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High school board's big thinker is retiring

Original post made on Sep 10, 2009

It can be lonely on the road less traveled, a well-trodden path for Trustee Sarah D. "Sally" Stewart, who is wrapping up 26 years on the governing board of the Sequoia Union High School District.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (4)

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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 10, 2009 at 5:34 pm

It's "too complicated" to put together a budget that "itemizes each school's programs and costs in a form ordinary people can understand"? Does anyone else find this situation crazy? Here's a school board member who apparently doesn't think the budget is transparent enough to figure out whether specific programs are working or not, and she's been reviewing the district's budgets for 26 years. Is the district audited on a regular basis?

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Posted by Penny Weiss
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 11, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I agree. Anyone who can't put together a budget that is clear and comprehensible should be re-trained or fired. It is possible, I've seen it done, but it's all too rare. Most school board and city council members aren't finance experts, and if you can't understand the budget document, chances are that most of them can't, either.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Woodside School
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I agree. It represents a real lack of fiscal oversight by the boarrd.

I'd be very interested to see how the candidates for the SUHSD react to this. Maybe they can do better!

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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

A non-transparent budget basically means SUHSD can say whatever it wants and it becomes very difficult for anyone to challenge it. This is from the same district that argues that part of the criteria for a charter school recommendation should be financial impact on the district. Not having a financial background, but having a fair amount of experience with company and organization budgets, "it's too complicated" is a poor excuse. Whoever replaces Ms. Stewart should continue this effort for transparency and anyone running should be expected to ask for this.
Rating Dr. Gemma positively because he works well with the Board hardly strieks me as the right criterion. I'm more concerned about results. Hiring a PR person hardly seems like it should be the priority of a school district. As I've heard it said, if you have a good product, the results speak for themselves. If you need someone to explain things, it strikes me as making excuses.
Finally, while complaining about trends, Ms. Stewart notes that charter schools may create two different types of public schools. I would argue that's sort of the point. Competition and different areas of strength hardly seem inherently bad as long as there is level playing field. Admission to charter schools is by lottery so I really can't accept Ms Stewart's concerns on this front. If this is a tend she doesn't like, it is probably a good thing she's stepping down as this is likely a trend that will run further, independent of the specifics of Summit/Everest and SUHSD.
To Ms. Stewart I would say thank you for your service and good luck with your future. Thank you for having the sense to step aside and allow the next generation to take on the challenge of education.

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