July 25, 2014

Transparency expensive at USD 231

USD 231 provides all the transparency money can buy.
After several residents complained regarding fees charged to provide copies of taxpayer-funded records, The Gardner News paid about $217 for a 24-page list. District staff estimated it took seven-and-a-half hours to produce the payroll report which lists base salary, position and days worked, but not supplemental pay or stipends.
The list had originally been requested by a senior citizen who said the cost associated with obtaining records was too expensive for many low- income patrons.
Without discussion and unanimously the board of education increased costs of records at their July 16 meeting saying an increase in the number of patrons’ requests was proving burdensome. Although the fee increase was included in the agenda handed out at the meeting to those who attended, it was not made public prior to the meeting.
Charging fees for taxpayer-funded copies is a discretionary policy, according to the Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s website.
Kansas statute allows government entities to recoup “reasonable fees,” and does not provide for a low-income exemption.
The new district policy could become a public relations nightmare for the district as patrons dig into their wallets and pool money to pay for public records at a time when the economy is struggling.
Many patrons appear to be concerned about the district’s recently lowered bond rating, spending practices and low cash reserves.
Government records are owned by taxpayers, and government entities are merely custodians. About 40 exemptions exist in KORA and protect individual privacy.
We’ve asked before, and we’ll ask again, why is USD 231 so obsessed with secrecy? What is free, and often online, at other districts is overpriced in Gardner-Edgerton.
While the new policy may appear punitive in nature, we have to wonder at the district’s efficiency if it takes seven-and-a-half hours to produce a 24-page incomplete payroll report, or four hours to print off a check/expense report.
We also wonder at a board of education that considers patrons’ requests as “burdensome,” especially at a time when many government entities are trying to encourage taxpayer involvement.
Again, we invite members of the USD 231 BOE to respond on the editorial page of this newspaper.
The complete USD 231 base pay list is available online at www.gardnernews.com or for those without internet access, during regular business hours at the newspaper office, 136 E. Main, Gardner.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Been through this with the city of Gardner and School Dist. more than once and to me it all boils down to stonewalling. They don’t want you to be educated or informed as to what is really going on. They want to keep you dumb and barefoot so they can continue to do what they want, how they want and when they want. This terrible type of government, with your role only being the ATM of choice, will continue if the people allow it by their enablement and support. The choice is yours. The days of whining, moaning, groaning, excuses, Facebooking and political drivel need to stop and a proper action plan formulated.

  2. Sollicitus Civis says:

    The days of lack of transparency by the school district are numbered. What they are doing is wrong and I believe that they are aware of it. Some of the things that are requested are already available online with a couple of clicks at other school districts, FREE OF CHARGE. If this wasn’t so serious it would be laughable. When they throw up these road blocks it sure makes a Concerned Citizen wonder what they are hiding. Where there is smoke…there might be fire.

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    “Public officials have forgotten that the public records are already paid for … the public paid the taxes, they paid the salaries that helped produce these records,” Anstaett said. “All we are asking for them to do is go to a file cabinet or a computer and give those records to us. They are ours, bought and paid for.”

    The above statements are what I believe to be true. Every time one of those worthless politicians or bureaucrats don’t answer a question, evade the issue and make charges for information about citizens’ OWN GOVERNMENT, are times when my contempt level rises for the slimeballs involved in government entities we have in today’s world. And everytime a citizen supports and enables these actions is when I know how things got so screwed up.

  4. I’d love to know exactly HOW Judith Rogers came up with her figures on which teachers work only roughly half the yearly hours of a ‘typical’ worker. I’d also love to know how Judith Rogers has ANY idea of what a teacher’s job is like or how many hours they put in in a typical week. In fact, I wonder what Judith Rodgers’ contribution to society even is, I mean, aside from informing the Gardner of her priceless political wisdom by leaving comments on a minor local website?

    Additionally, I’d like to know HOW Judith Rogers would compensate teachers? On what monetary scale would Judith Rogers rank the award-winning teachers of USD231? I wonder if Judith Rogers realizes that the TEACHERS of the school district are what makes it one the highest performing districts in the state? I wonder if she realizes that the schools are what brings families to Gardner, sells houses, and brings in property tax revenues? I wonder if she realizes that the way for any society to prosper is to invest in EDUCATION? Does she think people should work for free? Does she think that teachers are overpaid professionals? Does she realize that teaching is one of the LOWEST paid professional fields in America? Does she think that Gardner’s children deserve LESS than qualified professionals? Does she think that the district can recruit the best teachers without offering competitive salaries?

    Whatever Judith Rogers’ problem with the school district, city, or country is, attacking the integrity of the hard-working, high-performing, highly criticized, highly scrutinized teachers of this or any public school district reeks of the ranting of a classless, baseless, sefl-indulgent malcontent who feels over-empowered.

    I’d suggest Judith Rogers actually visit the schools in her district. Talk to and get to know the teachers. Talk to the students. See the work the kids are doing, see them smile and appreciate a clean, safe, and challenging academic environment. Go to a football game, a volleyball game, a play, or a concert and relax. Shadow a teacher for a month. Get up when they do, come to school, plan lessons, provide meaningful feedback to students, build relationships, BE A ROLE MODEL, provide a meal to the kid who didn’t get dinner last night, buy a student a backpack because his family can’t afford one, eat lunch with the students. Then, go home when they do, taking their work with you. Get to know their families. The, Judith, after you’ve done ALL of that, then tell the teachers of this district that they make too much money. Then, go to their families homes and tell them that their mothers and fathers are ‘fat cats’ who’re robbing you. This is what you must do before you attack the teachers of this district.

    You can’t change the world from behind your keyboard, Judith. You have to go out and do it yourself.

  5. To the editor:

    You’ve lost my business.

    Your complaint and attacks on USD 231 administration and the Board of Education regarding a lack of transparency are old news, yet they keep coming. I completely disagree with your position. USD 231 has been completely transparent about the following:

    1. Increase in ACT scores to the current average of 23.2
    2. Increase in Kansas assessment scores over the last 8 years leading all schools to achieving Standard of Excellence Designations (before Gilhaus assessment performance was average at best.)
    3. The start of Advanced Placement and Honors courses in the middle schools and GEHS, increasing academic opportunities for students and better preparing them for education beyond high school.
    4. Increased opportunities for students to participate in athletics, clubs and activities. Keeping kids involved at school keeps them in a positive and motivated environment to learn.

    As a parent and member of this community for the last 5 years I value the education my child receives in this district. I came to this community because of the reputation of this district. I prefer this district’s teachers and administration focus their efforts on our children which is what they were hired to do. I do not want this district’s teachers and administration spending time away from their work creating reports at a whim in order to satisfy your “transparency” needs.

    If you want more information, get involved as a citizen who cares about this community rather than serving as the district’s bully. I struggle to see the commitment to furthering our community by alienating and offending over 800 employees of USD 231 by placing their salaries on your website and taunting elected officials to respond. We teach our children to live with character which includes being caring, respectful and responsible contributors to our community yet I struggle to see how this behavior models these principles. I’m proud of the education provided to our children in USD 231. I’m thankful for the teachers, administration and Board of Education who place excellence over average as the priority for all students.

  6. Sollicitus Civis says:

    If the lack of transparency by the USD 231 Administration is old news then why does there still appear to be an issue? As citizens do we accept this as “ok?”

    I believe it would be very difficult to find anyone in this district that does not value the education his or her child receives. The teachers do a fantastic job. Transparency of a school district to the public is important and in tough economic times, when teachers and budgets are being cut and costs to families are going up, it’s even MORE important.

    While transparency may not be important to all, it is important to some. The point of releasing the salaries is that to show that she was charged over $200.00 for something that is public record. Before you throw the newspaper under the bus why don’t you call a few other school districts and see if they would charge that much for the salaries. Those salaries in fact are not even correct. They do not take into account longevity pay or any special pays a teacher makes.

    Citizens need to learn to look beyond what is fed to them. Since you want to bring up the 23.2 ACT score, I will pose a couple of questions to you and challenge you to find the answer. The STATE AVERAGE of SENIORS taking the ACT is 81% of a given school population (seniors). Gardner has exemplary teachers, families and students. Having said that do you think our percentage of seniors taking the test would be higher, lower or about the same? What if it were significantly lower than the state average? Say around 20% lower? Instead of taking every number that is spoon-fed to you and swallowing it, why don’t you get involved and look a little deeper?

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