Lemons and Lemonade Redux

I was a bit surprised at this statement by Supt Perillo (from the Daily Gazette here):

Perillo said he would be willing to verify the situation to help the museum retain its funding and so future funding isn’t affected.

“I want to see the museum succeed and I want to see the museum go on, but at this point the building they are housed in is unsafe and unusable,” Perillo said.

That’s a strong admission for the district as they have been the lessors and stewards of the building for many, many years. I think the stewardship and accountability issues raised by the above statement and the board’s actions are to say the least, interesting. Clearly the situation at the museum building did not develop overnight but ‘devolved’ over a period of years.

Clearly the district’s actions are reactive. But are they something more?

NYSED provides a series of regulations as related to Education Facilities under 8 NYCRR 155. The most salient points are:

§155.6 School facility report cards.

(a) Commencing January 1, 2001 and each year thereafter, every school district and board of cooperative educational services shall prepare a school facility report card for each occupied school building…

(b) The school facility report card for each building shall be reviewed annually by the board of education or board of cooperative educational services. The board of education or board of cooperative educational services shall report in a public meeting or, in the case of the New York City School District, in public meetings held in each community school district on the status of each item set forth in subdivision (c) of this section for each facility located in the district in which the public meeting is held.

c) The school facility report card shall contain the following information in a format prescribed by the commissioner:
[snip]
7) five-year building condition survey results;

[snip]
(13) estimated costs to keep the building in a state of good repair;
(14) projected operations and maintenance spending for the current school year;
(15) need for routine maintenance, repairs, rehabilitation, reconstruction, construction and other improvements;
(16) estimated energy costs for the current school year;

(17) a description of Health and Safety Committee activities; and

I’m not an expert on Education Regulations or law but it is feasible that the museum falls under the Section 155 guidelines. As such, a clearly articulated process exists to identify, manage and correct deficiencies in facilities before a facility is ever rendered ‘unusable and unsafe’ as I’m sure that is the intent of the standard. The only way the facility could devolve to such a standard then is if the above process or standards were not followed by the district.

On the other hand, let’s argue that the regulations do not apply. If so, then the district may argue that they have no need to comply with the  typical process or standards. That may be so but the district would then be admitting to a lack of stewardship or oversight of the building much like an absentee landlord. However the district should hold themselves to a higher standard as the museum is a public facility serving the community and the facility is a prominent facility given its location. Furthermore it should not be a surprise that the viability of the museum rests upon the viability of the building.

If the latter approach is used, it would unfortunately demonstrate a clearly regulatory, legalistic view of the district’s responsibility to the local community. It goes a long way toward answering whether the district sees itself as a partner in the community or simply a detached member of the community (with the exception of passing the school budget once a year).

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