School board meetings plagued by sound issues
By Jamie Wiggan
Sto-Rox school directors struggled to communicate during the district’s April meetings, where some attended in-person and others tuned in virtually.
As audio problems persisted, directors and administrators placed cell phone calls, sent text messages and used Zoom’s online messaging feature to help their colleagues participate in the discussions and cast votes.
“All this investment in technology and we still can’t get it together,” Director Tyler Kochirka said during the April 22 review meeting. “Why can’t we invest in a microphone system so we can just talk and have it on the screen?
The district subsequently did buy a new microphone before the legislative meeting seven days later; however, problems continued. Director Ken Hohman was apparently unable to hear the main discussion and Secretary Sue Gratton could not record a vote for him on the first few agenda items. Hohman subsequently issued his votes via a text message sent to another director.
“I don’t think his volume’s working,” said Superintendent Frank Dalmas. “…The problem isn’t with us.”
Others online said they could hear only when participants spoke directly into the microphone. Director Lucille Young participated in the meeting through a cell phone call with Dalmas.
Business Manager Kim Puskarich said the 2021-22 budget proposal has been delayed by lengthy financial reporting processes and audits that took up much of winter and early spring.
The in-progress proposal, currently forecasting a $6 million deficit, “normally should be done by now,” Puskarich said, adding that the past year has been particularly involving for the district’s business office.
Since 2020, Sto-Rox has been one of six districts statewide brought under the Department of Education’s financial watch status. Six more are listed under the more severe financial recovery status.
By law, the board must approve a preliminary budget by May 31 and then adopt a final plan by June 30. Puskarich said she will email a completed proposal to directors before the board meets on May 20.
Some directors expressed frustration they won’t have more time to review the proposal.
“We shouldn’t be seeing this for the first time in two weeks,” said Director Adrienne Roberts.