The Board of Education meeting last night was something to behold. Citizens came forward with a wide range of comments including busing, drugs, all day kindergarten and the budget. Many speakers were articulate and well informed, their thoughts were coherent.
This was in sharp contrast to the illogical, dysfunctional and irrational opening round of talks by the Board of Education when it came to the budget. The BOE acted quickly on two agenda items then moved to the last item on the agenda which was listed as a discussion and vote on the fiscal year 2012 budget.
Immediately the topic of discussion centered on a grant. Mr. Barrett asked for a point of order and ruling by the Chairman, Cheryl Trudon as to the propriety of a discussion for an item that was not to be included in the budget. Mr. Barrett pointed out either it would be improper to discuss the grant since it is not included in the budget or it should be included in the budget to become part of the discussion.
All that was needed at that point was a ruling by the Chair. Rather than rule Ms. Trudon decided to dance, and dance she did all around the subject. The other members soon engaged in more discussion than it should take to settle the entire budget question. Ms. Trudon never did rule on the subject. The only word that comes to mind to best describe the situation is dysfunctional.
Many members of the public still remaining after attending and listening intently to the audience of citizens wanted to hear deliberations on the budget but in the face of chaos instead, rose and walked out. It was obvious to even the casual observer that the meeting was out of control and embarrassing to anyone familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order, the handbook concerning the management of meetings and leadership.
In a nut shell here is some of what happened during the evening:
- One member asked if a roof guaranteed for 20 years would have different material than a roof guaranteed for 30 years.
- The Board discussed all day kindergarten for well over an hour and every member supported the concept but not a single member offered to make a motion to include any action on the matter in the budget.
- Mr. Barrett offered a budget motion which was rejected on a 4 -3 vote with the Democratic majority rejecting the level of proposed spending. After an hour of additional discussion Mr. Barrett offered another motion and the budget was passed on a 7-0 vote for a budget of less than the original amount proposed by Mr. Barrett. (The only conclusion that one can draw from that vote is the majority on the Board wanted to lower the spending levels to support education)
- Dr. Bernard stated late in the evening that this year presented a window of opportunity to introduce all day kindergarten because next year there would be addition pressure of contractual obligations and other expenses that may close that window. (Nobody thought to ask her if we act in this window how we will be able to maintain it next year based on that line of thinking)
- Four (4) half time para-educators were added to the budget and some of these may bring aid to math and reading in the Robertson School.
- Lately we have heard much about school maintenance and this line was fully funded despite Ms. Beausoleil voicing an opinion that more money going toward paras would be preferred over bathroom repairs.
- In the end it was after 11:30 and the budget was passed with an increase of 1.6% over last year.