of this to me recently. Doctors hurt in bad times just like the rest of us. So Louis I hope your reading this.

    2. It was 98% respectful and 2% so emotional that it sometimes crossed the boundary. Not too bad, I've seen much worse.

    3. FOIA's are tools of forced exposure. Show me the data or else ! So a flurry or constant flow of FOIA's could be the cure for a thicker budget.

    4. I checked with the exec secretary of my employer this morning about a Super who has 3 secretaries and asked for her opinion,
    The CEO of my company has one. The major players in 25Billion dollar companies in the semiconductor market place have one or share one.
    Bill Gates was known to have 3.

    Does that mean that the WPS = Microsoft ?

  2. #17
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    Mar 2008
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    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    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.
    If X = A + B + C and we publish X then A and B and C data must exist. Nothing to make up.

  3. #18
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    Nov 2005
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    726

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    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.
    John, just checked and there are 67 pages of budget information available online (see http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/distric...nt/reports.htm). One of Barb Fletcher's comments at the meeting on Monday night suggested that there also might be another piece that is not yet posted. So maybe there is more.

    Here is Weston's 146 page FY2010 budget (nothing on '11 is currently online): http://www.westonschools.org/westons...0condensed.pdf

    It is not really an apples:apples comparison v. the Wayland budget because the pages I have included in the Wayland budget all have, for example, numbers on them.

    The Weston budget has 30 pages with no numbers on them (but with lots of nice pictures of the schools), 2 pages of enrollment history, and pages 105-122 are virtually useless in that they provide what looks like lots of detail, but it is actually mostly meaningless. Is it good enough to give me one line that says Textbooks, $143,653, or do I really need a full page listing every line item with Textbooks, or two and a half pages of line items all with the same heading "Teaching Supplies"? If you net these pages out, there are 50 pages of essentially useless information in that 146 page budget. And I've been generous in including a number of pages with just a couple of lines of text on them.

    I am not saying that there couldn't be more detail or more information provided in the Wayland budget, or that what we are getting is the best it could be - but I think the argument that Weston is providing 155 pages v. 15, or that they provide this fountain of useful information, while we are left in the dark in Wayland is a little misleading.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 01-06-2010 at 12:07 PM. Reason: to provide link for SC financial reports

  4. #19
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    Jul 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    John, just checked and there are 67 pages of budget information available online (see http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/distric...nt/reports.htm). One of Barb Fletcher's comments at the meeting on Monday night suggested that there also might be another piece that is not yet posted. So maybe there is more.

    Here is Weston's 146 page FY2010 budget (nothing on '11 is currently online): http://www.westonschools.org/westons...0condensed.pdf

    It is not really an apples:apples comparison v. the Wayland budget because the pages I have included in the Wayland budget all have, for example, numbers on them.

    The Weston budget has 30 pages with no numbers on them (but with lots of nice pictures of the schools), 2 pages of enrollment history, and pages 105-122 are virtually useless in that they provide what looks like lots of detail, but it is actually mostly meaningless. Is it good enough to give me one line that says Textbooks, $143,653, or do I really need a full page listing every line item with Textbooks, or two and a half pages of line items all with the same heading "Teaching Supplies"? If you net these pages out, there are 50 pages are essentially useless information in that 146 page budget. And I've been generous in including a large number of pages with a couple of lines of text on them.

    I am not saying that there couldn't be more detail or more information provided in the Wayland budget, or that what we are getting is the best it could be - but I think the argument that Weston is providing 155 pages v. 15, or that they provide this fountain of useful information, while we are left in the dark in Wayland is a little misleading.
    Well done, Kim. Facts can be so inconvenient when they puncture puffed-up rhetoric.

  5. #20
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    Mar 2008
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    Kim,
    This is much the same argument that Jeff has used to defend the status quo on our budget book.
    Where I said in another thread that Weston's has 750% more detail than ours, he came back after stripping ouf some of those things and said that it's ONLY 450% more detailed than ours or something to that effect.

    Regardless of the specifics, there are two important points that get lost when you or Jeff or Steve use those points as ratioalizations:

    1. Why does Weston's book have ANY more detail than ours, whether 100, 450 or 750%?
    2. Regardless of what Weston or anyone else provides, why can't we provide EVERYthing?

    My second point above is the real question, why can't we see the entire budget breakdown?
    Why do we even have to ask?
    Why isn't this just put out willingly?

    Talk is cheap and as much as the word "transparency" is bantered about by our SC and administration, when push comes to shove, they do NOT provide it. Why?
    John Flaherty

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

  6. #21
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    Nov 2005
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    (1) I'm not sure there is a status quo on the budget book. It's significantly bigger (in pages anyway) than we had before -- at least if your 15 page number is right for last year, and this year it is 67.
    (2) You made the comparison v. Weston. I was merely pointing out that that particular comparison wasn't fair.
    (3) I'm not actually sure that there is any more detail in the Weston budget. Give me an example of a question you can't answer in our budget that you can in theirs. I didn't see much difference in approach or detail between the two budgets.

    Look, your undermine your point if you exaggerate it. Your point is a valid one - that the budget is hard to understand. We all want to be able to look at a line item and know what's in it. If it's changed significantly from year to year, we want to know why. Such a document is probably not all that easy to create - there's a lot to it, and it probably takes more resources than we realize. On the other hand, having such a detailed document would probably save a lot of effort at times like this. Probably the best way to get at this is to go to all the School Commiittee meetings, which is why the SC members know this stuff, and we, for the most part, don't. We all can't go to the all the meetings, and so we rely on them. And if you don't trust them, you obviously find this very uncomfortable and unacceptable.

  7. #22
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    Nov 2005
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    By the way, I was looking around at other town sites for their budget documents. In some cases, I just couldn't find them. Generally, I found stuff very similar to ours.

    The one thing I found that I thought was better than ours is this: http://ab.mec.edu/departments/financ...ebudgets.shtml

    Check out the "Budget Admin Responsibility Detail" file. I like how many of the line items have useful explanations (particularly those pages for the Pupil Services Director, p27-34). The degree of detail included varies depending on the director reporting, some are really quite good, others provide very little (e.g., the Facilities Director), so there's room, even here, for improvement.

    John, would this be the sort of thing you would like to see? Or are you envisioning some other kind of detail? Or when you say "entire budget breakdown", are you looking for every check that's written?

  8. #23
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    Mar 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Or when you say "entire budget breakdown", are you looking for every check that's written?
    Kim,

    Tha example you provided is certainly an improvement over what we have now.

    However, I don't see why we couldn't see "every check that's written". Why not?
    THAT would be true transparency.
    What we have now is not even close.

    If, as it should be, our accounting system is such that one click on the keyboard would enable our business administrator to print out our entire budget, broken down by individual line items, then why doesn't she do that?

    If on the other hand, this would not be possible because our accounting system is still in the stone age, employing typewriters and backs of envelopes for record-keeping, then we should be very, very worried.

    .
    John Flaherty

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

  9. #24
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    Nov 2005
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    726

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    2. It was 98% respectful and 2% so emotional that it sometimes crossed the boundary. Not too bad, I've seen much worse.
    Alan, you emailed me about having seen the film, so I went and watched it, too. You are right that the woman yelling at me did not nearly look as bad on the replay. It certainly felt more hostile at the time. I stand by my overall assessment, however, that the tenor of the debate overall was unnecessarily hostile.

    The video is available here for anyone who wants to catch up on what they might have missed: http://waycamtv.pegcentral.com/playe...dee929760ef9e2

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