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Casey Sledge – Bridging the Gap; Bringing Stakeholders Together

November 26, 2012

I didn’t realize what I was getting into when I went to this one. I thought the stake holders were going to be City Council and City Management and voters. While this could have been the case, the presentation dealt with School Boards working with City Councils to get things done.

Frankly, I hate the school system. I hate that I have to pay almost $1,000/year for a school system that I hold to be sub-standard. I would say that government domination of education is one of the main reasons that Barak Obama was able to be elected as President either time, but especially the second time. Because young people are too devoid of history and practical experience to see that the road to collectivism that we are on is going to end in a terrible way.

I first became aware of my bad attitude in this regard when during the previous year’s budget there was a line item for a School Resource Officer (SRO) who is functionally a police officer that is assigned to the school. Since my tax burden for the school system is literally double that of my city and I get NOTHING from it because my kids are home-schooled, I tend to think that the school system should suck up costs like this and leave the city alone.

I also hate schools because they clog up roads during peak times of the day for commutes and slow the producers down while fostering this nanny state that is so loathsome. I’m less than one block from an elementary school. For about 30 minutes prior to school starting, it’s impossible to get down the road that the school is on because there are so many cars double and triple parked dropping off kids. I’ve learned to get over myself by just turning down another road and dodging the whole thing. I remember the first time I heard the PD say they tried to enforce all laws equally. I had to laugh, because if they did, they could fund the city in perpetuity from traffic citations on that 100 yard stretch of road just in illegal parking and loitering citations.

Mr. Sledge’s presentation was an interesting one for me to go to. I try to pick things that are going to challenge my way of thinking. I may not end up as a convert, but at least I can better see and sometimes appreciate the other side of an argument. I think that makes me a better councilman (or more importantly – a better Christian).

Mr. Sledge was from something called Public Construction. I gathered that they are an engineering firm which specializes in working with cities and school boards to get projects done.

One of his first slides depicted a city in a middle circle, surrounded by other, interlocking circles: school districts, Water districts, County, Emergency Services, Higher Education.

A later slide showed a graph from the Texas Bond Review Board which showed that Cities were carrying 32.6% of debt and schools were carrying 33% of debt. It was pretty interesting to see.

He asked some interesting questions that I’d not thought of before. Here are some of them: What are the school test scores in your neighborhood? When was the last school bond election? What is a school tax ratification election? How are your school’s finances? What is your school’s accountability rating? How many stars did they earn in FAST report?

I’ll just tell you that I didn’t know any of these things. I have a pretty high level of animosity towards the school system in general and I’m happy to keep it. Paying $1000 per year for something that does nothing for me and actually works to destroy the underlying principles and foundation of this country is just not something I’m ever going to be happy about.

So, here’s one of the answers. The FAST report is a report issued by the State Comptrollers office that rates the district academically compared to the money spent per student. He said that among schools, there’s a wide array of opinions on the rating. Schools with high numbers put a lot of weight on it as being an indication of their efficiency. Schools with low numbers say it doesn’t give them credit for other areas of education.

Eventually, I’ll go look all of these up for BISD schools in Watauga. Some of Watauga is in Keller ISD too, so I’ll try to look them up for those too.

Here are some of the things that I’d not heard or considered before that were quite interesting.

He mentioned that cities often have money problems. Schools have it worse because the county collects the taxes for the school district and then sends the funds to Austin where some lame brains there reallocate the funds as they see fit. He challenged the City people to consider where they would be if all of their money were reallocated as the state saw fit. While I was readily able to appreciate this challenge, parents paying for the education of their own children would end that problem overnight.

There were two guests which chimed in at various points during the very fluid conversation/presentation. The City Manager said of the School Super Intendant that “He keeps the kids for 9 months out of the year, which was a great help to the city, because usually the only time we see them is for police related issues.” 

The most interesting aspect of the presentation was that one of the guests mentioned that the same clients are served by both entities. Both the School District and the City collect money from the tax-payers for the benefit of the tax-payers. He gave many examples of how there were huge disparities in the allocation of resources between the two, but that ultimately, they were all for the benefit of the tax-payer.

One of the guests mentioned that the city and school district had a joint contract for mowing the grass. (By the way, when I suggested that we outsource this kind of stuff, I was ridiculed, but it works.) He said they could get better rates together. He mentioned that the school used City Hall for some training classes and the city used the schools ball fields and gymnasium for different services for the city. I’d never heard of this kind of symbiosis before. It’s intriguing. I’d love to think that I’d get something useful for my $1,000 per year.

One of his suggestions was that the City Council and the School Board have a joint meeting at least once a year and that it would be best around budget time. Interesting idea. The City Council has liaisons with the school boards, but I’ve never once heard a report from them.

Regarding school police officers, he mentioned that there are “Texas Education Code” which may be enforced by school officers, but not by police officers dealing with the public at large. He said that they train their police department on both sides so that officers can be sent to schools to assist there.

One of his statements was particularly interesting and needs no further comment from me: “God help you with a police force with Civil Service.”

At some point during the presentation, he made this statement “Never confuse truth with politics. Public perception is more important than truth.” An interesting concept. I’ve heard of this before, but I think truth is more important. It just takes more effort to make the truth stick.

Overall, a very well done presentation and one that I will try to follow up on when I’m back in the real world.


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