Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on the Cuts: Building Usage

On the list of cuts recommended by Superintendent Dale McVey if the November levy doesn't pass, the last item is "Eliminate evening, after-school & weekend building usage (utilities)"

A reader sent me a question asking whether I knew if there had been further discussion of this item. Her interest came from the fact that a group she is involved in currently makes use of one of the schools.

I thought I had read somewhere that public school districts are required to make school facilities available to community groups, understanding that there are limits on the allowed use, it can't interfere with normal school programming, and a fee can be charged. With a little digging, I found the following in the Ohio Revised Code:

Ohio Revised Code 3313.76: "Upon application of any responsible organization, or of a group of at least seven citizens, all school grounds and schoolhouses, as well as all other buildings under the supervision and control of the state, or buildings maintained by taxation under the laws of this state, shall be available for use as social centers for the entertainment and education of the people, including the adult and youthful population, and for the discussion of all topics tending to the development of personal character and of civic welfare, and for religious exercises. Such occupation should not seriously infringe upon the original and necessary uses of such properties. The public officials in charge of such buildings shall prescribe such rules and regulations for their occupancy and use as will secure a fair, reasonable, and impartial use of the same."

Ohio Revised Code 3313.77 "The board of education of any city, exempted village, or local school district shall, upon request and the payment of a reasonable fee, subject to such regulation as is adopted by such board, permit the use of any schoolhouse and rooms therein and the grounds and other property under its control, when not in actual use for school purposes, for any of the following purposes:

(A) Giving instructions in any branch of education, learning, or the arts;

(B) Holding educational, religious, civic, social, or recreational meetings and entertainments, and for such other purposes as promote the welfare of the community; provided such meetings and entertainments shall be nonexclusive and open to the general public;

(C) Public library purposes, as a station for a public library, or as reading rooms;

(D) Polling places, for holding elections and for the registration of voters, or for holding grange or similar meetings.

Within sixty days after the effective date of this section, the board of education of each school district shall adopt a policy for the use of school facilities by the public, including a list of all fees to be paid for the use of such facilities and the costs used to determine such fees. Once adopted, the policy shall remain in effect until formally amended by the board. A copy of the policy shall be made available to any resident of the district upon request."

So I wonder which of the following is true:

  1. There is some other law or regulation which trumps these two laws;

  2. These are the current and applicable laws, but neither the Superintendent nor anyone else in the school leadership are aware of them (which would be troubling);

  3. These are the current and applicable laws, and the Superintendent knows it but hoped to slip one by us because this is the kind of threat that might motivate people to vote for the levy.

I'll try to find out.


  1. Paul

    If this weren't such a sneaky scare tactic by McVey, it might almost be funny. I suspect he knew full well about this code and hoped nobody thought to check. Hasn't he met you yet? LOL!

    And if he truly didn't know about it, (doubtful) then he's just pulling stuff out of a hat to scare the voters into passing the levy. He's the scarey one, and in all honesty, he needs to go!

    I hope you send this info to the newspapers so they can print it. Everyone needs to know about the SCAM McVey is trying to pull on us.

    Really great job, Paul!

  2. Jane:

    Let's give the Superintendent a chance to respond to the email I've sent him (we know each other well). We have to be open to the possibility that there is a legitimate reason for putting this on the cut list.


  3. Paul,

    If the school superintendent thinks he can sidestep Ohio Code to frighten and bend people to do his will, I call that a scam. I have to call it like I see it.

    However, since I am new to all of this and you aren't, I will defer to you and your opinion that he must have a legitimate reason.

    I will await his response to you, with bated breath.

  4. Didn't say he must have - only that he might have.


  5. If we assume that there really is a cost savings associated with closing the buildings to outside groups, then either 1) they are not charging a fee, or 2) the fee is too low. If HCSD sets a fee that would cover actual costs of building use (utilities, custodial staff, etc.) then it should be a wash. If that means the current fee doubles or triples, so be it. Groups can choose to pay the fee or not.

  6. **Devil's Advocate Alert**

    Perhaps the usage they are referring to is STUDENT usage. Keeping schools open after school, in evenings, and on weekends for student activities, clubs, rehearsals, etc... There are many things that go on after school for students. Spanish Club, Band, and Power of the Pen do not have to pay usage fees for using the building at these times. Eliminating this WOULD save money, because they could turn off lights and turn down heat right at the end of the school day. If a community group wished to use the space, they would pay for custodial support, and heating/electricity fees.

    Just a thought...

  7. Good question by Musicman, but I am not buying into yet as this could have and should have been explained by now !

    At the High School for example they are going to have a hard time
    shutting the buildings at night due to practices, competitions etc
    Now maybe in the elementary and
    middle schools there may be some savings, but all of this is related
    and we dont really know what community groups are paying and not paying.

    If we are going to be dealing with
    a 150mill budget lets get real though about the cuts.

    The closing of the buildings will
    save some money, just like busing cuts etc. But what is the percentage of these things to the budget. Let them go, but the magic question is still about contracts we have negotitated and apparently cant afford

  8. Musicman - I always appreciate the Devil's Advocate response but the ORC refers to the "adult population" so I think that about covers it. And this would not be the first time that the HSD violated state laws. Seems the Dispatch, in it's series last year on teachers with legal/discipline issues, mentioned that the teacher contracts had provisions for secrecy from the public of certain disciplinary actions, which were in direct conflict of state law. Plus it is obvious to many of us that the Sunshine Laws are broken on a regular basis, in spirit for certain, and probably in legal terms as well. It is just too difficult to prove. I will await Mr McVey's response anxiously. I don't think the Board does this type of thing intentionally - they just are not very well informed on their responsibilities. Not sure whose fault that might be.

  9. Musicman has a point: the language on the cut list is ambiguous, and might mean that Superintendent recommends that there be no more afterhours and weekend activities for students in building, but that paid community usage could continue.

    I obviously didn't draw that conclusion from his remarks at the meeting, or from the language of the cut list, but let's hear what he has to say in response.


  10. Paul,

    I agree with you, but again am afraid that some take the first glance look as the god's honest truth. You always take the cautious approach, but some who read your blog see your entry as fact, despite your efforts to advise caution.

    Hillirdite,the ORC does refer to adult populations. However, the HCSD release said nothing of the Ohio Revised Code. Paul used the ORC as a reference, that was not a definition provided by HCSD. I look forward to the response as well.

    Also, your pretext of HCSD breaking laws before, so they'll probably do it again, is an issue that, if you actually believe it, would prevent you from having faith in most any person, company, or organization.

    I say we wait and see, instead of presuming guilt, as with the DANA property.

  11. Musicman - sorry if it seemed I came across a bit strong. As I said, I am awaiting Mr McVey's response as well, and I also wrote that I don't think laws are broken intentionally. I don't think I even inferred that they are necessarily breaking the law on the school building use, just that the law specifically mentioned "adults" which on the face of things, seems to include more than just student groups. I just think the HSB is not well informed on some things. If it appears that I have a lack of faith in the school board, well that is because I do. I have heard enough double speak (as well as total lack of speech)from them over the last 18 months that I feel it is justified. They have a long way to go to earn my trust back.

  12. I fully agree with musicman on this one.

  13. Hillirdite said "I just think the HSB is not well informed on some things. If it appears that I have a lack of faith in the school board, well that is because I do. I have heard enough double speak (as well as total lack of speech)from them over the last 18 months that I feel it is justified. They have a long way to go to earn my trust back."

    I think folks on all sides of the issue can agree with that. They certainly, at best, seem to be a group that fails to clearly and concisely what exactly it is that they do, and why they do it. I personally feel their intentions are good and noble.

    What's that saying? The road to somewhere is paved with good intentions?

  14. Jim Fedako:

    Thanks -- it was in fact your blog that made me aware of these laws.


  15. It seemed to me when I read this proposal it was meant to be punitive. There can't be much utility savings. They never turn off all the lights and the buildings are so large, you can't set back the heat or cooling too much on an overnight basis, it takes too long to heat them up or cool them down in the morning.

  16. Some additional thoughts on this:

    I don't know the legislative history behind these two statutes, one which was enacted in 1953 and the other in 1975, but a good guess would seem to be that our General Assembly recognized that the school buildings are the property of the community - paid for exclusively with our own tax dollars. While the State of Ohio shares in the cost of daily operations of our school system, the buildings are paid for through bond levies, and the State makes no contribution to the retirement of those bonds.

    With the size of the investment we make in these buildings - Bradley High School will cost $65 million - it certainly seems reasonable that groups in the community should be not just be allowed, but welcomed to use the buildings.

    Whether or not an operating levy passes should have little to do with it. These buildings are paid for with bond levies that we have already passed.

    The statutes require any such group to pay a reasonable fee. What might that mean? I think the courts would hold that reasonable means that the fee should reflect the true incremental cost of making the facility available, and not be set to an arbitrarily high number so as to prevent anyone from making the request.

    So what are those true incremental costs?

    Certainly it would include the cost of compensation, taxes and benefits for any school employee that would have to be present to unlock the building, supervise the usage, clean up any mess, and resecure the building after the group leaves.

    It is also reasonable to include the cost of utilities. As another reader noted, the incremental heating/air conditioning cost should be minimal since the buildings would be kept fairly close to occupancy temperatures anyway (to the engineers out there - yes, I understand the difference between temperature and heat). Add on a few drinks from the water fountains and a few flushes, and that should cover utilities.

    How much more is there? All this can't add up to much. I'd certainly like to see the calculations used to arrive at the "reasonable fee."

    Anyway, the point is that these are buildings that we're all paying for, so even without the support of the law it would seem to be a proper thing to let the buildings be used by community groups, provided they do pay the true incremental cost created, and they use the building in a respectful manner.


  17. I'm concerned with some things on this blog. Similar to what musicman said, I think some people see what been posted and take it as absolute fact. Another concern that I have involve a few posts that seem more tied to innuendo, unsupported assertions and the like. Furthermore, I'd hate to see this community torn apart by dissension and suspicion (on all sides).

    Everyone needs to do the appropriate research when it comes to all of these issues and not completely rely on Paul (no offense, Paul) or anyone else, for that matter. I agree with him on some things, but not on others. That is fine and we need civil discourse from many perspectives. My point is that it takes this entire community to get involved, know the issues and make informed decisions. The best outcome for the community as a whole will probably include elements from many perspectives.

    IMHO, it is still imperative that this levy passes. I believe changes need to happen (on several fronts), but there might not be much of a district left to make them occur if the levy goes down.

  18. In my previous post, I should have stated a 'a few of the posts from readers' to make that point more clearly.

  19. SJ please explain innuendos that have been brought up. Also some examples of people just accepting some things as fact. Just trying to understand

  20. SJ:

    No offense taken. The whole purpose of this blog is to facilitate a respectful and information-based dialog about the fiscal operations of our schools. We all benefit from the varying viewpoints, and I personally benefit when one of you point our errors in my information or my analysis.


  21. An update on this question about building usage:

    Paul: Dale [McVey]: On the list of items which you recommended to the Board should be cut if the levy fails, the last one was to eliminate community usage of the school facilities. However, I believe Ohio Revised Code 3313.76 and 3313.77 require the school district to make its facilities available for the uses described, with the payment of a reasonable fee. Is there some other law or regulation which trumps these two? If not, what basis do you have for including this on the cut list? Thanks, Paul

    Dale McVey: We are speaking with legal counsel. Dale

    With all due respect for MusicMan's caution, there is no need to talk to legal counsel if the question is about school administrated student usage of the buildings after hours.

    The Olentangy school district went through a similar dialog - you can read one perspective of it on Jim Fedako's blog. In their case, their attorney said the district is within its rights to restrict public usage of the facilities.

    The situation that puts the public in is that the school district is in essense saying "if you want to argue this further, lawyer-up and we'll go to court." Few public groups have the resources necessary to do that, and so the school district wins by default.

    Friends of mine have experienced this when trying to argue that the district is obligated by law to provide particular services their kids. In one case, the parent was herself a lawyer and took the challenge. The parents and the district settled, but the district insisted on a non-disclosure clause, preventing the parents from telling others about particulars of the settlement.


  22. rick,

    Look up in this very thread and you'll see that McVey is considered to be running a scam. I'd say that is a pretty serious assertion, wouldn't you? Where's the proof that he is doing that?

  23. rick,

    Also, as far as taking things as fact... I think this very thread is indicative of that, too. Paul had raised a question in his blog entry about the closing of facilities and/or the possible legal implications. He's in research mode - which he himself has indicated. Apparently, someone else seems to have taken that as an indication that the infraction has already happened.

    Look at musicman's statement "I agree with you, but again am afraid that some take the first glance look as the god's honest truth." I'm saying that I agree with that statement.

  24. Interesting response from the school district. Either they have no strong basis for the decision (nor understanding of their legal rights), they didn't appreciate that we might actually question such decisions, or the decision was made based on poltical need.

    The more I see and hear, the more I am concerned that we have the wrong leadership in Hilliard.

    Excellent with distinction is a wondeful rating and a testament to the fine district we have. But the fiscal decisions and integrity of this school district is a major question for me. I really feel like I can' trust them. That's a problem.

  25. A cloak of secrecy has always been a part of Hilliard's operation. There are MANY such non-disclosure agreements between parents and the district, and teachers and the district.

    Paul Jenne? That one's real quiet!

    Teachers hacking into other teachers email accounts (Fact)? District confirmed it with the victim, then "encouraged" to keep it quiet.

    Parents who move their kids from Darby to Davidson? Again, shhh don't tell anyone.

    Coupled with School Board actions and other issues of late, this cloak of secrecy must end!

  26. Paul,

    I don't like that brief response from McVey. While I DON'T view this as a reason to vote no, it doesn't exactly make them look like engaged members of the community.

    Have you and he had interactions before? Is there a reason why he wouldn't wish to be more forthcoming/helpful in his response to you? I think ANY time you have community members asking questions, that is a fantastic time to show them how much you care about what they think, and to EXPLAIN your rationale to them.

    I guess he feels otherwise...

  27. Musicman:

    Dale and I know each other quite well. I first got to know him several years ago when I served on the Board of Trustees of the Hilliard Education Foundation, of which the Superintendent is an ex officio member. During that period, our relationship was friendly and collaborative. It was also a time when my connection with the school district was exclusively through my kids and the HEF.

    The thing that changed is that I got involved in community planning when the Brown Township Trustees invited me to become part of our township's Comprehensive Plan rewrite team. It was then that I started to connect the dots between residential development, local politics and school economics. I had a chance to 'follow the money', and didn't like what I found.

    Mr. McVey wants to solve school funding problems by just taxing everyone more, and doesn't care that much whether the source of that tax revenue is the local property owners or the entire tax base of the State of Ohio.

    I don't necessarily fault him in that perspective, but don't believe he quite internalizes that regardless of the way the taxes are generated, those of us in the so-called wealthy suburbs will bear more and more of the burden. The more we allow the State of Ohio to control school funding, the less of our resources will remain in our district.

    Like KJ, I'm concerned about our leadership. Our school district is a large and complex enterprise which exists in a politically-charged environment. The top leadership needs to be smart and savvy, able to build trusting relationships with the community, and willing to stand up to municipal politicians who doing things not in the best interest of the schools.

    I'm concerned that our leaders don't measure up.


  28. SJ, are you really suprised that
    given economic conditions, the
    unveiling of the contract, the actions of the HEA during the strike in the buildings, the politics and favoritism in the buildings that people get a little whacked out about
    things. So now you get cuts, and everyone has their favorite area

    Lets clearly remember the outcome
    of the last vote 57 to 43 %
    I hope we are not going to get into the "blame game" on the electorate\
    People are tired of hearing
    "you dont get it"
    I said so at the last meeting to the board.

    We now have contracts negotitiated that obviously are predicated on passing a levy. The smart play would have been not to have been business as usual, and the medical contributionadjustment thing is a non winner with the electorate. It isnt any where close to what the public has been paying all along.

    I believe the community should invest in their schools, and this levy needs to pass. However some change is needed in the way things are communicated.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, what they think is correct and I would rather err on filtering out myself fact from

    To be on the "safe" side lets say there have been a good number
    of "mixed signals" from the district on a lot of things.

    This does not create an environment for people to just join in lock step.

    People talk about gutting the district, being like Southwest, Col
    etc, and they dont want to go there.

    Lets hope we after we pass the levy the many unanswered questions and concerns really get addressed after
    the levy passage. Otherwise two years from now you wont be looking
    at 6.9 mills but probably 11 or more if we offer the same contract
    terms. If anyone thinks we are going to get some new significant dollars from the state, I would submit that is not going to happen.

    We have an issue in the district where you cannot ask questions
    without some kind of backlash, and
    that does not breed compassion.

  29. sj, why would think this is the only place I get my information?

    That's rather laughable, since I'm the one who asked Paul if anything was mentioned at the last school board meeting, regarding groups using the school after hours. When he found the appropriate code, he posted his blog entry.

    And now that McVey has responded that he is speaking with legal council, gee, I wonder what that means?!! Uuummmm... possibly that he's trying to run a SCAM and got caught before he could bring it on?

    I'll bet the kids lunch money that this isn't taken off the list of cuts. He's got his scam on, and he's gonna run with it.
    He can afford a lawyer (FREE - courtesy of the taxpayers) but he's betting we (the taxpayers) can't.

  30. jane,

    I want to see everything play out first before coming to any conclusions. Let's just say that the way you and I process this situation is different. I'll leave it at that.



    I think we can agree on two things. The first is that the levy needs to pass. The second is that there need to be changes because the current situation won't continue to be sustainable. Also, I never said that people were not entitled to their own opinions. I just think it is better see assertions posted on here supported by evidence. Just my concern and my 2 cents on the subject. Again, I'll leave it at that.

  31. I don't think we all agree a levy needs to be passed. As I posted earlier, ( and Paul artfully borrowed in his words to the Board), I strongly believe that passing a 6.9 mil levy merely kicks the can down the road two years. I think that our Board, if given any money, will breathe a sigh of relief, carry on with business as usual, allow the budget to grow into the money available, and come back in 2 years desperately needing an 11 or 12 mil levy. The growth in student population has slowed dramatically from the late 90s and early 00s. This is the perfect time to make changes before the next economic upturn. Our school millage is on par with UA and approaching Bexley's. We are not getting UA or Bexley quality with that money, nor do we need it. This is Hilliard, we are not rich and we should have good schools, not the best schools. Hilliard taxpayers are unable to sustain the current system with the burden so skewed toward residential. The Board is used to getting their way. They signed a contract with HEA that they could not afford without a 9.5 mil levy. Passing a levy bails them out of their irresponsiblity, and I don't think we should let them get away with it. It is unfortunate that today's children will not have all the programs that children of the past 10 years had, but I think many programs we have are "nice-to-haves" that over time became thought of as essentials. I am confident they will not lose the true essentials. I think we should bite the bullet now.

  32. The agenda for the 8/25 School Board meeting contains a list of items which will be cut from the budget starting next school should the levy not pass. It is interesting note that the final item has been adjusted to say:

    "Evening, after-school and weekend building usage fees will be increased to offset utility, custodial and any other costs associated with the use of such facilities"

    That still leaves a question doesn't it? Did Superintendent McVey know about these laws when he put the original language on the cut list, and simply chose to ignore them?

    Or did he not know of these laws at all?

    I certainly don't expect the Superintendent to be able to quote chapter and verse of all the state laws having to do with schools, but one expect that the existance of these laws, which have been on the books as long as Mr. McVey has been an educator, would have come known to him sometime in the last 30 years.

    We have seen a similar story in regard to the Superintendent's reference to state law in regard to teacher compensation.

    Is this a pattern?

  33. I must agree with gs. I hate to see the kids "deprived" of anything too but the Board has not indicated yet that they are fiscally responsible. We can't keep throwing money at the problem unless and until we see changes. If it takes a levy failure to trim the fat, so be it. I really feel that the ones who will be hurt the most will be the staff whose contracts are not renewed, and that is appropriate as that is where 90% of the dollars go. It is unfortunate that parents will also bear some costs, especially if HS busing is cut, but
    that is a "sacrifice" that has to be made instead of seeing our taxes spiral any more out-of-control.

  34. Yes, Paul, it IS a pattern - a pattern of the Board not being informed which leads to the taxpayers also not being informed. It is a pandemic in the HCSD.

  35. Paul,


    We went through the very same in Olentangy where the superintendent initially stated that state law mandated $10.5 million in cuts even though the negative cash balance was reported at only $2.5 million (the negative balance was subsequently wiped away right before election day but too late to be reported -- of course, the board and administration never stated that the negative balance was gone, they just accepted a treasurer's report without comment).

    I had to call the newspapers to get clarifications printed. The superintendent then said that he never made such comments even though the meeting audio proved otherwise. In addition, the levy committee -- which is comprised of a few top administrators -- was making the very same statement.

    In the end, the issue became closing the buildings as that forced churches, athletic groups, etc., out on the street. By making this false claim, the organizations effected rallied for passage.

    Our superintendent never backed away from that lie and the levy committee ran with it.

    You know where I stand with regard to public education. But supporters of public education must consider this point: The public cannot honestly debate public school issues and levies since the districts -- and their campaign workers -- are willing to lie at every turn. This alone proves that government and its local school districts are not the honest Abes that many folks assume.

    If districts will lie to the public to pass a levy, what makes anyone think that districts are honest in the classroom or with any other issue?

  36. gs:

    Well said, and it sounds like you and I are coming from the same angle. This District NEEDS to stop the current trend and figure out what can be done to avoid the 11/12 mill "business as usual" spending levy in two years. Or, they can put their head in the sand if the 6.9 passes and hope the Hail Mary from the State (hah!) comes through (within two years).

  37. We are not getting UA or Bexley quality with that money, nor do we need it. This is Hilliard, we are not rich and we should have good schools, not the best schools.

    The above by "gs" makes me sick to my stomach. This fantastic school district just received an "A+", and passed EVERY indicator. "gs" is saying that he'll pass on that, because we don't need it.

    My daughter needs it. My nieces and nephews need it. Thousands have moved here over the past 20 years because their kids need it. How great that we aren't as "rich" as Bexley or UA, but we still have fantastic schools that are the envy of the state.

    We don't NEED it? Absolutely breaks my heart...

  38. Paul, I agree that the Superintendent shouldn't have chapter and verse of the law memorized. Perhaps what we need is a group of people that would be resposible for oversight of the Superintendent and District in general. That group could be the community liason to the school district, and as a leadership TEAM, work to ensure that the district makes responsible and informed decisions. I propose we call such a group... oh, I don't know.... a school BOARD?

    Call me crazy, but I think that's a pretty good concept. Certainly, this group of people wouldn't just rubber stamp everything without question and would eliminate or greatly reduce these types of errors. I've seen this work in other businesses and school districts. Maybe we should try it here.

    Any idea if we could institute something like that here in Hilliard?

    Seriously, you have become the "watchdog" that holds accountability. We don't agree on everything, but I do appreciate your tenacity in "keeping them honest".

  39. I agree Musicman... why would we not WANT or EXPECT the best schools? Only the "rich" should have the best schools?

    Like Musicman, I don't see the logic in such a thought. I very much expect the BEST school district. Now, define "best". Does it mean we have all the bell s and whistles? No. Does it mean we should SUPPORT and then EXPECT Excellence? ABSOLUTELY!

  40. Dear Musicman: ((hug)) clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap
    Thank you for saying that! I CANNOT believe that some people in this area still want to make Hilliard out to be a bunch a farmers! We are a city of well-paid (at least I am)trained professionals who pay a fair price for an AMAZING school district! The folks who are "like us" need to come together and VOTE YES!! For my kids, for your kids, for HILLIARD's kids.

  41. Musicman, unfortunatly the rancor over poor communication and decision making is increasing.

    While I support the levy their are many issues that I hope get addressed quickly. I am not going to list them again, but more and more people are starting to wonder. Somehow the HEA and the district needs to address the
    public concern about a variety of issues that have been raised.

    I want to see our district continue to have a postive rating system.
    But I also want to see a change
    in this district about the differences on how students and parents are treated. Everyone should be judged on merit not
    how an administrator feels about a student personally.

    Bottom Line, ratings or not, the contract has to be addressed next time unless we get a new infusion of cash from the state.

    We cannot spend dollars we dont have. With some simple adjustments
    we did not have to be in this dire of a situation.

    I am hoping we will have some new faces to vote for. The problem is
    that it is going to take huge campaign dollars to offset the
    contributions of the employee groups,banks, developers etc

    Some day the powers to be will
    have to answer this question.
    You have supported current office holders across the board with
    BIG campaign contributions. So while the electorate needs to get after it, the special interests
    have helped put those officeholders
    at the statehouse that we are railing about and who have cut our
    state funding

  42. Here we go again, assuming that everyone has the compensation program to just ante up

    The same put up and shut up

    What I can tell you is that many in this district dont have the medical
    plan that the teachers do.
    Give me a break in the 3rd year of the contrac a family will pay all
    of 135.00 per month
    7% raises for over 70% of employees. ?????????????????????
    Sure you can afford it.!
    Stop the class warfare that the HEA is sooooooooo good at, what about
    seniors on a fixed income, those recently laid off, those who are
    getting no raises or minimal raises like 1 or 2%

    We spent money on a contract we could not afford plain and simple.!
    Now we have to pay up.

    The HEA showed their true colors about "its for the kids" by taking the contract into the buildings and classroooms. Perhaps a legal action costing thousands of dollars in legal fees, and litigaion wiil stop this. Its not about the kids any longer it was about cheap medical and a 7% pay raise. Lets finnally be brutally honest about this.

  43. KJ:

    In the corporate model, the Board of Directors organizes a set of committees which has the responsibility for particular areas of oversight. For example, there is usually a compensation committee whose primary responsibility is the compensation of the top executives, and for recommending the compensation policy for the whole organization. The Comp Cmte brings its reports and recommendations to the Board, who may choose to put the recommendations of the Cmte into action, to send the matter back to the Cmte for further analysis and discussion, or to modify the recommendations and take immediate action.

    The Board of Directors will also have a Finance Cmte, whose job is to approve the outside auditors, receive their annual audit report, and otherwise monitor the performance of the CFO. Since the corporate scandals of a few years ago, every corporate Board is required to have as one member a financial expert, and the qualifications are spelled out in the law (Sarbanes-Oxley Act).

    Ohio law does not dictate that any School Board member must be a financial expert. You just have to meet the residency requirements and be a registered voter to run for a seat.

    But I would think that a School Board who wants to demonstrate to the public that they're serious about their oversight responsibilities would form a few such committees anyway. Not like the ACT Committee or the Finance Committee, which were formed by the Superintendent, but rather committees in which one of the Board members sits as Chair, but the membership can and should be a mixture of management and outside experts.

    But of course then you have to ask who it is that monitors the committees. In the end, there is no substitute for an engaged and informed public.


  44. I was being just a tad sarcastic, of course.

    But, the point remains that there were a host of people (I hope) involve in compiling lists of potential cuts and considering compliance with state compensation models. I don't see anywhere (Board Minutes or otherwise) that anyone posed questions regarding the viability or even legality of closing buildings to the public. Nor during any of the Board meetings did I hear/read of a Board Member asking why we have a step raise?

    Just making a point that some acountability and overall teamwork is needed here. We have weekly operations meetings every Friday where we discuss policies, efficiencies, and the like. We question ourselves and use one another as a sounding board to ensure that we are doing what is right by our customers, staff, and company. When needed, we seek answers from those more experienced in the particular topic area in question.

    I realize not everything can be or will be caught. But at least we are as thorough as we can be. Not sure the district asks itself tough questions or even assesses risks of their actions/inactions.

    I would think the team in Hilliard would cover all bases and make certain that all projected cuts are even feasible and/or allowable. I know in my line of work several internal reiews are required before any document/plan is presented to the staff, public or customer. Everything from grammar, syntax, and accuracy is reviewed and corrected. It would be considered a major error if inaccurate information were ever provided to anyone outside the author/review team. That's what I'm asking our current school district "review team" to do: Question and correct!

  45. Musicman & ABM:

    Jason over at the Blue Bexley blog did a very interesting correlation study a couple of years ago which examines spending versus student performance. Jason is a statistician by profession, so this isn't amateur work.

    He concludes that in high performing, large districts like us, more spending correlates with higher performance (page 10).

    His study also indicates interestingly that in large, poor performing districts, more money doesn't help. In fact, it makes things worse (p11).

    And finally, it shows that the more funding which comes from local sources (rather than the State or Federal government), the better the student performance. While this might sound like it supports my argument that it is more efficient to fund our schools locally than via the State (and it is), what his study really says is that there is a correlation between household wealth and performance, as it is the taxpayers of the more affluent districts like Hilliard who can afford to provide most of their own funding locally.

    Jason notes the likely socioeconomic measures at play here. Large districts with a ton of State/Federal funding are also those districts with a large percentage of families living in poverty. Columbus City Schools is the obvious example in our area. Spending more money on such schools isn't the answer - you need to solve the underlying poverty (with jobs!).

    I recommend that you step through his whole paper - all the way to his conclusions.

    I support this levy as I have every other Hilliard school levy for the past 30 years. Jason's study suggests that we need to be willing to continue to fund our schools well if we want our kids to perform well.

    Nonetheless, our current compensation policy is out of whack with the rest of the economy, and needs to be recalibrated. My recommendation remains this: employees voluntarily take a 3% across the board salary rollback, and let's pass this 6.9 mill levy with minimal employment or program cuts.

    Then let's spend the next two years designing and implementing a better and more sustainable approach to both funding and spending.


  46. ABM:

    By the way, the "bunch of farmers" crack wasn't called for.

    If there's anything I've learned from spending most of my life living in rural areas, there's no such thing as a dumb farmer. Most of the ones left are the CEOs of large and complex operations which require a degree of savvy, entrepreneurship, and fortitude few suburbanites comprehend. Get up at 5am with them sometime and watch the Farm Report to get a glimpse of how sophisticated they have to be.


  47. 2 comments:

    - as with any political process, the best way to impact decisions is to pressure those in charge. Tell them what you want. If you want McVey gone, tell them. If you want fiscal change, tell them!

    In some cases, a formal writing campaign is helpful

    - sometimes to change a culture or to earn back respect, a change is made at the top. Maybe that individual isn't the primary problem, but it is a signal to the stakeholder that steps are being taken and that change is coming.

    Sorry, but I think it's time for McVey and the Board to move on. If you agree, make it known. The Board wants our votes (for themselves and for a levy), then hold them hostage as they have us.... tell them what you want in order to get your vote. If you want McVey out, let it be known. If you want the Board out, let it be known. If you want (insert here), let it be known. Bombard with pressure!

  48. Paul,

    Noting a study such as that from "Jason over at the Blue Bexley blog" as fact is the perfect example of the positivist approach to knowledge. Correlating data does not create truth, no matter how skilled the statistician.

  49. Jim:

    I've read your writings about correlation studies, and don't have a disagreement with your position that a strong correlation does not yield truth.

    My response to you then, and now, is that while correlation studies have shortcomings, they are very useful as tools to give direction for further research.

    In this particular case, I noted (as did Jason) that while there is a negative correlation between spending and performance in low performing urban districts, there is also a strong correlation between performance and poverty.

    So what's the value of discovering the spending/performance inverse correlation in this case? It should at least give caution to those who believe just pouring more money into CCS will solve their performance problem. It might be a money pit unless other more fundamental problems are solved.


  50. Do you think you might change my mind by telling me I make you sick?
    The "you don't care about the children" meme doesn't work anymore. We have built a district we cannot sustain given the current funding model and today's economic conditions. The vote %'s in the recent levy failure show I am not alone in my thinking. As a now-retired, professional, I cannot afford 20-25% increases in my schools tax every 3 years. If you have a $300,000 home and 2 kids in our schools, you are paying less than 20% of the cost of their education. You are dependent on the generosity of the rest of the community for the balance: other professionals, the retireds, and yes, the farmers too. Calling on others with your means to band together to impose higher costs on everyone is a call to class warfare. I don't think we need the Best Schools, we need Good schools. You agree that we can have the Best without some of the "whistles and bells", well then let's cut them out. It sounds like many of you can afford more than what you're paying today. Dig into your own pocket for the extras if you think your children need them. Perhaps this is a good argument for an income tax to fund our schools: let those who make more, can afford more and are happy to pay more, bear more of the cost.

    I really like this site. I've learned a lot from Paul and he is gracious and polite to all points of view. Rather than trying to shout down, or "shame" others into silence or submission, he uses facts, logic and civil discourse to make his case.

    Finally, you must not know any farmers, or you would realize that "bunch of farmers" is not a putdown. They are among the savviest, knowledgeable and dedicated of businessmen.

  51. ABM –

    Big hugs and hearty clapping, indeed! (insert rolling eyes here)

    That you think that Hilliard is a city of well paid professionals, is ignorant in the extreme. Clearly, you have your head buried so deeply in the sand, that you can’t even look past your own neighborhood. People are struggling here. They can’t afford any more increases in taxes. But I’m happy for you, that you are a well paid professional. Here in Hilliard, we commonly refer to them as TEACHERS!

    And what do you mean by your comment about “folks who are like us?” You mean elitist snobs who think money solves every problem? We don't need anymore of those here. Maybe if the levy fails, you'll move to be near your own kind.

    You’re just damned offensive, all the way around.

  52. Paul - feel free to edit or not even post this but...
    Seems to me things are getting very personal on this blog. Civil discourse is not that difficult, but the name calling and personal insults are making this a very unfriendly place. The levy is (obviously!) a hot bed issue, with those who feel they must pass every issue "for the kids" and those who feel they must vote no to try to stop the runaway train (myself included in that category). It does no one any good to insist that "we can all afford it" as no one here knows anything about anyone else's
    situation. Besides, even if we can all afford it, does that mean that we just keep giving the district all the money they ask for? It does no one any good to insult anyone else's opinion either. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; however opinions such as "you make me sick"
    and "damned offensive" and "move near your own kind" don't really
    lead to enlightenment for any of us. Might it be time for all of us to sit back and take a deep breath
    and try to not make it all so personal? I thought we were here to get educated on the entire picture of what is wrong with our schools?

  53. Hillirdite:

    Well said. I believe the increasing readership of this blog is due largely to the respectful tone of those who participate in the dialog.

    Please help keep it that way.


  54. GS:

    You brought up the notion of using income taxes to fund local school districts. Ohio law permits this, in two forms, one in which all income is taxed (think AGI on your 1040), and another in which only earned income is taxed (on the theory that it protects seniors on pensions and Social Security).

    I think you could argue that there is a strong correlation between income levels and real estate value (ie - in general, the greater your income, the more expensive your house), and that it doesn't matter which approach you take (property vs income), the same people end up paying about the same share of the total funding needs.

    One effect you do get with an income tax is that school revenue tracks changes in the personal income of its residents very closely. For example, during the time when Worldcom was a boom stock and its employees living in the Hilliard School District were cashing in their stock options, the school district would have enjoyed a one-time windfall had there been a school income tax (the City of Hilliard certainly did).

    But you also have to accept that when times are tough, and personal income falls off, the revenue to the school district will immediately drop.

    Two-edged sword as they say.

    Property taxes are by far the most stable funding source for schools, and they are the best way for us to control locally how much we invest in our schools (rather than letting the State or the Federal government decide for us).

    We just need to get our funding and spending back in sync.


  55. Paul,

    But left unanswered is why additional money leads to reduced performance in urban schools?

    Does anyone really believe that providing a 20% salary increase to Hilliard or Olentangy teachers will necessarily increase performance, while the same salary increase would depress CCS performance?

    There is so much noise in this type of study that it has little worth. As an example: Olentangy has a young staff so it has relatively lower costs when compared with (say) Bexley. As Olentangy growth slows and its staff moves up the salary ladder, Olentangy's costs will rise relative to Bexley without any change in programming at all.

    Interestingly, ODE and OSBA commissioned a study about 6 years ago for the school funding debate. The study had 10 input standards. Olentangy was the only district in the state that met all 10 standards. I mention this since most folks assume that Bexley has more programs than Olentangy, and that explains the difference in cost per pupil. The difference is purely an experience issue, with Olentangy benefiting from growth which allows the district to continually hire new teachers. In fact, in the out years, Olentangy will require a tax rate that exceed's Bexley if the district wants to continue providing its suite of programs.

    There is a time and place for statistics. An example: Olentangy opens new buildings with new staff since it doesn't want to force teachers to move to the new buildings. This is definitely an issue. Principals would complain to me that their staff had no one to lean on during their first few years since almost everyone in the building was a new teacher. I performed a simple statistical analysis on student ability, achievement, and teacher experience by building. The analysis showed that the assumption was correct.

    My study didn't discover knowledge, it only provided additional evidence to what is accepted as truth -- on average, new teachers perform below teachers with five years experience. And, so the story goes, three years with below-average elementary teachers can affect student acheivement in the out years (based on Dr Sander's value-added studies). Of course, the district never changed its policy and it continues to open schools with inexperienced staff.

    It is always easier to placate the staff than do the right thing for the kids.

    Again, statistics is fine if you have an hypothesis. But correlating sets of data without any background is poking in the dark -- it's actually worse since nonsense can be considered knowledge. Milton Friedman (a positivist) would say that if monkeys throwing darts predicted the market over some period of time, then this was a valid model. The Austrians call this nonsense. Hence the epistemological divide.

  56. You’ll defend a person’s right to be an elitist snob, but not the ensuing outrage over that?
    I’m done posting here.

    Have a nice day.

  57. I didn't defend anything except civility. Hope you reconsider.


  58. Jim, doesn't growth rate have the most impact on school finances? Bexley is landlocked, as are most of the suburbs in central Ohio, with the major exceptions of Hilliard and Olentangy. Other than population shifts, it would seem that the school populations would have remained fairly stable in places like Bexley; we have had the opposite situation with new builds with new kids. Granted that has slowed to a trickle in Hilliard, but the potential is there for a major reverse in the trend.
    As far as the large urban districts, to me the difference is demographics. The suburbs have a higher percentage of college educated, 2 parent households - parents who get involved in their kids education, and their kids schools. I have always thought that good schools start with good parents. Parents can make up for some of the shortcomings in the schools, and they should - that is part of what being a parent is supposed to be about.
    I certainly don't have your background and expertise in statistical analysis so maybe I'm all wet here. But I don't see the kids in the HSD facing imminent failure because we didn't pass a levy in order to continue bloating the salary budget.

  59. Paul, first of all thanks again for this communication outlet that you created.

    As you have said, and as I said a few weeks ago at the board meeting
    we are reaching a critical crossroad in this district.

    There is a lack of confidence in many circles about what is being communicated. It would appear that the contract became more important than the district, and now every single other item now snowballs into bigger questions
    and concerns.

    I do think there are people who dont want to pay any more taxes for any reason. On the other front
    we have created an entitlement
    attitude that exempts the schools
    from questions, concerns, outside opinions.

    I have noted in the past the
    40% for or against leaving 20%
    undecided. In the past Hilliard could count on the 12 to 15% to
    bite the bullet and say yes.
    Now I am seeing that module move
    closer to the no factor.

    Given what I have observed and heard in the last few weeks I am
    concerned we are headed for some
    serious disruptive rhetoric on both sides. If this plays out
    as a you "dont get it" from the
    pro levy forces, and " everyone can afford this" mentallity then I think the levy could be in trouble

    I believe the community needs to step up with investment in their schools. But there are many
    questions still left to be answered
    and I frankly doubt we will get any.

    I would ask that everyone on the blog continue to participate.
    The sharing of ideas, opinions is allways healthy. It is also hard to keep the emotions down at times.
    While each of us should be respectful also understand that the public did not create the negative atmosphere.

    We need some leadership that is willing to change the current business module of operation.

    I really believe that if the proper signal was sent to the voters on the next set of contracts
    that it would go a long way in
    getting a postive vote in November.
    To ignore the electorates concern over the contract, medical, the politics in the building etc, could prove very disheartining over the levy outcome in November.

  60. Hillirdite:

    Jim is by the way a former member of the Olentangy School Board, and so has an insider's perspective to many of these matters.

    I wouldn't say any school district is landlocked, at least not in the traditional sense of that word. All school districts are bounded by other school districts, and they cannot expand or contract except with the approval of the State Board of Education (or in the particular case of the central Ohio, the Win-Win Agreement).

    The question is how much developable land is within the school district. You're right that Bexley, UA, Grandview Hts and others are completely developed, and experience minimal growth due to new home construction. However, the student population of UA for example has gone up and down and back up as the neighborhoods turn over.

    The district with the largest hunk of developable land is probably South Western. They've got the ugly situation of a 'good side' of town, served by Grove City and Central Crossing High School, and a 'poor side' served by Franklin Heights HS, and it will probably lead to some tough times getting levies passed.

    New Albany also has huge tracts of developable land, but they've been on a campaign to take this land out of play by turning it into parkland and simply buying it up for continued agricultural use rather than letting developers get their hands on it.

    You're right - the difference between Columbus City schools and the suburbs is the demographics - the legacy of continued segregation, though on economic rather than an explicit racial basis. They're almost the same as it turns out...


  61. Rick, good points all. But I think it is too late (or maybe too soon?) to address contract issues relative to the vote in November. The voters said no in March, and the Board approved a contract we can't afford anyway. Of course the Board did NOT expect the levy to pass - Dale McVey was quoted as saying a levy almost never passed the 1st time. What the Board seems to have missed is the groundswell of negative reaction that the contract carried.
    And there seem to be many who see problems even deeper than 7% raises; after all Paul has stated he has voted for every levy and intends to vote for this one, yet he is still (rightly) convinced that things are headed in the wrong direction overall. I for one can't vote yes based on "signals" from the Board - as I have posted previously I voted for a HSB candidate who was against building Bradley, and then when elected, she turned 180 degrees. I need action, not signals. Now if the union and the admins promised they would consider salary roll-backs, that might sway me. But as I have also posted before, that will NEVER happen in my opinion. Heck, 40-some percent voted AGAINST the current contract!

  62. Playing devil's advocate....has anyone considered that some HEA members may have voted against the contract because they felt it too generous? Perhaps there are teachers who are just as concerned about the financial health of the district?

  63. A point akin to this was made by HEA President Rick Strater during the negotiations. Mr. Strater said the union wanted a 2 year contract rather than the 3 years demanded by the Board because the union felt the District couldn't afford a three year contract.

    I honestly don't know how to process that. What I know from business is that when you think you've gotten a good deal, you try to get a long term contract, but if you think you'll have more bargaining power later, you go for a shorter contract so you can get back to the negotiating table sooner.

    I think the School Board was motivated to make it a 3 year deal because they just didn't want to go through the pain of negotiation again any sooner than they had to.

    And as I suggested, I think the union wanted a shorter contract because they felt they would be in a stronger position in two years, perhaps because it would decouple their next negotiation from the assumed three year levy cycle (which would have been a bad assumption anyway as it's looking).

    If any HEA members felt the way you describe, it would have been good to hear from them before the last levy vote, and it would still be good to hear from them now.


  64. Not going down the road of the insults here...

    I was told a quote today, in a completely unrelated circumstance, that rings true in our school situation...

    "It is wrong to academically punish a child for their organizational problems."

    In this case, we are academically punishing a child for their parents/school boards/administrations failure to do THEIR part to oversee the district.

    If we are unhappy, we should remove those from power who are making mistakes, not punish the children.

    I know some don't like it when people say that, but it is true. Unfortunately, how we want our vote to be perceived is different than the truth.

  65. Sorry anon 9:04 but no, that thought never occurred to me. And I don't buy it now either. I DO believe that more than a few members consider their compensation to be pretty darn good - at least one has posted here. But when a contract offer is rejected, and then almost the same offer is just barely accepted,even if your premise were true, the numbers would have to be minuscule. I firmly believe that the requirement that they had to start assuming some of their health benefit costs, after getting it for free previously, is the root cause of both. And I believe that the members listened to Rick Strater when it came time to vote, because
    union members historically vote based on recommendations of their union leadership.
    And Paul, if you are asking me to actually believe that Rick Strater was looking out for the districts
    financial well being, well I did not buy it when he said it and I don't buy it now. Rick made the same tactical error that union leaders made in your earlier comment where the company just moved operations to a non-union facility. Only this time he left the less tenured teachers out to
    bear the risk of the levy failing.

  66. Hillirdite:

    Good question. The effect of growth on school districts is very complicated. As Paul regularly notes, it's not just growth, but what type of growth: residential versus commercial; high-density residential versus low-density; students per home; students per valuation; etc.

    Then, all this plays out on the SF3 funding formula.

    But the real driver is cost of employees and number of employees per student. Increases in these factors are not met by increases in state funding or residential property taxes.

    Sorry I can't be more exact than that. But, if Hilliard's growth has stopped, your costs will rise simply because your average teacher experience will increase.

    In Olentangy, the disrict has something like an average experience of 9 years while Bexley has something like 18 or 19. On your teacher's salary scale, map the change from 9 years and BA + 15 with 18 years and MA + 30. You will note a huge increase in the average teacher salary.

    Good hunting.

  67. Hillirdite:

    All I said was that Rick Strater tried to make the same point. I didn't believe it then either, and as I said, figured it was a negotiating strategy based on his belief that they would be in a stronger position after this year, or other conditions would be more favorable, and therefore wanted to get back to the bargaining table sooner.


  68. Musicman:

    Yours is substantially the same position I take. Let's pass the levy to keep from blowing things up, and commit ourselves to figuring out a new way to do things in the next two years.


  69. Jim:

    Exactly. I did a spreadsheet once that projected Hilliard teacher salary over a career assuming the current BA/0 pay rate as the starting salary, and 25 years of 3% base pay increases, 4.15% step increases on our schedule, and educational level rising from BA to MA+15, our max. The terminal salary was over $200,000.

    While that's an alarming number, we have to remember that over 25 years, it's not so nuts to think of true inflation being such that $200,000 has the same spending power as $30-40K today.

    In 1968 the starting salary for a teacher in my school district was about $3,000 - I remember that because my math teacher spent a whole year's salary for a new Mustang fastback, which cost $2,700 back then.

    But then maybe inflation won't be like that again during a current teacher's career. We might even have deflation for a time. The point is that if we have to keep the current teacher pay grid structure (and we certainly don't), the percentages need to be adjusted up and down to reflect the economic conditions of the time, which not only has to do with inflation, but also the scarcity of teachers and other factors.


  70. Paul - I worded that poorly as I remember your point at the time.

    Jim - I get your point. In fact I experienced something similar when I worked at a local independent grocery store while in college. The owner wanted cashiers to last maybe 2-4 years, no longer, on the theory that they would only get so good at running a cash register and it would be cheaper to hire new ones every few years. I don't believe you can, or should, apply that to teachers or for that matter, any professionals but I also don't see a good solution to the situation. Even if you base continued employment strictly on performance, you are still left with time in service raises. Well, at least in taxpayer funded positions - I know for a fact that a lot of people in the private sector got used to doing without those automatic raises. but they are still the norm
    for many.
    Paul, your response to musicman would carry a lot more weight with me if the words came from the Board. But so far, I have not heard them say that we even have a problem, other than a constant need for money. I will say, I am beginning to come around a bit - but only a bit. I still need some convincing. Regardless, I'll be backing your run for the Board should you run in 2009. And I'll do my best to stay informed and involved, at least as long as I can afford to live in Hilliard.

  71. At tonight's School Board meeting, the Superintendent announced that a new fee schedule for after-hours building usage would be put into effect on Jan 5, 2009, if the levy doesn't pass.

    Asst Superintendent Tim Hamilton said he feared the new fee schedule would be "prohibitive" for many groups.

    When the time comes, I'll ask to see how the new fee schedule is calculated. Remember that the cost of the construction and maintenance of the buildings is already being paid for by the property owners of the district via bond levies which have already been passed. Therefore the usage fee cannot include any depreciation or other capital costs.

    It certainly should include the cost of compensation and benefits for any school staff which has to be present. So let's say that it's a custodian who is at the top of his payscale, making $24/hr. Add on 25% for benefits, and it about $30/hr. Pay 1.5x for overtime, and you've got $45/hr.

    How about the utilities?

    Water costs about 0.8cents/gallon, including sewer charges. If 100 people all flushed a 2 gallon toilet while in the building, it would cost less than $2.00.

    Electricity is about 8.5cents per kilowatt-hour. That means you could burn 10 1,000 watt lamps for an hour for less than a dollar.

    I'm assuming a similar story with gas for heating - it's just not much.

    The best way to figure out the true incremental utility cost would be the empirical approach: read all the meters at the end of school one day in which nothing is happening overnight, and again the next morning, then read the same meters at the same times when there is a typical activity taking place in the space.

    I think what we'd find is that the difference between the two is very very small.

    I expect that it will be the labor costs which are most significant in this analysis. The fair fee is likely to be something like $50/hr regardless of the space.

    What do you think of this?


  72. Paul,

    My church started in an Olentangy elementary. We - the church - paid a per hour fee for the custodian and for each room used. It was fairly expensive (might have been $750 or more per Sunday). The district benefitted financially from the church renting the facility. That is one of the reason why I was so offended by the threat of closing schools should the levy fail.

    Olentangy's new fees are here.

  73. Jim:

    Thanks for the info and the link. This is politics and not fiscal management - the net effect on the budget either way is minimal.