Viewpoint

ConVal School Board  must stay within its means

I have been a harsh critic of the ConVal School Board for a number of years now, and have felt compelled to write about some of my criticisms in the last month or so, in order to educate the public about the management of their district’s business. But let me first acknowledge that the members of this school board have a very difficult job indeed, and I fully appreciate the daunting tasks that they must face on a regular basis, in running such a large and diverse school district.

That being said, part of their difficulties are self-imposed, as they forget a major basis of their mandate. This is the mission statement: “The ConVal Regional School District, in partnership with its member communities, will inspire all learners to achieve academically, contribute to the global community, and thrive as independent and productive citizens.” Nowhere in this statement is the phrase “in a fiscally responsible manner.” Citizens of the district’s member towns require a school board to manage the district by goal-setting and policy making, taking into account the fiscal restraints of same community. It is the superintendent’s job to implement board policy. If I have $100 to spend on the district and $ 100 only, then that is the amount of money the board must allocate to run its programs; it can’t come back to me and say we need $150, because I don’t have $150, only $100. It then becomes the board’s responsibility to get creative in how to use that $100 in order to achieve its mission goals. However, that may mean not all goals can be achieved, areas may need to be cut, or the mission may need to be revised based on limited monies available. This is where communication with the community is of paramount importance: realistic expectations given financial limitations. Citizens may want superior schools, but if they aren’t willing or can’t afford this, or results aren’t achieved with any amount of funding, then refusing to acknowledge this reality just leads to more distrust between the people and their elected trustees of the School Board.

At the last School Board meeting, preliminary discussion of the upcoming budget process commenced. And what I found disturbing was the back-and-forth questions about how much of an increase should the board instruct department heads to stay under when they prepare their preliminary 2014-15 budgets for review. Numbers such as “2 percent”, “3 percent”, “2 1∕2 percent” , etc. were bandied about, and yet I did not hear any factual reason for these numbers. And at no time did I hear a discussion about proposing the use of a “zero-based” budgeting process, which, though more time-consuming, would more accurately reflect the monetary needs of the district and quite possible eliminate any waste.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the only ConVal School Board member who spoke up and said that we are still in an economic recession, thus acknowledging the limits of what the citizenry may be able to afford in this school district. Thank you Mr. Pierce Rigrod of Hancock.

Teresa Cadorette lives in Peterborough.

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