Monday, April 22, 2013

Board of Education Reorganizes April 22, 2013

Tonight the Board of Education held their annual reorganization.  New Board of Education members Rodriguez and Hoffman were sworn in, as was returning Albolino.

Political buddies were spotted rubbing elbows and exchanging pleasantries
Ronnie Bolcik-McKenna was named President and Angel Carrion was named Vice President.  After the pleasantries and formalities of the reorganization the regular meeting of the Board of Education commenced with a special presentation from the cast of Rent (a recent production at HHS).  What a presentation it was, we do have among the best Drama and Performing Arts students.

A presentation by the cast of Rent
A common thread through the meeting was a seven vote yes streak to a two-trustee series of questions.  Rather than being able to ask questions and understand the items relating to a $97 million budget and the future of some 5,500 students that they were voting on, they were met with sighs and groans from the audience and a hurry up attitude from the Board President.  It appears that the voters are one step closer to getting what they want--consensus without independent thought or reasoning.

Some notable questions that came from what some would call the "detractors" Larkins and Martinez:
  • Trustee Larkins remarked that he was told last year by President McKenna that he could not be the Chairman of a Committee because he was a first-year board member.  When he asked this evening why newly elected first-year board members were made Chairmen he was told that it was "the President's prerogative." Who is playing politics and not being transparent? 
  • Trustee Martinez questioned the wording of a number of agenda items and questioned the selection process for the insurance carrier, and pointed out the involvement of Former Mayor Jack Zisa as the Risk Manager.  Gee, that Zisa name pops up everywhere, those guys have their fingers in everything.  Salkin (Board Attorney) was quick to reply that when hiring, it does not matter whose name may be associated or what their independent profession may be.
  • Trustee Martinez also questioned the selection and hiring process for hiring the attorneys, and other professional firms.  She noted that interviews were not conducted or resumes reviewed.  Salkin quipped that all of these firms were previously hired and "you are just extending a continuation of their contracts."  Well, just because it is what was always done, it doesn't mean that it should not be reviewed, and changed from time to time.
On the hiring of those four law firms Richard Salkin was hired at an hourly rate of $150, for an amount to not exceed $95,000.  I addressed the board and asked how that amount compared to previous years as Mr. Salkin's 1099's for the last two years exceeded the $95,000.  I remarked that I understand the 1099's are issued on a calendar year, not a fiscal year, but for Salkin to have had a high 2011, he would have to have a lower 2012 to stay under the fiscal year cap.  Salkin remarked that he 'went over' in only one of his years as Board Attorney, but then when I asked why I could not find the caps for the last three years (when reviewing minutes) and none of the board knew the cap he quipped that this was a new procedure that was brought by Mr. Kramer the School Administrator.  I am lost, so did he go over once in his years or was there never a cap until now? 

I don't know about you but when reviewing a $97 million budget and setting policies that will have an effect on the future of our some 5,500 students, I would like to see Board Trustees submitting questions and showing a genuine interest and desire to understand every agenda item on which they vote--not just smiling, voting, and remarking how good the sports and extra curricular activities are.  Remember, in the words of John Major "A consensus politician is someone who does something that he doesn't believe is right because it keeps people quiet when he does it."


  1. Are public comments and questions allowed at school board meetings? Is there a 5-minute limit, as at City Council meetings?

    Has no one ever proposed term limits for the Board of Education?

    1. Victor,

      It is worse, you only get 3 minutes!