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Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The nature of schools is learning. That focal point drives our purpose and meaning. Budgets represent the means to propel the teaching and learning dynamic. Despite our commitment to instruction, the reality is that money is an absolutely necessary fuel for the engine of education. The process involved at arriving at the budget is the subject of this evening's brief Blog entry.

While the end product of budget deliberations are unyielding numbers born of lengthy analysis and computation, there is so much more that is involved in bringing the total figures to the public for consideration.

John M. Bryson, author of Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations, refers to the Harvard Policy Model as a template for developing budgets. There are two different acronyms that form parameters for the discussions that flow during the process.

The first is: SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. If the budget is the vehicle by which schools pursue their goals and invent the future, then it's necessary for leaders to start preparing the budget by carefully viewing the realities of the school environment and organization. Before we can extend our horizons and look around corners, we must identify sources of success, deficiencies that may thwart growth and drain resources, possibilities to reach our potential, and hazards that could imperil progress.

Next, we look outside of the school at the PEST = Political, Economic, Social, and Technological issues that impact the school. This observation requires us to evaluate the prospective influence of legislation and policy at the state and federal levels (i.e No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top). We have to be alert for economic forecasts (i.e. the significant effect the stock market has on revenues available to New York state and thus, state aid to schools). Emerging social trends can often reach into the school in terms of community expectations and perceptions that might shape financial decisions on programming and policy. Clearly, the constant advances in technology (computers, data management software systems,...) also must be incorporated into creating the budget.

We will be unwrapping the shape and form of our budget in the coming months, after reviewing all of the factors related to SWOT and PEST. The resulting document will offer the district a platform for building the future and meeting the needs of our learners as they pursue their dreams and hopes.

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