Sunday, July 8, 2012

What if you trust but cannot verify?

We won't necessarily call "bullshit" (remember that old card game?)...but we did a little independent verification of the hockey fee information presented by Athletics Director Jim McClowry, and it doesn't pass the smell test.

This is why we need to (A) see the data and (B) know the source of the data before making any decision.  In the absence of tangible corroborating data, any vote to support should be  a resounding "NO".  In the old exhibitionist's game of chicken, we'll show him ours if he'll show us his!  And because our source is student and athletics fee information largely published in 2011-12 student handbooks, a student could certainly make a strong argument that (if the school district was trying to charge more), just like when shopping, if the price tag says "X", the store cannot charge "Y" without evidence to support fraud.

Based on the Situation report for June 11th, McClowry indicated:
"...the fee for participating in hockey is planned to increase 275% from $200 per year to $550 per year. This would bring the SP Hockey fee into line with other districts in the conference, which range from $450 to $800 and last year averaged $644."
No matter how we twisted the data, we could not come up with an average hockey fee cost for the Big 8 of $644.  Now...the only fee we could not find was the fee for Middleton girls hockey.  All available information indicates that the cost for hockey is $172, ("...except for girls").

The highest average we could come up with was $588, when we used the increased SPASD fee and counted the three Madison schools individually rather than as a single district.

Perhaps more to the point, what we did not hear was how Sun Prairie's proposed fees compared to the 20 districts similar in enrollment size.  Here, we found that our previous fee ($200) was actually higher than the mean!  In fact, only 4 of 19 districts for which we found hockey fee data had higher fees.

What's the Sequel to "Trust But Verify"?
The phrase "trust but verify" originated from ex-President Ronald Reagan.  I think everyone understands that it means that we can take things on face value initially, but that we should verify the information  before acting upon it.   We think the corollary should be:  ...and if you cannot verify the data, no longer trust the source.

Oh, Jim.....
If Dr. Culver wonders why a large portion of the community has lost trust in the school district, this is only a single clear example (there are many others).  A verbal only report was presented to support a significant increase in fees for ONE sport.  If anyone were to do even a cursory analysis on their own, they would quickly find that the information presented by Mr. McClowry was cherry-picked at best.

Now that it's clear that his data cannot be verified....what should the consequences be? intervene and promote more positive behaviors.