It looks increasingly like our superintendent won’t inform the school board of his planned budget cuts until tonight—the very night when the board is supposed to vote on the budget. School board members have been as much in the dark as the rest of us about possible cuts.
The board is required by law to submit its budget to the state by April 15. Tonight, April 8, is the last scheduled board meeting before that deadline. The agenda for the meeting includes a proposed budget summary, but the proposal just addresses broad categories of spending: so much for “instruction,” so much for “general administration,” etc. It doesn’t disclose the specific cuts in staff or programs that the budget will necessitate. Without those specifics, the board is in no position to assess whether the money should be allocated differently among those broad categories.
Perhaps for that reason, the board chair (at the superintendent’s suggestion) has scheduled a “work session” immediately before tonight’s meeting. The topic of the work session is “budget discussion.” That’s all the agenda says; it contains no additional information or enclosures. Tonight is awfully late for the board members to receive specific information about planned cuts; they’ll have to act on that information within an hour or two of receiving it.
The district has been aware of the $3.6 million shortfall since at least early January. Shouldn’t the board have been informed sooner about the administration’s planned response?
Coincidentally, the district also has community meetings scheduled this week and later this month as part of its redistricting process. (One was last night.) At these meetings, people will get a chance to respond to draft redistricting maps. I’m glad the district is getting input on draft maps; that will be much more useful than the exercises at the meeting I attended. But rather than release the draft maps in advance, the superintendent plans to unveil them at the meetings. Even the school board members, apparently, will not have advance notice of the drafts. The rationale is that this will “allow the superintendent to explain what decisions and compromises were made.” But the effect will also be to prevent people who are affected by specific changes from knowing about them in time to attend the meetings.
Is it really the job of the superintendent to withhold information from the school board and the public until he sees fit to release it? Does withholding that information benefit the board and the public, or does it just benefit the superintendent? Who works for whom?
The work session will start at 5:15 tonight at the Educational Services Center.
Related post here.