Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And So It Begins...

Last night was the first regular school board meeting with our newly elected WCASD school board. Former school board members, Jim Smith and Jim Davison kicked off the meeting by asking the current board about possible violations of the Sunshine Law. They questioned the addition of an agenda item for approval of lead negotiator for negotiations with the West Chester Area Education Association. The Board President, Vince Murphy didn’t seem to understand the question and looked to Dr. Scanlon to answer. Mr. Murphy then was indignant to Mr. Davison, telling him to go “offline” with his question and then completely cut him off. Mr. Davison responded that he would take the issue to the Court of Common Pleas. Later in the meeting, Sean Carpenter made a motion to take the item off the agenda. I guess he realized that Mr. Smith and Mr. Davison have enough experience and knowledge to know the proper policies and procedures for operating a school board. All members except for Maureen Snook agreed. The vote was 8-1 to remove the agenda item. Stay tuned...
See article in the West Chester Patch for more info: School Board Considers Hiring a Negotiator
During the resident comments at the end, I asked why the Board was ready to hire a negotiator without even trying to work out a contract with the teachers themselves. Some of the members had campaigned for the position with the platform that they had experience with negotiations and contracts. Why are they not even willing to try to work out a deal? I explained that as a parent and a taxpayer in the District, I did not agree with paying a negotiator $200 per hour when it may not even be necessary. They would essentially be cutting programs and activities for our kids to pay for an attorney because they do not want to do the job they volunteered to do. If it’s too much for them to handle, I say step down and let someone else who is willing to do the work have the position.
Another important issue discussed (or actually not really discussed) was the vote to apply to reserve Act 1 exceptions. This would have been a type of insurance policy that the board can use if it were absolutely necessary to raise taxes above the Act 1 limit of 1.7% in order to balance the budget. A few parents spoke to ask that the Board consider taking the exceptions to keep options open. Alas, the vote was 9-0 in favor of not taking them.
See article about Great Valley in the Daily Local: Great Valley officials vote to keep tax options open
The Board also announced the new Committee Chairs along with the addition of a newly formed “Communication and Outreach” committee headed by Linda Raileanu. She informed us that we would be seeing her a lot at PTOC meetings and PTO meetings. Adding,“I know that will make a lot of people happy. ” Um, when did the school board start getting involved in the daily activities of the schools? I thought they were to oversee administration not the PTO. I guess Big Brother – or Big Sister for that matter – will be watching to make sure the parents don’t get out of line. I find it funny that they refuse to answer questions from the parents but are willing to insert themselves into our meetings. No offense, but I think she should wait (but not hold her breath) to actually be invited to the Parent/Teacher meetings instead of crashing the party. But then again, maybe it will give the PTOC members an opportunity to ask her why she snubbed their debate...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Property & Finance Meeting 12/12/2012

An Update from the Property & Finance Meeting last night: Dr. Moore, the school district business manager, reported that there were some changes in the original budget projections and that there were some savings found but we will still have a $5.1 million deficit for next year's budget. This does not include the $3.3 million that will be taken from our cash reserve and transferred to the operat...ing budget for next year. That's a total budget gap of $8.4 million for next year alone. This is assuming a 0% tax increase (which should be expected since the majority of the new school board candidates pledged to not raise taxes). Mr. Carpenter asked Dr. Moore to analyze the budget assuming a 0% increase for salaries. A few members of the public asked why they wouldn't also figure in a 0% tax increase instead of assuming that there will be a 1.70% tax increase.
There was also a change in protocol for the public responding to agenda items. In the past, the public was permitted to comment or ask questions prior to the vote, but now the public must wait until the end of the meeting to respond AFTER the vote has been decided. Mr. Carpenter said that he would consider going back to the orginal format because a few of the community members didn't feel that it was fair to allow the public to comment after the vote was determined to be added to the consent agenda (which is voted on at the school board meeting).