By: Steven G. Ezikian, MSBO President, Deputy Superintendent, Wayne RESA
Two years into my career as a school business official, I was informed that I was the district’s Chief Negotiator, and contracts were due to expire the following June. I should have run for the hills, but being young and overly self-assured, I thought, “How hard can this be? After all, doesn’t it really just come down to numbers? A few sophisticated mathematical machinations and we will be done with this.” Well, 6 months after the contract expired, and countless late evening negotiation sessions later, we did come to a contract settlement. It turned out that all of my multi-level spreadsheets did not necessarily address all of the issues that needed to be dealt with in the contract. In fact, given the push and pull of the negotiation process, my spreadsheets did not even provide the answers to the monetary part of the negotiations (but they did inform the answerJ).
I have come to realize, as I consider the problems and opportunities that have presented themselves throughout my career that I most always have an impulsive “right” answer, but usually, in my impulsivity, I have not considered all the questions. We face this kind of situation routinely in the budget process. Once the variables are known, it can be a fairly simple task to apply those variables to current operations and produce a budget. But in most cases that exercise does not answer the question, “what should our budget be?” because a lot of other decisions need to be made; not only for the budget to be in “balance,” but also make sure it represents the operational priorities of the district. I have also come across this mental dilemma in my role in enforcing board policy, regulations and law. There are those times when, on the face of the circumstances, the answer seems pretty black and white, but as you explore the situation, the particular facts and circumstances have an unanticipated uniqueness that turns the black and white to grey.
More recently, I have found my head swimming with possibilities about what the BEST answer is as my organizations deals with distributing the 3% refund from the Office of Retirement Services. There are a lot of RIGHT answers when you look at all of the individual questions that might be asked around this task. Questions about the amount of the refund, taxability, withholding methods, payment methods, etc., may all have a “right” answer in my mind, but when you couple those with the capabilities of a payroll system, needs and expectations of employees, the amount of time staff will put into this task, and an overall risk assessment, the BEST answer may not turn out to be the sum of all of the RIGHT answers.
In addition, I know that not everyone is going to agree or be happy with the answer I come up with, and that is ok. As Abraham Lincoln said,”…you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”