Thus, the Board ultimately had little control over this particular cost, which is how it is found itself in a difficult financial position this year. The general lack of control over the budget is a definite weakness for the Bridgeport Board of Education.
In lieu of financial statements, there were two main resources available to help assess this organization's health. Its budget book was the primary source, as it detailed the Board's financial situation with respect to its inflows and outflows. News items are also helpful. Since the Board is not a public company, it is not required to disclose items of financial significance, but such items may come to light through the local news media.
The organization's approach to creating shareholder value is to spend its money on the programs that deliver on its strategic objectives. These include graduating students at a college-ready level, reducing the dropout rate to zero, students meeting attendance requirements and students scoring above state requirements on standardized tests (Bridgeport Public Schools Budget Request 2009-2010). The shareholders can be viewed, in light the agency's financing arrangements, to be the taxpayers of Connecticut and of Bridgeport. As such, delivering value means following through on the above mission. This involves careful use of limited resources on programs that have been demonstrated to work. It also involves building an education system strong enough to facilitate the academic objectives and encourage kids to stay in school. It also involves building out school capacity such that class sizes are limited, and utilizing different educational techniques to reach out to different types of students and encourage them to fulfill their obligations in a wide range of academic disciplines (Ibid).
One IT project that can be used to help create value in the organization is to build out a virtual textbook program. E-textbooks are substantially cheaper than their paper counterparts (Rickman et al., 2009). The board currently spends $701,135 on textbooks. Virtual textbooks are available from many publishers, and expanding their use would allow the school board to provide books, and more up-to-date books, to more students for less money.
Implementing such a program would involve signing up for a program with a major publisher or two, building online syllabi, and building out the schools' computer infrastructure further, to ensure that students who need library access to such materials can gain that access.
The costs of such a program could run into $500,000 initially and the benefits would last five years. However, the savings generated would be $350,000 of the $700,000 spend annually on textbooks. The savings over the course of five years would therefore be $1,750,000 on an initial investment of $500,000. This gives the project a return on investment of 70% per year. Therefore, the project is a wise investment.
The project does not address a specific financial weakness, as those tend to be derived from the structure of the organization's financing arrangements. The project does assist with a strong point -- the ability of the Board to control its costs. Reducing textbook costs gives the Board additional financial flexibility to improve its service levels. Thus, the Board's saving of money while simultaneously providing more and better textbook coverage to its students brings it closer to its strategic objectives.
The Bridgeport Board of Education remains in reasonable financial shape. Although the organization is occasionally subject to surprise expenditures and lacks total control over its budget, it benefits from that lack of control in that it shares responsibilities for budget failures. Even if the Board loses money, its backers will pick up the tab. More important to the Board is its ability to meet the needs of its shareholders. These needs are not measure in profits or losses, but rather in the performance of the students. This gives the Board considerable leeway in terms of budgeting, as it need not focus too acutely on financial matters.
Bridgeport Public Schools Budget Request 2009-2010.
Bridgeport Board of Education website, various pages. (2009). Retrieved November 12, 2009 from http://www.bridgeportedu.net/
Lambeck, L. (2009). Bridgeport schools face health insurance funding gap. Connecticut Post. Retrieved November 12, 2009 from http://www.allbusiness.com/education-training/education-administration-school-boards/13333032-1.html
Brewer, R. (2008). Bridgeport school funding dilemma: No easy solutions. 06106. Retrieved November 12, 2009 from http://06106blog.org/2008/03/07/bridgeport-school-funding-dilemma-no-easy-solutions/