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DanvilleDelivery: Flashback to 2008

February 20, 2013

A lot has changed since I was elected to the TRSD Budget Committee in 2008.  One thing has not — there was not then, and there is not now, a lot of interest in the TRSD budget process.  In that year, I was elected by three votes — none of which was mine.  This year, there are FIVE budget committee seats for which no one is running.  In other words, empty chairs will be the majority on next year’s committee.

We didn’t accomplish much during my tenure on the budget committee, but there were a few wins.  Most important of these was that the meetings are now televised.  When I was seated, few knew what the TRSD Budget Committee did.  Two years later, budget committee meetings were being recorded and posted to Vimeo.  People could see their reps in action.  People could determine if they would like to serve.

Second most important was that we got all budget documents posted to a public web site so that lay people and finance professionals could better understand the bottom line.  The budget process culminates in the Deliberative Session of the School Meeting.  People can use these documents to prepare to have input on the process at the Deliberative Session.

When La Salle asked the School Board to approve the recording of TRSD Budget Committee meetings, he said the recordings would insulate the voters against misinformation on the internet.  For your entertainment, I have resurrected some of that misinformation…

 

Welcome! 29 Mar 2008, DanvilleDelivery.com
On March 11th three people wrote my name in for TRSD Budget Committee representative for Danville. Three votes turned out to be enough to get me elected. I didn’t run for the position, and I don’t expect to run for the position in three years, but I promise to do my best to make sure we spend the right amount of money on the right things while I represent you. I’ll document the term here. What I learn will be linked at the right and left. What I feel will be right here in the middle. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to email or call me.

I have also volunteered to serve on the Curriculum and Assessment Committee. I’m the ‘second’ or alternate BudCom representative to that committee and we are only there to receive information. I’ll attend every meeting and post my learnings here (I’ve already posted the block scheduling presentation).

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Stranger in a Strange Land 16 May 2008, DanvilleDelivery.com
I attended my first Curriculum and Assessment Committee meeting Wednesday. I have to tell you that I was out of my element.

The meeting was held at Brookstone. I had never heard of this place and it wasn’t a POI on my GPS. I added the address manually and travelled directly from work to the meeting.

Turns out Brookstone is a golf club in the middle of a swamp on 111. I found it OK, but was — in business casual attire — very underdressed. No matter, I found Mr. Coker, paid my $15, and proceeded to make small talk. Well, we talked about Block Scheduling. Just for a few minutes, then we were seated.

Once we were seated, water, coffee, salad, and rolls were placed before me as a couple of participants went through the motions of approving minutes and a couple more presented curricula. There was some discussion, but it was not critical or analytical…I’d characterize it as ‘appreciative.’ This lasted about half an hour. After that, the meeting was adjourned and the main course was set before us.

For the next hour, I listened to conversations. (paraphrased) “For the first time in eighteen years we won’t be making the trip to Hawaii,” “My son came home from this fundraiser with a check for $200,000,” “We own a condo in Florida,” “We’re going to Houston to see the Red Sox…We have their box for the weekend — plus their seats and we can go back and fourth,” “The gym teacher and the art teacher collaborated on a project to take pictures of the kids forming letters of the alphabet with their bodies — it was wonderful, ” “That was wonderful…” “we could get kids from Canada, Portsmouth, Timberlane and [some paper mill town] to experience a history class together,” “That would be wonderful,” “Can you get an extension on the grant?” “We did that last year, but we can apply for a new grant this year,” “That will be wonderful.”

Thing is these people were serious, sincere…as far as I could tell. Sitting there, I finally understood that these people believe that TRSD is doing a good job. When they talk about education, they talk about the experience instead of the outcome. They really believe they know ‘the way’ and that we are ‘rabble’ to be dealt with — a PR problem. The challenge for the rest of us is to educate them on our needs. The short conversation I had with Mr. Coker was about the importance of teaching math every day — “Are you committed to 4×4? Can we have Block Scheduling but still teach math every day?” The answer wasn’t, “No.”

So, I had no input on any curriculum, but neither did any other attendee. I got permission to post the curricula here for you to review (I have to scan and post these, so please be patient). Read the documents and provide your School Board rep with feedback. These are proposed. I think they are very good and also that the School Board simply rubber stamps (I think the curriculim and assessment committee is also a formality). More important, I think I have new insight into how we can talk to these people (the SAU and its surrogates). I plan to attend all upcoming meetings.

A comment on the presented curricula: they bear no resemblemce to what my freshman is experiencing. I asked about this and was told this process is new and the curricula were not the basis for this year’s education. So maybe there is hope. I think the Curriculum Coordinators need to develop daily work plans, however, to ensure that teachers work to the curricula.
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Little Bighorn 11 Apr 2008, DanvilleDelivery.com
The unapproved minutes to the first two budcom meetings have been approved as posted.

Thirty three minutes of the 04/10/2008 TRSD Budget Committee meeting was spent discussing this web site, my personal correspondence, and whether or not I am entitled to express an opinion contrary to the collective opinion of the committee. I have strong feelings about free speech, education, taxes, and this web site. I explained that my long standing practices of posting information to this and other web sites and sending unsolicited emails to public servants who provide a public email address would not change simply because I chose to serve on the budget committee. I was surprised that on three occasions, members of the committee asked to have legal counsel engaged on the matter.

That said, I can appreciate that members of the committee do not wish to be associated with DanvilleDelivery.com and I have indulged their request to have personal information removed from the page. I kept a link to the budget committee home page. You can find additional, official information there.

Some interpreted words I posted last week as slander. I disagree, but in case I was unclear, I wordsmithed the sentence and I would like to reiterate here that the end of the first Regular Meeting of the TRSD Budget Committee exposed its members as, first and foremost, concerned parents. We wandered off the BudCom reservation of dollars and cents to discuss our concerns about the school district. It was clear to me that people were frustrated that they were unable to fix the school system in their role as committee member and that fixing the schools was the goal — not trimming 1% off the budget.

Finally, I’d like to say that this is my personal page. It’s not affiliated with any committee or organization and if you click an email link, you will be emailing me at an email account I pay for with my own money. I have a lot of information to post about the meeting. I will post more details on Little Bighorn plus as much as I captured of Mr. La Salle’s impressive presentation.

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View from the Top 12 Apr 2008, DanvilleDelivery.com
Mr. La Salle, Superintendent of SAU 55, presented to the TRSD Budget Committee and entertained questions.

Thirty three minutes of the 04/10/2008 TRSD Budget Committee meeting was spent discussing this web site, my personal correspondence, and whether or not I am entitled to express an opinion contrary to the collective opinion of the committee. I have strong feelings about free speech, education, taxes, and this web site. I explained that my long standing practices of posting information to this and other web sites and sending unsolicited emails to public servants who provide a public email address would not change simply because I chose to serve on the budget committee. I was surprised that on three occasions, members of the committee asked to have legal counsel engaged.

That said, I can appreciate that members of the committee do not wish to be associated with DanvilleDelivery.com and I have indulged their request to have personal information removed from the page. I kept a link to the budget committee home page. You can find additional, official information there.

Some interpreted words I posted last week as slander. I disagree, but in case I was unclear, I wordsmithed the sentence and I would like to reiterate here that the end of the first Regular Meeting of the TRSD Budget Committee exposed its members as, first and foremost, concerned parents. We wandered off the BudCom reservation of dollars and cents to discuss our concerns about the school district. It was clear to me that people were frustrated that they were unable to fix the school system in their role as committee member and that fixing the schools was the goal — not trimming 1% off the budget.

Finally, I’d like to say that this is my personal page. It’s not affiliated with any committee or organization and if you click an email link, you will be emailing me at an email account I pay for with my own money. I have a lot of information to post about the meeting. I will post more details on Little Bighorn plus as much as I captured of Mr. La Salle’s impressive presentation.

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In with both feet 6 Apr 2008, DanvilleDelivery.com
I’ve posted the unapproved minutes to the first two budcom meetings to the left. Both meetings were held on 3/27. The evening began with an Organization Meeting during which officers were elected and changes to the bylaws were entertained. Once this was done, the meeting was adjourned and the newly elected officers conducted a Regular Meeting according to the newly approved bylaws.

The major topic of discussion at the Organization Meeting was absenteeism. The problem was that people missing meetings tended to be disruptive on their return — asking questions already answered and causing matters resolved to be discussed again. Given the complexity of the budget process and the short time the committee is in session, members wanted to discourage absence. In the end, we agreed to call a member who had missed two consecutive meetings to remind them of the importance of the meetings and the disruptiveness of the absences.

The Regular Meeting was very informal. We talked about televising the meetings. All wanted to televise the fall presentations, but few wanted to broadcast all sessions (I did). I took the opportunity to lobby for posting the meetings on the internet for the benefit of those who did not have cable or had problems catching the TEN broadcasts. Michael Mascola (our School Board rep) was generally receptive to the idea, but it was decided to table this until we could get the support of the School Board and the Technology Committee. I encourage everyone who would like to be able to watch these meetings online to let their School Board reps and the SAU’s Technology Director know. I’ve volunteered to lead a pilot that would cost the SAU $0.

For the rest of the meeting, we talked about roles and responsibilities. You could tell the committee was made up of parents at this point because the discussion became emotional — people wanting to help make the school better without knowing exactly how to solve the problems facing the school. In the end, it was decided that we would use the April session to seek guidance from the SAU on the roles and responsibilities of the budget committee. I don’t think this is a good idea, but I am looking forward to the exchange.

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