Heading to upstate New York tomorrow morning, to present to public school superintendents on two topics: budgets and social media. Yikes — I hope I don’t put them to sleep. I have a feeling they’ll be more interested in the budget presentation than in the social media presentation, and certainly the former took me a bit out of my comfort zone. I’m not exactly known for presentations about passing budgets, for a reason. Public schools passing public budgets is one of the biggest struggles we have here in the good old state of New York, and don’t let them tell you it’s a recent struggle. It’s been going on since I was a cub education reporter more than 20 years ago, covering my first school district. And what happened? The budget tanked and school opened without busing for kindergartners. At public budget hearings in that district, parents literally stood, turned to face me (representing the local newspaper), and pointed their fingers in my face. The newspaper had not endorsed the budget. On the contrary, the editorial went after the dysfunctional Board of Education with a vengeance; criticized the community for being torn down the middle, separating the African-American community from the middle-class white community.
So much for a recent challenge.
In my “how we passed our budgets” presentation, I’m going to do the best I can (comfort zone or not) to show NY’s superintendents that public education is under fire these days from every vantage point. People are downright seething about their taxes, charter schools and virtual schools are popping up everywhere, and yes — there are alternatives. We need to stop sitting on our haunches and wake up, at least from a communications standpoint. We never had to “sell” or “market” our school districts before, God forbid. Not any more.
Here’s a look at my presentation on budgets: