Friday, February 25, 2011

EASD Finds No Fat to Cut in Budget...Yeah, Right.

Here we go again...

Posted by: Noël Jones

Colin McEvoy of The Express-Times reports that in the first of three budget meetings scheduled for the Easton Area School Board and its administrators, no cuts at all were identified. For some reason, 11 school principals were brought before the board to present 5% cuts to their departments--budgets which amount to less than 1% of the total budget--in what ended up being a demonstration that there was no fat to cut at all (the principals' budget consists mostly of supplies, which average out to only $125/student, whereas the cost of educating each student is over $14,000/year). Marie Guidry, the EASD Business Manager who is retiring due to health issues, said that almost 70% of the budget is untouchable because it consists of compensation and benefits that are contracted. That still doesn't explain why, in a budget meeting meant to identify cuts, only 1% of the budget was examined, rather than the 30% that can be touched. Sounds like a dog and pony show intended to justify a tax hike to me.

Also, when it comes to the other 70%, there IS something that can be done--the same thing that could have been done last year--the administrators and teachers' union can COME TO THE TABLE AND AGREE TO GIVE UP THEIR RAISES TO AVOID LAYING OFF MORE TEACHERS. Sorry to e-shout, but the message didn't seem to get through last time.

One interesting cut that is on the table is that the administrators have proposed combining the positions of Assistant to the Principal (being vacated by Joe Kish, who is retiring) and Business Manager (being vacated by Marie Guidry) into one Chief Operating Officer position. Their combined salaries are over $262,000 + benefits. HR Director, John Castrovinci wouldn't say how much the new COO would make, just that it would be a substantial savings. The board voted unanimously to pay the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) $8,500 to do the search for candidates. Why the administration and board cannot review applicants on their own and save taxpayers the $8,500 is anyone's guess. A resident stood up to ask if the PBSA had ever been contracted to do a search for the EASD before, and got no answer. Keep in mind that the PSBA is a taxpayer funded entity that created itself to advise school boards on how to do their jobs. Check out their web site to see just how many jobs have been created within this agency on the taxpayer's dollar. This is the same group that went around advising school boards (in the workshops they run, which our school boards pay for--also with our money) last year to not obey the PA Sunshine Laws and to shut out public comment during public meetings that were not board meetings (see my earlier post). When it comes to bloated government, the PBSA is the first place where the State of PA could easily cut fat, in my opinion. But this is not about the state budget, it's about the budget of our local district, and our largest taxer.

Of further interest is School Board President Kerry Myers' particularly cagey announcement that he had "some tricks up (his) sleeve" with regard to more potential cuts. I guess we'll have to wait until the next budget meeting to find out what those might be...


david said...

While I support the union concept and understand the sacrifices made by many, we do need to find a way to bring this union into compliance with public will, or at least under more of our control. There are unions that are a bit out of control and our teachers union is one.
With the dollars few on the ground, we need to make them worth more. Sadly we may, most likely will, have to deal with or force a strike.
With luck, the union will find a way to become self policing. I hold little against the new and hopefully dedicated teachers, but the depth of corruption within the EASd is without doubt.
Let's face it head on, and demand performance reviews and such.

anonimus said...

A big difference here is that the mayor works at this full time and he lives the job. The school board gets paid nothing and we get what we pay for. These bozos don't take the job seriously.
Awright, some do but only for short periods of time. It's a tough job, but if you got elected you gotta do it!
Only declared candidate (I can't vote for) I like is Ronnie DelBacco, I think he will watch the budget ins and outs closely.
We'll see.

david said...

Wow, that I didn't know, there is something truly unAmerican about being uncompensated for work. One assumes they find a way to make it work for them. A suggestion would be that we do make this position a compensated one. As well, our future and our childrens futures depend on the outcome.

Anonymous said...

It used to be that the people that served on school boards were professionals or in business, and well respected in the community. Today you have individuaslrinning that have a specific agenda and are not committed to the bottom line for te taxpayers. They don't get involved and learn their job therefore they leave it up the the superintendent and executive staff.

Sue McGinley is a really nice person and was a great teacher. But a great athlete does not always make a great coach. There are two very differetn skill sets. She is not attached to the community only the schools. She never attends community events.

Witht he retirements of Kish and Guidry there is now an opportunity to hire a real COO, someone with business skills, someone not afraid to make the tough decisions. But it is the same superintendent and board that will make the hire. Let's see who they hire.

As for the candidates running in Easton I can't vote for wither -- Pintabone or DelBacco. In our WW I definetly like Fehnel and will have to evaluate the others.

noel jones said...

Yes, it's important for everyone to remember a couple of things:

1. School board members do not get paid--they volunteer copious hours of their time each month and take an incredible amount of flack--partially due to the public viewing them as a monolith, rather than separate individuals who vote differently and commit to the job differently.

2. The school board and the administration are not the same thing--unfortunately these two bodies are also commonly viewed as one monolith. It's confusing because when you go to a school board meeting, the board and the administrators all sit side-by-side at the same semi-circular table, and they do not separate the two bodies on one side or another, so for someone just getting acquainted with these meetings for the first time--or for someone simply reading about it in the news--it's easy to think that all of these people, McGinley, Kish, Castrovinci, Guidry, etc. are all part of the school board, when they are not.

The school board is made up of elected officials who volunteer their time and get paid nothing.

The administrators are not elected, they are hired, and paid very well.

They have different roles in different decisions. The board is supposed to vote on all expenditures before they are committed, because they are our representatives and it is our money they are spending.

For example: the decision to combine the jobs of Kish and Guidry into one COO position was the administration's decision. The decision as to whether or not to spend $8,500 to pay the PSBA to run the search for the COO candidates was put to the board for a vote, and they voted unanimously.

Sheishamundo said...


Your comment that administrators are paid very well in Easton is incorrect. When it comes to the principals and few central office administrators who have assumed 6-8 jobs apiece, TEACHERS make more on a per diem basis then they do!

tunsie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Truth . . . said...

This new COO is not needed! The Superintendent, who according to many sources is almost never in the district due to the fact she is a FULL-TIME doctoral student at the University of Penn, wants this position so that she can continue to work on her doctorate and have someone else run the district for her.

Anonymous said...

why doesnt she get an on line degree like pat vulcano

Len said...

Nothing will change is the EASD unless this superintendent is removed. Nice person or not, she is in way over her head and is draining this district of precious tax dollars funding her education. She should freeze her salary as well as the other administrators. Kish and Guidry are a great start to cleaning house but nothing will change with the same person at the top. On another note, someone tell me what a director of teaching and learning is? Is there a job description on the website somewhere? Isn't Dr. Maura Roberts responsible for curriculum?

Clem said...

Trouble is, where do you find a truly responsible, non-nepotistic, serve-the-taxpayer-and-the-student-not-the-bureaucracy superintendent?

Look around, not one of them knows the value of a dollar or demonstrates real business acumen. You all have this current problem, before that you had Riker (since taken care of by his pals with a do nothing job at the I.U. and then absorbed into Nazareth). Lewis in Bethlehem was a total incompetent who ends up with a job at Moravian DEVELOPING PRINCIPALS. How ironic is that? Naz has Napoleon Lesky, leading the Blue Eagle faithful into a mountain of debt so he can compensate for his shortcomings with opulent monuments to himself, hiring his cronies - the most disreputable characters you can find - and overpaying for them at that. Now Allentown has a Spendell crony getting another crack at the public pension pot and talking a lot but saying nothing and revealing himself as the political hack he is.

Contrary to typical conservative thinking, I think every district needs a COO-Taxpayer Ombudsman position. Reporting directly to the voters, it would be one who can be recalled at any time and one that acts as independent of any board. He/she should have no children in the district, not be related to anyone who works for the district past or present, nor have any past, present or, for five years following separation, dealings with anyone who does business with the school district. Kind of a Lew Herschman on steroids.

Pay them for two things: Student achievement and cost effectiveness.
Set performance and fiscal goals and deliver the rewards when those goals are met and/or exceeded.

Run the school system as a business. In the most successful businesses success flows from serving their customers, not by looking out for the employees' egos and bank accounts. The rewards are a result of stewardship, not extortion.

Getty said...

Dear Len:

Regarding your question: "someone tell me what a director of teaching and learning is? Is there a job description on the website somewhere?"

The answer is yes. However, to be more specific, you will need to reference at least eight (8) job descriptions to begin to have any understanding what the job entails.

noel jones said...

Getty--thanks for posting, but a comment like this offers no concrete info for readers--if you can give specifics or post a link it would contribute to the dialogue, rather than making an unfounded assertion (that it takes 8 job descriptions to equal the description for the position asked about).

I'm not even clear on how the assertion itself makes sense--if there is a job description on the web site, why would one have to abandon that job description and read 8 others? Are you saying that the the district is rife with administrative duplication and wasting taxpayer money?