Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Poke in the Eye

Among the $4.5 million in spending cuts for the 2008-2009 school year, the School Board decided to drop the Camp Joy program for 6th Graders.

The Camp Joy program is a three day, two night event during which our kids are exposed to many outdoor education opportunities, including a reenactment of the Underground Railroad. Thousands of Hilliard kids have attended Camp Joy over the years (including mine in the mid-1990s). The very first testimonial on their website is by the Assistant Principal at Tharp Sixth Grade School here in Hilliard.

Camp Joy is not free for the 1,000+ kids who attend. This year they will contribute $140 each to the cost, while the school district provides less than $50. The total expense to the district this year is only $50,763, according to Treasurer Brian Wilson.

Nonetheless, it has been cancelled for next year.

Meanwhile, the School Board continues with plans for its own two-day retreat on June 17-18 at the Northpointe Conference Center, a luxury facility in Delaware County. Apparently none of our own school facilities are adequate for this meeting.

Is it appropriate for our School Board to hold working meetings, where they discuss matters beyond the scope of their regular meeting? Of course - one could argue that such meetings are necessary. Some School Board invite members of the community to be active participants in their planning sessions.

But why at a luxury conference center that is not only outside the school district, but also in a different county? This kind of meeting must, by State Law, be open to the public, and that means accessible to the public.

Aren't there facilities within the school district appropriate for such meetings? I can think of three: a) the Four Seasons on Trueman Blvd; b) the Makoy Center in Olde Hilliard; and, c) the Hampton Inn on Cemetery Rd. All three of these establishments pay property taxes that support our schools. Why is the Board giving the business to their competition? Isn't that a poke-in-the-eye to the businesses of our community?

I also know that the Verizon facility on Britton Rd has extremely nice conference facilities, which I suspect the Board could have used for free had they only asked. I bet other businesses in the School District would have been happy to host the Board meeting if the members felt it was necessary to get 'off campus' to get into the right frame of mind for these discussions.

Why do the five members of our Board and some number of the Administrators have to stay overnight, incurring charges for rooms? If it's too far for them to drive home and back, isn't it too far for community members to go to observe?

Doesn't that make this retreat just one long Executive Session (see below)? Another poke-in-the-eye I believe, this time for the people of the community.

And what about the kids who are being denied their experience at Camp Joy?

Seems like a poke in their eye too.


  1. What possible justification is there for Hilliard Taxpayers to have to contribute $50 so that their neighbors 6th grader can go to camp? Most people, if they had to knock on their neighbors door and ask for the $50 would be embarrased, but when it is forceably withdrawn through property taxes, that makes it all right. I don't get it.

    I agree with you that the BOE should be ashamed at spending a dime of taxpayer money on a retreat. A poke in the eye about sums it up.

  2. I for one think the Camp Joy experience is one of those that make our school system special. If you've had a kid in the 6th grade in the last decade or so, they've had the chance to go.

    There's a group of parents now trying to raise money independently so that the Camp Joy experience can live on without any funding drain on the District.

    I don't necessarily think that's a good thing. It's one more form of the pay-to-play mentality, where certain expenses are squeezed out of the budget and participants are asked to fund them independently.

    If we're going to have public schools funded with taxpayer dollars, then all activities need to be made available to any student, regardless of their financial situation.

    Competition for spots on a team or organization is okay as long as the basis for selection isn't the size of the wallet.


  3. Paul, some more good financial
    stuff regarding actual cost by year 3
    in your latest newsletter. Over
    15mil.. And then we start all over again.

    It will be interesting to see if the board tells us on their own
    how much the contract cost. Somehow I think not.

    Now I believe there should have been raises given, but given the economic conditions why give
    out over 15Mil when 8 or 9 would have made sense. I think if people
    find out about this they are going
    to say no. The contrast presented will be the big cuts if the levy
    does fail. It will be then heaped on the electorate as they dont

    Count on the HEA leadership to go after the electorate full blast
    and come out and support this
    fall levy like never before.
    Very self serving.

    Again, I would like to speak my peace in front of the board, but the district and the teachers
    have created a situation that if you do speak up your children catch the consequences. So what this breeds is temporary support while your children are in school and then people remember what happenend

    I think everyone would be suprised how many current graduating seniors
    voted against the levy because of
    the graduation issue that the HEA
    brought into the schools. It was totally inappropriate, but school supporters seem to think that is ok

    I at this point see an interesting campaign.

  4. I've been reading, but not posting lately. Mainly because this has become a discussion of emotion more than anything else. I choose to stay out of the "emotion" part of it.

    However, I have to comment on a couple of things.

    1) To anon 12PM...isn't every field trip, school project, extra-curricular, etc., as you say "forcibly withdrawn through property tax"? Isn't that the whole point of a public school system? Each student is afforded opportunities, field trips, learning exercises, extra-curriculars, etc., each year. Should I only pay for those things that my child benefits from in that given year? Or shall I pay for the education process in its entirety knowing that my child will receive the full benefit of the educational system in Hilliard in due time? When my children(3) get to 6th grade, they will directly benefit from Camp Joy....or the band, or the orchestra, or the arts program, or football, or whatever it is. This is not ala carte.... We are paying and providing a full-service educational experience here. While in a given year, my child may not benefit from Camp Joy, they benefit from other "forcibly withdrawn" projects and services provided by the school district through the community of Hilliard (by way of taxes).

    2) For those that say we can't voice our opinions.... All I can say is that I stood in front of the school board and spoke, sent several less-than-flattering emails to school officials, ended up on the front page of the local paper, and continually post on here in my full identity. I have a spouse that is a teacher, and three kids in the district. I have yet to see anything negative happen to any of my family as a result. And if it did, then I am still entitled (and expected) to participate in the process of education in this community. I've taken, what must be in your eyes, incredible "risks". But I choose to think of it as being an active participant.

    3) I do understand that one high school had some real issues with teachers carrying the HEA banner into the classroom. That is unfortunate and inappropriate. But I can honestly say that I am affiliated with 2 buildings in the school district and in neither did I see anything like what I've heard occurred in the one high school.

    4) To anon 4:20....Teachers will be out in force for the levy in November, you are right. They are in force for every levy. It's not self-serving.... its SCHOOL serving. Teachers, parents of students, bus drivers, administrators will all be out in force in November. Not to line their own pockets but to encourage investment into the educational system in Hilliard. Just because we are coming off of a negotiation process does not mean that teachers supporting the levy means they are doing so only to ensure they get big raises. That is neither a fair nor accurate assumption.

    School funding in Ohio is in disarray for several reasons. Flat-lining of state funding to affluent schools, unfunded mandates, etc. In Hilliard it is even more an issue because of our huge growth curve, the diversification of the district(read ELL), the current economy, and in some cases uncontrolled spending by the district (read: payroll raises).

    I'm not afraid to say that the step raises in the HEA contract should be eliminated (or used as the yearly raise for teachers, not additive to a pay raise). I've long said that was the case. I've also long been anti-union and I've never been afraid to say that out loud. Unions protect the low performer far more than they benefit the stronger performer.

    This post is not about protecting teachers or even the district. I just wanted to bring some reality where I fear we have gone too far to the emotional side of things.

    It is about the kids. The BOE at their core want what's best for the kids. And we all know that. The teachers are the same, as are the administrators and the tax payers. We need to get off that notion. The BOE can can control growth in Hilliard about as much as I can. The administration can control the need for ELL teachers about as much as the BOE can control growth.

    We do need to control cost growth, no doubt. I pay as much as anyone in taxes. And it's getting too difficult to keep increasing my tax liability. But, griping and waging emotional warfare won't do a thing to find the solution.

    Go to a board meeting, speak your mind, offer your services to the PTO, ACT, campaign committee, or other group that contributes to the overall educational process in Hilliard.

    But please, let's stop the petty bickering.... I got enough of that from the BOE and HEA this spring.

  5. KJ, as your spouse is an educator
    then your children as being part of the HEA family would not be affected

    I simply have stated that it was inappropriate to bring graduation into a financial negotiation, in the school building. When we brought it up the kids heard about it, so we stopped. Funny how some college things got magically lost. Fact not Fiction. You would be suprised how many current graduating seniors voted against this past levy. So perhaps because your spouse is an educator you got a pass. We all dont have that type of access. And as two teachers did post, they also did not agree with bringing teacher negotitions into the school buildings. It is TOTALLY
    inappropriate. You are entitled to your opionion on the subject, but
    the affect on scholarships for college, college information is
    NOT PETTY in my opinion,because it did not affect you, but in fact it did affect some students. We have a right to not be happy aboutit, and the fact is the district didnt

    So lets forget the % increases,
    at 7%, just petty jealousy.
    It is not for some who are fixed incomes. KJ you have benefited from premium medical converage.
    Perhaps now you might understand
    $250 dollar a month premiums
    with tough deductibles.

    By my calculations using an example of one teacher making
    the average 58,000 with just one step raise income will grow over
    7,000 at least, and that is not based on merit.. It will be offset by some medical. If there are two
    teachers , double that so $14,000
    over 3 years in a household is pretty good. Please do talk about

    With the increases around us, sorry
    that is reality not pettiness,
    gas, medical premiums, food etc
    many are going to be strapped
    They have made their cuts. I am fortunate I can cut back more to pay for someones 7% raise that in thisfiscal time makes no sense
    I can eliminate the cell, vacation
    eating out, the cable I am fortunate to this point. I am not sure where the next levy dollars will come from but I will have to pay it. We arent getting 3% raises
    let alone 7 and they are based on merit by the way. Many people have allready done the cutting , and they are hurting. SENIOR CITIZENSwith fixed incomes are going to feel the effect of the next levey. I call that concern, not pettiness or emotions

    This levy is not about the kids, because if it was the HEA would have never put in their retaliation tactics and talked about graduation
    and the like being cancelled. You dont do that to kids ! It was wrong and the HEA leaderships attitude and the board right now
    is going to bring down the levy

    This community has allways supported its schools. Look at the buildings, course offerings etc
    A lot of this could have been avoided by giving out less in compensation increases and showing they were going to hold the fort

    Call it pettiness, call it emotions
    call it selfishness on the part of the homeowners, say they dont get
    it, that the board is right and the HEA is right and just pay up

    In the private sector, if a company does that to its customers, they
    dont stay in business very long

    Lets not forget this reality check
    that is fact not emotion

    57% NO 43%Yes.

    The board and the HEA I dont think
    have a handle on this yet, and that
    was over 3 months ago.

    We will hear about all the teacher cuts, program cuts, if the levy does not pass which I hope it will
    The fiscally responsible thing is that the district could have saved on some of those cuts by not handing out 7% raises.

    The district and the HEA with their actions simply have laid their cards on the table. They are in control and they expect the individual taxpayer to ante up without questions. After all, the board right after the levy failure conducted a meeting according to
    those in attendence that lasted
    all of 8 minutes in public time versus executive session

    I think this is a good forum to get information, to educate, to yes vent some. I think everyone has learned or can learn things from dialogue on this site.

  6. Believe me, my wife took several years off as a teacher, nor has she been a teacher our entire marriage, so I understand medical costs.

    I agreed with you about the HEA banner in the classroom. Not sure how you missed that one.

    Again, I didn't say Hilliard teachers were undercompensated. In fact, I said step raises should be eliminated. Again, not sure how you missed that one.

    I also said I understand we need to control cost growth and that as a tax payer it is is getting difficult to keep adding to my taxes. Where is it exactly we don't agree?

    I was at that 8 minute meeting... I even made the paper. But I'm in "the family" so I'm covered. :-)

    Emotion... Let's see. Maybe I have a point. Since I read your message and then re-read mine, you and I made many of the same arguments. Yet, you ranted as though I said none of it. Perhaps emotion is partly to blame, I don't know.

    The point of my post was that it's nice we have a place to vent. Like you, I've learned a lot of information on this site. So it's nice to have a place where ideas and solutions can be discussed. Emotion is sometimes a great motivator.... but unless that is turned into action or solutions, it does little for anyone. I am just encouraging us to participate in the solution rather than sit behind our keyboards and rant.

  7. KJ, my point had nothing to do with the banner first off. It had to do
    with the threatenend cancellation of graduation, awards nights etc.
    It was also about talking about it in the classroom.Other activities

    As questions were raised the feedback was Oh well. The final outcome was the affect on students, their graduation paperwork, scholarship apps, etc. So the district and the HEA sent a message to not mess with them. So naturally
    one would not be really too happy
    as questions posed by the parent
    bite the student in the long run.

    If being concerned about my senior
    student final year is ranting, so
    be it. The HEA leadership and the district could care less about the students and they showed their attitude during this school year.

    The bottom line is despite the fact that I will continue to support the levy is that the District had better find a way to mend fences quickly. The no vote was a clear message in February. Apparently that message has fallen on dear ears.

    As much as I "dont get it"
    the district still has not figured out that with their attitude and the HEA attitude toward the students and parents that they face
    a daunting task in the fall. And it is not going to pass playing
    pay up and shut up.

    As far as participating, isnt it interesting you have the same faces
    on all the committees across the board all of the time. I know a number of people who have called to volunteer but were never called including myself. So the perception is, and perception is everything unfortunatly, that they
    only want lock step participation and dont like to talk about the tough questions.

    Witness the huge executive session time by the board.

  8. Again, we agree about the HEA in the classroom. I don't know what else to say to you.

    I volunteered for the campaign committee and the two most senior leaders of that effort met me for breakfast at 7AM May 17. It was a good meeting. I encourage you to continue to try to participate in the area of your choice if that is what you still want to do.

    The "same old" faces will continue if new faces don't push to contribute. That's my whole point.

  9. The responses seem to have strayed from Pauls article so...
    I would have no problem coughing up the additional $50 for Camp Joy - both of my kids found it to be a wonderful thing and it generated a lot of discussion between them and myself. At the same time Camp Joy is pretty much an "all inclusive" event which I think should be subsidized.Keep in mind that there are some kids who don't get to go because their family cannot budget the $140 required - these are probably the same people who voted against the levy because they don't know where they will come up with the additional 300-900 per year. I have more of a problem with subsidizing programs that are much more "exclusive", and yes, that includes sports and music. Each of my kids has been active in one or the other and I am a firm believer in "pay to play". And for the retreat to be fully paid for and held in a somewhat luxurious setting outside of the district - well that just figures, doesn't it?
    That is much more a slap in the face, or worse, than a figurative poke in the eye. Just another public relations nightmare, of which the BOE has provided many.

  10. Just read the No Poke article (sorry, catching up after a week out of town)
    so glad to hear the BOE has a bit more sense than I gave them credit for, if only for coming to their senses after reading this blog and responses. Paul, feel free to combine my 2 posts.