Now that the Clover Park School District (CPSD) has announced it will put before the voters on Feb.9, 2016 a “replacement educational programs and operations levy proposition,” while not necessarily a levy-breaker this is nevertheless an opportune time to consider what you can do for $10,000.
Ten-thousand dollars is the estimated price to purchase a dime stuck on a nail that will go on auction this coming January 6.
Ten-thousand dollars would make the first of 258 payments on a “1792 penny – the most ever paid for a one-cent piece” only to have it fall out of your pocket while you watch, horrified, as “it turned and tumbled its way through the slats of the grate and into the city’s labyrinth sewer system.”
Ten-thousand dollars – if you’re the Clover Park School Board – would allow you to participate in a National School Board Association (NSBA) annual conference, costs estimated by the Clover Park School District for the school board members to attend the 75th Anniversary (2015) of the NSBA conference in Nashville: $10,310, or $2,577.50 per board member.
On the other hand, if you’re a CPSD board member, you could vote to discontinue these NSBA cross-country junkets that have cost taxpayers $44,606.75 for a total of 14 CPSD board members to attend NSBA conferences for the years 2011-2014 (San Francisco -2011; Boston – 2012; San Diego – 2013; New Orleans – 2014) plus the one held March 21-23, 2015 in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and instead use the funds for any number of far more practical things – like sponsoring elementary school youth baseball among the poorer sections of our district to play in the Protect Our Nation’s Youth (PONY) league, the cost of which to field a team of 1st and 2nd graders is a rather paltry – certainly in contrast to flitting about the country – $1,500.
Were the money able to be used for this purpose, and had just one school board member stayed home from Nashville and not have taken the plane, two entire teams totaling as many as 30 kids could have instead taken the field.
What benefit is there after all for taxpayers to continue to support a team of school board members to go, say, to the 2014 NSBA annual confab that was held in New Orleans? Per the “takeaways” as reported in CPSD minutes, one school board member found helpful and instructive the “How to deal with difficult people seminar.”
The subject matter of that seminar however, led by Robert M. Branson, is presumably also available in the book he’s written on the subject entitled “Coping with Difficult People,” available for $5.49 at Wal-Mart.
The four-and-a-half-stars (out of five) rating for this “Proven-Effective Battle Plan That Has Helped Millions Deal with the Troublemakers in Their Lives at Home and at Work,” is also available on Amazon for a whopping $0.01 cent.
One penny. “Used, Very Good” condition, for one cent.
Despite the school district policy requirement that board members attending NSBA conferences complete feedback forms, only six questionnaires – for the years 2011-2014, involving 14 school board members – were submitted in response to a Public Disclosure Request that sought “copies of written conference follow-up reports by attending board members.”
The debrief of school board members that attended the NSBA conference this last March in Nashville totaled 146 words in CPSD minutes. “One of the best conferences ever,” was the rather brief reply in this debrief by one CPSD board member attendee.
At this conference for which local taxpayers were out of pocket $10,310, one of the CPSD school board attendees – per CPSD school board minutes – purchased a book entitled “Bridges to Sustainable Communities,” by Ruby Payne. It could have been had for $8.46 plus $3.99 shipping from Amazon. True, the condition of the book was listed on Amazon as “Used – light wear to cover” but even still that’s a $10,297.55 savings.
“Communicating fiscal responsibility and effective resource stewardship,” (CPSD Board Goals and Expectations #3, board minutes, November 25, 2014), is commendable.
But shelling out now over $50,000 for school board members over the last five years – significant money spent for plane fare; lodging; shuttles from the airport to lodging and shuttles from lodging to the airport; meals (not likely to be sack lunches) throughout these three-day conferences; conference fees, pre-conference fees which are not included in the main conference fees; not to mention the purchase of a couple books: is not that.
Said conferences are neither fiscally responsible nor are they effective resource stewardship.
In contrast, what benefit is there to underwrite little kids to play baseball?
Ask the boy who is but seven, still so small he requires a booster seat, who steps up to the plate and sees a ball approach at 30 miles per hour which is the slowest a machine-pitched hardball can reach the plate from the mound 38 feet away without landing somewhere in-between and then hears the crack of the bat, one he swung, and the cheers from the crowd that includes his mom (and hopefully his dad) and experiences the thrill of eventually, and safely, reaching home because he never stopped running despite the stop sign waved frantically by the third base coach.
His smile – together with the high-fives from his peers and coaches, this scrapbook of a memory that will last a life-time, the team comradery – that’s what it means; that’s the priceless benefit; and it’ll also likely translate into the pursuit of other never-quit goals in his life.
What is the school board going to tell a disadvantaged, resource-strapped neighborhood – 37% below poverty; one out of four homes led by single moms and therefore without the money for baseball pants to match jerseys let alone team registration; scruffy jeans with holes in the knees; a third without mitts, and not one boy, or for that matter girl, having ever before played organized ball: ‘we couldn’t afford such extravagance for baseball as we were off touring ($140) the Nissan Factory (NSBA 2014), and taking in “all the attractions Nashville (NSBA 2015) has to offer: the historical landmarks, fabulous eats, great views, honkytonks, symphony halls and fine art museums” including visiting ($155) the Grand Ole Opry, an educational event’ – all highlighted in the NSBA promo?
‘Soon? Someday? Never?’
Things to consider when you cast your vote February 9.
Interesting that “public servants” in this day and age are still flying around to these “motivational” junkets. Come on! Get with the 21st Century. Ever heard of Skype or other online meeting applications and educational programs? Even your elementary school kids know how to do that! Maybe our elected officials and government employees need a course locally on how to use the internet for more than going to Travelocity and ordering airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars in far away places. In the private sector, especially in small businesses, we don’t have the money (or time) to pay for such “perks” which are more about feeling good about yourself than any tangible benefit to your constituents or customers. If we need training we take it locally and inexpensively. Real estate brokers for instance have to take 30 hours of education every 2 years to qualify for a license renewal. Typically these courses are free or for a nominal charge. For that I have to drive from Lakewood alllllllll (!) the way to Tacoma and I don’t even need an airline ticket, hotel room or rental car to do that. If that’s too inconvenient I can always order the same courses online and take them from the comfort of my home. But then again, I don’t have access to public funding to play around with do I?
David Anderson says
When local teachers in the CPSD took advantage of opportunities made available to them for training on topics such as “sexual misconduct, boundary invasion, bullying, reports to child protective services, et.” they traveled as far as their school (maybe home) computers and online obtained the necessary tools to advance their skills.
“An added benefit,” per the school district report for this in-house educational experience, “is that this also allows the district to easily track and document the training.”
Committing personal time – over time (and a cup of coffee) – at a computer researching and reading on whatever subject of interest – or whatever is required to become more than you are – engages the mind, disciplines the body, saves money, and ultimately and most likely achieves the desired end.
Flitting about the country reflects poorly not only upon frugality, but also demonstrates what it means to be mechanistically un-savvy.
We live, after all, in a high tech world – the Internet – whereas conferences are at best low tech. With so much available at our fingertips via computer at home, and books – the things students use in school – why spend so much to park the posterior of board members from the district of Clover Park somewhere else?
It is not unreasonable, at all, to ask staff – beginning with the school board – to save more by spending less while taking advantage of technology, thus taking money out of the conference room and investing – where it belongs – in the classroom.
Critical of money – ostensibly to better children’s learning – being used by academic-types – who are forever waving the “more money for education” banner – to traverse the country, Brad Ford wrote yet “off on a jet plane,” they go, to enjoy “snobbish gourmet meals and fancy hotels paid for by the state,” or in the CPSD’s case: “department funds.”
In this age of “online platforms,” what can be learned in Music City that can’t be learned while staying home in our own city?
Thomas Söderqvist, PhD, a professor in the history of medicine on staff at the University of Copenhagen wrote, “Attending academic conferences is a waste of time, money and environmental resources — and intellectual energy.
“Going to conferences more and more feels like a kind of ritualized masochism. You’re time-lagged and sleep-deprived and are fed tasteless transfat-saturated cookies or small sandwiches with processed meat on soft white bread. Travelling drains your research grant for money that could have been used more productively, produces unnecessary tons of carbon dioxide, and helps transnational hotel chains increase their profit margins.”
And, get this says the good doctor, instead of flying cross-country to hear whomever on their stage or platform – no matter how entertaining or informative – you could have stayed home in front of your computer while taking advantage of multitudinous “online platforms” and – AND – “you can participate even if you have bad hair or bad breath or forgot to apply your favorite deodorant.”
I re-read your Suburban Times piece today and noticed the name of one of the presentations mentioned in the CPSD minutes: “How to deal with difficult people.” So I decided to Google that precise sentence and found……………………………… 184,000 hits! For free! Yikes! As you have mentioned they could have purchased the book or gotten it out of the library.
When I took over as managing member of W***ss Products, LLC I put a halt to similar industry junkets that our previous managing member used to go on. We would get the most abbreviated verbal report back on the meeting which was of absolutely no value for understanding its benefits for the company.
I made it a point that before any trip was scheduled there would have to be demonstrated a pressing company need for it and that I expected a full and complete written report on each meeting during the visit to include what was presented and how the lessons learned therein could be directly applied to solving problems within the company………and complete with photographs.
The trips stopped almost immediately. They weren’t worth it to begin with and if they had some value it wasn’t worth the time and effort to put together a detailed report.
Gregory Horn says
I’m in total agreement with David Anderson on this one. He impressed me so much that I’m going to suggest that he run for a position on the school board next election. Dave, if our really want to make a difference, please consider it. I’ll be the first to donate to your campaign.
David Anderson says
Given, Greg, you wrote at another time but at a similar place that you in fact disagreed with my position on this matter which I’ve provided below by way of reminder to you and everyone who has read this far and really believes in the best-bang-for-the-buck principle; and since it is not likely that you’ve actually changed your views but are here, chances are, writing somewhat in jest, I would nonetheless be happy to accept your donation to make a difference, a significant difference, a life-changing difference in the lives of youth – not by sitting on a board with the privilege of traveling here and there for no demonstrable outcome that actually and appreciably impacts education, but by gladly accepting your registration money for kids to play baseball which we have made happen in Tillicum but which would surely benefit the children at Tyee Park Elementary.
The new principal there was recently transferred from Tillicum where he was most instrumental in helping a field of dreams become a reality not just for the kids who’ve now had opportunity to play the last two years, most recently winning the championship, but for their parents, the teachers, the entire community as I’ve written about for this publication on several occasions. In a conversation I had with him just this last month he said he’d love for what happened here to happen there but they lack resources.
Should that be of interest to you, you have my email address.
Here’s what you wrote before:
“When I first read David Anderson’s comment I agreed with him, but after thinking it over, I strongly disagree. The school board members oversee a huge business without pay. I don’t always agree with them, but if you had a company with a $140 million annual budget, wouldn’t you want your top managers as proficient as possible in their field? Think of it as continuing education for the management staff.”
John A says
One last comment on something that I think flew past everyone: CPSB especially. The Board is supposed to be a “visioning” value/principle based organization more interested in the future of Clover Park School District and the children it is supposed to be educating. Strategic planning to head in that direction is supposed to occur between the Board and Superintendent. Yet take a look at the junket courses Board members are attending. From the titles I’d suggest that they are mostly “tactical” items that relate more to classroom teachers slugging it out in the trenches instead of elected representatives on a Board. This is akin to sending General Officers in the military to classes to learn how to dig foxholes! That’s not what they get paid for and that’s not what Board members get elected for. A board member has suggested that a lot of “networking” goes on during these junkets. If so, please identify who those in your network are, what they bring to the table with respect to your time on the school board, and how many times during your tenure you actually email or talk to them and about what. If you can’t answer these questions any better than the sparse minutes about these junkets then they are clearly unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer funds.