Friday, October 1, 2010

PATCH response to Ms. Perrotti

For all of you tired of reading about the referendum, I am more than tired of correcting the misinformation campaign against it. The Portsmouth Voters are smart and I should leave well enough alone, but there is a lot at stake and I would hate to leave a loose end. If anyone would like to question my facts please challenge me, to date I see no comments on my previous opinion piece.

I write today to correct the misinformation in Ms. Perrotti’s PATCH Opinion piece. Just last night I had a discussion (more like words) with Ms. Perrotti of the real damage this misinformation has to people, jobs, reputation and our community. I believe this misinformation is purely politically driven, but you decide!

Last evening I had asked her to correct her facts on the Portsmouth High School graduation rate, one of her core platforms. Ms. Perrotti claim that only 86.6% of the class of 2009 graduated, down from 96.8% in 2006 simply does not hold up. What she fails to state is that the reporting formula changed in 2008. Further before she used this fact as a core platform, she should have fact checked further. So, I did it for her. I ask the principal at the High School for a report on 2009 graduates. The school opened the year with 228 seniors of which 212 received diplomas in June, 5 graduated this summer, and 3 are scheduled to graduate in the next few weeks. That is 95% currently and 96.5% with the new graduates. Portsmouth High School never gave up on these students and worked with them well past June. This is one more reason to praise our schools – well done seniors!

How about Little Compton; Little Compton pays its own Special Education, Transportation, Administration and would not participate, per se, in the debt burden of the schools. So the best comparison I can think of is the “General Education Expenditures for Instruction and Instructional Support Per Pupil, by District”. Portsmouth’s General Education expense was $6,880 in the Infoworks 2009 report. Now that today may be about $8,000, but I use this in comparison to Little Compton’s payment. More importantly, Ms. Perrotti’s math looks more like credit-default swaps than a logical determination of value. Little Compton paid in $919,350 in FY 2010, that’s $919,350 of revenue the town’s taxpayer didn’t have to fund. The number of students is slightly greater than 100, but the cost to our system is certainly not the per-pupil fee. Little Compton provides critical mass in our grades and classrooms, and their cost is incremental. It would be difficult to quantify, but I would conservatively guess roughly $.60 on the dollar or $551,610 (I really think it is closer to $0.40 and $367,740). So by actual numbers I premise that Portsmouth is generating $367,740 in “profit”. That’s $367,740 that the tax payers do not pay.

Purchase of supplies; the school administration harps all year long on each department and school that they can only spend a % of their allocated budget. When I was on the school committee I think it was 80%, but I think it is far stricter these past few years. They squeeze as tight as they can to get through the year. Given the age of our buildings, and the propensity of our kids to use lots of toilet paper (used to the double rolls at home), the budget is horded for as long as possible through the year. Purchasing $60,000 at the end of the year is prudent – it didn’t get sold out the back of the Admin Building, it was used the following year to stretch that budget line-item the same way. A glass can be half empty or half full! This was budgeted, it was used for the proper purpose, and it certainly was not wasted (well you know what I mean). Making the jump from supplies to art education simply bears no comparison.

As to the budget, just three weeks ago Ms. Perrotti asked for the definition of Title I, a core Federal revenue line-item. I don’t mean to disparage but the budget process started last March and you are asking basic questions after the vote in September? BTW the answer she was directed to was in the Annual Budget Book. There were literally 40+ hours of public meetings focused on this budget. If you have attended a School Committee meeting Ms. Perrotti asks plenty of questions, I do not understand why she could not have asked for any detail needed. The problem may lie in her approach – always looking for that smoking gun.

Teacher ratios I do not have statistics on, but do understand that each student takes five classes, specials, sports, band etc. This is a statistic that looked good on the calculator but will never hold up to inspection.

I enjoyed my time on the School Committee because we focused on positive results. We didn’t have much to spend but we got a great return on our investment. (The republicans like ROI!)

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