Guest Contribution by Arthur Green
My questions at the April 9 Budget Committee meeting related to rumored staff layoffs were reported on this blog here.
At the meeting, Dr. Metzler declined to comment, but subsequently responded by email on April 11. Since the questions were asked in public, I think the response should be shared (my emphasis in boldface):
Good evening! I am not sure who provided you misinformation regarding staffing. We have many decisions to make over the next few months. You can assume that all positions approved by the voters will be filled prior to the start of the 2015/2016 School Year. I don’t anticipate any open positions as we enter then 2016/2017 budget season. As you already know, we operate with a bottom line budget. I am certain that we will not need to exceed the approved appropriation.
We also may not be a member of NESDEC next year. Therefore your assumption that a audit would be free is false. I am considering our memberships for next year over the next couple of months. I will be sure to inform the Board once we have made those decisions final. We can expect changes and the repurposing of resources. I suggest your review our Board policies on how these decisions are made. That review may help you understand the business operations of our district. As always, I am available to help you understand and answer any questions that you may have.
Dr. Earl F. Metzler
- Dr. Metzler continues to neither confirm or deny that layoff notices have been issued, the principal question I asked. If the answer is “no, there were no layoff notices”, then it is an odd choice of words to recommend that I assume all positions will be filled by the fall. Why is Dr. Metzler reluctant to state a simple “no”?
- Nowhere in my remarks did I assume that a professional audit of Special Ed would be free, or even that it would be conducted by NESDEC. I mentioned NESDEC as an example of an experienced organization which would be capable of carrying out such a study, but the requirements could and should be put out for a proposal to multiple qualified providers. NESDEC does indeed provide some services to member school districts at no cost. One such service is a trending report on the Special Ed program within the district, a report which Timberlane district has chosen not to engage. But this is not the same as what I am requesting – an evaluation of service delivery quality, gaps, costs, and comparison with best practices.
It is very interesting that Timberlane is considering dropping NESDEC membership. NESDEC provides the district with an extremely accurate enrollment forecast which has been made public last summer through the efforts of Donna Green. This disclosure demonstrated that the enrollment drop we have experienced since 2007/08 is part of a long-term trend which was being accurately forecast by NESDEC since at least 2007 but not, to my knowledge, disclosed to the public.
At the Oct. 16, 2014 School Board meeting, Dr. Metzler reported that the disctict’s budgetary plans for 2015/16 are predicated on a forecast enrollment drop of 40 students. The NESDEC forecast is a drop of 140 students.
Since the district has been consistent in minimizing or ignoring the ongoing enrollment decline, it is understandable that the NESDEC forecasts, now public, are a significant embarrasment. I don’t know if there are other reasons to conclude that Timberlane is not getting value for the costly NESDEC membership (I do not have the fee at hand).
Background Notes on the NESDEC enrollment forecast
Forecasts going back to 2007/08 are posted on the district website here.
NESDEC targets a forecast accuracy of 1% per year – i.e. the margin of error (MOE) of the forecast of next year’s enrollment is within 1%, the forecast MOE 2 years out is 2% and so forth.
- the forecasts more than achieve the target accuracy rate. The highest margin of error is 1.72%, and that is forecasting 4 years into the future. All of the 1 and 2 year forecasts are within 1% margin of error.
- In October 2007, the five year-out forecast for the district was 4,123 – a difference of only 1.58% from the actual enrollment in 2012/13 of 4,059. At the time this forecast was made, the district enrollment was 4,625. In retrospect, NESDEC clearly and accurately forecast the persistent enrollment decline we are still experiencing.
This year, the district is forecasting the 2015/16 enrollment as 3,733, a drop of 40 from the current year. The NESDEC forecast is 3,613, a drop of 140.
The entire meeting is below. From 3 minutes to 8 minutes is public comments and the subsequent discussion.