There was quite a splash, for those that follow news about the school district and/or politics, when the school board appointed John Bambenek to be the next school board member, serving until the April 2015 elections. Just from reading several pages of commentary on BigDebbiesHouse, and even the online reel via the News-Gazette, it is obvious to me that some folks are entirely upset, flabbergasted and just a tad pissed off. But what does it all mean? At the end of the day, who really cares? Or rather, what are the real ramifications and consequences? So many times I have heard “time will tell”, but that is not good enough for me.
First, I am obligated to disclose my own perspective, to help you understand the framework from which I write this post. I have corresponded with Mr. John Bambenek (infrequently) since 2006; at the time, I was just coming up to speed on Unit 4 and the Consent Decree, and I had asked John what he thought some of the issues were surrounding the district and the board. In a January 2007 email, he pointed out the issue of a lack of trust:
“The biggest problem, and I think everything feeds into this, is that the current Board and Superintendent have lost the trust of the community. That’s ultimately why there is a consent decree and the problems that are there now. I don’t want to come right out and say Culver has to go, but he certainly would have to come up with a real plan to win back that trust.” (quoted with Bambenek’s permission)
His second comment was about how much the district spends per child; not so much in the dollar amount, but the “bang” of each dollar – what are we getting out of the investment? At the time, he was worried that Unit 4 was spending way over the state average (per child), yet our results were not anything to write home about.
“The next budget is projected to spend about $10,700 per student. I have heard both the statewide average being $7,000 and $8,500. I need to review more, but if that holds, I’d be going over the finacials with a fine tooth comb. Spending that money is fine, but we ought to be getting more results for our dollar.”
That was seven years ago. On a more recent occasion, Read the rest of this entry »