Here’s a summary of the highlights of this week’s school budget meeting:
- The chair of the school board announced that the superintendent has been put on administrative leave.
- The school board asked if the taxpayers would borrow $480,000 to pay back, over a period of three years, the debt that has been accumulated.
- Townspeople attempted to get details on both of these points, which was like pulling teeth without Novocaine.
- The board informed the taxpayers that audits have not been complete for at least three years.
- Many people griped, loudly. Included in this crowd, I informed them that, while I realize they are volunteers, the board has a responsibility to look after these things.
- The two board members whose terms were up for renewal were unanimously re-elected.
- The taxpayers voted to withdraw from the Titanic known as Windsor Northwest Supervisory Union.
Unfortunately, the Bethel school board has a history of being tight-lipped and very secretive in their activities. I first pointed this out years ago, and I’m disappointed to see that nothing has changed. Instead of being forthcoming and giving the taxpayers something meaningful, we got short soundbites to the tune of “we can’t talk about it,” instead of the school board being proactive and supplying some details unprompted. According to the board, their legal counsel advised them not to discuss the matter. I don’t buy that.
Last year, the board suspended the business manager for the supervisory union under very similar circumstances, which is to say, no details were provided. Said business manager spoke at the meeting, implying that he was a whistle-blower and that perhaps that was why he was let go. I don’t buy that either.
The board implied that they didn’t see audits lagging by years as a problem. It was presented in a matter-of-fact manner that the audits were behind. I pointed out that this is something we refer to as a “red flag.”
The board also pointed out that they are only a minority on the supervisory union school board, which I appreciate, but this does not excuse tight-lipped, closed-doors activities. The school board still needs to be much more open about their activities. This will get the rest of the community involved, irate, and in motion. Instead, what usually happens is the budget meeting comes around, people gripe, defeat the budget, then come back in a couple of months and approve it. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It is clear that the supervisory union is a trainwreck that has been managed by an incompetent, likely immoral management staff, and the boards who have been supposedly providing oversight have been lacking in that department. Again, I recognize that they are volunteers. I did not stand up to run for the school board (as I’m already serving on two non-profit boards, I’m not losing any sleep because of this), but then again, neither did anyone else. I can only hope that the board wakes up and takes their task seriously. I’m not convinced that switching to another supervisory union will fix things, but I do think that WNWSU should just go away, and I’m happy that Bethel is taking the lead on this.