The Mamaroneck School Board Tuesday began a process of bringing the community into the school budget process.
Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps explained
early in the meeting that the purpose of establishing the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC,) which about 40 members of the public have volunteered for, is to bring members of the community "into the fold" on school finance and the budget. The primary question that was addressed repeatedly throughout the meeting was how to include community members in discussions about the budget and related matters.
Dr. Shaps asked the board members who had attended school board workshops to identify effective ways to engage the public in budgetary discussions. Board Vice-President Robin Nichinsky responded that the most effective method would be through "community conversations" which she described as open-ended discussions rather than decisions. She outlined a process which would begin with a presentation, followed by small group discussions and culminating with groups "reporting in."
One of statements that echoed the tone of the meeting was expressed by Board Member Harriet Barish who stated "As the school board, a big part of our job is to represent the community. If we do not hear from them, it is hard to represent them."
Several board members and audience members referred to the contract negotiations as being on the forefront of the public’s minds since the current contracts expire on June 30, 2011.
Board President Rick Marsico suggested public educational sessions devoted exclusively to the topic of contract negotiations. He stressed that in order for the public to offer valuable input to the discussion, they need to be well educated on the laws surrounding collective bargaining and be knowledgeable about the information contained in the contracts.
Linne Tse agreed. "So that there is no misinformation or rumors, we should take the initiative and make sure the correct information is there."
Some suggested forums for the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee could be town hall style meetings, liaisons in schools who meet with parents in small groups and liaisons to the broader community.
Repeatedly, Marsico stressed that "somehow contracts need to be part of the conversation. They are on everyone’s mind."
Towards the meeting’s conclusion, an audience member suggested that a meeting about contracts needs to take place in early January, at the latest, so that the community has ample opportunity to be educated and engaged in the discussions pertaining to contract renewals.