Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Ken Coleman » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:03 pm

Jimbo,

Wow, all are tax problems are that easy to fix? Wow not only the administrator that got the estimate must be in your words an idiot, but the school board and all the people on the budget committee must be too. I am sure that you don't need any other information that what you have for this assessment.

BTW being that you’re in the business, how much software comes with your wonderful computer offer?

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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby andysinnh » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:19 pm

Jimbo wrote:Being in the business, there is no way on God's green earther that 70 desktops would run anywhere near $70K. Whoever did the bidding on this is a natural born idiot or lining pockets with the supplier. This a fine example of not paying actual attention to what the school board spends money on. Man, I could order a HP I-5 Core, 8 Gigs of Ram, 1TB HD, and 1 GB video card, wirless printer, and 23" LCD monitor all for $699 a piece with two year support. You do the math folks.

Sigh - maybe you should watch the meetings where we question this sort of thing - which we have in the past. This is a "guaranteed maximum" budgetary amount, and anything not spent gets returned to the taxpayers. Also being in the business, I can say that the price for the full-blown system w/support is in the ballpark as you've identified, but as Ken pointed out, there's imbedded SW that comes with this (including some of the new SW for these that's specific to the labs, including CAD, etc). Anyway, for budgeting purposes, the school district has always used $1k/"system" as the budgetary amount, and when the purchase is actually made, bidding for the best mix of price/support is done.

Trust me - we'll be asking the questions again at our budget hearings (and you'll be hearing me ask for sure if others don't) - but this is the "budgeted" amount, not an actual bidded quote.

andy (bud comm chair, 4-yr member)
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby RayWhipple » Fri Dec 24, 2010 1:12 pm

Jeannine Stergios wrote:tim

We need to try and change them because we are trapped in this mess and the people controlling our schools from the Dept of Education and the State Board of Education are more interested in social engineering and their own monetary self-interests than they are about our town's kids. That's why local control is so important. We know what's best for our community rather than being mandated to fit some bureacrat's ideas of how Merrimack schools should work.


I want to know as one of our new State Reps, what will you attempt to do at a state level to get this done? Will you be introducing any legislation?
"Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves. " ~President Ronald Reagan.

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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby tim dutton » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:02 pm

Ray,

I believe you are thinking of Jeannine Notter.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Jeannine Stergios » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:35 pm

That's correct - I'm not the same Jeannine
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby RayWhipple » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:50 pm

Ahh..sorry..I should have known that..been a little stresful around the house as of late..
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Jeannine Stergios » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:14 pm

No problem. Jeannine isn't a common name so I can understand. I wish I was able to go to Concord and help make changes. I do know several State Senators anda few on the Executive Council plus the Mayor of Manchester personally but not sure if that's any help.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Ken Coleman » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:21 am

As it has seemed to be lost on some people I wanted to repeat the post I started this string with:

This is that time of year again in which people become concerned about tax bills. For over twenty years now I have watched the same debates go on and on about education cost in Merrimack. Go back 5, 10, 15 or 20 years and you can pull letters out of the paper about cutting a particular course of the High School, fees for certain activities such as sports, buying less books, using used computers, cutting music programs, cutting clubs and then cuttings staff pay and benefits and enlarging class size.

First let me address all the non pay and class size arguments. Of the cost that there is ANY hope of being able to cut, everything other than class size and pay has almost NO real effect on the tax rate. The reason for this is simple, classroom staff is the VAST majority of the budget. The other cuts end up either not really cutting money (If you cut a class offering you have to replace it with something else as the students are mandated to have a minimum amount of class time) or the amount they save is such a small percentage of the overall budget that no one sees it make a real difference in their tax bill.

5 years ago Merrimack Cares had their big anti tax vote success. What was the result? Five years later everyone is still unhappy with their tax bill. The only temporary relief was a restoring of some state aid, which is now slipping away again and then also some of the savings of the town being empted for one time tax relief.

A couple of facts:

For the last 10 years the school board has been decreasing staffing at a slightly greater rate than the enrollment has been dropping

For the last 10 years staff has only averaged (Including step) a little over 3% a year in salary increases

For the last 10 years (To the best of my knowledge for the last 5), every staff contract has had some type of decrease in benefits.

Today we have fewer administrators in the school district than 10 years ago.

The only area that is discussed that would make a difference is pay and classroom staffing. The problem with these areas is that any cut big enough to make a difference in taxes that really would mean something to people (say 10%) would result in a decrease in educational quality.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

In my opinion, this is what has happened over the last 20 years

How about a new approach? One with the goal of long term improvement in education and cost reduction at the same time.

There are innovative approaches to education that could result in both, if we in Merrimack were willing to make the upfront investments and also more importantly accept the changes that come with these. I say this because in the past any true change or pilot program for change in Merrimack has met a lot of resistance, much of which came from the same people who think taxes are too high.

Large class sizes can reduce staff numbers and improve education, IF the school has facilities to allow for large lectures and adds technology designed for those applications.

Student mentoring programs can actually benefit both the mentor and mentee, if they are done properly (These have met with a lot of opposition in the past).

At the High School level, technology can be used to cut lab cost, enhance remote learning and in addition allow for larger class loads. But this comes at in infrastructure cost. Many businesses make this investment because the upfront costs are dwarfed by the savings. The question is would Merrimack support a 5 or 10 million dollar plan which would cut operating cost by more than that over the period?

These are just a couple of ideas, many more might come forward.

So my suggestion is for all of you that are concerned about taxes, to think change and the long term. Instead of asking the school board to cut cost that don’t result in savings or to make cuts so deep that Merrimack will not stand for them, how about petitioning the school board to forum a group to look at long term educational change?

We could do something different this year and look long term, or we can continue to cut a dollar here or there and next year have the same discussions again, just like the last twenty years?

Just my suggestion.

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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby MattPublicover » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:09 am

Ken, you restate your original (worthwhile) idea as if we are all on some committee that has gotten sidetracked. The Forum is not government. The Forum is, at best, a place for people to suggest ideas, and at worst a place to rant and rave, bicker, snipe, insult, and whine. That's why 99% of the town doesn't even READ what is said here, let alone join in the conversation.

If a change is going to happen, it is going to come through GOVERNMENT action, not better posts on the Forum. Either someone formally asks the school board to investigate the possibility of creating a committee to study alternative educational models and bring back to the board suggestions for innovations and restructuring; or someone writes a warrant article requesting the same, which has the effect of getting all residents who care to vote to weigh in on the topic (if it doesn't have broad support to even look into it, there's no point in going down that road); or someone runs for school board on that platform and we'll see how the voters feel about it by whether that candidate gets elected.

This Forum does not produce change. Honestly, this Forum needs to change. It is unfortunate when people in this town cannot have an intelligent, civil conversation for 3 pages.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Debra Huffman » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:27 am

The forum is just a reflection of the few who have time/interest to post ideas. If more people with valid ideas post, then the conversation will be more interesting. Less interesting posts can easily be ignored and we can proceed with the conversation.

Now, since we're reposting things, here's something I posted elsewhere:

Debra Huffman wrote:This is a very interesting post. It makes me think about Ken's post of a few weeks ago, when he asked if there was interest in looking into some significant changes in our ed system.

There's so much frustration about education, both cost and quality, that I think a good discussion is in order. How best to do that? I honestly don't know. This forum is good for raising issues, but it isn't terribly good for in-depth discussions. Ken's idea of a committee dedicated to looking at systemic changes seems a good idea, but will the school administration support it? Will they feel threatened by it? Are there so many avenues for change that the committee is doomed from the start because it can't possibly investigate every avenue? Will anything big enough to make a real difference meet overwhelming resistance?

Anyway, good post Mr. Smith.

My questions and doubts remain, but I support Ken's idea. Ken has floated the idea and found only tepid response in this venue, but I suspect the response will be better among the general population, so I second Matt's request for Ken to move this idea to the next level.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby tastyratz » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:29 am

Ken I really like your thinking and I look forward to reading any suggestions that come forth with a drive like this!


I believe that the computers could absolutely involve that kind of cost. Working in IT I know how base cost can easily inflate to total cost.
Training, infrastructure, software, deployment, project management, and support contracts in the business world (and a school is a business providing a service) invalidates any "but I got my dell for $x" arguments.
Students need reasonably fast and up to date computers to move through their curriculum's as well as be prepared to face the real world. (Office 95 in school wont help anyone, etc.)
Faculty performing more than x hours per day administrative duty should upgrade as well. Those who rely on the equipment the most need the best.

People are very afraid of investing in infrastructure because it appears to be a blind cost. Imagine if the computer was 25% faster? That $1000 investment just made a $75k head count 25% more productive. (pulling numbers out of my xxx). In turn that person might then be able to take on additional responsibility.

First: Books are terribly expensive. I have heard of schools piloting laptops/kindles for students. While I think laptops are a bit much I think purchasing every student a loaner kindle is very realistic. I am willing to bet if contracts could be negotiated it could hold ROI even if lifecycle with students was only a few years.

Second: Professional faculty training should ALWAYS be available encouraged and paid for with anyone who needs to use a computer in their duties. I have seen time and time again those who rely on a computer for their job can be the ones who know nothing about computers. Proper training for the equipment should be mandatory.

Third: Has the school had an energy audit recently? How about all government buildings for that matter? I would be willing to pay for an professional energy audit that could actually return ROI numbers on investment. Maybe it is worthwhile to replace this window or that boiler, sprayfoam the roof, etc. Somtimes providing a kid or 2 with a summer job and just giving them a pallet of caulk is the best investment you could make.

Fourth: Hot button in the corporate world is the kaizen mentality. What about encouraging regular monthly kaizen meetings with school faculty? There are plenty of people in the workplace who say "it's really stupid that this is done that way" but continue on. This could present opportunity for change.

fifth: A cost savings drive within the school system itself. Maybe offer an incentive for the best well thought out ideas like 5% of the roi up to $5000. Get the people knee deep in it buzzing about ways to change for the better with that carrot.

Who else has ideas?

-Kurt
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Jeannine Stergios » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:09 pm

The best idea is to change the pension system. The taxpayers should not be putting 9% of each employees' salary into the pension fund and having to make up for any shortfalls in their pension system (when they receive more money than expected do they reduce the amount we pay)?

If we were to match up to 5% like most companies do with 401Ks it would save the town (and state) millions of dollars every year.
Increase the health insurance percentage to a more realistic amount that is more in line with what everyone else pays.

No amount of energy costs, lecture halls or kindle purchases will ever save us as much as these two changes.

I realize my soutions aren't as intellectual as those who consider themselves a cut above the rest but they are logical and make the most sense out of all the solutions I have seen on here.

Mr Publicover, I watch most of your meetings so I do have some idea of what goes on. Do you seriously believe if I attended a school board meeting anyone would bother to pay attention to what I have to say? I would be ridiculed and mocked as I have been in the past for my suggestions and as many others I have watched over the years. With my current health it would take far too much effort for me to get there to be ignored or laughed at.

Your ideas of money is no object when it comes to our schools is nothing more than blind ideology and the reason we are in the situation we are today.

Your suggestion that this forum needs to change makes me wonder what you propose would be a better venue? Blocking opinions you disagree with? Everyone pays taxes and therefore everyone has a right to their opinions. I don't care for what you have to say either but I would never suggest you not be allowed to post here.
Ken - I see little of value in your suggestions other than more spending.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby tastyratz » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Jeannine,
I think he is correct. While the pension system absolutely is a huge problem and needs to change, it is not something we have the power to change here at the town level. It seems to be easiest to complain about the things we cant change than address the things we can.

Should it be changed? absolutely. Write state representatives. What can we do to help Merrimack? Focus on those.

"Money is no object" only counts when there is no projected ROI. Stop approaching this as endless government and start viewing it as a business. We are talking investments with ROI, not lets buy things to improve. That which makes the system more efficient.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Jeannine Stergios » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:20 pm

tasty

I am approaching this as a business. I have been a business owner for over 15 years. I do understand how it works - but do not understand how it should cost the same amount to educate a kindergarten student as it does a Freshman at UNH. This just doesn't make sense.

I would need to be convinced that investing $5 to $10 million would be a good return on investment. We cannot afford this type of expenditure anyway. I would sell my house or even walk away from it before I would go along with that type of investment at this time. The education system isn't the problem - it's the unions.
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Re: Long Term Educational Improvement and Cost Savings

Postby Debra Huffman » Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:31 pm

Jeannine, I think you are absolutely right that changing the pension system would go a long way to cutting costs. I agree with you, and everyone (well, everyone who posts on the forum anyway) agrees with you. But our state reps have tried to address it for several years and somehow they can't cut through the tangle and get it changed. Should a group form to specifically address that issue? Absolutely. I'd be surprised if there wasn't already such a group, since this affects all towns.

But in the meantime, why not look at other ideas? We all agree that education is very expensive. We all agree that there might be ways to improve education while containing costs. So why not form a committee to methodically look at viable, practical, realistic solutions?

Maybe we'll find there's nothing to be done, that we can't change parental involvement like Mr. Smith suggested on the other thread, that we can't implement tech solutions or any other ideas. Ok, well at least we gave it a try. Why not?

(PS: Kurt, the school did an energy audit within the last few years and made a bunch of changes. Maybe Matt or someone from the BudCom remembers exactly what they did, but I recall it was a pretty big improvement.)
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