The Board will be meeting this afternoon and evening for a Board Workshop on "Budget Planning and Development". Here is the agenda.
It begins with a recap of the budget gap for the coming year. This is to make sure that everyone comes into the meeting with lowered expectations.
Next comes "Board developed guiding principals(sic)". I don't think that the Board is actually going to give guidance to principals, I think this was supposed to be "guiding principles". What are the Board's guiding principles? Last year they were to strike a balance between ongoing operations and investments in the Strategic Plan. I say balance, but I don't recall the Board ever saying "no" to any spending on the Plan. The community, I think, would have preferred more spending on current operations and less investment in Strategic Plan items. All of the cuts came in current operations, none that I could see in the Plan. I don't recall anyone in the District leadership ever saying "We will need to defer that Plan project until we have the funding for it." Do you?
Next comes "Budget Priorities". The agenda offers some examples, including Audit/Compliance, Impact to schools, Academic Assurances, Strategic Plan, New Student Assignment Plan Impacts, School Performance Framework, Human Resources Transformation. Notice something about this list? After audit compliance - which should save money, not cost money - and "impact to schools" - whatever that means - comes the Strategic Plan. Notice that the next three items are all Strategic Plan initiatives? The Strategic Plan is MIRVing. It takes four bullet points on the list.
Here are some items that didn't make the list of examples:
Response to Intervention - When is the District going to make support for struggling students a budget priority?
Inclusion - The District has mandated inclusion of special education students, now they need to pay for it.
Librarians, nurses, counselors - Schools need these positions staffed.
Next comes Community Engagement - internal and external. Internal is a reference to teachers and principals. I want to be sure that families know that teachers and principals are commonly ignored and disrespected as much as anyone else in the District. What level of Community Engagement will the Board ask for on budget planning? Will it be Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate or Empower? I'm guessing they will feel really, really generouos and go for Consult in which they commit to "keep people informed, listen to and acknowledge concerns and aspirations, and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision" It will be truly remarkable if they do this, as it will be the first thing they have done in which they committed to anything more than the most basic Inform level of engagement.
This will be followed by a review of the Weighted Staffing Standards, some talk about benchmarking, the timeline and then "Data Sets" - whatever that means.
From my review of this agenda, it appears that it will consist mostly of the Superintendent and the CFO/COO telling the Board how it is going to be. The Board, almost completely lacks information, context, or memory - except for what the staff tell them. They are also almost completely without vertebrae, minds, or community input. So they will, once again, act like a row of bobbleheads. They will nod along with the superintendent and drool and mumble along in their hypnotic trance "Yeah, a football. A football would make a great Christmas present."
In case you're thinking that there is at least one Board member who will step forward and demand better, let me remind you that Kay Smith-Blum is out of town and will not be able to attend the meeting. Director Patu means well, but she has yet to climb the learning curve very far and is out of her depth. Director DeBell knows better and thinks clearly, but he speaks so gently that they just ignore him. And every member of the 2007 majority is a lost cause. They are in thrall to the superintendent and have never challenged her on anything she has ever said or done. They are very unlikely to start here.
We can look forward to a budget planning process for school year 2011-2012 that is functionally identical to the budget planning process for this school year. There will be some show of public meeetings, but they won't influence the course of the decisions. The wrapper will be different, but the fruitcake inside will be the same.