Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bold Action Needed

I sent the following message to the leaders of our school district today, with copies to the editors of the community newspapers. If you agree, please let them know.

To to the Leaders of the Hilliard City School District:*

Over the past several days, we have been watching a crisis developing in our economy while our national leaders do little to restore confidence. I grew up hearing stories about the Great Depression from my parents, who lived through it - as I suspect did most of yours. In retrospect, most students of the Depression have concluded that while a painful downturn might not have been avoided, the severity of the situation might have been substantially lessened had the Federal government reacted more quickly and decisively to protect the banking system. It wasn't the crash of the stock market that triggered the Depression, it was the failure of the Federal government to help the banking system restore confidence when a few banks collapsed.

I believe that you have a similar situation before you in regard to our school district.

I believe the turnout for this election will be on the order of 80%, or 33,000 voters, meaning it will take more than 16,500 votes in favor of the levy for it to pass. If the 26,810 voters in the March election vote exactly the same in this election (11,593 FOR, 15,217 AGAINST), the extra 6,000 voters in this election will have to vote nearly 4 to 1 in favor for passage. It's a formidable goal - all but impossible I fear.

I can think of one move you can make right now that might give this levy a chance of passage, one I suggested during Public Participation at the School Board meeting on August 11 -

- for all employees of the school district - Administrators, HEA and OAPSE, to put a one-year moratorium on salary increases for 2009.

For HEA and OAPSE members, this would mean using the 2008 salary grids for 2009, and the 2009 salary grids for 2010. Step increases would still be in effect; only the 3% base pay increases would be skipped. For Administrators, it would mean freezing salaries for 2009 at 2008 levels, and no more than 3% raises for 2010. I estimate that this move would reduce spending approximately $3 million/yr.

More importantly, it would signal to the people of the community that you understand their concerns and are willing to sacrifice a little for the good of all.

Otherwise I fear this levy has very little chance of passing. The consequence will be deep and destructive cutbacks in our district, followed by years of painful and divisive recovery.

You must act quickly. This is no time for 'business-as-usual' if you want to avoid this crisis.

Most sincerely,
Paul Lambert

* rick_strater@hboe.org; mailto:hboe.orgmary_kennedy@hboe.org; denise_bobbitt@hboe.org; andy_teater@hboe.org; david_lundregan@hboe.org; doug_maggied@hboe.org; lisa_whiting@hboe.org; dale_mcvey@hboe.org; brian_wilson@hboe.org; gary_heyder@hboe.org; mark_harrington@hboe.org


  1. Paul,

    While I applaud your efforts to get these people to see the light, I fear it's just too late.

    It wasn't lost on most people when they read the newspaper and saw the article about all the cuts in basic services for the students, right next to the article about the pay raises for admins and teachers.

    That right there, shows me that this has nothing to do with Hilliard kids. This is all about their salaries, and how deeply they will punish this community if we don't give them what they want.

  2. I've sent my emails to all of the contacts you suggested...time will tell.

  3. Paul, You are the most sane voice in our district. Your letter/proposal to the district was right on target. I continue to be amazed at how the school board remains so out of touch with the real problems. Their level of denial of the impact of the poor economy and the effects of the teachers' and administrators' raises is astounding. ASTOUNDING. I wish with all my heart that they would listen to you and approach the teacher's union. This whole situation is sad. I appreciate your voice of wisdom.

  4. Thanks for the support for this idea.

    Unfortunately, not one official of the school district or the unions has even acknowledged this recommendation -- not even to say it's a bad idea because [fill in the blank].

    They're just hoping the same old arguments will carry the day. And if the levy fails, they'll blame it on the economy and not on their failure as leaders, even though this is a situation that has been developing for years (I've been writing about it for two years now).


  5. Paul, I very much applaud your efforts. It was a professional and sound approach to try and pass this levy,

    I am going to ask this evening to start conversation on a plan that can be presented that will limit our spending growth. I am willing to suggest we start at the 2 to 2.5% range short term. I dont expect it to be well received, but based on your past leadership and
    ideas you have presented, perhaps additional folks will come forward
    with ideas also. Mine might be farfetched but I think it would be a positive start to showing the electorate that right now a sound
    limited growth plan is important.
    If signaled now, it might just sway some folks.

  6. Thanks for your support Rick.

    What you are suggesting has merit - a good way to rein in spending is to put an overall cap on growth, and then force the management to figure out a way to live within it.


  7. Paul, FYI just thought I would let you know my 3% proposal was met by
    ............. well you know