Home Opinion Bill O'Connor Blind, deaf, thoughtless and inert school board

Blind, deaf, thoughtless and inert school board

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By Bill O’Connor –

“Our work force (1,622) here (Henderson County Public School (HCPS)), unlike private organizations our size is constantly fluctuating.” This was stated at the HCPS budget workshop by the retiring Finance Director Kerry Shannon as she began her presentation. Mrs. Shannon is a dedicated public employee, and a more than capable public finance officer, and she should not be personally faulted for a statement that flies in the face of the facts, as any small business owner with 16 employees, let alone 1,600 can tell you. The nature of public managers is generally that they have little experience in the private economy that pays the public bills; that they really don’t know what it’s like to have to manage your own business. Or they have forgotten what they knew in the press of overcomplicated public money management. The attitude can take hold quickly as I remember a young soldier saying after three DAYS in the service, and in all seriousness, that civilians just didn’t understand us.

The HCPS administration is working on this year’s turnover report which results we will pass along when available. In the meantime, last year among local teachers, 94 left, or about 10.5% of teachers. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that nationally all state and local public employee’s turnover for the period of Feb. 2012 – Feb. 2013 was 16% versus 37.6% for private employees. Private turnover seems to be more than twice as much as public. Most private workers understand the turnover issue more clearly than our public employee brothers and sisters. The data bears out the intuition that once hired, public employees seldom stray to the private economy. It is simply a matter of security. As long as you cause no embarrassment and mostly abide by the law, a job is yours until retirement. Higher turnover is just one of the insider misconceptions and union-induced anti-excellence attitudes on display at the workshop.

One of their priorities that gathered lots of comment and unanimous support was to give all non-classroom employees a raise to equalize their supplements to the same percentage as teachers were given 2 years ago by the County Commission. More tax money will be required. Board of Public Education (BOPE) member Holt said to her this is non-negotiable. Member Mary Louise Corn allowed that we “must treat all employees equally” with no individual or class recognition. That’s the union mentality open and obvious. Keep your head down, do as you’re told, don’t speak up, and big sister and brother will take care of you. Heaven for-fend that we reward subversive non-conforming excellence with more than an atta-girl.

The perfect master slave relationship between the Superintendent’s Administration and the BOPE is beyond bizarre. Superintendant Jones still sits at the head of the BOPE meeting table. Case in point, and really just a small one among many; one of the items presented at the workshop was the planned purchase of 70 portable recharging carts for iPads/laptops, each of which having a capacity to store and recharge 30 devices, at $2,800 each totaling $196,000; half to be bought this year and the rest next. There wasn’t a single question on this, or indeed ANY other spending item. The only comments were cheerleading and whole-hearted agreement; almost as if they were all in this together. Oversight? They never heard of the word. Questions to public managers would be, as County Commission Chairman Messer likes to say: “micro-management”.

But here is a tiny example in a $115 Million dollar budget, of what could be had if the BOPE would risk being accused of micro-managing, or in other words, doing their job. The price of those recharging carts seemed high to me, so in 12 seconds by my watch, I located a highly regarded cart available from at least two respected education system vendors, each with a capacity of 40 units for $1,285 each without even negotiating a better price for such a large purchase as 70 units. The capacity for 40 units versus the limit of 30 in the items presented could get the job done with 53 units; 53 at 1,285 would be $68,105 instead of the $196,000 as presented, saving $127,895. Of course lifting a hand and taking 12 seconds is a lot of effort just to save $127,895; after all it isn’t their money. Why bother? Nobody is looking. And even if distribution among the schools requires that they actually have 70 units, they can be had for no more than $89,950, still saving $106,050 with extra capacity to expand without further buying. One may wonder, why those the particular units chosen and why that vendor? Not if you are a BOPE member though. This doesn’t mean there is anything more to this waste than uncaring dereliction on the part of the HCPS and BOPE, but then there hasn’t been any investigation either. A call to the Technical Director was not returned before deadline.

Maybe taxpayers need someone to oversee this BOPE’s overseeing of the HCPS? The rest was sadly and typically for this union-thought dominated, blind, deaf, mindless, inert and totally subservient BOPE, pretty much the same.

Correction:

“In the article on the school budget above, we inadvertently ran an early draft of the article that contained a reference to 70 computer recharging carts,  Only 35 have been proposed and numbers relating to purchase should be reduced by half.”

If you have private concerns on any county issues including school security, that need to be aired publicly, contact me with complete confidence in our respect for your privacy at:Bill@tribunepapers.com or BillOhSee@gmail.com or call 828 890-0412.

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