Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BOE Candidate Speaks Out


Anonymous said... 

SCATS,

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support, and to thank everyone who voted for me. I acknowledge that this turned out to be an anybody-but-me election, with only 200 votes separating the top finisher from the fourth, but 600+ votes separating me from everyone else. Under the circumstances, the support that I did receive is gratefully appreciated.

I would like to point out that the apathy you mention started at, and is driven from, the top. Can you list all of the organizations that normally participate in these races in some way, but this year decided not to? The PTA having no candidate’s night, the Greece Post having no “interviews” (not even by email), the unions not inviting the candidates in for a chat, and so on. I even reached out, tried to meet with organizations on my own initiative. No dice.

I wish the board all the best, but I don’t expect good things. I want to be wrong about the direction that we’re going, but like everyone else who ran, I ran because I believe what I believe, and I believe that we are headed for trouble. The indicators are everywhere, at least to my eyes. Contracts are passed with “cost comparisons” that would be an embarrassment if turned in by a student in a quantitative methods class. Budgets are passed with 81-page glossy supporting documents that are chock full of disconnected facts with no integrating analysis. The organization is conforming to various formal reporting requirements, but not taking seriously the analysis that should back up the work. Folks might suggest that too much is being done in back rooms and concealed from the public, but I suspect a different cause: the underlying intellectual heavy lifting is simply not being done, not even behind closed doors. The external markers of analysis and understanding are totally missing.

Consider, for instance, the question of the budget and mandates. The current persistent high levels of spending are never defended in any terms other than deflecting blame to mandates. Yet I defy anyone to point to any line item in the budget that is only what is mandated, and no more than that. Nobody can, for the very natural reason that in everything we do, we do more than is mandated. That is not a bad thing; it would be suspicious if we only did the bare minimum in anything. But that being the case, we cannot honestly say that mandates determine the spending. We spend what we spend because we choose to, because there are goals and objectives that we want to pursue that require more than just meeting the mandates. In any of the budget materials just presented, can you find analysis that presents some specific minimum level of service mandated, the educational goals that we want to achieve that require going beyond the mandate, and the fraction of the spending that is above the mandate? You can’t find it, and I don’t believe that the reason is that it is being concealed. I believe that the analysis was never done. This sort of discipline in processes is what I wanted to bring to the board. It is hard work, and strictly speaking unnecessary (i.e. not mandated), but it pays off in myriad ways that cannot be enumerated in advance. The benefits of discipline just emerge as you go through the process of doing the heavy lifting.

Thanks again to everyone who supported me, and to the board: please prove me wrong. Show us that we are not headed for trouble, but that we are about to do great things. The best advice that I can offer you to help prove me wrong is that you should take seriously every process that you undertake, and every product that you publish. Never, ever, just check the box; never, ever, just treat reports or reporting requirements as hollow formalities. Everyone who accepted the cost comparison on the GASA contract as an excellent work product should hang their heads in shame. Everyone who accepted it as adequate for the purpose should raise their standards: mere adequacy should never be the standard, though it may sometimes be the outcome.

Kristo Miettinen     5/21/2014 12:00 PM

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL....Ouch. Some people should be feeling the sting right about now....If they really care and are open to suggestion. That may be asking too much.

Anonymous said...

Kristo, You know the old saying that takes place at job interviews today. The term commonly used is I am sorry, but you are over qualified for the position you are seeking.

Such is the case in your regard. You are simply to intelligent to be effective on a board whose members get lost on their way to meetings. You were a definate threat to their obvious lower intelligence quotient. That applies to our Superintendant as well. And yes, you were definately the any one but you candidate for that very reason.Your presence in their midst would challenge their ability to appear confident and in charge. If you were there, they wouldn't have a clue about you are talking about in your respons. The term " heavy lifting" would be over their collective heads and none are capable of carrying even their own weight.
With your loss, they now can remain stupid while trying to look intelligent even if in their own minds.

It was apparent from the outset to me that you really wanted the position and you would have been an outstanding addition to that group. I know it probably hurts to lose, you would be human if it didn't . However, in consultation, allow me to suggest this for your consideration. It matters how committed you are to making a difference, in the long run you would find it a thankless position. As a board member, any positive changes you might bring to the floor would face stiff challenges from your fellow members that would deny any movement on your initiatives by not voting with you. You would find out soon this fact as you would at least four others to support you as five votes are necessary to get it done.

As an obvious " can do guy" you will now be spared the frustration of being relegated to a bystander for three years at all meetings. So consider that as a blessing in disguise in the long run.

Kristo, I know I speak for many others on this site when I say this in all sincerity , YOUR LOSS IS NOT ONLY YOURS, BUT A LOSS FOR OUR COMMUNITY AS WELL. Sincerely, A former Board member.

Anonymous said...

I am an employee of the district, voted yes on the budget, no on the buses (as I believe we received new ones not that long ago, and my lone BOE vote went to Kristo. I find it appalling that a district of this size cannot muster 3,000 votes. Can we finally start talking about parent/guardian apathy being a problem?

SCATS said...

To 5:03PM ~~ Out of curiosity, why did you support the budget?

Anonymous said...

In reading Kristo's "I quit" documentary, I find too many grammatical errors, too many punctuation errors, too much rehashing and incorrect requoting of the same old worn out political hashtag garbage that is often heard. And way, way too many chastisements without proffered solutions.
"Did he lose this election because he sounds too much like the graduates you all throw under the bus for incompetent education - or that he took the military escape route like so many dropouts"?
So I see just another wannabe candidate who lost that has sour grapes on his plate. Lotsa noise without any ideas, impetus, or social support to make any substantive changes.

SCATS said...

To 5:46PM ~~ I don't know what you're drinking but I'm not finding any "grammatical errors, too many punctuation errors" ... etc. He writes VERY well!

As for ideas, isn't that what we're paying the REALLY big bucks to the Supt. & her staff for?

Anonymous said...

Kristo

There are ways to be involved in Greece Central between BOE elections. I would suggest membership on the financial and/or the Mission/Goals committee.

I have been out of the district a number of years and I am sure there are other committee that coould use input but more importantly your name has to be common place in the district.

Speaking at the BOE public forum puts a name and face together for public recognition.

If you are serious about using your skills to help Greece Central you will find away that is important to you and the district. We hope to see your name on the BOE candidate list for next year when your name and skills are better known in Greece.

Sincerely

Doug Skeet

Anonymous said...

Hey 5:46, if you meant to send the love, I feel it.

But, to your point, who said anything about quitting? This was not a declaration of quitting, but an admission of defeat. I lost, and I know it, and I'm acknowledging it. Nothing more, but nothing less either. I didn't just lose, I got crushed. I know it, I admit it. I'll drive on. I still want to contribute, and I made a suggestion in that direction.

Kristo Miettinen

Anonymous said...

To 5:46

I find a stark contrast between your post and Miettinen's post. Where he is concise, you are obscure. I've read his post several times and find absolutely no errors. Could it be that you are unaccustomed to reading higher level writing?

Anonymous said...

To 5:46PM Just FYI, Mr. Miettinen has dual degrees from Cornell, a Masters Degree from UPenn (also Ivy League), and a Masters Degree from the Army War College. I'm not sure if/where you went to college, but your first sentence is a run on and your second sentence starts with a conjunction. So as they say, "you better check yourself before you wreck yourself...dohhh!"

Charlie Hubbard said...

Mr. Miettinen, you bring up some very good points. I wish they had been out there 'prior' to the vote.
Your observations of what is going on in the board room is very perceptive. You no doubt notice how the board does what they are told. Your point about contract cost analysis was right on but does not happen because the real bosses (administration) doesn't feel like giving it to them. One would be hard pressed to show the beliefs of this board. Excuse making on steroids - welcome to the public education monopoly.

Anonymous said...

5:46. It is good to have ideas and impetus I guess. let us consider the 3 that won. What ideas and impetus regarding education do we have to look forward to from them? What big changes and improvements has the 1 incumbent facilitated in the last 3 years? What great advances in education will we see implemented due to the inspiration from a union leader? He is there to protect the workers. He has every right to be there because he was voted in.
We could say this was a popularity contest but it is a familiarity poll. Did we get any mailings from any of the union endorsed candidates? Was this an in-house silent endorsement by the union? Let us all sleep well at night with the union at the helm. It will be interesting to see if the union has any problems with the current administration. If so she will be leaving.

Anonymous said...

I'm very curious where Kristo would find these "millions" that the district is spending that's not mandated, and where the GCSD can save? Everybody always brings up the superintendent and her staff. Granted they make a lot and there should be discussion there but overall their salaries make up a very small percentage of the budget.

Last time I looked the top costs were health care, staff salaries, and NYS pensions. Those three line items are mandated by the existing union contracts and thus cannot simply be changed by any board member.

SCATS said...

To 8:08AM ~~ We CAN reduce the number we employ :)

Anonymous said...

To 8:08, your question is sort of on target, but not quite. It is the administration (the people who have full time jobs doing this) who would do the work to distinguish what is mandated from what is above mandate. It is the board whose responsibility it is to insist that the analysis be done, and then deliberate upon and accept responsibility for the choices (the above-mandate spending).

The board does policy (choices), the administration does strategy (analysis). The administration has a huge responsibility, a very difficult job, but ultimately that job is to prepare the shared picture of the situation that the board uses to make choices, rather than to make choices for the district. The board needs to know what is a matter of choice rather than necessity, and why certain choices might be preferable to others. Then the board, knowing what it is choosing and why, takes public ownership of the choices. But the board cannot own a choice that it doesn’t even know is being made, e.g. because the board mistakenly believes that everything is mandated.

For instance, the administration must keep the board informed of what the minimum number of teachers is, per contract and law, to satisfy all of the district’s responsibilities. This number changes with time, as student body demographics change, existing teachers retire, etc. We currently employ more than the minimum, presumably for good reasons. The administration should present those good reasons to the board by tying the extra resources to specific district goals and objectives. Then the board, knowing what is mandatory and what is discretionary, deliberates in public and makes a choice. The same point goes for busing. The administration must keep the board informed of the minimum requirements for transportation, and of the reasons (tied to district strategy) for doing more. Then the board, knowing what is mandatory and what is discretionary, deliberates in public and makes a choice.

That’s my understanding of how the system is supposed to work, based on such experience as I have had on both sides of the fence (policy and administration).

Kristo Miettinen

SCATS said...

To 8:08AM ~~ As has been discussed on this BLOG many times in the past, there are LOTS of things we do that are NOT mandated. One example is our busing policies exceed mandates. Nowhere is it mandated that we bus ALL students under 6th grade, but we do! There used to be a good number of students who walked to school. We could save loads if we did not have "specials" teachers at grades K-5, also not mandated. More $$ is to be had if we reigned in our policy on busing to babysitters. The list goes on & on & on ...

Anonymous said...

SCATS, did u write this "thank you" note to yourself? It seems to be written in the same fashion as you, yourself write. Which BTW, gives you away everytime!

SCATS said...

To 12:52PM ~~ TY for what can only be taken as a HUGE compliment!

PS ~~ I really don't think his wife would post something I wrote onto her FB page for discussion, do you??

Charlie Hubbard said...

Again Mr. Miettinen you bring up some very good points (questions).
Ex. what is the additional costs for bussing associated with 'open enrollment' - the board does not know and does not want to know.
Please look at pages 34 + 35 of the teachers contract and ask for the cost - they won't know because they don't want to know.

Anonymous said...

It's a pity because I think the board needs new blood and someone who understands the value of what is sometimes called "Completed Staff Work" i.e. a proposal that clearly outlines alternatives and makes a recommendation based on a list of established criteria.

I find that process lacking these days in industry as well as the public sector.

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true politician... What I'm inferring from Kristo's non answer to 8:08's question is that Kristo would cut staff and bussing.

Would he cut bussing for everybody under 6th grade? How much would it save? What staffing can be cut that does not fall into the category of satifying the district’s responsibilities? Last budget presentation I was at most of the staff in this category was teaching AP courses, college level dual credit courses, or other higher level learning. As you may be aware, nearly all of the extracurricular courses have already been cut.

I bring this up because it's very difficult for me to have "faith" that spending can be reduced without significantly affecting the students. If you want to cut a students access to college level courses, bussing, etc. just come out and say it.

SCATS said...

To 10:37AM ~~ I'm unaware that GCSD has eliminated extracurriculars. In fact, we pay a boatload in EXTRA salaries (stipends) for teaching & coaching to oversee the myriad of extracurriculars Greece has!

BTW, just because a cut has an impact on the students doesn't mean it shouldn't be eliminated. They are in school to learn certain basics, not to become rocket scientists. For that, there is COLLEGE which parents should pay for, not the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Look, 10:37,

The reason for my “non-answer” to 8:08’s question (“what would I cut?”) is that I reject the premise buried in the question. I did not campaign on cutting anything, and I do not intend to cut anything. Not that I’m opposed to cuts, it’s just not the issue for me.

I campaigned on bringing rigor to our processes, understanding what we are doing and why, and making sure that the proper entities (the board for matters of choice, the administration for matters of analysis) take ownership of their respective roles. Then let the chips fall where they may, whether that is more spending or less.

You repeat 8:08’s mistake (“what I am inferring…”), assuming without any evidence that I have a hidden desire to cut something, and that you have to read between my lines to figure out what that must be. I ran on standards and rigor in processes, and nothing else. That’s still what I stand for. There is no hidden agenda. I do not know how to be more forceful in expressing myself.

Kristo Miettinen