To the editor:
After reading recent coverage of the School Committee meetings from several sources I am left with the following questions:
At the June 29 meeting, Superintendent Buckey and Assistant Superintendent Cresta indicated to School Committee members and the public that they have known for some time there would be a surplus of significant funds this year, resulting from staff departures and retirements. The School Committee indicated at the meeting that they were unaware of this. “Asked when they learned about the surplus school funds, Fox and Schaeffner answered, “Tonight.” (Marblehead Current article, June 30). Buckey’s reply indicated that it had been discussed with members prior to the meeting.
This strikes me as a regrettable lack of communication. It leaves many questions about what the reasoning might be to withhold information such as this from school personnel, from voters and from the committee. It seems that the administration has done exactly what they said they did not want to do, creating a narrative that the school department has hidden money.
To indicate simply that the School Committee should have known because we have always had a surplus is an inadequate response. As Sarah Fox said, “MGL gives the sole authority for this budget to the elected officials at this table.” (Marblehead Weekly News, July 1) In such a tight time it seems important that they should be deployed to shore up our very challenged educators. It sounds as if the School Committee agrees and I hope it will be addressed clearly and quickly. If there is a crucial reason, other than fear of future cuts (a weak slippery slope argument) why this money should remain out of use, we deserve to understand it, as we deserved to prior to the election!
Buckey has been quoted as saying “asking the leadership team to go back now and review their decisions” is a mistake.” And that, “it would be extremely difficult to justify which positions at different schools should get priority”. (Current) The superintendent of schools is the head of the administrative team and his role is to provide leadership — to be responsible for making decisions that benefit the school system overall. I am sure such moves are not without significant pain, but it is the role of the job. He cannot abdicate his responsibility to the larger picture in favor of the administrative team getting along with each other in a shared sense of fairness.
I hope these questions can be addressed with clarity and speed for the families and voters in town. The present impression is discouraging, not only in its results but in the very confusing process of communication from the superintendent’s office.