At Monday's Town Meeting, one individual made serious allegations and accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the school and the headmaster. The Board of Trustees presents this response to be absolutely clear about our integrity, our commitment to a relationship of trust, and to set the record straight, without ambiguity.
Burr and Burton's policy is to draw 4 percent of the endowment balance of the trailing 12 quarters. We have followed that policy scrupulously. Here are the specific dollar amounts for our endowment spending, taken directly from our audited financial statements.
The individual claimed that we raised as little as $45,000 in one year and raised no more than $150,000 in any given year that she cited. The actual numbers for capital, endowment and operating fundraising, as taken directly from our audited financial statements, are:
Burr and Burton's special education rates are approved by the state, each student's services are approved by the appropriate supervisory union, and we then provide those services. Note that NOTHING happens without full approval of state and local authorities. In addition, special education costs do not include any allocation for the school's administrative, staffing, maintenance, depreciation, and other infrastructure costs, all of which contribute to the success of our special services department. The individual erroneously reported that special education students pay full tuition in addition to the special education rate. In fact, depending on the category of special service required, a special education student may pay as little as 25% of the tuition.
With that background, we now move to explaining why special education revenues and expenses do not match. Special education expenses are essentially fixed, with salaries and benefits comprising the overwhelming majority of expenses. We set our staffing levels and make contractual commitments in April based on enrollment estimates for the coming school year. Our revenues are determined based on actual enrollment. Thus, if enrollment exceeds budget, our revenues will increase. Similarly, if enrollment is less than budgeted, we could experience a shortfall. This dynamic--fixed costs, enrollment-based revenue--applies for regular education as well as special education.
Request for independent investigation
The individual claimed to have made requests to Board Chair Seth Bongartz that were ignored. In fact, the correspondence between this individual and the School (and our legal counsel) is voluminous. Her request for an independent investigation was presented to the board and deemed baseless and not worthy of action. Our lawyer notified her of this decision, contrary to her claim of being ignored.
The headmaster's salary was unfortunately drawn into the discussion, with the insinuation that this salary was somehow connected to unscrupulous financial practices. In fact, the headmaster's salary is agreed upon by contract with the board of trustees. The individual characterized the salary as exorbitant. In fact, according to the most recent salary survey conducted by Carney, Sandoe and Associates, Tashjian's salary is $60,000 below the average of independent school heads for schools of similar size and is $300,000 below the upper end salaries.
Burr and Burton is an institution that relies on a relationship of mutual trust. We have every desire for our sending communities to have confidence in our education programs and our financial integrity. As such, and in order to put our proverbial money where our mouth is, we will make available our audited financial statements to the Manchester School Board for their review.
We hope this response puts to rest any questions about our practices and integrity. We treasure our relationship with the Town of Manchester, we remain fully committed to serving each and every student, and we appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.
The Board of Trustees
Burr and Burton Academy