Thursday, September 22, 2011

Now that the dust has settled....

During the past couple of weeks, there has been some pretty harsh words spoken by Select Board chair Mark Gold about the School Committee's manipulation of the budget.   School Committee chair Jennifer Jester voiced her displeasure of these remarks during comments of the September 12 SC meeting.  A video clip of Mr. Gold's comments were posted in a previous Buzz posting.  Below is a LCTV video clip of Ms. Jester's comments....

In Ms. Jester's remarks she states that "the budget is managed in "a transparent and open manner so that all residents are aware when line items are changed".   This was certainly not the case with regard to the new Superintendent's salary. See two previous Buzz posts- Longmeadow Town Manager and School Superintendent Contracts (10/6/10) and Here We Go Again! (7/3/11) for details.

Until recently the only FY12 Budget that was posted on the Longmeadow School Department website was dated 2/11/11.  It was only recently on Sept 14 (through my request) that a more accurate FY12 budget dated 6/24/11 was posted for town residents to view.  However, this latest posted budget does not reflect recent salary increases for key school department administrative personnel.

It would be helpful for people interested in current school dept budget information if the some of the key salary line items were subdivided.... For example, High School Principal line item contains 4 FTE's.  It would be more "transparent and open" if the individual administrative salary items were listed and not grouped together particularly since such a large portion of the School Dept's budget is salary related.

The School Committee should post updated School Department budget information on the LPS website on a quarterly basis.

The School Committee as well as the Finance Subcommittee meeting minutes are not posted in a timely manner.  For example, the May-August SC minutes were not posted until September 7 and Finance Subcommittees May - August minutes were not posted until September 14..  See list of posted SC meeting minutesThe Operations Subcommittee does not post meeting minutes.

I would recommend that meeting minutes of both the SC and the Operational/ Financial Sub-committees be posted as they are approved, not 3 months later.

The Select Board does post minutes on the town website but not in a timely manner- the last set of SB posted minutes were for the June 28 meeting.  It should be noted that the Select Board Operations and Finance Subcommittees do not post meeting minutes on the town website. The Select Board needs to do better.

I do want to commend one earlier action by Rob Aseltine when he initiated as Chair the posting of all information relevant to SB meetings before the meetings take place- here is the link to this information.  These documents particularly those containing budget information are very useful when watching meetings.  The School Committee should consider a similar initiative.

The SC and SB need to work together- not against each other and both should strive to operate in an "transparent and open manner".  There is still room for both groups to improve.

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