Sunday, April 27, 2008

News of the Cutbacks, Part III

The Agenda for Monday's School Board meeting has been posted. It names some of the people who will be laid off or given reduced hours:
  • 16 teachers laid off
  • 6 teachers reduced to 50%
  • 3 other certified laid off
  • 2 other certified reduced to 50%
  • 17.5 FTEs of other certified position
  • All the noon assistants
  • 4 secretaries reduced from 260 days to 223 days
  • 1 Technology technician
  • 1 Coordinator of School/Community Relations
  • The Director of Gifted Services

And so, the failure of our School Board to enact the community education program I've been demanding for years has resulted in the upheaval of the lives of real people. Don't blame this entirely on the people of the community.


  1. Paul, I don't blame the community. I blame Dale McVey. He is the man in charge and is ultimately accountable for the state of the school district.

    If he is going to be rewarded when things go well, then he must be held accountable when things are bad.

    Things are bad in more ways than just budget. I agree with Scoop, a change at the top is necessary.

  2. Exactly. The bulk of the responsibility for our current situation lays with Mr. McVey and the School Board.

    However the community is not without responsibility. All the facts were there if one cared to dig in. We let the developers (and the politicians who aided them), sneak in under the radar and destroy the economic viability of our community. We can't now expect the State of Ohio to bail us out with some new funding scheme, especially when I'm confident that every new scheme being contemplated will be a net loss for us.

  3. Paul, I understand that ideally the community should have been more involved to know what was going on with the BOE, politicians, etc.

    However, I wonder what the impact might have been? In large numbers, the public can influence change.... sometimes. But in the instance of school funding, do you think we could have done something to head this off? I mean, I went to a Board Meeting and wasn't exactly impressed with the transparency to the general public. In many ways we are held at arm's length.

    Better question... what can we even do TODAY to help this situation? Realistically speaking.

    (I offer this to initiate dialogue, not to argue).

  4. I agree it is important to determine where things have gone wrong. (Of course, there are a multitude of views on that point.) However, at some point, things will have to move past fixing blame and on to something positive and constructive for our schools and community.

    Hopefully, the communication on this blog can be a part of that process. Otherwise, I see it becoming a place where people come to air their criticms (even if they may be valid) and not much else.

  5. KJ & Anon:

    Hopefully you guys know that it is neither my personal intention, nor the purpose of this blog, to just collect complaints and do nothing.

    The light bulb finally came on for me a few years ago, when I was asked to join what is now called the ACT committee. Before that I didn't care about the details of how schools are funded. My taxes seemed reasonable, my kids were doing well in school, and I respected both the teachers and the leadership. I moved to Hilliard to get exactly that, and felt no need to be more deeply involved.

    Many of you know that my kids are grown, so why do I care now?

    Because I learned through my involvment with the Brown Twp Comprehensive Plan team how much power the developers wield in central Ohio, and the degree to which uncontrolled development is screwing up the economic viability of our region. Again, I encourage folks to read Getting Around Brown by Gregory Jacobs, which is now available online from Ohio State University Press (thanks TW for the tip).

    And yes, I have specific interest in this because I enjoy living in a rural area with thousands of acres of open land around me that I'd prefer stay that way.

    But I respect that the folks who own the land around me feel just the opposite - that their land is a value asset and selling it to a developer beats farming for most of them (in fact, few of the landowners actually farm their own land, and instead rent to farmers with very large operations). That's why the Brown Twp Comprehensive Plan describes a different form of development than just packing in 4-5 houses acre as has been marching west towards us for a decade now. The Big Darby Accord incorporates much the same thinking.

    All of these issues are connected, as Jacobs describes. Our lack of attention is letting the developers win. That screws up the economics for the schools, and it eats up the open space.

    It doesn't have to be this way, but can change only if the people of the community accept our role in the solution. And it can't be passive. We need to build a voice which is listened to by the politicians.

    That's why I ran for the School Board, and it's why I continue to invest time in this blog. I appreciate and am motivated by all of you. More and more people are hearing our message, and I think it is making a difference.

  6. The only thing I can say from having read the agenda for this evening's board meeting is that it makes me SICK on so many levels.

    I'll be the first to admit that I came from a small rural community, having graduated in 1988. Here I am twenty years later and wondering how we've let the school system become what it is.

    I think it's wonderful that we've afforded so many opportunities to our children (I have 3 myself), but in the same breath I have to wonder why things have changed so much.

    When I went to school, I sat and listened to the teacher. If I didn't understand something, I raised my hand and asked questions. If I still didn't understand I could stay after for an extra hour so that the teacher could help me. I'd also enlist the help of my peers.

    Looking ath Hilliard Schools from a Macroscopic level I have to wonder:

    When did English class change to Language Arts?
    It's not an art, damn it, if you want to make better students they need to know how to read and write.

    Why is Home-Economics an elective course for middle schools?
    Maybe that's how we got to this sorry state of affairs, we can't even handle the economics of our own home including the use of credit cards, and now those same people are managing our $100million school budget.

    Why do we have contracts for 67 tutors?
    I'll tell you why, because the parents aren't spending the time to help the students. Teachers hands are tied up doing other activities such as updating the homework list on the website and handing out flyers to please vote for the levy. We hired them to teach let them teach.

    Why do the parents not have time to spend teaching their own children?
    Because we're too busy working so hard to get ahead or too busy running the kids from one activity to another. Soccer, Ballet, music lessons, choir, church activities, etc....

    In our quest to give our kids a better life we've left the family behind and it's pivotal role in the lives of our children. Instead we've replaced it with school and have created a bloated monster in so doing.

    It's time for a huge dose of reality concerning our schools. Every business has had to "Get Lean" to survive. There are a lot of businesses that don't even come close to our $100 million dollar budget, but yet we treat it like a socialist program.

    Yes it's going to hurt and it sucks but here you go:
    - eliminate the tutors (that's what parents and teachers are for)
    - reduce the options at lunch and go for the economy of scale on producing lunch. No kid ever died from having to eat pizzaburgers and not having an option for something else. That option was brown bagging when I went to school.
    - bring the teachers medical coverage in line with the rest of the world. I'm sorry but it's time for the teachers to have a dose of reality. Medical is a benefit not a right, and while you should have some benefit coverage it's not fair for it to be fully subsidized.
    - Administrative staff. Every school should have 2 secretaries, that I agree with, but beyond that why do we need so many dang people in the other two admin buildings.
    - Bussing. Wow! How many buses go past you're house in the morning. Consolidate this a little. We're not a free transportation system, if you want to send your kids to a private school, use private transportation. Drive them yourself!
    - Hall monitors. That's what teachers should be doing between classes. It worked for the 12 years I was in school.
    - Noon Aides for lunch. Again, teachers took turns on lunch patrol when I was a student. It worked.
    - If your kid gets out of line, expect that you're going to have to take the time off of work to get the kid straight. We pay these people to teach, not to babysit.

    ...and no I didn't walk up hill both ways in the snow to get to school. But school was about learning when I was a kid, and that's what teachers do. When did we decide that we needed all the other support systems in place. They've become like a drug where we can't operate without them.

  7. I think most people are in agreement, but at this point have no creative ideas for fixing the situation.

    It appears from the agenda of tonights school board meeting that the board will continue their campaign of trying to strong arm the levy by showing how bad things are being cut.

    What I haven't seen is what the open discussions were to lead them to these cutbacks. I think most people think that cutbacks are necessary, but are these the right ones?

    With nearly 89% of our budget tied to wages, obviously the cutbacks will result in personnel changes, I just wonder if these are the right ones.

    Also, I know that the school board has denied the most recent round of teacher contract negotiations. What I haven't heard is what specifically is the point of contention. There are 3 groups involved in these negotiations, the teachers (saying what they want). The school board (saying what they think they can afford), and the community (writing the check). Right now it appears that everyone is negotiating from different rooms instead of sitting down and talking openly. If the first two will do that, and then it's presented to the community let us decide. Remember the teachers are part of our community too, and as such they hear the comments that we all make and they share in our concerns.

  8. After reading the Agenda for the Board meeting, I have some concern about the verbiage being used. A large majority of these positions are slated for layoffs or the contracts are suspended. I thought these $4 million in budget cuts were to be permanent. To me it appears the cuts will only be temporary until the levy is passed. Will it be back to business as usual when the levy passes?

    There were only 2 administrative positions listed and both contracts are to be suspended. When should we expect to see more cuts at the top?

    Does anyone know when Dale McVey's contract is up? I seem to recall he was given a new contract after the levy was passed 4 years ago. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  9. Anon: Well said. I went to school in the 50s and 60s, and it seems like we got a great education with much less overhead.

    I think one of the things which has changed is just how busy we make ourselves in all kinds of other stuff. Our kids wore us our running them to soccer and dance and orchestra, etc.

    Our parents - my parents at least - were different folks than us. They lived through the Depression and WWII, then spent the post-war years building the manufacturing infrastructure of America. They had more time than money, and they spent that time with us kids.

    I think today is just the opposite. We have (had) more money than time. As a whole, we don't volunteer as much and instead expect to be served. Our church congregation went through a phase like this where the busy dual-career families with 1.8 equally busy kids would rather pay to hire more professional staff to run programs than serve as volunteers.

    This is a generalization of course. I know that our community has many volunteers without whom we would be much worse off. But I think that mostly these volunteers get involved in the activities that connect to their own kids and don't care about much else. So there are some people interested in Davidson football, others in Darby marching band, and another constituency in PTO, and so on, but that interest pretty much ends when the kids move. We fight hard for those programs when our kids are around, and pretty much lose interest when they're gone.

    Just a tiny fraction of our people care about the governance and funding of the entire enterprise, whether we're talking a school district, a city, county et al.

    I get it. I was just like that when I was traveling 3 days a week, my wife was the CFO of a manufacturing company, and we had two kids in school. Good money - no time. Someone else could deal with running the schools and the community.

    There is no magic bullet to fix this. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to educate the community in how we got here, and accept the fact that this mess is our doing - because we let crazy stuff happen while we weren't paying enough attention. It's going to take maybe 10 to 20 mills of additional property taxes to get things squared away in our schools. That's the price of our inattention.

    Next we need to get things under control going forward - that means primarily getting control of residential development. To do that, we need the right folks on the Hilliard City Council and the Hilliard School Board. And we can't let Don Schonhardt run unopposed again.

  10. Anon @ 10:43 AM...

    I realize your post encompassed much more than this, but...

    I graduated in '82 from a small-town/suburban district and we referred to Language Arts as those subjects that encompassed English, Spelling, Writing and Reading. I've always heard those combination of subjects referred to as Language Arts. It actually isn't some insidious invention by the District.

  11. edjr,

    I can't say what the district will do if the levy passes, however the language used in the agenda reflects the union contract when RIF's are imposed.

    Since this is a reduction in force (not a firing), the teacher's that are affected will be the first one's called back (in order of seniority) when a position opens up due to retirement, termination, or need. The teacher's in question are simply "laid off" and will be recalled when a position becomes available. They must take the next open position or forfeit their "laid-off" status. At that time, their contract would be terminated and they would no longer be considered for positions.

    Again, I don't know what the district's plans are post-levy, but the language used is consistent with most union layoffs.

  12. I understand the HEA leadership suggested cuts in extra curriculars
    instead of personnel? Can anyone confirm this.

    Also was there any discussion on the contract ?

    According to points here, the board
    rejected the offer, but there is really no official confirmation yet


  13. BOE and HEA have reached a tentative agreement.

    Details to follow later today I assume.

  14. The HEA is holding a general membership meeting this afternoon at 4pm at Darby H.S. to discuss the details of the tentative agreement that was reached at 8:30am today...a definite surprise to all of us!

  15. It's probably a moot point but a clearification to my last post. The HEA had submitted a new proposal during their negotiations. Some part of this resulted in the school board discarding the proposal.

    As the subsequent posts from yesturday indicate, the board came to the HEA with a contract offer (not just a negotiation proposal). This is the first time that they've gotten this far, so I take this as a very positive move on behalf of the board.

    I just hope that it's satisfactory to the HEA.

  16. Actually, it was the Federal Mediator that crafted the tentative agreement. He took a "blend" of the two positions and told both sides it was probably the most reasonable deal at this time.

  17. I started to write this long, detailed post, but then realized it was basically futile.

    The people on here who are willing to support the schools will. No need to preach to the choir anymore.

    The people who do not want to support it won't. There's nothing we can say to dissuade them so, what's the point? It's like trying to cure a racehorse with two broken legs.

    I will say THIS though: really take time to READ between the lines of what Denise Bobbitt, board president, says, and Rick Strater, HEA president, says. The board is always insisting the whole problem this year has been teachers not wanting to pay for insurance. The HEA has never said teachers are unwilling to pay, but for some reason the board - and some of you - seem to think that they are.

    I honestly think this stems from the fact that some don't want to hear that teachers are willing to pay for insurance. Some people want to believe that teachers are need to join the "real world" because I guess they believe the classroom is some magical realm where reality does not exist. I think it makes some people feel justified to hate and belittle teachers to believe that this is totally a money issue.

    Read more carefully, friends. This is about respect, not dollars and cents.

  18. DKL:

    I appreciate what you're saying, but don't underestimate the power of the truth to overcome prejudice.

    Our school leadership - which includes the School Board, the Administration, and the HEA leadership - have a tradition of undercommunicating this kind of stuff with the community, and now it's biting them in the rear.

    My hope for this forum has always been twofold: a) to help discover and communicate the truth about the fiscal operations of our school district; and, b) to be put out of business by an effective communications program by the school leadership.

    Until the second goal comes to pass, we all need to help each other in the quest for the first.


  19. The question then becomes, whose truth, exactly, are we peddling here? I mean, let's face it: we're all biased in some way or ther, whether it's politically, religiously, or socially. We all put our own spin on things. So, once again, people will believe what they want to believe, even if there are facts sitting there and staring them in the face.

    I just don't see the point to keep wasting our time informing people who clearly care nothing for our school system about the school system. I say, if they don't care about our children, why should we care about them? It's cyclical logic to me.

  20. DKL:

    I guess you can give up if you want. I for one will stick with this effort because I know the dialog about school funding is changing - ever so slowly perhaps - as a result of the information and dialog provided by this forum.

    In the past six months, there have been over 2,700 unique individuals on this blog, and in excess of 20,000 page views.

    The most viewed page is the one titled "Teacher Salaries: A Primer" which I wrote nearly a year ago. I suspect that more than a few of the readers learned something important.

    The most common search term that brings people to the blog is "Save Hilliard Schools," which means even the name of our forum is getting around to new people all the time.

    We are making a difference.


  21. DKL, I think a lot of good information has been put forth on this board. Paul has done a great service here. If it only educates a few, than it is better than none.

    I think what people are tired of hearing though is how tough things are. Things are tough in everyones workplace. I realize that the state has sold us down the river education wise. However the HEA and the OEA support most of the current office holders through
    BIG campaign contributions. Who provides the BIG campaign contributions for the individual taxpayer. NOBODY>

    I voted for the last levy, will see what comes out in the wash for the next and will most likely support it.

    However, give the attitude from inside the school buildings

    Lots of voters in this district
    dont get big wage increases. I think the last contract had raises of 4 +3 plus the medical contribuion by the school employess was minimal. Meanwhile, there are only merit raises in the private sector and those are 1 and 2% over the last few years. My single medical cost per week is 80.00 plus the copays and deductible.

    The private sector does not get 4 weeks in the summer, and a week at Christmas and spring break.
    They dont get snow days!

    Unfortunatly that is what many are looking at even though I dont agree
    but that is reality.

    I have allways voted yes on levys
    but one thing that I try to do when i run into people not in favor is
    to try and UNDERSTAND where they are coming from. I dont think the board or HEA gives a darn.
    My fear is that this districts employees have more an more an entitlement mentality and that they have it really bad.

    I hope the levy passes, but as has been said many times hear, we are finnally realizing all of the costs and payments and for some it just
    ticks them off !

  22. In response to DKL -

    I always voted for levies until I realized that costs were growing significantly faster than the student population and inflation. This has to be reined in, I can no longer afford 20+% school tax increases every 3 years. I am deeply offended by your statement that I don't care about children because I am against a levy and in favor of a change in the way of doing business by the board, the city officials, the HEA. It is a totally unfair insult that drives away those of us who simply can no longer afford to open our wallets every time the Board asks. It's not about the children, it's about 2:1 staffing increases vs. student increases and 4% raises with step increases.

  23. Let's remember that this is a two-pronged problem:

    1. Spending is growing at a rate well in excess of personal income growth for the people of the community;


    2. The three-way funding partnership between homeowners, business and the State of Ohio has become a one-way partnership consisting of homeowners alone when we're talking about funding growth.

    It is appropriate to put some pressure on the school leadership to ensure that the funding is well spent.

    But the funding problem is of our own making - we let Don Schonhardt and the other mayors get away with allowing the developers to keep building houses until the system broke.

    And they're itching to build more once the housing market gets back on their feet.

    Our inattention to this is going to cost us another 20% or more in levies to get back in balance.

    But we do have a say in further homebuilding - if we speak up now.


  24. To DKL,so apparently you just think that the district gets a blank check
    and everyone should just be quiet, cut their own budgets, make do with what they have, and the district gets whatever they want

    You have now opened a huge can of worms

    The communication to the public, which is minimal, because the
    DISTRICT and the HEA have a bargaining agreement, that is paid for not by privately raised funds
    in a regular business, but with
    public taxpayer funded dollars

    The district employees have enjoyed
    over 7 percent raises with the steps during the last contract
    and pretty much the same the 3 years before that, WITH premium medical coverage. And I personnally have heard the complaints about the proposed compensation in the new contract and change in the medical benefits

    The district employees wont be paying anywhere near 260 a month in medical, they will get raises again in the 3 % plus step raise range.

    I have voted for the levies but this prevalent attitude that is way too typical because of thE HEA demands and arrogance does put people off.
    Perhaps everyone should remember that the levy failed significantly
    not 52 48

    The district gave out 4% raises to the adm. when we were 4m in the hole

    Perhaps it is time for the HEA and OEA to understand that PAY cuts
    can happen, and then you would not have to lay any one off. The district can cut many more adm.

    The numbers dont lie. A 200 million dollar budget with personnel costs of say 88% means
    176m goes to salaries and benefits

    If you cut that 5% I am positive
    you will pass a levy to generate future dollars, and avoid all layoffs.

    The district has enjoyed the
    fine wine, it is time to go back
    to 15.00 a bottle on SALE.

    Affects the kids, why ?
    Lots of paycuts in the workplace
    and no one is doing less or even the same.

    The argument is that top teachers might leave. I thought all of the teachers who are licensed and approved are held to the same standard. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Sorry if any of you are offended by what I have said, but I am not apologizing because I think I am wrong, but because I think I have hit a cord. All that's been said about "entitlement" and "tired of hearing about tough times" only reiterates my point that people want to think teachers are "this way." Again, it just gives fuel to some people's fire to place the blame of the school funding problems solely on teachers' backs. I'm not saying there are not teachers out there who feel entitled and such (and wrongly so, no one is better than anyone else out there), but the board (and yes, HEA, too) has created a real "us vs. them" mentality and we're all just feeding into it. This whole "not voting for the levy to teach them (whoever you believe "them" to be)a lesson" is just shooting yourself in the foot, not the school district.

    Everything everyone has said about public funds, taxes, increases in insurance, cuts needing to be made, etc etc is all well and good and makes total sense to me. But when the levy fails again (and it will; frankly, although I'll vote for it, I have not hope for it passing; if that sounds pessimistic and that I am "giving up," then that is because I am only forecasting what I believe to be the dominant attitude of the Hilliard citizenry based off of this blog and other community media - remember, I said DOMINANT, not totality), who will be blamed for the falling property values? The school district, which is the only thing that is keeps Hilliard in the reputation of "above average" rather than merely "average."

    Although student population may not be increasing as much as it has in past years (I don't know the exact percentage of increase the past few years), that is because Hilliard has been playing catch-up; activing retroactively rather than proactively to deal with the student and community growth problem. They could take a feather from Olentangy's cap who anticipated their growth and budgeted in new buildings, staff, etc., rather than scrambling for funds for these things.

    And, hey, if you feel that I said you don't care about kids because you are not voting for the levy, that must be your own guilty conscience eating at you because I never once said anti-levy = anti-children. So, you ask yourself why what I said put you on the defensive, especially on the defensive about something I never point-blank said.

    My main point was, do what you have to do for your family. Just don't point the finger at just the school system when Hilliard becomes a substandard community when/if the school district declines from poor leadership, irresponsible use of funds, and, to some point, lack of funding. Take accountability for your vote is all I'm saying.

  26. Dkl-
    I am concerned what is going to happen to my property value when our school tax millage goes from 42 to 51.5 to 60+ in the next 5 years given what Paul says he thinks will be needed to keep what we have. When our school millage rises into the 50s, we will be nearly the highest in Franklin county. Why do we need a school system that is that expensive? When people who are looking for housing see these rates, it will drive them away. I sincerely believe this is a greater risk to my property value than not passing the next levy and forcing the district to cut back to what we can afford.

  27. If you want the district to be fisically responsible, you need to stop it where it starts: Central Office. Change the leadership there and things might start happening. The problem is, the board won't get rid of the leadership there b/c they like it. And the board likes it b/c they like the "numbers from test results" they get. The board likes the "numbers" they get b/c that is all the general public is able to understand: numbers. And the public votes for the board members. So, once again, the ball is in YOUR court.