The only opportunity the public has to communicate directly to the Tupper Lake Board of Education is during the public comment period at the beginning of each Board of Education meeting. If you have a question or comment regarding something that is said during the meeting, it will be a month before you can ask the question or make the comment - unless, of course, you write a letter to the editor.
Members of the community, did you attend the school district's 2012-13 budget forum held Monday, Feb. 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the L.P. Quinn library? Probably not, because there was no announcement letting the community know when and where it was being held. The event sign, which cost us $32,800, had been dutifully telling us the day, date and time for the previous two weeks (I have a $15 watch that does that already), but was not used to announce the budget forum. The new website was not used to announce the meeting. The automated call system was not used to at least inform parents. So I have to ask, why was the board surprised when the attendees were almost all teachers? They were the only ones who knew the meeting was taking place.
If the Board of Education wants community members to attend board meetings, it needs to advertise. Certainly the website and the event sign are the most logical places to post notices of upcoming meetings. A notice or article in the Free Press and a public service announcement on the radio might reach an even larger audience.
During the public comment portion of Monday's board meeting, there were several comments which questioned some of the board's decisions. I thought they were presented in a reasonable and constructive manner. I don't believe the board received them that way. The members of the board are the community's elected representatives. When members of the community disagree with decisions, it is not only our right but our duty to speak up.
The board says, "We're doing the best we can." Yet they give a 17 percent raise to the highest-paid employee in the district. That raise represents about one-and-a-half times a teacher aide's annual salary. How do you justify that?
The board requested that we all work together. I agree, but to me, working together is the open exchange of ideas and mutually agreeing on a course of action. Currently, there is no mechanism for this. Mr. Mansfield stated that the governor has a quarter-billion dollars in reserve, and he has no idea how to unlock it. This is the money available to the districts once a teacher evaluation system has been adopted by the district and teachers' union. At the November 2011 board meeting, Tracy Klossner read a statement from the teachers requesting that a committee be formed with representatives from the teachers, administration and members of the Board of Education to develop a mutually agreeable system for teacher evaluations. The teachers are willing and eager to move this process forward. As far as I know, the Board of Education has not acted on this request.
Being a member of the Board of Education is a difficult and thankless job. I have great respect for anyone willing to take it on. But the job could be made easier by listening to the community and teachers, not just the administration. You want everyone to work together? Then mechanisms need to be established to allow free and open communication, without fear of reprisal from the administration.
Trish Anrig lives in Tupper Lake.