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Monday, January 25, 2010

Financial Crisis or House Cleaning for Greeley District 6 Schools

Cutting budgets is never easy. Particularly when you are talking about cutting out two hundred jobs in an already economically ravaged town. Yet, there are better approaches and poorer approaches. It isn't clear yet just what approach Greeley District 6 is applying but it already doesn't look pristine. What is certain is that the School Board and Superintendent Lang of Greeley Schools District 6 are facing a serious financial reworking of the District or they are being cagey about cleaning house (restructuring/downsizing).

Maybe a little of both, eh? An interesting question isn't it.

After having read through the school district's audited financials report and the budget for the upcoming year, as posted on the District's website, I've been crunching some figures and noting some things that leave me with a lot more questions about the approach the long troubled District has taken.

(Before you keep reading, for those of you who like to skip the pertinent informational numbers--the conclusion is in the bottom three to four paragraphs. So is the District Administrative Organizational Chart.)

First of all I'd like to note that only 39.1 percent of students in this district tested proficient last year in math. 39.1 percent, grades 3-10 from the CASP scores according to an October 2009 budget presentation that Mr. Wayne Eads prepared for the board (it is available on the D6 website). I'll come back to Mr. Eads, Chief Operations Manager, later on in the article but for now let's concentrate on the numbers. This leaves a bit over 60 percent of the students as nonproficient.

Writing: 45.4 percent tested at or above proficiency. Well if we use the bell curve it doesn't seem too bad but I don't recall the theory behind education stating that more than 50% of students will not need to be proficient.

No doubt there are those that will blame the writing and reading issues on immigrant children. That argument is a whole bucket of water complete with holes. If true then the proficiency rate trend would hold similar in all districts with nonnative language speakers. ESL learners tend to be convenient political scapegoats. But we will give D6 administrators the benefit of the doubt on reading and writing simply because they have enough problems without that one.

But math? Math? The universal language. Come on people. There are more than just financial problems in the District.

Okay, let's move on to the next area. Ms. Lang cites up to $16 million in cuts may be needed in her letter delivered to staff last week through email. Shocking isn't it. No, not that Ms. Lang didn't have Mr. Eads write the letter, but that $16 million is a whole lot of money to most folks.

But that $16 million it isn't so big when you put it up against the total budget (revenues in the audited financials in 2009: $162,618,011) and examine the other budget figures for District 6 as prepared by, not the Finance Officer, not the Superintendent, but Mr. Wayne Eads, Chief Operations Manager. If you take a quick peak at the organizational chart at the bottom you'll see finance, oddly, falls under his dominion.

In 2009 budgeted reserves are $3,443,442. That is down from 2006 when reserves for general purposes (restricted reserves can not be used for general purposes) was $11,232,259 *Mr. Eads notes "We have been spending our reserves on instructional tools." The State of Anti-Education Colorado isn't too happy about the "state" of the reserves. Mr. Eads declares "This is a clear warning from the state that we are spending more than we are getting in revenue."

Or would that be that the District is making poor spending choices? Flip-a-coin.

The District is actually seeing a 2.97% revenue increase this year after restrictions the School Finance Act puts on the money reducing the overall increase. Student growth needs have already been calculated into the budget, again, according to Mr. Eads, the custodian turned Operations Director turned District Teacher Contract Negotiator turned Budget Analyst turned District Spokesperson turned School Board Advisor.

What does Ms. Lang do for her $180,000 + salary+ perks besides manage a grouping of Principals?

Mr. Eads total revenue column lists $134.3 million (this comes from Mr. Eads presentation on the current budget rounds not the audited financials quoted above from 2009). This is an increase of $5.9 million from the previous year. The audited statement, of 2009, if I am reading it correctly has a total of $165 million as actual revenues received by the District. I have no explanation for the difference. I imagine a possibility is unanticipated revenue that came in during the year (a windfall), increase in federal funding for that year, Mr. Eads is eliminating restricted funding, or the State cut that amount from the District. Take your pick or make up your own reasoning.

The district maintains eight different governmental funds. The major funds are the General Fund, the Capital Reserve Fund, Designated Special purpose Grants Fund, and the Bond Redemption Debt Service Fund. (p. 14 of the Annual Audited Financial Statement for 2009)

Mr. Eads goes on in the slide presentation to list new funding items expected in the upcoming year to cost $1.65 million. He then goes on, in October, to talk about hearing about a 10% shorfall and ponders, "What are the consequences of an actual 10% reduction in the District's budget?"

Now it starts getting more interesting, well at least for me, as Mr. Eads 'brilliantly' reduces a grossly complex budget into two simplistic categories so, I am assuming, the Board, made up of common Greeley folk, can grasp it better. Expenditures are 87% People (note Ms. Lang changes this in her letter to employees as PERSONNEL COSTS) and 13% All non-salary items which are listed as Utilities, Fuel, Textbooks, Computers, Office Supplies.

Okay so where are all the other expenses such as insurance, consultant fees (who are not personnel), maintenance, grounds keeping, etc? Did Mr. Eads leave these out or figure they were just too complex for the Board to grasp things other than certain types of expenditures? Are they in restricted funds (which would maybe explain the above referenced thirty million dollar change in revenues)?

Mr. Eads then goes on to advise the Board, "If a 10% reduction were imposed among all employee groups we would have to lay off at least 200 employees. Class sizes would increase. Programs and services would be reduced." He goes on to give slight scenario examples, advise to the board on broader economic consequences to employees and the community, and lays out criteria and a timeline for how to proceed.

Gee, and I thought the Superintendent did all this work with the support staff. Guess not. So an Operations Manager is left to decide or recommend the cuts to the budget which will threaten learning outcomes for 19,300 students? Why are we paying Ms. Lang again? Public Relations? Fundraising? Oversight of the Teacher's Union? Um, I don't see any evidence of activity in these areas. She has the equivalent of a CFO, an Operations Manager, a Public and Community Relations Manager, a Human Resources Person, a Security Advisor, and an Assistant Superintendent plus more.

I'd like to see Ead's resume and both Mr. Eads and Ms. Lang's job description please... thank you very much.

Let's visit the number relationships now. $16 million, the maximum predicted shortfall of revenue is, rounding numbers, right at 12 percent of Mr. Eads $134 million dollar budget. It is about 10 percent if you use the $165 million dollar budget figure (rounded up) from the audited return mentioned above (available on the D6 website).

So here are my thoughts. Do with them as you wish. I am not an accountant and there is certainly room for reasonable explanations in rebuttal here. If we could only get Ms. Lang present to answer questions.

The 10% figure does not sound as significant as $16 million dollars when put in the context of the whole budget. Although I can understand why they would put the shortfall out in concrete terms rather than a percentage. After all math proficiency in the District isn't great. If all areas of the budget receive a universal 10% reduction what would the effects be?

Why not go to the public and ask for specific help in raising funds to save specific favored programs? Why not make cuts in the "upper-crust" schools as deeply?

Here is another radical idea, if 87% of the costs are personnel based then why not encourage those able to do it to take a 10% reduction in compensation for a period of one year. Hence saving a little over $14 million with 100% participation and saving 200 jobs (according to Mr. Eads). It is a radical idea and rather a pushy one. Those making $180,000 a year, like Superintendent-What-Does-She-Do Ms. Lang would be sacrificing $18 thousand while a custodian like Eads-Used-To-Be, probably paid $18,000 a year or so would be sacrificing $1,800. On the flip side of the argument, the $1,800 would probably bite into essentials a lot more for the custodian than the $18,000 that wouldn't go into Ms. Lang's savings account. Alternative or future year benefits could be promised if better solutions develop. Although the Board's "promises" haven't proven to worth squat in contract negotiations.

So, why all the hoopla about consolidating schools, closing off buildings, selling buildings, and major changes? Hoopla is easy to create when there are other economic crisis in play throughout the State of Colorado and the Nation. Sometimes people have the tendency to overreact. Of course if you are one of the two hundred employees who have now been told job cuts are on the way a big reaction should be on the table. The sky is falling, the sky is falling, said Chicken Little.

But what if it's not. What if the crisis is only a 10% crisis, as compared to say a "huge" crisis. Let's put Chicken Little away for a moment and play out another scenario.

Greeley has a school district which has had some very hard times and made some very poor financial decisions in the past. In my own personal view the main issue in the district is poor hiring choices (see my prior posts on the topic) that have left the district riddled with semi-skilled ideologues and a "good old boy" network. They've made some improvements in the last couple of years with some minor administration changes and new Board members. But more changes are needed.

So I have to ask myself if I am a board member and have spent a couple years researching the problems and have identified the need to drastic changes to correct previous errors of judgment, how would one do that? Politely ask people to leave so you could replace them with more qualified staff and downsize the facilities? Somehow I don't think that would go over well.

The problem becomes clearer. How do you make the needed changes when faced with 87% of your costs in personnel and most of that backed by a Union--where you have to have a substantial and documented objective reason for firing someone? Laying someone off due to economics is an easier route. Additionally firing classified staff gets even easier if the Union has been substantially weakened through failed contract negotiations and faces little public sympathy in an era of recession in a working-class town. In fact, considering the District has forced contracts onto the teachers that are only one year in duration, for this current school year, it might be substantially easier. So easy that teachers may have almost no recourse at all. Political enemies are next on the list.

And then, finally, the house is clean and ready for a fresh start and the people mainly responsible for the problems in the first place get another turn at another go at fixing things without direct accountability or consequences for the initial errors.

Okay, I am not an attorney. I wish I had stayed awake during my fund accounting courses. The above is a conspiracy scenario and a rather scary one to consider. I have been through a restructuring myself and I have also been in charge of restructuring a couple of smaller corporations. I know how the strategies in management can be played out. It doesn't mean, they are playing out. But appropriate questions should be asked of the Board and their employee, Ms. Lang. Or perhaps Mr. Eads is the one to be questioned. I also know that there are presentations I haven't seen and documents I haven't read. I do not have any experience at management levels in a government supported organization. I also don't know the true legal ramifications of the contractual failures. And, truly, the Board is in a very difficult place any way you look at the situation.

Fixing both past and present errors in judgment and shortfalls with an open and forthright agenda would be the humane approach. Well, maybe not for the Board but certainly for the employees and community. Hiring highly skilled people to complete the downsizing would be sensible.

Establishing a written criteria for selecting people to be laid off based on a combination of actual performance, tenure, job duties, etc., would go a long way towards ensuring that the above scenario has not one bite of reality in it. A preliminary plan for educational quality recovery might be the next best comforting thing. How does the District go forward after the debacle.

Other things on my mind, where is Ms. Lang when the community needs to hear her professional assessment of the state of education in Greeley? Is direct oversight of the Principles and Associate Principles a good use of her time and skills during this crisis? Why is Mr. Eads signature on the cover letter of the Audited Financials in lieu of Ms. Lang's? Did Ms. Lang purposely not sign the audit? Is there another signature somewhere? Why is Mr. Eads, on the organizational chart, the supervisor of the finance officers in lieu of the Planning and Accountability Manager supervising this department? Maybe an ex-custodian has the qualifications, experience, and skills required to be in this position over a $134 million dollar budget. Maybe not. Personally, I'd feel a whole lot better if the information was coming out of Ms. Lang's mouth and not Mr. Eads'. At least I'd have a more complete picture of whether she has a handle on this mess.

There are 19,300+ students counting on us to get it right.

The District 6 Organizational Chart--from the Audited Financial Report
(If you double click on the chart it might open up into a bigger window. If not the chart can be found inside the audited financials on the District 6 website linked above.)


Comments :

24 comments to “Financial Crisis or House Cleaning for Greeley District 6 Schools”

Anonymous said...
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THANK YOU! IT'S ABOUT TIME WE NOT THE BOARD HOLD HER ACCOUNTABLE. I SAY START AT THE TOP AND WORK YOUR WAY DOWN. DO NOT IMPACT THE KIDS FIRST. THE KIDS ARE WHY WE ARE HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE

mowdy5gs said...
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I wasnt going to post again but will leave you with this. When it comes to republicans and their view of how it all should be it is ALL politics and self intrest to them. Look around Greeley and all of its coruption and tell me I am wrong. I dare you. S.C. Lt. Govenor has recently landed himself in hot water. He is a republican. His words are circumvented only by his own actual stupidity. I KNOW he and his words are an excellant representation of Greeley and the way it is run. Where the cuts are being made and how minorities are handled in the country as well as here shows what republicans deem important. His quotes are as follows.

At a town hall meeting Thursday, Bauer, who is running for governor in his own right now that Sanford is term-limited, said: "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that."

Now mind you he states that his grandmother wasnt an educated woman but still relys upon her uneducated advice to govern and play politics with. Thats a republican for ya. And no different at all from those residing on the board, the city council, commisions, or anywhere that power exists in Greeely.

Jane Paudaux said...
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I won't tell you are wrong Mowdy but it seems to be driven by ideology more than what we generally think of corruption. I don't see people profiteering from the situation. Special interests and organized networks simply help each other stay in power. You'll find that all over the world to one degree or another. Greeley's seeming need to run the city like their personal checkbooks leaves little room for appropriate innovation and investment and chokes off growth for the city. Groups with little power get restless when their future is limited and cause more problems. The group in power overreacts and makes poor policy choices to contain those growing problems and then, finally, the group in power circles its wagons because they see it as a defense to stop more problems from growing and pushing them out of power. It is a vicious cycle when you try to stop the natural evolution of culture, population dynamics, and shut out segments of your population from participating because of zenophobia. But Greeley seems to like it that way or they'd vote differently and change their power structures. Instead they march to the tune of the pied piper even when they can see the river looming large in front of them. That's what blows my mind.

mowdy5gs said...
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Well I have been upfront about my fair city from the jump have I not? I will add that it is coruption. Not allowing others to participate in or benifit due to ones or a partys hold on power is coruption. Profit does not always have to be the goal. Look at who killed Kenny Buck.[South Park dig] Hes been a D.A. How long, and has been caught up in scandle after scandal, conflicts of intrest, I mean the guy cant even serve legal warrants. WTF? But hes runnin for senate as the Conservatives conservative? REALLY? Hows that work? Do people consider this idiot educated? Republicans do thats why hes runnin. Cause hes ignorant and incompitant and they like theirs stupid boy. Makes the rest of em feel smart. They put power weather it be ones own or there partys above all else and that is corupt. Because in America the Government is meant to be for the people by the people for the betterment and empowerment of all as we are all endowed by God with inaliable rights and are all created equal. How republicans take no blame other then what they may project on others is dastardly. They refuse to work towards anything but there own power and party gains. Education, well, if children and education cannot be a common goal to work towards then my friend we are all FU%$ED!And you dont even get the benifit of a squeeze and foreplay....

mowdy5gs said...
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Also one more thing. Am I the only one in this city who finds the humor in Republicans running everything,.... into the ground? They pride themselves on what? Morals and fiscal responsibility? Yet how many buisness are running for the hills? How many new buisness have been hendered? How many scandals in Greeley from NFB to Buck to the former mayor to Hulsey to Nelson Ignacio and so on and so on? How many budget cuts are we all facing? Law and order republicans say is the way it should be. Yet they ban medical marijuana dispensorys even though it is a Colorado constituional right? How is that abiding by the law, that is their ideology Ill give you that one but it is blatent what the MAJORITY of Co. Wants is it not. I mean its medicine for sick people not dope for your teens to get at the corner store and again, dont forget a constituional RIGHT! Like free speech coupled with Obama saying Feds wont be enforcing Weed arressts in states that have approved its medical use. So all of this picking and choosing to these dolts is old and a detriment in this time of crisis that are country is facing. And all because republicans want to be the only ones with power and remebered as the saviors of the same mess they in fact created. Hell, Greeley cant even bring itself to help childrens minds cause that might be to dangerous so bottom feeders such as Oliver Cooke rail against a mill levy tax to divert cuts in the district claiming the district has to much and must be cut. Yet her kids go to private school and her neigbors kids schools wont be facing any cuts. How does that work? Anyone with me? Any one have any common scence to put a stop to this ignorence? I tried for years and all I get is harrassed by the police on a regular basis.

Jane Paudaux said...
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Mowdy I think the issues have been outlined pretty clearly. The question is what is the fix? Here is a quote from Friedman's column today. I think it applies well to the Greeley situation. But again the question is how does it get changed? Somewhere we all have to lay down our swords and start mending the factions together. That takes real leadership. I've yet to meet that kind of leadership material in Greeley. Doesn't mean it isn't around. I've certain met individuals who have tried to get into local politics with good qualities but Greeley voters want homegrown. Homegrown, in this case, may be killing the patient. The odd thing is that the minority faction is in power. The majority doesn't realize it is a majority... yet.

"Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, likes to talk about two kinds of values: “situational values” and “sustainable values.” Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities. A banker who writes a mortgage for someone he knows can’t make the payments over time is acting on situational values, saying: “I’ll be gone when the bill comes due.”

People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: “I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations."

mowdy5gs said...
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Ill tell ya why that isnt going to happen. Not should it mind you. To do so is to then excuse all of the coruption, all of the crimes committed, the underhanded backslaps to the community as a whole and as minorities. Republicans say they are all about law and order and punishment yet not one of them here in Greeleys long list of scandals has stepped foward to claim his or her own responsibility have they? So what then I ask? Apeacement? For common criminals hiding in suits and behind badges? Minorities are targeted everyday unfairly and profiled to no end for what? This is a prime example of their do as I say not as I do mentality. There are three members of Greeleys powerbase and two are officials and one is thee richest man in town I believe. Not hard to figure who those are. Now that the Supreme courts have reversed a 63 year old desicion to now allow corporations to buy and sell elections and politions well, good luck with that. On a personal note I believe a random thought I had is appropriate, it is an answer to the people of this country electing Obama. The special intrests as it were now believe we are all unable or incapable of voting all proper like [which is to say to there liking cuz courts can be bought to] and now have decided to swing the favor back to the pocket books of the rich so they may further plunder the peoples pockets. Remember, that law stood for 63 years people and is overturned now? Hmmmm?

mowdy5gs said...
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Anyone see the unusual reaction by Bushs houndog Alito? Making faces as a child does while mouthing his opinion. Remember the last time the republican stood on the floor and called out liar to Obama? Ever happen to a white guy? Both of these are unusual and happened to Obama because of who he is and what he represents. And again, it is pure childish behavior. Now about Alito, tell me Im wrong in my afore mentioned post up above. I dare you. A psycologist would say he is lying and what Obama says is true and Alito knows it and planned it that way, that is why his guilty concious reacted openly as a chid being scolded. Because he was the only one to do it and the only one who has done it all childlike and whatnot. Like a kid in the cookie jar.

mowdy like 5gs baby!

Jane Paudaux said...
on 

The distinction between the two men from sources I have read is that for Alito--what changed was that corporations before had to go through their political "holding" companies so to speak. So he probably sees it that now they can do it without channeling monies through another entity but that nothing much will be changed--there has always been influence peddling. Whereas Obama knows and understands there is a big difference when the Supreme Court "sanctions" an action and this "stamp of approval" sets up dangerous precedent for corporations to challenge many types of political spending limitations. It is too bad Alito thinks the average America is as short-sighted as his judgements are. There were two established precedents turned over by the majority in that decision. That is the very definition of what Republicans call activist judges and legislating from the bench. They may as well have held up a green light to corporate political buy-ins. "Dear Senator if you do not vote our way we will spend all it takes to unseat you." How'd you like that pressure added to an already difficult job!

mowdy5gs said...
on 

It is THICK, the distain the republicans and others have for the people of this country. Will foreign investors and corps. now be able to buy American politicks? Is this the New World Order Bush the geriatric spoke of? His son? How will the people who are common, the people who are activists, the people period have there voice heard? Thru a wimper drowned out by the echos of special intrest and cash cows? A sinister day looms and approaches with daft subvasive manuvering to quail out any brush to hide the peoples in whom this country was to represent. How indeed is this desicion fair at all. Repubs seem to wine about as swine when there ideas and beliefs are not addressed and taken to consideration at the table yet I find them strangly lacking when its there turn at the helm. It would seem, no it is that Repubs want only there message spread and there world had without any input from opposition with NO compromise but complain of this, the peoples will..

mowdy5gs said...
on 

I find a fight enthrawling and I am at the ready at all times. Tough though it mat be I would welcome a chance to destroy my enemies.
So yeah, its pressure to a difficult job lolss.

逛街 said...
on 

你的部落格很棒,我期待更新喔........................................

Jane said...
on 

Translation: Your blog great, I look forward to updating Oh

Anonymous said...
on 

My experiences have shown me that people who resort to hateful, intolerant epithets, invective, labels and generalizations, whether the intent is to personalize the disagreements or shut down civil discourse, are individuals who have divorced reality and wed themselves to self-righteous delusions.

mowdy5gs said...
on 

WOW! Anonymous, you have brilliant self insite and reflection. Were you looking in a mirror when you wrote this?







lol's's all around my boy.

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