Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad decisions yield bad results

We’re expecting a large crowd at Tuesday night’s board meeting including a number of residents who will complain that we did not agree to close a middle school for the upcoming school year. While their frustration is understandable, they must realize that the current financial crunch we find ourselves in didn’t just happen – this has been years in the making and has a trail of bad decisions in its wake. We cannot allow ourselves to be rushed into another bad choice.

The current teachers’ contract (the most expensive in Neshaminy history) and not building a new high school (which would have been finished this past summer) are very real examples of how our community’s inability to look even a few years down the road has come back to haunt us. Yes, the promise of saving money by closing a building is very tempting, but we must be absolutely sure that we’re making a good educational and financial decision.

Another example of bad decision-making came to light last week with the revelation that the previous board agreed to shelve the McKissick study for 6 months so that it was not made an election issue last November. While that may have made perfect political sense, it was an incredibly short-sighted move that deprived us of important information. Yet the very board members who put the McKissick study on a 6-month hiatus are now criticizing the other members for not being able to make a rush decision. Instead of having 6 months to consider this data, we had 6 days.

I still have many questions regarding the various options in the McKissick study, the benefits of grade realignment, the impact of redistricting, and the true cost savings associated with building closures. And without the opportunity to resolve these issues, it’s nearly impossible for me to make a fact-based decision to close a building now. I respect the opinions of those who seem to be able to make such choices based on faith rather than fact, but that’s not something I can do.

Regrettably I am out of town this week on business and cannot be at Tuesday’s meeting (I offered to participate by phone but was told that was not within Neshaminy’s bylaws, and the matter is under review by our solicitor). Since I cannot be there to speak for myself, I wanted you to understand that not closing a middle school was not an easy decision. If the McKissick study wasn’t delayed unnecessarily, perhaps my vote would have been different. But unfortunately that’s what happens when people don’t consider the long term implications of their actions, and ultimately it’s the children and the taxpayers who suffer.


Anonymous said...

A few meetings ago Rich Eccles told the audience that the public throws around accusations of politics too frequently. Well what does he have to say about this? The Makissick study should not have been stalled for 1/2 a year. Why can't they keep the politics out of it?
And what rule is it that says a board member can't participate in a meeting by telephone? Who else would care enough to call in but you, and this is how your treated? There are some people who will be at the meeting that we shouldn't let participate.

got the blues said...

Once again Neshaminy is in the wrong century with technology. Teleconferences are used so much in today's world. Maybe the meeting will be postponed due to the weather.

st319 said...

Since I'm sure you asked well in advance about participating at tonight's meeting by phone, I've got to wonder why it is taking so long for the district solicitor to review the matter? Could it be that his legal firm gave a large contribution to the Eccles/Webb campaign, and he doesn't want to upset them with information that would support your request? You never know what the two of them will pull at a meeting, and not having you there to challenge any wrong information or actions benefits them. It's too much of a coincidence that an answer wasn't given in time to have something set up for the February 12th meeting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! Finally a voice of reason and intellect. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again, Last time let's ask the public about the high project and held it up, if we went for a NEW building totally, this issue would have been done already and no one would be yelling now.
But again no one is willing to make a real decision, and now they are in office again, lets stick it to us one more time, will the people in Middletown ever get it.
Maybe this time they might. Some board members really need to go they are just costing us more and more money every single year the drag there feet!
WE all knew the middle school was closing at some point,so get on with it and get it done already.
WE know the board has to hear alot of parents saying not my school, but lets think about it, we don;t need all of the buildings open that are in use now. At some point we all have to make a choice and I am sorry for all of those that will have to change school and have a longer commute to school and yes, some teachers may lose jobs or even have to move into another building, but that is life in the big city, so let just get on with it!!!!
Oh my the way meetings in many companies do use phones for those that can not be present for really important meetings, we are not in the stone age anymore where phones were not in use at all, after all the board members do have jobs and some may have to travel for the job that actually pays the school taxes, and I am not saying people should be on the teleaconfrence for every meeting but, it should be permitted when there is no other choice.

shocked, amazed but thankful said...

The situation with the School district is extremely concerning. I have to take my share of the blame. I have a child now in third grade and I am just now getting involved with the schoolboard (we all have busy lives but some things have to take priority).

I want to thank you Bill for your openness and willingness to provide information and allow your constituents an easy way to contact you. Although I am just now beginning to get to know the board and their particular opinions/styles I have to admit I am very pleased with what I have seen from you so far.

During the board meeting when the McCissock report was discussed I was astonished and disgusted by the lack of respect that some of the board members were showing for their community. I couldn't count the number of times I saw individual board members leaning over and snickering during the public comment section. Many of the members looked as if they would rather be anywhere else than on that stage -- most of us weren't there trying to impede the process.

You on the other hand, were taking notes and actively listening to the audience. I respect that and your honesty in your post today -- stating that you haven't made up your mind but depending upon the INFORMATION you obtain no option is completely off the table. I may not ultimately agree with your opinion, buy you have proven to me that your opinion will deserve my respect.

Finally, a comment regarding the board meeting from 2 weeks ago. I believe that the vast majority of the audience wanted information and was willing to try to help. This was clearly a lost opportunity. What better time to try to get the community engaged and build support for what clearly is going to be a difficult time for the district???

Kim said...

To the person that said "Here we go again"....I am of the opinion that sometimes you need to clse schools - Maple Point has been closed before and they found out they needed it anyway, so now you are flip=floping kids all over the place. Also, I don't know where you live or what school your child goes to, but my son doesn't get home until 4:20 now, so if they send him to a school that is another 15 mins away - who knows what time he'll get home with rush hour traffic! My child has a few more years in his school and I personally don't want it to come around in a year or 2 that OPPS, we made a mistake we are going to open this school again and my child gets kicked back to the original school! With the amount of taxes I pay, I do expect to have a local school and not travel yet another 15-20 mins.