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Clarkston School Board member files FOIA request with district


Not getting all budget information needed?



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February 10, 2010 - In light of surprising difficulties, at least one Clarkston School Board member was not satisfied with information supplied by school administration.

School board trustee Rosalie Lieblang filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Superintendent Dr. Al Roberts, Feb. 1, seeking budget-impact sheets used by administrators for making recommendations for budget cuts.

"We have to make a significant cut to our district," she said. "It's important for the board to have the information to make a well informed decision it's going to affect our students and the lives of our employees."

She orginally requested the information orally at the Jan. 25 school board meeting. However, board President Steve Hyer turned it down, saying the entire board would have to agree to the request.

"I received enough information from administrators and superintendent's office to make a decision," he said, adding the board would have enough time to get the information and discuss cuts before they have to vote on it, March 8.

Prior to the Jan. 25 meeting, the school board had expected at $6.4 million deficit in its $87 million budget. At the Jan. 25 meeting the board was presented with the possibility of a deficit almost doubled -- $13 million.

At the Jan. 25 meeting, school board trustee Joan Patterson was surprised how quickly the projected deficit exploded.

"It was five months ago the ISD (Oakland Intermediate School District) was going to cut money and services to the district. I asked 'how is it going to impact our district, do we need to make changes?' For months I have been saying are we going to have a problem, should we be looking at this?"

The answer she and the rest of the board got from the administration was the district was in good shape. Patterson supported Lieblang's FOIA request.

"I think it is very valuable information," Patterson said. "This situation is serious. We need to have all the data and to tell us we can't have it that's irresponsible. It is not allowing us to do our job"

She wants to see the information used in their decisions, she said.

"I trust Billie Pambid, I trust Shawn Ryan, we have some really good administrators doing this, but I haven't heard what they have been told," said Patterson. "I haven't seen why some of the programs haven't made it on the cutting block. I am an analyst. I want to see the data to make a decision."

* * *

Since her FOIA request, Lieblang received all of the information administrators had, which was the budget impact recommendation sheets and budget reductions sheets.

She also asked to look at suggestion-box ideas, written by teaching staff and parents in all Clarkston schools.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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