What's on my mind.

20 April 2011

It's called a budget.

Sometimes something annoys me and I can't stop thinking about it. I have to tell someone about it. That's part of why I started this blog (btw, I'm not dead!), so I'd have 'someone' to tell. If you're good at putting 2 and 2 together, you may have guessed I have someone to tell all that stuff to now :) and don't have much reason to write here. Except today, I can't stop rehearsing telling him about this annoying thing and I will only see CR briefly tonight and don't want to waste breathe on this stupid thing, and I can't tell Honu-Girl (because she is annoyed about the same thing and doesn't need to hear more of my ramblings on the matter and definitely doesn't need the background...although she'll probably read this), but I can't stop rehearsing what I'd say...So, y'all are the lucky winners of the totality of my thoughts on the matter at hand - Adopt-A-School and money.

A little background to this week's drama: My employer (state science agency) has been an AAS partner for about 20 years. Our current coordinator has been doing it for about 17 years. (I've been working here for 5.5 years.) To fund AAS activities apparently they used to do bake sales, t-shirt sales, etc and passing the hat until someone came up with the idea of a golf tournament to fund all the educational outreach for the agency. Somewhere along the way a bank account was set up to handle the 'education fund' monies. Most of the funds went to AAS activities, as I understand it, but some money was donated to water festivals and a few other similar events. As I understand it, the agency became AAS partners to support Earth Science education, in particular (which is why we partnered with a middle school), but not to the exclusion of activities to support all education, teachers, and students. A bone of contintion between the education committee and the AAS coordinator was how she spent money - most of the committee favored trying to target actual educational things (equipment, books, fieldtrips), she likes to do a lot of prize type stuff (snacks during testing week, good behavior rewards (candy), lunch for the teachers). No one has a problem with rewards and treats but there is only so much money to go around.

Last summer one of our agency lawyers noticed all of this and realized this was illegal, primarily the money part. Generally state agencies can't go out and under their name seek charitable donations, at least not ours (maybe some can, idk). This was decreed right before the golf tournament. There was some chaos, then the geological society stepped up and offered to handle the money, become a co-AAS partner. Well, the chaos sort of continued through the summer as the old bank account was closed, money handed over, etc. At the beginning of the school year there wasn't a budget to hand the AAS coordinator, the society officers didn't know how much had been spent in the past, how much to expect to be spent this year, or have a firm number for the amount that could be spent. (That last was easy to take care of, it just hadn't been figured.) And in the midst of this a second school had been added to our AAS partnership, which upped the amount spent by 150% or so.

This first half of the school year AAS-coordinator would spend money then turn in receipts to the treasurer and get reimbursed. Few, if any, questions asked. After a while the treasurer started to wonder when, if ever, he was suppose to say no - so the officers got together, looked at the money spent, the money raised in the previous golf tournament, other money potentially available, and what else might education money might be spent on. They also asked the AAS-coordinator to put together a budget showing what she wanted to do for the second half of the year .(I can' t remember if there were two meetings, or a bunch of emails and one meeting) After the discussion the AAS-coordinator was told how much was available to be spent in the second half of the year and which activities were thought to be key to our goals (science education or at least directly educational), but the final decisions on how to spend the money fell to her.

Yesterday afternoon, I was included in a reply (as one of the society officers*) to an email about an Earth Day contest at one of the schools that need judges and prizes. It appears in the email that the AAS-coordinator is also asking about additional funds (although maybe she's just mentioning that she'll be buying prizes already covered in her existing budget). The society president states he can't attend but maybe someone else can go and asks the treasurer if there's still outreach money available. Emails go back and forth, up shot is there's some money and clearly this is the kind of thing we really want to support. This morning we get an email from the AAS-coordinator about how AAS isn't just something 'she' wants to do, it started before she was hired, all our bosses since then have affirmed the commitment, she doesn't appreciate others telling her what she can spend money on, she can't plan if she isn't sure there'll be money to cover activities,...and some more stuff along those lines. Oh, and suggesting we need to meet with everyone involved to discuss all this.After this email, several of us on this hall were sputtering, semi-incoherent about it. The Pres replied reminding her why the society took over the funds, that money is not unlimited, and we gave her a budget - stick to it.

My thought: We gave her a budget, she should know if there are funds left to do this. If it is indeed something the school decided to do recently and she's asking for additional money to cover prizes (as it appeared in her email) then she needs to recognize that there might not be any more money. Personally, if it's between feeding the teachers lunch (teacher appreciation lunch is apparently the only other thing this school year) and giving prizes for the Earth Day contest, I'd go with the prizes. I think most teachers would say reward academic and creative effort before you feed us - it's nice to be appreciated but we're all here to teach and encourage the kids. And if she didn't spend so much money on candy for the students maybe she could spend money on stuff that is actually educational.

Well, I feel better now.

*I got roped into being the society newsletter editor. Go me.