Attend an information session on the school budget

by susan on January 28, 2010

The school budget for next year and what to do about it is without question the hottest topic on this blog right now. It’s a hot topic for the town in general, and one residents clearly have strong feelings about (if you need proof of that, read this post and this one).

It’s in the best interest for all of us for parents and non-parents alike to be as educated as possible about the issues involved. We are the ones, afterall, who have the final say at town meeting.

If you want to find out why the schools may have to cut nine or ten positions — including teaching positions — next year, consider attending one of these three information sessions scheduled for next week. Superintendent Charles Gobron and members of the Southborough School Committee will be at each session, so it’s a good opportunity to find out the facts.

Monday, February 1 @ 12:00 pm
Upper Hall, Cordaville Hall (Senior Center)
Note: This isn’t a formal information session. Superintendent Gobron will attend a previously-scheduled lunch with seniors. There will be no presentation, but Gobron will be available to answer questions and provide information.

Tuesday, February 2 @ 9:30 am
Woodward School Cafeteria

Tuesday, February 2 @ 7:00 pm
Woodward School Cafeteria

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the budget at their meeting on February 10.

1 Kathleen Polutchko January 28, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Susan,
The “informational forum” that is occuring on the 1st is actually just the Superintendent attending the Senior Center Blue Plate Special lunch as a guest. No formal presentation will be made, it will just be Charles having lunch at the Senior Center. The sessions on the 2nd at Woodward will be formal presentations. I don’t know if you want to make a distinction on your blog.

2 susan January 28, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Kathleen, thanks for the clarification. I added a note to the post itself.

Also, for those of you who saw the original version of this post, note that the time of the Tuesday morning session is 9:30 am, not 9:00 am as was originally published.

3 Al Hamilton January 28, 2010 at 7:04 PM

Kathleen:

There is nothing more political in town government than the great debate over the budget. It is an honorable debate we have been engaged in since 1727. I applaud your participation even if I do not agree with you in all things.

However, I think we should call an “information forum” by its correct name, “lobbying for the budget”. I encourage you and other school committee members and citizens to engage in this lobbying to your hearts content. The more the merrier it makes for lively democracy.

However, it is inappropriate for the Superintendent to be involved in these activities. He is a public employee and the state conflict of interest laws are clear:

1. “You may not take any official action affecting your own financial interest…” The Superintendent draws his salary and potential raises from the budget being lobbied for.

2. “You may not use public resources for political or private purposes. Examples of “public resources” include: office computers, phones, fax machines, postage machines, copiers, official cars, staff time, sick time, uniforms, and official seals”. Using the Superintendents time to sell the budget is fundamentally a political act.

Source: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=ethterminal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Laws%2c+Regulations+and+Forms&L2=Information+about+the+Conflict+of+Interest+Law&sid=Ieth&b=terminalcontent&f=pubed_intro_public&csid=Ieth

I have great regard for Dr. Gobron. I know him to be a man of integrity who is dedicated to providing quality education to the children of our communities. He should be left above the fray and we should avoid unwittingly placing him in such a compromising position.

4 Kathleen Polutchko January 28, 2010 at 8:06 PM

The Superintendent is presenting the budget to the citizens of this town. He is giving the exact presentation he gave to the School Committee and to the Selectmen at the Budget Summit. He is imparting information and fielding questions. He is the person with the answers. Anyone who thinks it is a farce or a scam does not have to attend.

5 carrie alpert January 28, 2010 at 8:05 PM

Evening,
I too have great regard for Dr. Gobron, he wants nothing more than to educate our children in the most positive way. Perhaps he will walk to the meeting thereby negating the use of transportation and also who knows if he is taking a portion of a vacation day to use at his discretion to speak at this said meeting/information forum/lobbying for the budget–
As a member of the community who looks to my Superintendent for clear guidance in matters pertaining to issues relating to what is going on within the framework of the school system i cannot imagine anyone else explaining to me the ramifications of certain decisions, what their effects will have on the staff and student body and how my volunteer day to day existence will in fact change from “volunteer” to “teacher’s aide”.

6 123 January 29, 2010 at 9:29 AM

I’m relatively new to this and have kids that will be entering the school system in the next couple of years.

Is the School Committee not qualified and willing to lead these informational sessions? Is that not part of their responsibility?

7 Kathleen Polutchko January 30, 2010 at 12:57 PM

123,
Please see the Neary post for my description of the qualifications of your School Committee members.
This will be a repeat budgetary forum. Dr. Gobron will be presenting the same information he presented to us at our School Committee meeting which was open to the public, but only had a handful of parents there (you can still catch it on cable). This will give another chance for the citizenry of Southborough to ask questions of the Superintendent or any present members of the School Committee. I suppose the School Committee could make the presentation, but my anticipation is that a great many of the questions would be addressed to the Superintendent anyway. This method of disseminating the information would seem to be more efficient.

8 Al Hamilton January 29, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Dr. Gobron is “our” Superintendent. He is responsible to the entire community through the School Committees elected by our respective communities. Yes, he is responsible for developing the budget with his supervisors, the School Committees. But, at some point, the activity crosses the line from “developing the budget” to “selling the budget”. I think the lively debate on these pages indicates that we have crossed that line.

The great and honorable debate about how much our community is willing to spend on any public activity is at it’s core a political question. How much we are going to tax each other and how we are going to spend that money is about as political as it gets in town government. I hope we can agree on that. If we are in agreement about this then I can’t conceive why anyone would want any of our public employees to violate the state ethics laws by entering the fray. It it really unfair to expect them to jeopardize their careers to do the work that is the responsibility of the citizenry and our elected and appointed officials.

The state ethics laws are designed to provide clear guidelines for public employees and officials and to protect them for compromising situations. They apply to us.

9 Kathleen Polutchko January 30, 2010 at 1:26 PM

Al,
Nothing I or Dr. Gobron have done in any way violates any Ethics Commission laws or guidelines. How can you accuse me or him of “selling” a budget that we are not in favor of????? No one “wants” to cut teachers or programs. Personnel is the only line-item that is large enough to have any affect.
I have not posted anything on this website that I wouldn’t have said to someone who attended a school committee meeting and/or asked in a public forum. I have stated at open meetings that I am not in favor of the cuts we are making, but it is a compromise budget because I realize the dire economic circumstances the town is in.

But ethics violations is serious stuff, and your posts have proven that you have grown just unstable enough to actually pursue them. So, given that, I will be signing off. You can continue your shrill (your word), alarmist (your word), ERRONEOUS (my word) rantings and ravings without me.
If anyone has any questions about the schools, I will be happy to entertain them during the audience sharing portion of our monthly School Committee meetings held the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm in the Trottier Library. That is your official town process for disseminating information about your schools. The Informational Budget forums will be just that – informational. They will also be an excellent venue for asking questions of your municipal employees in an open, publicized, non-partisan format. I hope to see many people there. I will be there.

10 Al Hamilton January 30, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Kathleen

1. I have not accused anyone of anything. I did post word for word information found on the state ethics web page and my analysis that we had crossed the political line with respect to the budget.

2. There is a world of difference between your role and the Superintendents role. The Superintendent is a public employee, the rules that govern appropriate behavior for him are completely different than the rules that govern your or my behavior as elected/appointed officials. I fully expect that you will be vigorously engaged in all forms of political activity in favor or in opposition to various budget proposals. I certainly will be and that is completely appropriate.

3. What is inappropriate is to use public resources (eg Superintendents time) to lobby for any particular budget. At least that is how I read the information posted on the State Ethics web site. Perhaps we should ask the commission which of us is correct? I was hoping to avoid that but if you insist….

4. As for your “ad hominem” attacks on my sanity, they mean nothing to me. Is this common practice by school committee members? Calling people up at work and swearing at them at length? Questioning their sanity because they have substantial doubts about the way we run the school system? Is this really the example you want to set for the children of our community? There are places in the world where these tactics are common….

11 School Mom January 30, 2010 at 4:12 PM

I need to agree with Kathleen about the information sessions that are being held next week and Mr. Hamilton is insulting an Administration that is working very hard on trying to work within unfortunate limits. The sessions are to EDUCATE AND INFORM parents about the FY2011 budget. PERIOD. I have to admit it is unfortunate that we have too much apathy from parents about such issues but I believe it’s because they don’t know or understand the facts. Gathering information to make a fact-based judgement is (and never has been) easy in this town. My feeling is not too many parents have read the ‘small’ headlines in the Metowest or the Villager to make appropriate decisions on the budgets….it’s the ‘rumors’ at games or in the school hallways parents are hearing. Dr. Gobron is presenting information that has been given already in a public forum. Many of you may remember similar sessions were given years ago when tough decisions had to be made. Lets hope parents show up on Tuesday with lots of questions……and Dr. Gobron and School Committee can answer them openly & honestly and then let the parents make a decision whether or not to support the school budget.

12 Donna McDaniel February 1, 2010 at 10:48 PM

I try very hard not to respond to some of these messages but I cannot NOT write to the issue of the superintendent holding an open meeting to explain the budget to the citizens of the town. What better way for us to be informed? We should welcome the opportunity that he has offered. Can the DPW Superintendent not come forward if we have questions about her budget? Or the Town Clerk speak of the reasons he is asking for certain budget items or the Town Treasurer explain why a certain expense has gone up? What would we say about any of these officials if they refused to answer our questions? In a world filled with intentionally misleading political ads that make us feel helpless to bring our lives as citizens to a higher plane, it is refreshing that we can decide for ourselves if a local official is trying to “sell” us something for his own good or if he is giving us a very valuable analysis. While we are given too many reasons to be cynical on other levels, it always saddens me to encounter such cynicism in our own community where we have an opportunity to know people and judge their character and their intentions for ourselves.

13 Sue Grinblatas February 2, 2010 at 8:33 AM

I have to agree with School Mom that the apathy we see on the part of citizens of this town, and particularly parents of school children, stems in large part (I hope) from lack of information. I applaud Dr. Gobron’s continued efforts to inform the ENTIRE community (all are welcome to attend) about the budget issues. I hope, too, that we can persuade the School Committee to change its budget to reflect cutting NO teachers.

I encourage Ms. Polutchko, and anyone else, to not be bullied into ceasing her participation in this and other public discourses by Mr. Hamilton. I have no doubt that Dr. Gobron is well within his job description when he explains the school budget facts to town residents. If he earns his salary by doing so, he is not acting for his own financial gain as defined by the state’s ethics laws.

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