Last night’s meeting was a marathon session lasting over 3 hours. There were some important updates on the Tawanka program and also the high school renovation project. Since it may take a while before you watch the entire broadcast, let me give you a few highlights under the category of . . .
Now you see it, now you don’t
1. Retirees: Before the meeting, the annual celebration to acknowledge service anniversaries and retirees was held in the Maple Point auditorium. Even though we are losing some fine educators to well-deserved retirements, their legacy of educational excellence will remain. Thank you and good luck to all the retirees.
2. The Retired Educator: When the meeting began, the room was full of parents, PTO members, and senior citizens – all except for one notable absence: Howard Lindner. I don’t know if he was asked by MRC party leadership not to attend, or if he just chose to stay home and watch American Idol. All I can say was he wasn’t there, but one of his cronies was. She stayed long enough to hear public comment, then left shortly afterwards. My guess is she was there to report on any public reaction to Lindner’s tirade at the last meeting.
3. The Contingency: Here’s the bottom line on the NHS renovation project – with 38% of the project remaining, only 10% of the contingency fund remains. Is that good? Bad? I’m no construction manager, so I asked someone in the building trades about it. He told me that the rule of thumb is that 90% of a contingency fund is used to finish up the last 10% of a project. If that’s true, then holding the line on the renovation project budget is going to be a difficult challenge. The major obstacle is the road improvements required which were not considered in the original project plans. That added approximately $450k in unanticipated costs.
4. Tawanka: All indications are is that the alternative program has been deemed successful as it prevents upwards of 22 students each year from dropping out. So while the program may not disappear, the building will (sort of). There are a number of parties interested in renting part or all of the facility, and this could be a significant source of revenue for the district. But the question is where to house the alternative education program? The Eisenhower facility seems the logical choice, but there will be some costs associated with renovating that building. Another consideration may be at Sandburg/Schweitzer, but can the program be as effective if the alternative program students aren’t in an isolated environment? There doesn’t seem to be clear consensus amongst the board, and there isn’t a whole lot of time left to figure it out.
A few parting thoughts
I was extremely pleased to see a plethora (hi, Erin!) of attendees last night and at many of our meetings over the past few months. While the concerns of redistricting and building closures is what may have drawn these people out, many of them are sticking around and asking questions, and they’re coming back again and again. I attribute this to the work of our dedicated PTO leaders around the district. They have been doing a fine job of educating their parents as to the issues, and encouraging attendance at the meetings.
I have received numerous emails and even a few phone calls of encouragement after the last meeting, with people showing concern that I was beaten up by Mr. Lindner and his political posse. Thank you all for your support and kind words. To be honest, I wasn’t all that bothered by what happened because I expected it. When you’ve been around this district long enough, you understand how things work. What happened that night was nothing more than a pathetic, predictable attempt at maintaining control (although the teamsters in the back were a nice touch). If anything, Mr. Lindner’s actions that night only served to strengthen my resolve.
Lots of positive feedback on the video clips from the last meeting. I’ll try to include clips in future posts but it’s a bit of a challenge. I don’t have the ability to digitally record the meetings, so I have to find someone who does. Then I have to get around to actually reading the directions for the video editing software. Maybe with a little practice I’ll get better at it.
Next Tuesday’s (May 13th, 7pm) school board meeting will feature updates on the Neshaminy Middle School closure and the 2008/2009 budget. It will be a can’t-miss meeting, although I hope it won’t be nearly as long as last night’s session.