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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 30 years."


 

What are they hiding...I wrote last week about the city of Sugar Land’s attempt to withhold crime news from the media. Scant days later a bank robbery in the city of Sugar Land spilled over into a shoot out in the county where a deputy and innocent bystander were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds and a bank robber was killed. I don’t know the correlation, but I’m just saying.....

Now this week, in an attempt to find out why FBISD among all the local school districts has such a large deficit budget, I requested a copy of the superintendent’s contract, thinking that if cuts were necessary, that might be one of the first places to look. I not only wanted the contract, but I wanted any additions and addendum to the contract which often contain annuities, country club memberships, expenses, insurance policies, and even real estate fees (I was channeling a previous superintendent’s contract.). 

The first obfuscation occurred when I asked PR head Mary Ann Simpson to whom I should send an open records request. Simpson said I should send to Sandra Scott Bonner at FBISD.com. I questioned Simpson on this one because I know of few official email addresses for any government which doesn’t include a bunch of ci.tx.org. Government entity’s addresses are never simple. 

Naturally I got the email back so I sent it through Simpson who had asked me to send it through her originally.

The next day I heard from Scott-Bonner that “Thank you for your correspondence as well as request for records/information from the Fort Bend ISD as noted within your e-mail below.

Attached is an acknowledgement of our receipt of your request for records/information which has been assigned TPIA/ORR number 2009-10-639.  Once responsive information (records) has been received in our office, my secretary will contact you with a release date of such as well as any amount due for our processing your request for records/information as applicable. Sandra F. Scott-Bonner Coordinator of Public Information Requests and Student Transfers

So I emailed her the following words: “I fail to see why there should be any wait for this. Surely this has been typed up and input in the past. It should be simply a matter of pressing a computer buttom---unless you are trying to stall me or make me jump through hoops to get it. Is this the case? Should I make this part of my column?

In the atmosphere the public has about FBISD right now, please don’t tempt me to raise Cain about you not being forthcoming. BK Carter”

Not to be outdone, Ms. Scott-Bonner informed me thusly: “ At this time, records responsive to your request have not been received in our office for dissemination.  Once the records are received, my secretary will contact you on the day of receipt with the total amount due for our processing your request for records and a release date of such records, which should be no later than 10 FBISD business days from the date of our receipt of your request for records (by June 1, 2010).Thank you again, Sandra F. Scott-Bonner Coordinator of Public Information Requests and Student Transfers”

So I sent this: “The superintendent’s contract should be available for viewing in your office every business day, 9-5. Bev Carter”

To which she replied: “ As we do not house records in our department, once requests for records are received, the appropriate office is contacted and the responsive records are then received in PIRST within the time period allotted.  Once received, charges are assessed as applicable and the records are disseminated to the requestor upon payment of such if applicable.  As we process all records requests for the district, this process typically takes from one (1) to 10 FBISD business days, depending on the date the records are received from the responding department in our office and the volume of requests received beforehand (all are typically processed in the order in which they are received from the requestor and the responding department, but within the time frame allotted by statute).

If I may provide you with further clarification blah,blah,blah. Thank you Sandra Scott-Bonner Coordinator of Public Information Requests and Student Transfers”

So I whipped this up and sent it along: “Please provide me in accordance with the Texas Open Records Act the current salary schedule of FBISD’s Coordinator of Public Information Requests and Student Transfers. Sincerely, Bev Carter”

And yes, I accused Mary Ann Simpson of the district having something to hide.

Blame it on the state....None of the other school districts seem to have as large a percentage deficit as FBISD. Why is that? Didn’t all the other districts see this coming several years ago and took steps to tighten its respective belts. And blaming it on the state is the coward’s way out. The state hasn’t funded education correctly for many years. Some would even argue not since the Republicans took over. 

Yet FBISD continued its profligate ways, establishing the expensive academies, working five days in the summer, wanting a global science center.

When Dr. Tim Jenney came to FBISD, he said he wanted to run it like a business. Even though working 10 hours a day, four days a week during the summer months, resulted in about a half million dollars in savings, he determined to open the schools five days a week during the summer to be more like a business. 

News Flash! Government entities, be they school districts, cities, or county government are not businesses. It may be nice to talk about running them as businesses, but these government entities lack all the attributes of business. They aren’t established to make a profit. They are not selling an item. They are providing a service, often a very necessary service, but a public service nevertheless, so let’s cut all the blather about running it like a business. What are you going to do? Advertise? Squeeze another nickel out of your customer? Pay your employees as little as you can get away with? Hide defective products? Produce something as cheaply as possible? Just what kind of business are you going to run? Enron?

All of this hype about the Global Science Center and its ability to interest students in the woefully lacking science skills of U.S. students can be remedied just a little easier and more effectively. Take those millions of dollars and offer them as college math and science scholarships to local students. That’ll get interest in science and math up and running in a heartbeat!

Like a business my patootie! 

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Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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