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Tuesday
Jan092007

Transparent budgets

transparent.jpg

It's budget time for 2007-08 in my district and I am making the rounds. This week and next I will be taking my eight page draft budget proposal to the elementary principals' meeting, the secondary principals' meeting, the district media/technology advisory committee, the media specialists' meeting and the district curriculum council - almost every meeting at which stale coffee and  rolls are served and I can get people to listen.

 Actually it is not difficult to get people's attention when money is involved, and as sums go, a fairly hefty amount at that. Add the mystery of technology to intrigue that always surrounds budgeting and  most groups become rapt and often confused.

You also have the players whose motto is: "Never pay for something out of your budget you can get somebody else to pay for." I'm not bad at that game myself. My (unexpressed) belief is that it morally reprehensible to let others spend money I could bettter spend myself.

Though with the support and encouragement of our ex-business manager superintendent, I've always worked for transparency when it comes to technology funding in the district. No secret funds. No special deals. No off-shore bank accounts. I take pride in knowing how every dollar is spent every year in my department, on what and why. If anyone wants to go through all the purchase orders, I have copies and, given half a day or so, I would be happy to explain what each and every expenditure was about. This is a habit I picked up as a school library media specialist. I quickly realized that I was one of the very, very few people in my building who actually had discretionary funds (and discretionary time) and therefore need to be uber-accountable if I was not to be viewed with suspicion.

The transparent budget requires that one listen to others as well. At one meeting this week I heard that there may be a greater need for tech training for new staff than I had been aware of, so a budget adjustment will be in order, mostly likely shifting some money from hardware to staff development.  It's why the proposal clearly says "draft" and shows a committment to shared goal setting, shared planning, and shared decision-making. I don't really expect huge changes in this proposal, but the ones that will be made will make it better. I'm convinced.

Transparent budgts also go a long way in helping people be more understanding when certain tech needs can't be met. "But remember, we shifted money from line x to line y last spring." Oh, yeah, I forgot. 

Too often we in technology use the wizard mentality to get or keep power - knowing those mysterious things no one else does in otder to keep others dependent on us. Problem is that it is sort of lonely in the wizard's cave. Demystifying technology - including technology budgets - is the smarter move - for both the school and the tech director.

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