Thursday, May 22, 2008

Executive Sessions, Part III

Garth Bishop, the Commentary Editor for SNP, the publisher of Hilliard Northwest News, wrote a very interesting editorial in the May 21, 2008 edition. It was titled "The long and short of school board meetings," and can be read in its entirety here.

He made two points which I feel are particularly important:
  1. "There are plenty of legitimate reasons for boards to hold closed sessions. But when all one knows is that the board's been spending an awful lot of time behind closed doors lately, the public starts to wonder if the board doesn't know what it's doing or, worse, if something sinister is afoot."

    Actually, there is a fairly short list of reasons why a public body such as a School Board can go into Executive Session. The idea is that outside those few exceptions, a public body is to perform all of its business in the bright light in the full view of the public, hence the name "Sunshine Laws."

    However, Mr. Bishop hit the nail on the head in regard to public perception - not something to be taken lightly given the high level of emotion surrounding school finances right now.

  2. "If you've got suspicions about your local school board, its members won't know if you're not there to tell them..."


Thanks Mr. Bishop. It's good to hear another voice in the choir.


  1. I immediately thought of this blog when I read the article. Amazing how some school boards spend almost no time in executive session and others, particularly Hilliard, spend most of their time there. Given the "few" legal reasons for executive session, there must be an awful lot of employment and disciplinary issues in the HSD. Personally I am not buying that. Seems to me that there should be a summary of what was discussed - no names, just an outline. But then, our board specializes in lack of communication, don't they?

  2. I understand about the concepts of executive session, but the perception becomes, what is really going on
    behind closed doors, and there seems to be very little comments in general at the school board meetings by members of the board.

    One of the things that has hit me is that in the private sector, when you get a bill for services performed, you immediatly know what you got, it is layed out for you
    and you also know ahead of time
    what in general it is what you are paying for.

    Our negotiation process in the schools has become a big secret.
    The contract was settled two weeks ago tommorrow, and yet have received only periphial info like
    3% raises, 4% step raises, medical contribution changed but little specifics. Why werent the specifics spelled out in detail
    week one. !
    These are taxpayer funded dollars
    and the smokescreens continue.

    I hesitate at this juncture to open
    up the blank checkbook, just because "that is the way it is"

    It doesn't have to be that way
    nor should it. Given the HEA
    aversion to any sort of inquiry
    by parents, community, etc why
    should the community provide
    a continual parade of 7% increases
    to the HEA memberships. We will now have this model for 6 years
    going and as Hillirdite, great name by the way, and it would appear from now on. So the community will be faced with excessive increases in their tax rates that are not

    What the levy campaign looks like in the fall allready is
    A.Its for the kids
    B You dont understand
    C. Its the states fault, which does have merit
    D. We are just getting so many more
    kids, and we have so many mandates
    E Its for the kids and you are selfish

    Note: It should be about the kids
    but the deficit is caused by raising your expenses unnecessarily
    by handing out raises you cannot afford.

    Its not about the kids because witness the past year, its about what the HEA wants and expects.
    They dont want the community to question anything, and if you do
    right back at you. I thought we
    were the customer, and I thought it was about the kids.

    The mandates came because the HEA and district and city leaders support those would not oppose such mandates at the state and federal level, and did it with big campaign funds. Somehow this became our fault too ?!!!!

    Development of housing will continue unfettered, witness new Darby Creek accord, and our elected officials will not step up and be counted. Unfortunatly it takes big money to get elected and those with
    the campaign coffers arent going to support anyone who is not in lock step with them. Witness all of our current elected officials.

    So while the levy is needed, because we are backed into a corner
    the criticism of the public is unwarrented because the candidates on the ballot are bought and paid for. So some get ticked off and feel there only alternative given the way they have been treated is
    to vote NO

    But the bottom line really to success is how you change that
    57% no vote magically when the board and the HEA has basically
    said, give us your money, but dont
    ask any questions because you dont get it, we are in charge, and we could care less about your opionion

    You may disagree with this, but
    how do you then explain a 57% no vote, and the mood of the community is we dont have a lot of confidence in your ability to communicate properly with us.

  3. All things which are true - but as KJ says, so what are we going to do about it?

    My suggestion - tell all your friends and neighbors to subscribe to this blog or the SaveHilliardSchools e-newsletter.

    The first step toward changing the way our community is run is to replace ignorance with knowledge, and urban legend with truth. I think we do a better job of that in this blog than any other organization in the community - thanks to all of you who actively participate in the conversation.

    But we're not reaching anywhere near enough people yet - only about 10% of the number who typically vote.


  4. Jim Fedako at Anti-Positivist just published this post about a new policy the Olentangy Board implemented at their meeting tonight. I find that Board's actions paranoid and insulting. I'll very much look forward to listening to the audio recording of the public portion of their meeting.

    Clearly they have a Board member who is questioning the appropriateness of something that happens in their Executive Sessions, and the other Board members fear that this one Board member will release recordings of the meeting in order to back up his/her claims.

    It takes me back to the days of the Congress trying to force Richard Nixon to release the Oval Office recordings.

    The Olentangy board reacted by banning briefcases and overcoats - among other things - from their Executive Sessions. It seems to me that the law already prohibits the disclosure of confidential information from Executive Sessions, making it a first degree misdemeanor.

    It appears that the majority of the members of the Olentangy board does not trust the law to protect them...

  5. So apparently there is a fly in the ointment at Olentangy? We could use someone like her (I'm just guessing here) on the HSB. Question: if it is illegal to disclose what is discussed in Executive Session, how can it be determined that something illegal is being discussed? Seems a Catch-22.

  6. The hillirdite is very wise. It is similar to the contract and now it has been two weeks and particulars

    Lots of levies on the ballot in Nov
    as Dublin looks like they are headed toward another. Of note their bond issue though will be a wash.

    It will take some serious dollars to run for board next time . The HEA
    will find 2 to 3 "special" candidates
    After all they have to protect those continual raises at 7%

  7. I think the idea is that in order for illegal actions to take place, it would require a conspiracy of all five Board members.

    But the reality is that it takes a brave Board member to challenge the modus operandi of such an organization, especially when doing it alone.

    In our community of 80,000, there are perhaps 100 people who get involved in our school district at the district level. Oh sure, lots of folks are involved in PTO, sports, music, etc, but most of those activities are directly related to the wellbeing and interests of their own kids.

    I've been involved in the Hilliard Education Foundation, the precursor to the ACT Committee, the Treasurer's Committee, and the last redistricting effort. There were 90-100 of us on the redistricting project, of which about 75 were community members (the rest were district administrators). I already knew at least half of the 75 community members because they are the same people involved in everything else having to do with our schools.

    There is a social network which binds this group as well. This makes it hard for one member to speak out in opposition to the other members - you have to be willing to jeopardize the friendship.

    I'm not saying we have bad people on the Board. In fact, I know every one of them and respect them all. But things have to change, and they're resistant to it because they have the disease that cripples so many organizations: the "we've-never-done-it-that-way-before"-itis.

    Three seats will be up for grabs in the Nov 2009 election - a majority. We have to think carefully whether we to fill those seats with folks from the same network, or get some fresh blood in the system.


  8. Paul, you hit the nail right on the head.

    I am buying in to the notion that it is a social club versus a leadership body that should be looking out for
    the best interests in the districts.

    I have also been at meetings, organizations, that seem if you arent in lock step with the sponsoring group the reception is
    quite chilly.

    The executive session issue is not going to go away unfortunatly. The one option would be to file suit
    but then we are costing the district as well as ourselves $$$$
    It is going to be challenging enough to come up with the increase in property taxes coming up. That is why it would be nice to know out of executive session about discussions on the 7% pay increases that are simply over the top.

    I noticed that preliminary activities have begun to start off the levy campaign. There is going to be tough sledding explaining the raises when you at the same time are talking about layoffs and program cuts.

    Earlier mention that financial experts such as one of the newest board members were needed on the board. It would appear that the
    financial experience is worth
    as I have noted before NOTHING>
    So another "experienced" candidate
    that has " all the background"
    has again sold us down the river.

    The issue is as a regular parent
    you cannot run because the district and the HEA will make your childs
    life miserable, and you cant do anything about it.

    Perhaps the levy committee will
    properly address this with the board and the HEA and how this
    serious issue is going to be combated in this district.

    Otherwise my fear is this levy will go down in flames, similar to the
    57% NO vote we just had. This practice is unacceptable and it is clear the Distric leadership
    and HEA dont have the werewithall
    to change it.

  9. How do you run for a seat on the school board?

    What are the requirements?

    How much money does it cost, and what are the costs associated with it?

    Do you have to "know somebody" or can any person run, with no experience, and no friends in high places?

    Do the members of the school board get paid for their position?

    I apologize for my ignorance, but I just don't know the process. I do know that I am tired of the way the school board is sticking to it's "business as usual" attitude. They continually claim that it's about the kids, while cutting funding for things that will benefit the kids. All the while giving hefty raises to admins and teachers. A perfect example of talking out both sides of your mouth!

    I am a nobody in this community. Nobody knows me, and I have no political agenda. Not that I, personally, would be interested, but I am the type of person (people) this school board needs. Someone who will demand change, and keep things out in the open, so there isn't a feeling of suspicion and impropriety towards the school board members, by the community.

    Thanks in advance for your information.


  10. JRA:

    I believe the only requirement to run for school board is the must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years old, a resident of the state for 30 days, and you get enough signatures on your candidacy petition (State of Ohio Form 3-T). Because of the size of our school district, the petition will require 150 signatures of registered voters who live within the school district. Believe me, it is no small effort to gather these signatures.

    Interestingly, state law allows multiple names to be put on a single petition. This is one reason I'm thinking of assembling a team of candidates to run together - all could 'share' the same petition signatures.

    More importantly, the team could consolidate resources, which would be very helpful in countering the weight of the HEA's support.

    I spent a little more than $700 on my campaign (and lost). The other candidates spent many multiples of what I did. Unfortunately this is the truth of our current political environment - a candidate must recognize that the vast majority of the people who go to the polls will spend very little effort to find out information on their own, putting the onus on the candidate to reach them.

    That's onw of the main reasons this blog/website exists frankly - to get a running start on the next election by building name recognition. However, it won't be enough alone because people still have to make an effort to find it.

    The best mechanism appears to be flyers delivered door-to-door. The outcome might have been different had I passed out 5,000 instead of only 1,000...

    You are most definitely not a nobody - you're someone who chooses to get involved, and that makes you a rarity in our community. If you're seriously considering being a candidate, let's talk sometime.


  11. More on the Olentangy story:

    At their Board meeting on 5/27, their new "no recording devices in Executive Sessions" policy was adopted on an emergency basis. Only Ms. Smith voted against the emergency implementation (which waives the requirement for three readings), and she abstained from voting on the policy itself. She also declined to make any comments, which is unfortunate as it leaves the community wandering what all the fuss was about.

    If you want to listen to the discussion, it occurs at the 1hr 50min mark of the audio recording of the meeting.