OSWEGO, NY – Charles Borgognoni, director of the Central New York School Boards Association, made his first visit to the Oswego school board this week.
He encouraged the board members to attend some upcoming events – a legislative breakfast and advocacy workshop that are scheduled for late this month and February.
“I have been in this job since April 1. The person in this job has to be seen in all corners of our service area, which is pretty big. We have 50 school districts in the eight counties that surround Syracuse,” he said.
When he was hired, he pledged to get to every one of the 50 districts in his first year on the job, he said, adding that he has been to more than half so far.
“We have a couple of very important events coming up. I want to alert you to them; and really ask for your support and participation in them,” he told the board members.
The first is the annual legislative breakfast, which will be held Feb. 11 at Baldwinsville High School.
“It’s an opportunity for our organization to get out in good numbers and tell our stories to our state legislators,” he said. “In advance of that, because we have such daunting issues facing us this year, and some serious issues, for many of our districts their very existence over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, we really need to have active participation. We need to be very effective in terms of the messages that we are going to be delivering to our legislators in a respectful but very, very direct, truthful, ground zero kind of perspective; what is really going on in our districts, which I don’t think (legislators) have a genuine approbation for all the time.”
On Jan. 28 they will host an advocacy workshop.
These workshops help raise the profile of the group’s primary issue – the equitable distribution of state aid based on need, Borgognoni said.
“I’m not telling you anything you don’t know in terms of how unfair the way the state has, for the last 20 plus years, distributed state aid to districts with high needs. Given the circumstances that we have right now is something that has to be checked,” he said. “It’s critical that we not only have a lot of folks attending but that we have good participation. We need to tell our stories about what’s going on.”
A number of senators, including Patty Ritchie, have petitioned the governor to do something about this.
“We are all judged in the education business by the results that we deliver,” Borgognoni said. “If results are expected of us … then we expect the same results from our elected leadership.”
Besides district officials, Borgognoni said the districts are asked to invite at least two members of their community to attend the workshop as well as the legislative breakfast.
State officials sometimes see educators having a vested interest in the issues, Borgognoni said.
“We need to make them know that the folks in our communities are just as concerned. Any stakeholder that is very active in the district, is very concerned, would like to get up and say a few words, we’d like to have them there,” he told the board.
Oswego board member Sam Tripp said he attended the 2011 legislative breakfast.
“Some legislators came, some didn’t. Senator Ritchie was supposed to be there and she sent some 19-year-old lad that couldn’t answer anything. Any issue that we brought up, he said he’d take it back to the senator. I hope, I hope that at the next one there will be someone there who can respond,” he said.
Borgognoni said they are changing the format of the breakfast a bit this year so there will be more time for interaction.
“Then we are going to do some other things to demonstrate how serious we are. We aren’t going to allow staffers to come up and sit on the stage or say anything. The member needs to be there. If the member isn’t there, there is going to an empty chair behind their nameplate to demonstrate that they are not there,” he added. “That’s not being disrespectful. That’s being tough and truthful. Schools are the cornerstones of our communities. If that’s not important enough for you to take two hours of your time to come and participate with your constituents, then I don’t know what issue is more important. That’s kind of the attitude we have.”