Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Information Control

I wasn't able to attend Monday night's Community Forum due to a prior commitment but I do look forward to the compilation of discussions.  Because I had hoped to get to the middle school meeting about halfway through, I reviewed the discussion questions.  It never ceases to amaze me that information is so tightly controlled. Question #1 required participants to declare which grades should have higher class sizes and which grades would have student learning damaged by higher class sizes.  The only supporting information which was provided was current and projected class sizes for the elementary school aged students, grades K-6.  What happened to grades 7-12?  As I reported in my earlier blog about class size, we know that the numbers are lower in grades 9-12 than the elementary school.

The second question required a discussion of whether or not to use the district's reserve monies and how quickly.  This is certainly a discussion dear to my heart, so I was disappointed not to get to the meeting.  Again, the information provided was not very comprehensive.  While mention was made of the restricted reserves, the prepared handout didn't mention that the amount is $2.4 million dollars or that the appropriated fund balance (described as being used to reduce school taxes and amounting to $1.65 million dollars) hasn't been spent in many years.  What is stated is that there will be $1,039,443 in the unreserved, unappropriated fund balance at the end of the 2011-12 school year.  Did anyone really know what that meant?  I can only imagine that the conversation was limited as participants mulled over how to divide just $1 million dollars. 

It is my opinion that if you want the public to engage in intelligent discussions, it is necessary to provide them with all of the information at hand, not just the information which will direct the conversation.  However, the agenda with supporting documents for the Finance Committee's meeting on Thursday is now available. Go to the school's home page: www.potsdam.k12.ny.us , click on Board of Education at the top of the school's home page.  Then go to "Committees" and find "Agenda" under Finance.  You will have to pick a year, then a date but it should get you to the agenda for the chosen day.   Scroll down the agenda page and you will see the list of documents which are available. You might be interested to know that the gap is down to $1.1 million dollars instead of $1.4 million.

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