Highlights of 1/28/13 TESD Meeting –
Adoption of the 2013-14 TESD preliminary budget: By a unanimous vote the Board approved a resolution not to raise taxes above the Act 1 Index level of 1.7%.
Reconsideration of District Safety Consultant, Andy Chambers: Former police chief Andy Chambers attended the TESD meeting last night. Chambers offered no comment; however Superintendent Waters defended his choice in Chambers, offering a list of his qualifications, and firmly stating that the hiring was not cronyism as some in the public had suggested. TESD solicitor Ken Roos stated that he was of the opinion that the Board had not violated the Sunshine Act with the consent agenda approval of January 7 to hire Chambers. However, Roos recommended the ‘reconsideration’ of Chambers so as to avoid possible legal costs to the District, if the Board’s January 7 action was legally pursued.
There was no mention from Waters, Roos or the Board members with regards to the issues surrounding Chambers departure from the Tredyffrin Twp Police Department. A few residents spoke in favor of hiring Chambers with only one resident asking about the “two sides of the story”, referring to the Finance Committee meeting and the dialogue between myself and Chambers and Kevin Buraks.
Although all members of the Board supported Chambers as qualified to serve as District Safety Consultant, two Directors voted against his hiring. Using the lack of transparency in the process as reason, Anne Crowley and Rich Brake did not vote with their fellow board members to hire Chambers. Crowley read a prepared statement, saying that although Chambers’ was qualified; she spoke of the need for transparency and that other candidates (besides Chambers) should have been reviewed in the process. Chambers was approved as District Safety Consultant 7-2.
Consent agreement and the inclusion of the Supervisory, Confidential and Administrator Compensation Plan, Compensation Adjustments for 2013-14 and One-Time Bonus: Ray Clarke asked if these items could be separated from the consent agenda for Board and public discussion. Board President Kevin Buraks response to Ray was that the discussion of these items could occur after the consent agenda approval.
Buraks took the vote to approve the consent agenda without discussion. The Board voted to approve the consent agenda with the exception of two members. Although voting with their Board members on the rest of the consent agenda, Crowley and Brake excluded their approval of the compensation plan , adjustment and bonus (#C2 and #C3), again using transparency in the process as the reason.
Following the consent agenda approval, Waters explained the compensation plan and budget impact. Unfortunately, at this point it was 11 PM, and I did not understand his explanation of the specifics of the costs. (If anyone has the details, please offer them as a comment.) Again on the defensive, Water defended the compensation plan, etc. listed as a consent agenda item – stating that this is the way it has been done for 10 years. My response is – does that therefore make it right? I have previously stated that the purpose of the consent agenda is for routine items (such as meeting minutes or financial reports) and I do not view a multi-year compensation plan and bonus as routine.
The other noteworthy item of the evening, occurred during Waters’ explanation of the compensation plan and budget impact — Waters announced his retirement at the end of the 2014/15 school year, explaining that he wanted to have the compensation plan in place for his successor.
For the record, between Waters and Roos talking about ‘blogs’ and ‘blog comments’ and the presence of Andy Chambers at the meeting, I found the meeting more than a little intimidating. Although Community Matters was never mentioned ‘by name’, the continual reference to the blogosphere was not lost on me.
It’s important that the public‘s business be done in public, so that we can be fully informed. When the right to public discussion is removed, it becomes our responsibility to speak out … our ‘collective voices’ are important. An easy cure for lack of transparency is full visibility.