My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Update from the Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee

Note from Catherine: I know that a number of blog readers have questions about the use of money in our schools, and thus I decided to ask Alison Donta, who is the Chair of the Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee, for an update on the progress of that group (which has been meeting quite frequently for several months). I am posting her email to me, with her permission below. There is also an article in today's Bulletin on the work of this group, which I will post when it appears on-line.


Catherine...

You asked me for an update on the status of the Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee so I wanted to bring you up-to-date. As you know, our committee posed three rounds of questions regarding the school budget situation in late January and early February. These questions, along with our meeting agendas and minutes, can be found at: http://www.arps.org/budget#cbac

Dr. Rodriguez committed to providing answers by March 1st. Answers to most of the questions from Round 1 we received by mid February. We have reviewed those answers and come up with a number of follow questions and clarifications to be discussed with ARPS staff. By March 1st, we did receive answers to most of the rest of our questions. Our committee is meeting on March 5th from 5-7PM to review those answers and to formulate additional followup questions and clarifications. We are meeting with the ARPS staff on Thursday, March 11th from 2-5PM to discuss the answers and our followup questions. We will then add this additional information to the answers we currently have and, in some cases, rework entire answers so they are more accessible to the public.

We plan to submit the following on March 15th for posting on the web site above:
--the verbatim answers from the ARPS staff
--supporting documents supplied by ARPS staff
--reworked/clarified/more complete answers for each question, section by section

Our goal has always been to have available to the public a coherent sent of answers one week before the March 23rd election. We felt this was important since the public is being asked to vote for or against an override and to choose two School Committee members. Unfortunately, due to some delays in response and scheduling a meeting with ARPS staff, we might be unable to completely provide clear and coherent answers to all the questions by then. But, at the very least, the public will be able to see the verbatim answers from ARPS staff on-line by March 15th.

Once we have had a chance to digest the answers to our original answers and to our followup questions, the Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee plans to issue a series of summary points/recommendations in line with our charge of providing the School Committee with ideas on how to improve communication with the public. We will submit these directly to the School Committee and post them on our web site.

If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Alison Donta-Venman, Chair, Citizens' Budget Advisory Committee

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update, Alison and Catherine. It is good to see the committee was effectively able to collaborate with ARPS staff to come up with answers to a lot of the questions that were brought to the committee. I appreciate the hard work of the volunteers on the committee and the district staff who are trying to provide the public with more information before the election. This is an improvement on what we have seen in the past and I think this committee, along with the Superintendent and his staff, should be proud of this effort to better serve this community. I don't know if I will like the answers but I appreciate that they are forthcoming.

TomG said...

Thank you Alison. Please pass along my appreciation for the time and effort the whole committee. Your findings are valuable to me.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous March 4, 2010 12:43 PM said...

This is an improvement on what we have seen in the past and I think this committee, along with the Superintendent and his staff, should be proud of this effort to better serve this community.

Do you mean the weekend where the whole staff worked, getting out a request for data made on a Friday for the Monday SC meeting? And the school committee said, "We don't want this much detail."

This is an improvement on what we have seen in the past...

I'll let Kathy know you think so highly of her work.

Anonymous said...

Kathy who? I have no idea what you are referring to. Was that last year? Two years ago? Was there a committee like this group of volunteers who was able to pool questions from the public with enough time to get answers and do research?

Please don't take everything so harshly and so personally. This IS an improvement on what we have seen in the past. That is not to say that everything that was done in the past was not worthwhile or didn't entail some hard work. Hard work for one weekend is a little different than getting a committee together months in advance and making a concerted effort to provide information to the public. Again, I am not saying that whatever effort you are referring to was not worthwhile.

Rick said...

The “raw” answers to our questions and supporting documents have just been posted:

http://www.arps.org/budget#cbac

See the "CBAC Reports" section.

Per Alison’s statement above, we are working on this: “reworked/clarified/more complete answers for each question, section by section”

Rick said...

PS: Alison is the best committee chair ever. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Kathy who? I have no idea what you are referring to.

No offense intended. Kathy Mazur. She works there.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean the weekend where the whole staff worked, getting out a request for data made on a Friday for the Monday SC meeting? And the school committee said, "We don't want this much detail."

First part of this pity-pot paragraph -- Oh Boo Hoo. The district is in a crisis, this is what happens in a crisis.

Second part -- that's unfortunate, and I hope in the future things are clarified better by both parties in advance so time & energy aren't wasted.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that there would be questions about why paras work different schedules. Para work is keyed to the needs of the children served, which vary. (Especially special education para work.)

Also, school building schedules vary.

Some paras may come in early to work with a child for 20 minutes before the 8:40 bell rings to start the day. Or they may be assigned to supervise a child until he or she is picked up by a parent at the end of the day.

These 10 or 15 minutes/day add up to a difference of an hour or more in their weekly time.

In other cases, a para may ride on a bus with student(s) who require supervision due to medical or behavioral issues from the time they leave their home until they return home. (No, the driver is not sufficient -- he is she is DRIVING.)

Anonymous said...

By the way. The school district has released a list of all professional employees in the district and what they actually earn this year. You can view it at their website.

I am on that list and it accurately shows what I currently earn. On the list that was released earlier by the anti-override folks I was earning over $5000 more than I really am. Not sure why their list was innacurate,

Wish they were right about my salary (and many others), but they were not.

Nina Koch said...

The list on the anti-override site was for next year's salaries (with the raises). They just did not label it as such.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that we no longer have a Super?

Anonymous said...

The only thing left to work out is the parachute.

And the whitewash of his behavior.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the purging of his file AND glowing recommendations for his next hire!

Anonymous said...

Somewhere down the road of the Super's life on the center line is the next completely unaware school system. They won't know what hit them.

Anonymous said...

Sorta like what happened to Wildwood a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

No need to be nasty, especially given that what you're talking about isn't official and at present is just a rumor.

SC members cannot discuss confidential personnel issues on this blog.

Regardsless of one's opinion of Amherst school administration, the loss of a key person at this time would be terribly disruptive.

Anonymous said...

His appointment was terribly disruptive.

Anonymous said...

HR- Be careful in writing those recommendation letters.

The former Wildwood principal is working for us once again- He's a state worker within the MA DOE

Anonymous said...

A promotion no doubt. You know what they say about ... floats to the top.