Blog Name: Keep it Simple

I’ve been reading a ton lately, including articles and books on blogging–one that I read addresses blog names and identity. That’s what got me thinking about the name of this blog and how it had to change from G-Town Talks to Randolph Writes when I accepted a new position in Randolph.  And how does anyone really know who “Randolph” is anyway? To simplify things, (I think), let’s forget the names and just call it like it is, “Kimberly Moritz BlogPosts”–better to make everything clear and direct. The name of the blog should do the same. Leave no doubt who the the source is or who “owns” the opinions and content. To the point, straightforward, easy to identify. Approachable and easy to read. Done.

Defeated: Bus Maintenance Facility Project

As a new superintendent, I inherited a big problem. It’s one that’s been percolating for some time and I’ve written about it here and here. To make a long story short, there was a proposition put up twice to the taxpayers of Randolph, once in May 2008 and once in October 2008, that carried a lot of animosity in the community. It was a proposition to purchase property with the possible future project of building a bus garage. It was defeated both times. I get it, the community clearly said “no” to purchasing property to build a new garage and we aren’t permitted to tear down our current garage and build a new one because the location is too close to our school buildings. Plus, our current garage suffices and heck, look at the number of people who don’t have a garage for their personal vehicles.

But we still have a problem with the safety and size of our mechanics bays. It’s a problem that I either have to fix or eliminate. We put forth a project on May 19 during the regular public vote for an addition to the current bus garage which also replaced the roof on the whole garage and made improvements to the lighting throughout. Because we’re a state entity, we were also required to add a handicapped bathroom and adhere to all code requirements. Not as simple as building a garage in your yard. This addition was our best option to solve the problem, be responsible to our taxpayers and continue to service our own fleet of vehicles.

It was Proposition #3 and it was defeated; No 244, Yes 243. One vote, one person I could have influenced would have made the difference. I know, I know closeness only counts in . . .

After berating myself for three days that I didn’t do a good enough job of communicating the seriousness of the problem to enough people in enough ways, I’m still left with a mechanics bay that’s too small with an outdated hydraulic lift that can’t continue forever. People who focused on the previous votes or the fact that we could continue to get our buses inspected at a neighboring school probably voted “no”. The DOT won’t inspect our buses in our mechanics’ bay and some taxpayers thought that was the driving issue. Actually, the inspections are a small part of the problem–it’s the need for an adequate facility to do daily maintenance on our fleet that’s the issue.

Rear view of a bus in our mechanics bay. Side View of Mechanics Bay  Front View of Mechanics Bay

Paying our mechanics to maintain and service our buses costs us about 25-50% of what our costs will be if we have to outsource the work to a garage elsewhere. This should have been what I helped everyone to understand–it should have been where the focus was in considering the proposition. I knew it, the Board knew it, the 32 people at the Public Hearing knew it and the 30 people who watched the video on the website knew it. But what more could I have done to make sure everyone else knew it?

A lot. I should have done a lot more to be sure everyone understood the whole issue. I guess I just kept assuming they would know that if we put it up, we really did need it. I mean, what do people think I want this addition for? It’s not like I’m planning to run a chop shop out there at night for extra money! But have I earned that kind of trust in this community in six months? No.

So now what do I do? Here are our options as I see it:

  1. Discontinue the use of the lift. Outsource all work that the mechanics can’t do without it.
  2. Put the project up for another vote and do a better job of communicating the entire problem to the community.
  3. Try to make adaptations to the current lift and the bay to make it more useful.

Option #1–how is spending more out of our community to do the same work a good option in any way? Option #2–what are my odds of passing it at a second vote? Is it worth it to spend the money to run another vote? Option #3– We’re hoping to meet with the company who services the lift next week. As I understand it, we can’t even buy parts any more. And the other problem is that spending on this is extremely limited to equipment codes already budgeted for in the 2009-10 budget and anything significant is subject to SED and voter approval.

Right back where I started from. So again Randolph Readers, I ask you, what do you think? What’s our best option? Or is there another option I haven’t thought of out there?

Vote Today, May 19, 2009

Dear Western New Yorkers: Exercise your right to vote today on your school budgets, consider all additional propositions, and elect your Board of Education Members!

–A Superintendent Waiting to Hear What the Community Thinks

Be a Part of That Collective Voice!

Video of Public Hearing Available

Posted on our school website, Randolph residents can view a video excerpt of Proposition #3 from the Public Hearing on May 12, 2009. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from those community members who attended the hearing regarding the presentation. Many said that being there helped them to better understand the proposition, the rationale for building the Mechanics Bays, and the overall purpose of the project. In the best interest of the district we are posting it for those who were unable to attend.

We taped the public hearing for my own self-assessment NOT with the intent to post it for the community. The video excerpt is sixteen minutes long and the people in the audience who ask questions are somewhat hard to hear. In watching it for my own self assessment, I wish I had been more formal in my delivery for a web-based presentation. Still it is my hope that linking the video on our website will help provide more information on a topic that has been somewhat misunderstood at times.

If interested in a thorough explanation of our Proposition #3, addition of Mechanics Bays to the Bus Garage, you can link to the video version of the presentation on our school website.

Ask Me Anything

Last night was my first public hearing as superintendent followed by Randolph’s first “Meet the Candidates” night in about 15-20 years. By all accounts it was a success. We had 32 people in attendance and it wasn’t quite what I had anticipated. I went through the three part budget, proposition #1, expecting a question or two but no one had any. I studied and worried about my ability to answer every question and not a one? What does that mean?

Because of the previous controversy in the community surrounding the purchase of property and construction of a new bus garage, I anticipated the opportunity to answer lots of questions on proposition #3, the addition of mechanics bays to the bus garage.  I much prefer to have a good conversation which results in everyone better understanding all of the information at hand to rumor and conjecture.  I’ve received lots of feedback this morning that indicates those 32 people in attendance better understand Proposition #3, the addition of a Bus Mechanics Bay to the current bus garage. But it leaves me wondering, what do I do about everyone else?

So I’m taking the show on the road. Tomorrow morning, those good fellows who have breakfast every morning at R&M have graciously invited me to join them for coffee. I’m really looking forward to answering their questions and hearing what they think. I’d be happy to do the same anywhere else in town that our community members gather to talk about what’s happening. If you’d like me to join you for good conversation and a cup of coffee, just say the word (358-7005) and I’ll be there.

We’re also working on posting a clip of the presentation on the school website. And as always, if you’ve got questions, thoughts, ideas–you can post a comment here, call me on the phone, stop me on the street or come on up to the school. I’d love the chance to talk with you!

In the meantime, we’ll continue to communicate in all of the routine formal ways that we always do, through our newsletters, public notices, coverage through the Post Journal, Randolph Register, and Salamanca Press, this blog, our school website, and BOE meetings. But if what everyone needs is a good old fashioned face to face, I’m your girl. Give me a call.


How Do I Ask A Question on May 12?

I need to clarify a couple of things about our upcoming “Meet the Candidates” night and this blog seems like one good place to start. I have had some questions about why the questions have to be submitted in advance and why they can’t be turned in during the event. There will be an opportunity for audience members to write questions and submit them during the event. Jerry Mottern, our elementary principal, will circulate through those in attendance and accept questions in writing during the evening and then giving them to the PTA moderators.

Just in the interest of time, the PTA moderators have to make some decisions about which questions to ask. We want to ensure that each candidate has a fair and equal opportunity to answer each question, thus the timed responses of 2 minutes per question. If you think about it, that’s a minimum of 8 minutes per question. How long can people possibly be there? In an hour, if we figure an additional two minutes to pose the question, that’s ten minutes per question and only six questions per hour. I’ve already had twenty two questions submitted!

I also want to be clear that this is not my event and I’m not controlling the questions. Every question that has been submitted has been forwarded to our PTA moderators and they will choose which to ask with an eye toward asking as many diverse questions as possible. This is the community’s election, not mine. As the superintendent, I will work diligently with whomever this community elects–I have no hidden agenda and have worked hard to be open and honest and as transparent as possible.

We aren’t allowing random questions from the floor for three reasons. One, we want all candidates to have the chance to answer all of the same questions. Two, we won’t allow personal attacks. These are our community members who are volunteering their service to the district–no one deserves to be publicly attacked for that service. A public forum where we invite candidates to share their ideas on the issues should be respectful and fair. Three, just in the interest of time and to allow the PTA moderators to ask as many questions as possible, we have to have some control of the question and answer time frame.

We are not having a BOE meeting to follow the “Meet the Candidates” night so that we can allow as much time as possible for BOE candidate questions. Please join us, please submit your questions in advance, at the beginning of the event, or during the event and allow the moderators to ask as many diverse questions as possible. It should be an interesting evening and a chance for you to learn more about what our BOE candidates think. I hope to see you there!

May 12, 2009 “Meet the Candidates” Night to follow the Public Hearing which begins at 6:30 in the High School Auditorium

Home Sweet Home

We are safely on the ground in New Jersey and ready for our bus ride home to Gowanda! I know many of our students will be reading the blog now that you’re home. Would you do something for me? Please read through the posts and think about what the trip meant to you. Did it change you in any way? Was it worthwhile? What was your favorite part of the trip? Would you recommend that other students go on future trips? Please post a comment to this post so that we can share your thoughts, ideas and feelings with the 600+ people who followed this blog over the past two weeks. This is an open invitation for our adult participants and chaperones to post your thoughts too!

It was my distinct pleasure and honor to join all of you and to “tell my little piece of the tale” here on the blog. Now tell your piece!

Love & Good Memories Always, Kimberly Moritz

Day 9 – Last Post

Remember Grace Kelly and her tragic and beautiful story? We took a gorgeous drive from Cannes to Monaco today and her presence is still very strong. This principality is ruled by the Grimaldi family and it is one of the most beautiful locations in the world.

We visited the palace and saw the church where she married her prince. We watched the changing of the guard and saw the track and streets where Formula One racing takes place.

As it was our last day on the tour we felt fortunate to spend it in such a fantastic place. After Monaco we toured the Fragonard perfume factory–where they manufacture their own perfumes from only natural\pure ingredients. They are not exported and so we had the chance to buy some very unique fragrances–bring home French perfume was definitely a bonus treat. 

Next we were on to Nice, one of my favorite locations. We had three hours of free time when most people shopped, but Ms. Crowell and I sat in a sidewalk cafe eating mussels and french fries–delicious but enough for 10 people.

The kids had bed check at 10:00 and are in their rooms preparing their suitcases. It is bittersweet to end this tour; two years of planning and anticipation hopefully resulted in the trip of a lifetime for each of them.

Personally, I can’t think of a better group with whom to travel–I have thoroughly enjoyed my roomie, Mrs. Dempsey, and all of the adults of Bus #1 + our awesome kids. Getting together with all of the great participants from Bus #2 each night and at meals made it even better. Perhaps we can get Randolph involved in the trip that takes place two years from now–what do you think Randolph? Thanks for the opportunity to share the experience with you!

Day 8 – Cannes, France

The Leaning Tower of Pisa! Without the best weather we arrived in Pisa, Italy and enjoyed every minute anyway. The kids took some wonderful pictures and as always, shopped for souvenirs. Dana Anderson says that instead of EF for Education First it should be SF Souvenirs First. We are bringing home a lot of “stuff”.

Now we are in Cannes, France in a lovely hotel not far from the beach. As you may know this is near to where Brad and Angelina have purchased a home. Previously they stayed in this hotel in room #6, the room that Mrs. Dempsey and I are sharing and Brad Pitt slept in the same bed that I have tonight.

It’s a good story, don’t you think? 😉 We will see the home that they bought tomorrow, along with Monaco and the formula one race tracks. Tomorrow is Nice, the nicest place I’ve ever been and most likely our best day yet.

The day after tomorrow is our trip home. As wonderful as our trip has been, I am really missing my husband and my daughter and am anxious to head home. You can bet I’m not the only one feeling this way! Bon Nuit du Franc.