“Insiders Are Wanted” – September 16, 2013 Regular Meeting

onion_peeling_350This week’s Octorara Area School Board Meeting included little of anything that could be called noteworthy, with maybe the exception of Dr Newcome’s comments at the end of the meeting. It was what I expected to write about last week:

  • A list of Bus Drivers,
  • A vote on the new bus runs,
  • A couple policy revisions,
  • A resignation,
  • A list of hiring approvals,
  • et al.

Shawna Johnson provided the Finance Committee report, which was a list of topics discussed. They received a report form the cafeteria staff, which included a discussion of new regulations. Other topics included the annual audit, obtaining a bond for the tax collector, PA State Tax Equalization, and more.

The Policy Committee report was provided by Samuel Ganow. He stated that the Committee has began looking at 801 (Public Records) and a list of several others.

“Insiders Are Wanted”

I knew we were in for a rant when I heard Dr. Newcome referencing statements directly from my candidate questionnaire. It seemed to be his attempt to defend the idea that certain voices have value, while the majority of parents, citizens and taxpayers have… not so much value.

The gist of his rant was that each of the board members have completed a real questionnaire with their volunteerism to the school. In Newcome’s world, the citizens know all they need to know about board members, and has repeatedly used the idea of a volunteer board to defend members whenever hard questions arise. He perpetuates the idea that an all volunteer board is both infallible and unaccountable. Does that make sense to you?

Since the beginning of this year, addressing the District’s issues has been like peeling an onion:

  • Talking about taxes revealed issues regarding labor costs, debt, and performance.
  • Looking at the debt found complacency toward enrollment and tax-base issues.
  • Highlighting performance issues exposed problems with subgroups and transparency.
  • Digging into the issues of transparency, showed neglect toward updating District polices… some over 10 years old and/or in conflict with current laws.

Dr Newcome speaks as one who seemingly believes in good ole boy networks and clique loyalty as an effective means to an end. It is the cronyism I referred to in my questionnaire post.  How do you think that has worked out for the District?

Dr Newcome is unapologetic for this line of thinking, because he has rationalized it and is oblivious to it being a problem. It is a worldview in which the democratic process must be managed, and the public’s role limited. Supporting political cronyism insures the majority of individuals on the board will not express or support views contrary to those of the Administration.

Have you read my Octorara School Board: What Every Voter Should Know post? Do you know which board members support accountability at every stage of schooling, consumer rights in education, and holding teachers and administrators responsible for student performance? Do you know which don’t?

Yesterday evening’s rant from Dr. Newcome was a reaffirmation and doubling-down on his firmly held belief regarding the value of a small group above the majority of parents, citizens, and taxpayers. This mentality is one of smiles and handshakes, with decisions made behind closed doors and among friends, to the exclusion of those outside the clique.

It is time to pull back the curtain and expose for all citizens the “wizard” behind the major issues facing the Octorara Area School District. The District needs a coalition of political outsiders, with vibrant and diverse political opinions, who are sick of being dictated to and dismissed. The 2013 Elections have been pretty much locked, but 2015 represents a real opportunity for citizens to take back the District.

5 thoughts on ““Insiders Are Wanted” – September 16, 2013 Regular Meeting

  1. I hope that when you become a board member you can convince Ms. Bowman that the proper place for administration and staff is separate from the elected and governing board. Dr. Newcome wasted no time in arranging the seating chart to his advantage, a seat at Ms. Bowman’s elbow. The entire board needs a civics lesson in governing and an ethics refresher wouldn’t hurt either. I still can’t believe how no one has commented on the inappropriateness of Dr. Newcome’s huge donation to the Football program.

    • jg,

      You are dead on. One thing I did not mention in my post was comments made by Brian Norris (Vice President). He praised Dr Newcome for having helped raise money for his church. The inappropriateness of this type of interaction seems lost on board leadership.

  2. There is an Order of Precedence for School Board Members, and it should be put into practice because I personally have seen Tom, Brian, and Lisa comment back and forth with each other in private while Tim was making his public comment. This kind of behavior is disturbing and rude at the very least. I also do not feel comfortable with Dr. Newcomes so called contribution to the football program because it almost seems like he is trying to use that donation to persuade the parents who like sports to get behind him for support in my opinion.

  3. I remember a meeting that I attended and was blown away at the lack of respect that they had for people commenting at the end. As Tim sat there and stated his point as to why the taxes shouldn’t be raised this year, Dr Newcome, Lisa, and Brian, sat and talked among themselves as if what Tim was saying wasn’t important at all. I thought it strange that they were all allowed to sit together like that and converse freely while the people in attendance had to “wait their turn”.

  4. The fact that Tom Newcome`s contribution to the Football Program at Octorara is being viewed by some as a cynical maneuver is disheartening and ridiculous. The amount of ignorance expressed in saying that his donation was only used “to persuade the parents who like sports to get behind him for support “is ludicrous. That comment is absurd, wildly inaccurate and in poor taste. He has helped create a wonderful opportunity for many kids. To look past that and create a ludicrous theory about why it was done is appalling. Furthermore, the amount of time and effort Tom Newcome puts into making Octorara a better place is second to none in this area. He has been and continues to be a Class A individual who is highly respected by fellow superintendents. With this being said I fully realize that in response readers of this blog will most likely twist my words, and refute what I say, but that is fine. There should be at least one person on this one-sided pessimistic website that sees an act of kindness and generosity for what it is.

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