Welcome back! Here at Briefing Book, we hope you took some time over the vacation to take a well-deserved rest. Maybe you went to visit friends or relatives. Maybe you went skiing or maybe you went to some place warm instead. Or maybe you stayed home, relaxed, and took in a movie or two.
You know what did Sandy Grebinar did? She went fishing.
Ms. Grebinar, the indefatigable leader of our teachers’ union, apparently decided to take matters into her own hands after last month’s school board meeting, at which union leaders Geoff Curtis, Paul Saloom, and the rest of “The Gang That Couldn’t Ambush Straight” tried and failed to get the school board to dump schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Kreutzer. So just a few days after her colleagues flopped on their tenured faces, Ms. Grebinar decided to go fishing.
Ms. Grebinar filed no fewer than six Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) requests aimed at finding something — anything, really — that the teachers’ union could use to take down Dr. Kreutzer. She demanded copies of Dr. Kreutzer’s employment history, his résumé, and his curriculum vitae. She demanded his job application and all letters of reference that he submitted.
But Ms. Grebinar didn’t stop there — not our Sandy! She also demanded copies of all expenditures made by the school board to the search firm that helped select Dr. Kreutzer and copies of all expenditures the school board made to Syntax, the school board’s public relations firm. And she also wants copies of all communications among the school board, the superintendent search firm, and the members of the Governance Team.
Now, we have three reactions to Ms. Grebinar’s fishing trip. First, what is a “Governance Team” anyway? And why do we have one? If we already have a school board, what exactly is the Governance Team supposed to “govern”?
Our second reaction is to feel a bit sorry for Ms. Grebinar, who apparently has to take over the heavy lifting on the union’s Moby Dick-like obsession to get Dr. Kreutzer. It kind of reminds us, as most things do, of an old TV show — in this case the 1960s Batman TV series, when the Penguin would chastise his henchmen for botching the Penguin’s fine-feathered plans:
Penguin: Quack! You were supposed to read that letter at public comment period! What happened?
Henchmen: Sorry, Boss! Boss, the Caped Crusaders — Yeah, we didn’t know Batman was gonna show up!
Penguin: Quack! Don’t tell me about Batman, you fools! I sent you to get Kreutzer! (muttering) You want something done right, you have to do it yourself! Bring me the FOIL requests! Quack!
Our third, more serious reaction is that there’s a lot of information Sandy Grebinar didn’t ask for — information that’s a lot more relevant to taxpayers than what the BOE said to the Governance Team. Here is the information that Ms. Grebinar should be FOIL-ing for:
In 2003, enrollment in KLSD schools totaled 4,109 students. In 2013, enrollment in KLSD schools has dropped to 3,458 students, a drop of 16% in 10 years.
In 2003, we paid KLSD staff members $41 million in salaries. Ten years later, we are paying salaries of $58 million, an increase of 41% in 10 years.
In 2003, taxpayers shelled out $14 million to fund the cost of employee benefits for KLSD employees. In 2013, that number has more than doubled, to $32 million.
Oh, and the economy? Well, back in 2003, the economy was growing at a rate of 3.1%, unemployment was at 6% nationwide and at 6.4% in New York state. In 2013, the U.S. economy is growing at roughly 2% and unemployment is at 7.8% nationwide and at 8.3% in New York state.
So here it is in just four words for Ms. Grebinar — more spending, fewer kids. That’s the information Ms. Grebinar should be fishing for, and the fact that she isn’t sure seems fishy to us.