Friday, July 8, 2011

Do we need an IT MOU?

At this week's Select Board meeting there was a discussion of a "draft" website content policy for use with the new town website.  This policy developed by the Town Manager was an attempt to jump start operation of the website and included responsibilities for a designated "webmaster" and as well as guidelines for allowing non-govt. "links" on the website.  Below is a videotape of this discussion (courtesy of LCTV). 

As you can see by watching the above video clip, the Select Board and Town Manager haven't got a clue as to how to operate an effective town government website.

While I would agree with Mr. Aseltine that the title “webmaster” is little outdated (maybe not with his exact quote: "not this millennium"), there are certainly reasons to have someone who is responsible for the overall content and appearance of the website, who provides guidelines to individual contributors on content requirements and style of writing and maintains various functions (including allowable links) for the website.  This person also develops and provides specifications for new features that will be added to the website.  A better title might be Site Manager rather than Webmaster.

Mr. Aseltine believes that "distributed management" is a much better model to operate the website than a Site Manager or webmaster approach.  I say that the current website condition is proof enough that this model will not work very well. Distributed management means no one has overall accountability for the operation and performance of the website.

Kevin Warenda, the town's IT Director has stated that the town website development is now complete... including some "limited" employee training for posting of information on the website.  As far as Mr. Warenda is concerned, developing and maintaining content for the town website is not an IT function... this responsibility belongs to town government. 

Where does the town website go from here?  

It's looking more and more like there is need for another MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between Town Government and the School Dept to work out the responsibilities for operation of the town website.  Let's hope not... it took more than 5 years (+ many long hours of effort) to develop the recently approved MOU for maintenance.

We are now approaching the one year anniversary of the town website reorganization.  Let's hope that Longmeadow residents do not have to wait too much longer to get the town website functioning at expected level. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thank you Paul Santaniello

for setting the record straight -one more time.

At last night's Select Board meeting (July 5, 2011) there was a discussion of a new website policy proposed by Town Manager Robin Crosbie involving the addition of non-government links to the new town website.

At the beginning of this discussion, Mr. Santaniello highlighted that last year's demise of the town website was "all about links".  It was a visible link on the home page of to this blog- LongmeadowBuzz that was the centerpoint of the controversy.  This link had been visible for 2½ years on the town website and was outlined clearly as "personal opinion"- not official town government policy.  It was only after a strongly worded blog post criticizing the School Building Committee and its leadership appeared that there was any real issue.  The link to the Buzz blog was removed immediately after a request was made by the Town Manager.

During this discussion, the former Select Board chairman, Rob Aseltine launched his "revisionist history" account of what had happened.  He indicated that lack of functionality and use of outdated technology was the primary reason for the dismissal of the town webmaster- not the link to the Buzz blog....  A quick sampling of the archived video clips on this blog will easily show this statement to be completely erroneous.

Below is a video clip from last night's meeting (courtesy of LCTV) with this discussion.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Here we go again!

From the Longmeadow School Department website…

On Monday, June 14, 2010, the School Committee approved the revised FY11 School Department budget.  The approved budget reflects the budget voted during the annual Town Meeting.”

Last year, the new School Superintendent’s salary was finalized on March 30, 2010 (see contract details) yet the FY11 school department budget provided to town voters for the May Annual Town Meeting showed a line item of $135,000 even though the actual contract salary at the time was $155,000. This was a 25% increase over the $123,600 paid to the retiring school superintendent and 55% higher than the Town Manager.

Since by Massachusetts General Law the ATM approves only the TOTAL School Dept budget, changing this salary line was perfectly legal.  However, in a Buzz post last year on this subject I asked the following question:

Why were town voters mislead by the School Committee as to the new superintendent’s salary particularly given a budget that was achieved in part with a new teachers contract having a 0.0% COLA?

There was no answer from the School Committee.

The current salary situation for our town employees has not changed very much since last year…

For the past two years (FY10 AND FY11), Longmeadow School Dept employees received a 0% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).  Just recently, the vast majority of school department employees accepted a one year contract (FY12) with a 1% increase in total salaries.  The details are a bit more complicated for Unit A (teachers) given that this was not a COLA nor an across-the-board salary increase but rather an additional salary step was added which benefited only those teachers who had already reached step 15.  The majority of teachers in Unit A (steps 15 and below) did receive salary step increases for both FY10 and FY11 (+ FY12) of ~ 2.8% each year (see previous Buzz post for further explanation).

Unofficial word is that Longmeadow Firefighters have agreed to a 0% COLA for FY10, FY11 and FY12.

Other town employees (DPW, police, et al) have been working without a contract for the past two years but appear to be headed toward a 1% COLA increase for FY12 (with 0% for FY10 and FY11) based upon public comments made at the special town meeting and recent Select Board meetings.  No official contract settlements have been announced.

On June 27, the Longmeadow School Committee met to finalize the FY12 budget.  Gwen Bruns, chair of the SC Financial Sub Committee explained a number of FY12 budget line item changes/ transfers prior to the required School Committee approval.  Below is a video clip of the explanation…

A lack of clarity of the explanation presented by Ms Bruns suggests that there was some intent to disguise some of the line item particulars that were involved…. 

For those not able to decipher them from Ms. Bruns explanation, here are some additional details.

-       The salary of the newly appointed Asst. Superintendent will be $99.5K- an increase of $14.6K (+17.2%) vs. the FY11 salary of previous Asst. Superintendent ($84.9K) who recently resigned.  The Asst. Superintendent’s salary is now equivalent to the salary of our Town Manager.
-       The salary for our IT Director was increased to $90K- an increase of $10K (+12.5%) from FY11.
-       The salaries of two elementary school principals (Wolf Swamp + Center School) were each increased by $6.5K ( + 8%).

It’s important to note that the Town Manager's Budget Report had targeted each of the above salary increases as being outside the budget instructions. The Town Manager rescinded the amounts from the total School Department budget that was presented and approved at the Annual Town Meeting.

At the June 27 meeting the SC voted to utilize additional revenues to fund targeted administrative salary increases that effectively superseded the Town Manager's budget instructions and the Annual Town Meeting vote.   

Nothing illegal about what took place… 

It's just not what we expect from our elected officials from the point of transparency and responsible actions during difficult financial times.