I attended the Oct. 1 Tupper Lake Board of Education meeting. Since this was the first meeting I was able to make this school year, I had a few items to discuss.
First, I wanted to thank the board for allowing their contact information to be posted on the District website. You can access it by going to www.tupperlakecsd.net and selecting "Board of Education" from the "Links" section. This provides the members' home phone numbers and information on addressing written correspondence or emails.
The calendar feature of the website is now being used. If you click on the "More Events" link it brings the full calendar up. Currently, it has postings for events such as Tupper Lake's Got Talent, half-days, vacations, etc. What it didn't have were the Board of Education meeting dates, times and locations. I asked if at some point this information could be included in the calendar. (Superintendent Seth) McGowan informed me that the dates of the board meetings are set at the beginning of the year and that I could get a copy from the district clerk, which I did.
Unfortunately, the schedule only shows the dates. It does not indicate the time or location of the meetings. This I can understand, as the time and location may need to be modified depending on board members' needs and the agenda items. But using the calendar on the website would provide an easy way to post the information and provide the community a convenient means to access it.
I also asked whether the date had been set for the required early dismissal drill, since the district failed to hold one last year. Mr. McGowan stated that a date has been set, but it would not be announced at this time.
The other item I had been looking for on the Web was the Interim Report for the Administrative Mode Variance, which was due to the state Education Department by Aug. 15. When I asked if this report would be posted on the website or made public in some other fashion, Mr. McGowan responded that it was an internal matter and that they had been in touch with the state Education Department. When I said that I didn't understand, Mr. McGowan responded, "You're right; you don't." Not only did I find this confusing; I also found it rude.
My last item dealt with item number six of the variance application. This required the district to detail how it would solicit input from the teachers, parents and the community regarding their satisfaction with the Alternative Mode of Administration. In the application, the district implied that it would be using various technologies (www.zoomerang.com, Web-based surveys, survey facilities provided with the mass-dialing system) to poll stakeholders (parents, teachers, community members) as to their satisfaction with the alternative administration.
When asked whether these technologies would be used as the district outlined, Mr. McGowan replied, "We've been in touch with state Education." I found that to be an unresponsive answer. At that point I left the meeting due to a prior commitment.
The next morning, I sent an email off to the state Education Department to see if the Tupper Lake school district ever submitted the Interim Report. It had not. Later that morning I read in the Enterprise that Mr. McGowan requested to be relieved of one of the jobs, "the sooner the better."
In reading the article, I thought the board members asked many good questions. I would have liked to see a few more, such as:
-Why not put the Board of Education meetings on the website calendar, with the time and location of each meeting?
-Why didn't the district hold the state required early dismissal drill last year?
-Why weren't the variance application assessment processes identified in the application employed?
-Why wasn't the Interim Report filed by the Aug. 15 deadline? If the district intended to return to the traditional administrative model, why wasn't the required variance closeout report filed by the Aug. 30 deadline? It is Oct. 1; why is the report still not submitted? The requirement is to submit the report, not be in touch with state Education, by either Aug. 15 or 30, depending whether the Alternative Mode of Administration was to be continued or discontinued. What example does this set for the students of the district?
-Why didn't the superintendent bring some alternatives, in writing, for returning to the traditional model for the board to review for the next meeting? If the change needs to take place "the sooner the better," why not be prepared to offer solutions?
-Is the new organizational plan going to be streamlined, efficient, easy to understand, well documented with a high level of accountability?
The Tupper Lake school district is a multi-million-dollar enterprise. It cannot be administered properly with a "shoot from the hip" approach. It is up to the school board members to ask questions and dig deep to make sure things are well planned, the district is meeting state regulations, students are receiving the best opportunities available, the taxpayers' money is well spent and there is open communication between all the stakeholders.
Trish Anrig lives in Tupper Lake and ran unsuccessfully for a school board position there last year.