Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kurtain Time in Kabuki Korners!

Subscribers who’ve been with Side since our founding, and who have kept their accounts paid up and in good standing, know that last year at this time we published two items regarding the town budget drama that have achieved legendary status.  We’re even considering having them turned into a mural, if we could just find a good place to hang it.  Perhaps as a “1% for art” item in one of the halls of Harriet’s nightmare; do you like it?

If you were wise enough to purchase original signed versions of those essays, you now have valuable collectors items in your possession; we advise you to keep them in a secure storage location.  They may not appreciate a great deal more in monetary value, but your appreciation of them will continue to multiply over and over.

For those who did not ‘invest’ when they were first released, we provide the links necessary to enjoy them in retrospect:

If you’d like to purchase your own signed copies now, we can still arrange that; contact us privately at the numbers provided on our masthead.

Now that we’ve reviewed our glorious past, it’s time to move on to our inglorious present.  As W. C. Fields said, “there comes a time  when you’ve got to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”

And the situation is this:

  • The School Superintendent has backed the School Board into a corner. Body parts must be sacrificed; it’s just a matter of which ones they want to cut off.  Taxes will still go up.
  • The Teachers’ Union is backing the School Board and the School Superintendent into a corner.  They will get what they want, as soon as they can figure out how much more they’ll need based on the new administration’s plans, plus making up for the deferral in the current year.  Taxes will go up.
  • The School Department is backing the Town Council into a corner.  More of the body parts scenario; which should we cut off?  Complete absence of guidelines or other constraints handed down.  Guess who will be the baddies in any scenario? Taxes will still go up.
  • The Town Council is about to back town residents and taxpayers into a corner.   Don’t you care about the children?  So what if you find yourself less well off than in prior years; even The Ostrich can’t pay their taxes.  So what; the teachers deserve to have their performance rewarded, even though we have no measures of their performance.  You can just hear the Council saying:

“Oh, no! Don’t send in the blubbering kids and the schmaltzy parents!  Please; we’ll do anything to avoid that!  Just tell us where to sign! Quick!” 

“Damned if we’re going to wear the black hats in this one!  So what if we do have the job of approving the school budget and the total budget and setting the property tax rate every year; it doesn’t mean we have to be mean.”

Taxes will still go up.

As usual, taxpayers will be left with a ‘choice:’ shut up and pay the predatory, adjustable rate property tax assessed against your property, or face the long arm of the law.  The budget will be balanced on “the backs of the taxpayers,” to borrow a popular image of our day. 

In other words, the raises granted to the teachers, and the increased costs of their benefits, fall on you.  It’s kind of a “friends of Albert” scenario.  Nothing personal, it’s just business.  So stop your whining.

Nothing new here; it’s the same old story.  Lots of ‘trite’ sayings come to mind - “failure to plan leads to a plan to fail,” etc.  And we certainly don’t want to bore you with proven and well-known elements of effective leadership.  Where would be the value in that?

Which leaves us, then, with a quandary or ten or twenty:

Questions for the School Board & Superintendent:

  • Where is the stepping up and taking responsibility for multi-year planning, including revenue and expense forecasting?
  • Where is the recognition that base closure and loss of Durham students have been known about for years?
  • Where is the admission that loss of Navy dependents is a fiscal blessing, since federal funds paid for only a very small portion of actual costs to educate those students?
  • How much more would the school department demand if 800 new students showed up?  Why don’t we see the giveback when it goes the other way?
  • Where is the laying down of budget guidelines before preparation and negotiations begin, to set a framework and boundary conditions, rather than allowing ‘circumstances beyond our control’ to set the agenda, instead of those responsible for oversight and management of the enterprise?
  • Where is the admission that “for the children” always translates to “for the teachers?”
  • Where is the emphasis on merit and measurable performance?
  • Where is the guarding of taxpayer interests?
  • Where, in so many words, is the recognition of economic and leadership reality?

Questions for the Town Council:

  • Where is the demand for multi-year planning and visibility, including revenue and expense forecasting, with school figures factored in?
  • Where is direction to the School Department/School Board to provide such inputs?
  • Where is the forward look at expenses and revenues that will accrue with Navy departure from the base and it’s control?
  • Where are the guidelines to the School Board on budget submission, months before they begin their preparation process?
  • Where is the admission that since you have responsibility to approve the School Budget total, and the Town Budget total, and to set the tax rate, that you have implicit and explicit responsibility for the School Budget bottom line?
  • Where is the recognition of economic and leadership reality?

Questions for Brunswick Citizens:

  • What are you doing to compel your School Board and Town Council to step up and take responsibility and accountability for their official obligations, and exercise all due diligence in planning and leadership of the Brunswick town enterprise?
  • When will you insist that they behave as if they are driving the town bus, rather than standing in front of it and hoping they don’t get run over?
  • When will you acknowledge, and require elected official recognition of, economic and leadership reality, and their duties to be stewards of the town enterprise and your stake in it?
  • When will you demand that a target be identified before the aiming starts?

That should be enough to keep the ‘interested student’ busy, but in case it’s not, here’s some more to do, including a repeat or two:

So that’s the news from Kabuki Korners.  Better tighten up that obi of yours a couple of notches. 

And while you’re at it, sharpen your front teeth so you can try to gnaw your way through the walls of your korner.  I don’t think it will work, but it’s your only choice, from what we can tell.

No, wait; I simply can’t stop here; I’ve got to run this again, until it is seared in the mind of every reader: 

“When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”  Albert Shanker - President of the United Federation of Teachers [1964-1984] & the American Federation of Teachers [1974-1997]

KKFN!  (That’s ka-ka for now!)


  1. Didn't you go to school to learn? All you have are questions but I don't see any answers. Since I know you its not that you went to Brunswick schools.

  2. Four corners, all occupied by victims. This is what happens when projects, policies and expenditures are determined by intentions, and not any kind of measurable results.

  3. Four corners, all occupied. The inevitable result of placing intent ahead of any measurable result.