School Committee Night

When I walked in, the Tiverton School Committee was discussing the issuance of a few more layoff/non-renewal notices related to a possible move of the fifth grade (it sounded like) to the elementary schools. The move hasn’t even been considered, but the notices have to meet a deadline.
7:14 p.m.
I may have noted this before, but the superintendent is expecting a 4% decrease in Blue Cross/Blue Shield costs. Nothing specific, yet, but an estimated savings (off next year’s budget) of $100,000, based on higher premium payments than claims.
7:25 p.m.
Town Administrator Jim Goncalo and Town Council President Don Bollin are here to address the committee reporting on the town council’s budget doings.
7:30 p.m.
Goncalo met with all unions except fire seeking concessions. “If we are unable to acheive concessions, we’ll have to take more extreme measures.”
Bollin is asking for concessions from the school committee (as it were), specifically for some return of money allocated for, but not spent on, pensions ($548,000 from pension payment reductions related to the governor’s cutting of education aid).
7:33 p.m.
The committee is going to have substantive discussion in executive session. They’re concluding that the governor’s supplemental budget is a wash for the school district. Mr. Bollin argued that, by the way budgets flow, the change wouldn’t be as “revenue neutral” as they assume.
7:36 p.m.
Thanks to the can-kicking General Assembly, everything’s in limbo. Everybody’s trying to work out budgets on hypotheticals. The example is stunning.
7:38 p.m.
Don Bollin reported that the town is hearing, as it tries to find potential cuts, questions (complaints) about whether the school department is doing anything at all to help with current budget problems, and the answer thus far has been “no.”
7:42 p.m.
Let it be noted (although nobody of official capacity has done so) that the school committee would have certainly been able to assist the town with its budget shortfal — Bollin: “We’ve gotten to the point that we’re actually not going to pave a road,” for example — if it had not given hundreds of thousands of dollars away to the teachers, including in retroactive pay.
7:55 p.m.
On discussion of why the committee can’t be detailed in its minutes, the schools’ attorney discourages detail for reasons of practice and liability. The law requires only “the essence” of the meeting.
8:01 p.m.
The issue of the minutes came up because committee member Danielle Coulter thought some summary of the points and arguments of the committee and others regarding the recent contract debate should have been included, not just the vote tally. The attorney agrees that the law appears to require at least a bullet-point format of discussion.
8:06 p.m.
There’s some extensive debate going on about the difficulty of providing summary minutes. As a guy who sits in the audience and summarizes key points (from my point of view, of course), I find the objections bemusing.
8:16 p.m.
TCC & budget committee member Rob Coulter is addressing the committee with a follow up on inappropriate actions on the school district’s part in encouraging voters to approve the budget at last years financial town meeting.
8:19 p.m.
Oddly, the current school committee has not been updated on the exchanges between the superintendent and the Department of Education. After the initial request from the state for a statement, Supt. Rearick informed the committee, but he says that he was waiting for a response from RIDE before offering an update.
8:28 p.m.
As seems usually to be the case, substantive discussion about the law and the operation of the school district will be performed in executive session.
There was some unnecessary contention. Rob asked whether it’s committee policy to adhere to a charter amendment (passed but not ratified by the state) prohibiting public funds for advocacy, and Sally Black said that Supt. Rearick had already confirmed that.
Rob made the obvious point that the committee hadn’t made an official statement, and Carol Herrmann noted that the district’s attorney had advised them not to do so prior to closed discussion.
My summary reads mildly, but the tone and expressions bespoke the underlying tensions of the town.

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Colonal Bulgarmarsh
Colonal Bulgarmarsh
12 years ago

“My summary reads mildly, but the tone and expressions bespoke the underlying tensions of the town.” Excellent observation…that’s what distinguishes a productive, professionally run public meeting and what the citizens were subjected to last Thursday with some of the clowns trying to take control of the town through the Budget Committee. Let’s take a good look at who we have running some of our meetings and think about providing effective leadership to the town in this time of crisis.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Yes, let’s.
1. The school committee had the advantage of not having members of the town council gabbing disruptively in the back of a small meeting room or former School Committee vice president Mike Burk bellowing attacks as he paced the room.
2. However cordial their meetings, school committee members and representatives bemoan the difficulty of standing against an intimidating union and (unbelievably) having little to negotiate with during the worst downturn since the Great Depression. (How about having jobs?)
3. And the school committee was awfully quiet when the town administrator and council president asked for financial help to maintain services, a few weeks after the school committee had given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of that aggressive union.
Me, I’ll take leadership that conducts entertaining meetings but checks unions to lower taxes and maintain services at the same time.

jay
jay
12 years ago

“Thanks for the can-kicking General Assembly, everything’s in limbo”
Justin,
Before you run off berating the General Assembly for not acting on the supplemental budget, you had better re-read the state constitution. The Governor is the source of the budget. The legislature acts upon what he/she presents. When he sends us something we can act on, we will. Until that time the State will remain in limbo. It is the Executive who is at fault here for overspending and not the legislature. Please try to get your facts straight before you incorrectly lay blame.
Jay

Justin Katz
12 years ago

In order for your claim to have any validity whatsoever, one of two things must be true:
1. I missed the official action wherein the GA informed the governor that his supplemental budget was insufficient (e.g., by voting the thing down).
2. Your position is that the governor must keep sending unguided, revised suggestions to the GA until he happens to hit upon something that the legislators like.
Or maybe you’re the one who needs to straighten out some facts, Representative Edwards, if it’s the case that you didn’t realize that the request from Mr. Bollin and Mr. Goncalo had to do with the current budget.

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