Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gimme a break...

...gimme a break

Break me off a piece

of that Kit Kat® bar!

(that Human resources sends to all district employees on their birthdays...along with a card)

$72 of taxpayer monies for "3 months worth of birthday KitKat bars".
Let us say that again...for the record...

$72 of taxpayer monies for "3 months worth of birthday KitKat bars".
...and neither district administration nor school board members see a problem with it. In fact, when the expense was questioned (by citizen representative Rick Mealy) at the school board's Finance Committee meeting this past Monday, Tim Culver rolled his eyes and shook his head in disgust/amazement (so much for decorum!). Finance Committee chair Jim McCourt's reaction was to try to stop Mealy from asking all the questions that he wished to ask.

Check# 92821
Amount: $72.00
Business Office response to check question: The HR department sends each employee a birthday card and along with the card they get a candy bar. This expense was authorized by Annette Mikula.

At what point, exactly, did the public school system cease to be a GOVERNMENT operation and magically transform into a private sector business enterprise? We all are aghast when we hear about the bonuses paid to AIG executives with bailout money, but we rush to defend the purchase of KitKat bars for public employees? The concept is the same...the only difference is the dollar value of the misappropriation.

It's not unlike the old joke that goes something like:

"Would you_____ for $100?"
[Absolutely not!]
"Would _____ for $1,000,000?
[Well......maybe...wait...what do you think I am...a ____?]
"Oh, we've already established THAT. We're just negotiating the price".

Most of us (including district admin and school board members we bet) also get a little ticked off when they hear about the crazy per diems that state legislators get...but still we have school board members having sea bass and steak & shrimp dinners without batting an eye.

If the state gave ITS employees a birthday card and a KitKat bar, the general public would be outraged. And that's why the only acknowledgement state employees get on their birthdays are those presented/shared by co-workers. And you know what? That's OK. So WHY does the school district believe it should be above the standards of the rest of state government?

Do you get a feeling that there's a sense of entitlement? They always respond to these complaints with the "It's only $72" argument, or "It's a small price to pay (from a $65M budget) to buy some employee morale"? Regardless of how you frame it, folks, it's illogical rationalization. And where does it end? When one of these people's child pockets a candy bar from the local store without paying for it, do they shrug it off with a comment of "It's just one small candy bar from a HUGE business". No...I don't think so. It's a fine line, people, and once you cross it, it gets easier to cross it again...and again.

You want to improve employee morale? Then try listening to your employees instead of squelching their input or making them fearful of providing candid feedback. If you think for one minute that a lousy KitKat bar makes the SPASD "Employer of the Year"...then you are seriously out of touch with both your employees and the community. You want to show people they are valued? To recognize them on their birthday? Then how about a personal call or e-mail from Dr. Culver? Or Annette Mikula. Or the school board. That would be FREE and far more meanigful than a KitKat bar...especially if the employee is diabetic or has celiac disease.

It's NOT about the dollar value. It's about doing what's RIGHT.
and NOT DOING what is inappropriate.

...and we'll continue to have these problems until we get a school board that makes accountability and fiduciary responsibility it's prime objective.

Believe us... the people who complain about these expenditures at school board meetings hate to have to do it far more than you all hate to hear it. It's loathesome. If it's "only $72", then isn't it worth cutting the expense so that you won't get beat up on it at every meeting? Because, if you think the complaints are going to stop, you're very, very wrong. You want members of the public to speak at meetings to praise what you've done? Then do something worthy of praise.

Everyone gets a KitKat bar on their birthday. That's special. Meanwhile yet another fight erupted at the high school this past week. Hey! Maybe if we give these kids a KitKat bar, they'll stop fighting!