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Anonymous critique behind polite public plea offers its own version of what is true

With the appearance of four people before the School Committee on Oct. 13 seeking to reinstate the athletics advisory committee, the public saw the polite, determined face of those who seek what's best for Arlington sports and finances. This watchdog effort also has an anonymous personna who says the distratict is "awash in funds."

A website whose manager declines to use a real name has reported, amid snarky commentary, some positive news about Arlington public-school finances. True Persons included a lengthy post about controversy over fees for athletics in November 2010, after the issue became public. 

Most recently, "Menotomy Observer," the True Persons' writer, reported Sept. 28 that the Arlington public schools had received since July more than $500,000 in so-called circuit-breaker funds and that the administration had failed to inform the public.

Under an item headlined "Arlington Public Schools – Awash in Money," the site also called on the administration to update its budget website links to reflect money from the $6.49 million tax override, which voters supported June 7.

In numerous posts about school financing dating from February 2010, the site uses public records to make its factual points. Sandwiching these facts are often unsubstantiated opinions.

Are the Arlington public schools "awash in funds"? YourArlington found the following:

-- CIRCUIT BREAKER: Superintendent Kathleen Bodie confirmed that special-education circuit-breaker reimbursements did come in more than $500,000 higher than budgeted, as True Person reports.

"We did receive good news a week or so ago that circuit breaker would be reimbursed at 65%, which will provide some cushion for increased special education costs," she wrote while on vacation Oct. 3. "While the percentage increased from last year, our eligible expenses went down."

She responded to the True Persons headline: "I would hardly characterize the school district as being 'awash' with money. The increased circuit-breaker reimbursement will provide some reserves for special education. We have some new out-of-district expenses since the close of school.

"Additionally, we anticipate some significant expenses this year to address the Corrective Action Plan for special education, civil rights and ELL."

The True Persons report says the schools were "recently informed" about the circuit-breaker funds.

The date of the True Persons report, Sept. 28, suggests that the site manager could have learned of the funds about the time the school administration did.

Asked in an Oct. 4 email when the website writer learned about this money, the suspected manager of the site has not responded.

-- GRANTS: Citing state and local documents, True Persons reported that federal grants came in at almost $300,000 more than the amount the schools budgeted for fiscal 2012. Further, it reported, a fiscal 2012 Metco grant came in at more than $20,000 above the budgeted amount.

Asked about this, Bodie wrote Oct. 3:

"Some grants came in higher than projected and some grants below, such as the kindergarten grant. I don't have the exact numbers at home."

-- OVERRIDE: "As most of you are aware, the GINORMOUS override passed on June 6 [sic] resulting in more than $2.5M extra for the public schools. However, the FY12 budget reflecting the override amount is not available on the APS website," the Sept. 28 True Persons posting says.

Asked about this Friday, Sept. 30, Chief Financial Officer Diane Johnson wrote:

"I'm on my way out, and will not be back for a week .... We will have the budget updates given to the School Committee on September 8 up on the web shortly .... There will be additional budget updates during October at School Committee meetings."

The True Persons post concluded:

"Given that more than $3.5M in increased revenues have been appropriated for the FY12 budget, don’t you think a new budget reflecting these amounts would be made available for public review? Why no announcement, news story or update for this good news? Why doesn’t the APS administration want the public to share in the good news about all this extra money?"

These are good questions. Budget updates for Sept. 8 were on the schools' website by Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Bodie added Oct. 3: "A detailed overview of the FY11 and FY12 budgets is planned for the Oct. 27 School Committee meeting."


 True Persons.com administrator asks that opinion be removed



 

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