Remember that business community “management review” of the school system? “Over the period of the project, $775,000 has been spent to complete the review, and we have successfully identified about $13 million in operational efficiencies within the school system,” according to a commentary authored by leadership of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, including Paul Timpanelli, the president. Years before control of the school system became a burning issue, how the school system spent what it had was debated on OIB. Commentary below that appeared in the CT Post:
A recent Connecticut Post lead editorial rightfully lauded the fact that the city school budget is now fully available online, line-by-line, for all to see. Anyone who has the time and the inclination can now fully review the manner in which the school system plans to invest public resources in the education of the city’s children. It’s long overdue and about time, and thanks must go out to the superintendent, the school board and the mayor’s administration for this significant step forward.
In addition to this needed step toward a more transparent and accountable system of school financing, much else has been going on to assure the efficient use of public investment to improve public education. The Bridgeport Regional Business Council, for example, in partnership with the school board, the mayor and the state, has now completed a long-overdue project to further enhance accountability, transparency and operational efficiency within the school system.
About six years ago, the Business Council leadership was asked by the then-school superintendent to support his annual budget request. The superintendent was seeking more money–as is annually the case–to fund ever-growing needs to educate the city’s school children. Although the Business Council wanted to be supportive, it concluded that at that time we could not be because there were too many questions by the entire community about whether or not the current budget and the historic budget was being invested in the school efficiently and wisely.
Most stakeholders were of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that monies were not being invested efficiently. This was the cause, most felt, for the annual conflict that would inevitably take place regarding the school budget. Decision makers would always be questioning the current budget, and whether or not current investments were achieving desired results. Questions were asked, but usually budget decision makers did not like the answers, or, simply, didn’t get answers.
The project proposal that was approved by the school board and managed by the Business Council was to undertake a partial management review of the school system. We proposed a four-phase effort that began with the separation of the school system’s finances and the city’s finances, which would enhance control and accountability. The subsequent phases were then focused on identifying opportunities to improve the operations side of the budget so that savings could be reinvested back into the classrooms.
As of this week, the project that we undertook together is now completed. Over the period of the project, $775,000 has been spent to complete the review, and we have successfully identified about $13 million in operational efficiencies within the school system. The cost of the work was split evenly between the Business Council, the state, the school system and the city. The value of the investment is clear. We spent $775,000 to identify $13 million of expenditures that could potentially be put into programs of the school system that could directly benefit students. That’s a 16 to 1 return on investment. As important, we believe that it has now been demonstrated that the Bridgeport school system has made great progress in operating much more efficiently and the school board is not spending irresponsibly.
We believe that this conclusion is now even more apparent and true since the new superintendent and school board are now operating with a balanced budget and making solid management decisions based upon the availability of meaningful financial data. Our hats are off to all for the progress now being made to put the financial house of the school system in good order. We are proud of the small role that we have played and we now look forward to further partnering with the school system leadership as well as the entire community to move forward an education reform agenda in unison that has as its only goal the ultimate success of Bridgeport’s school population.
Bridgeport’s student population must be prepared to succeed. That success cannot be achieved unless all of us that have a stake in Bridgeport’s future come together around a transformation agenda that puts their interests first. The business community stands ready to participate.
Michael Niedermeier, Blum Shapiro, Business Council Chair
Tom Santa, Santa Energy, Business Council First Vice-Chair
Paul Timpanelli, Business Council President
Kelly Wade-Bettucci, AT & T, Business Council Government Relations Committee
Armando Goncalves, People’s United Bank, Business Council
Kathy Saint, Schwerdtle Stamp Co., Business Council Education Committee