Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why We Need to Vote FOR the Levy

Please also read this proposal I've made to the school leadership.
>> NEW: KJ says 'Make you voice heard!'
The reason is simply this:
The cuts that will take place if the levy fails – the cuts which the Administration recommended and the School Board unanimously approved – will severely wound the school district yet do nothing to solve the fundamental problems.

Those problems are:


For school districts in Ohio, funding comes from three sources: a) taxes on residents (always real estate taxes and sometimes also income taxes); b) taxes on businesses (real estate and personal property); and, c) the State of Ohio. In order to keep our property taxes reasonable, all three of these must grow in a constant proportion to each other as the student population grows, but they have not:

  1. Prior to the collapse of the housing market nationwide, thousands of new residences were built in our schools, generating on average 0.8 school age kids for each new residence. At our current spending level of $10,000 per kid per year, 100 new houses means 80 new kids, or $800,000 in new annual expense. However, those 100 new houses will pay on average about $3,500 per year in school tax, yielding $350,000 in new revenue. Where will the other $450,000 come from?

  2. The State of Ohio has been holding its funding to our school district at constant dollars for a couple of years, and the indication is that this will be case going forward as well, especially with the phase out of the Tangible Personal Property Tax revenue stream, begun during the Taft administration. In other words, the State of Ohio is funding none of the growth of students in our district. Instead our state tax dollars (income taxes, sales taxes, lottery proceeds, etc) are be diverted to urban and rural districts on the theory that suburban districts like ours are wealthy and don't need the money.

  3. Commercial development within our school district has not kept pace with residential development. Remember that there are three municipalities – Hilliard, Dublin and Columbus – each controlling development in their portion of our common school district.

    While Columbus has allowed a large number of multi-family apartment developments to be constructed within their city limits, there has also been substantial development of commercial property, generating at least $2.4 million/yr of new school funding in the past decade - enough to balance the development of 700 new homes.

    Dublin allowed the development of Ballantrae and other single-family housing, but included little commercial development in the process (e.g. the Mall at Tuttle Crossing and the surrounding commercial development is in the Columbus and Dublin school districts).

    The City of Hilliard has had some recent success in commercial development, but has also had to make up for the loss of businesses such as Dana Manufacturing (bare lot now), Sutherlands (became a church), and the Evergreen restaurant (now an intersection).
The consequence of these three simultaneous currents is that nearly all of the $10,000/kid annual cost of student growth is being borne by the current residents and existing businesses of our school district.

What needs to be fixed on the funding side?

Answer: Slow down residential development to a pace no greater than that of net commercial development, and demand that the State of Ohio not fall further behind in what is due our District.


Whatever else we might believe drives spending in our school district, the truth is that 85% of the money is spent on salaries and benefits for the 1,600+ full-time equivalent employees on our payroll, and this proportion is growing.
About 95% of the employees are members of one of two unions, either the Hilliard Education Association (teachers and other positions requiring certificates or licenses) or the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (the rest of the 95%). The collective bargaining agreements negotiated at the beginning of 2008 call for about 70% of those members to receive 7% raises each of the next three years, while the other 30% - the most senior and most highly paid members – receive 3% raises. The cost of these increases is moderated somewhat by the new requirement that the union members pay a portion of the cost of their healthcare insurance coverage – 6% in 2008, 8% in 2009, and 10% in 2010. Prior to this contract, union members paid none of their healthcare insurance premiums.

The deal these unions got from our School Board is out of whack with the general economy, and was a mistake in my opinion. However, rather than calling the unions back to the bargaining table, our school leadership – including the union leaders – has decided it is better to lay off young, promising teachers and staff members than to ask all employees to accept a small rollback in their raises.

Our spending trajectory is getting further out of whack each year, meaning this most certainly won't be the last levy request we see. In fact, School Board members signaled that the next levy request might be in only two years, and I think that it very likely will be for more than 10 mills unless both the growth of student population and the growth in spending are brought under control.

Our Responsibility

These aren't new issues – they've been building for a number of years. Few of us – me included – have been paying any attention to the fiscal operations of our school district. We've been asleep at the switch. The mess that has taken years to develop can't be fixed simply by voting NO on the levy and letting these cuts take place. They're the wrong cuts being made for the wrong reason.

The better solution is to pass this levy (Issue 78), then all get to work taking back control of community and our school district. The more successful we are, the longer it will be until the next levy needs to appear on the ballot.
Actual Posting Date: Monday, Sept 29, 2008 - 35 days before the General Election and the day before Early In-Person voting begins. By post-dating this article, it will remain at the head of the blog until the election. I don't think there's anything more important to be said before then. But please scan down for articles published between 9/29 and 11/4 .... pl


  1. Amen!

    I'm so glad you wrote this Paul! As you know I am an advocate for passing the levy. It's not that I'm blind to the issues that currently plague us, I just know that voting down THIS levy only adds to our problems. The true fix is a long-term exercise and will require more than a simple stroke of the pen.

    The problem isn't fixed on election day.... the REAL work starts after we get this issue behind us and we all step up and take control of our schools! It's time! Complaining at this point won't do any good. We know what we have to do... we just need to get the ball rolling and impact the change that needs to occur!

  2. Paul,

    Excellent summary of the situation that I would love see communicated by the official voices of our District. Perhaps you can send it to the local papers as form of "education" for them, as well.

    I agree on the need to pass to give time to fix. I am still waiting for a clear indication that the Board and Administration are planning on addressing the fix, and have been given a non-answer when asking for their plans. The Audit and Accountability Committee could hold promise, but I wish more information would be given to specifics for this group, or even formed in the next two weeks with clearly defined mission. (I have already nominated Paul to be on the committee!)

    The #1 priority of this District over the next two years should be to stem the tide and avoid a double-digit levy in 2-3 years. I wish they would have chosen that as their platform to pass this levy.

  3. Paul, some excellent points, I think that at this juncture we do need to see the levy pass. Given the economic uncertainty that has plagued us for the last year, some will feel challenged on the affordability index. If the campaign moves forward on a postive basis, rather than the
    "you dont get it" "everyone has the money " nonsense and total crap that I have heard too much allready
    of, the positive can win out. I spent yesterday reassuring two of my neighbors who encountered the
    "you are just selfish if you vote no" crowd
    that this is a good idea and we will move forward afterward.

    I am willing to take my chances in trying to make some tough decisions
    afterward. Trust me, it is not going to pretty and should not be.

    Lets be clear, the compensation module will need to be addressed on a long term basis, 5 to 8 years of
    controlled spending. The total budget increase each year for
    the next 5 to 6 years needs to be limited to about a max of 3% This should be communicated immediatly after the successful levy campaign

    This commitment will show our district residents that there is true accountability. Expect the fireworks to go off. It is time
    for a new perspective to move the district forward on a continual basis.

    I suspect we will hear substantial
    pushback for major changes within our district operating structure.

    We can no longer spend what we havent got !

  4. Also, we dont need another committee
    We need new faces and input from regular citizens. We need some
    fresh faces who really care about
    what is happening, not protecting the same old same old way of doing things

  5. kj - exactly how do we "just get the ball rolling"? How do we take control of our schools, other than with the ballot box? The school board has sold us down the river and we are stuck with them for another year, plus. The HEA will back the incumbents and there will be no way they will be voted out of power. The HEA has thrown their money into Issue 78 and the board gives the HEA exactly what they want, and we are stuck with the bill. The board will breathe a sigh of relief and it will be business as before. Bradley (the school that Cheryl Ryan was against before she was for it)will get the latest and greatest of everything, and the other high schools will get it too, so as not be slighted. The board will do their best to keep their spending from the taxpayers eyes, the marginally performing teachers will keep their jobs and their 7% raises, the reductions in staff will be negated (some of which was a shell game to begin with) and two years from now we will be asked for more instead of requiring the board to make do with less. It is a never-ending vicious circle and some might argue that continually voting for more levies
    will continue the behavior forever.
    Not once has the board said they will spend the next two years striving to find a way to reduce the next levy request and I guarantee it will be at LEAST 10 mills, probably more.
    I'll be voting absentee, and while my ballot will be mailed to me tomorrow, I will wait, as always, until a week before the election to fill it in. So convince me - and others - how we are going to impact the change. It is going to take a lot more than the handful of participants on this blog.

  6. I really think you will see a major change in the BOE in the coming years and that may or may not trickle down to the administration of the dsitrict. I'm sure it's something that will be looked at. I also think "a fresh start" is exactly what is needed. It gives everyone hope and it allows for new energy to be injected into the process, not to mention ideas.

    I'm actually excited about what may be happening in Hilliard over the next few years. We have a chance to be a LEADER in how to operate public funded schools in the 21st century. That would be nice.... to actually be on the forefront of innovation!

  7. kj- sorry I don't share your optimism. Of the all the people here, Paul seems to be the most qualified to have a leadership roll, and he could not get elected, probably mostly due to a lack of endorsement by the HEA. Is the HEA truly going to endorse anyone who tries to rein in "costs" when 90% of the costs go directly to their members? Not a chance. The few of us who post regularly here just don't have enough impact, even though speaking for myself, I engage my neighbors in the discussion whenever possible and also write to the weekly newspapers. I just don't believe our voice is being heard, and if it is, it is not being respected. Sorry, I am just not feeling very optimistic that anything will change between the levy passing and the next levy issue in two years. Have I missed it, or has the board told us what will need to be cut since the levy request is lower than in March? Maybe it is just the additional year we would have gained before the next request? We just can't get any answers - the HDSB just doesn't get it.

  8. Anon, one would hope that with all of the frustration out there, we can move to some real change. A number of folks will step forward I believe to try and realize some new directions and a change away from business as usual.

    I believe that our community will rally around sound financial future planning and I am fervent in my belief that if we bring to the table specific spending limits that
    we will make a difference

    A few can grow into a multitude of
    interested, students, parents, seniors, business people to insure
    that we make real adjustments in
    our spending with all facets of the budget on the table.

    Trust, stand up, be counted, and dont let anyone intimidate you on your beliefs. Attend events, speak up. Dont let the "you dont get it
    crowd" keep you down.

    We will continue to have a great district here in Hilliard, but we
    are at a critical crossroad and we
    need new leadership.

  9. Anon:

    Our current school board members aren't a bunch of ideologues who are trying to sneak through some hidden political agenda. They're our neighbors - folks who care about our schools and our community, and have stepped up to the challenge of overseeing a very complex operation (even though most didn't really understand what that meant). I came to know each of them via various community service efforts we have shared, and they have been my friends since well before I started this blog, or considered running for the Board.

    They way they do business isn't of their own making - they're simply carrying on in the same way generations of Hilliard School Board have before them. Remember that we never elect the whole Board at once - every new member has had a chance to learn from experienced members already seated on the Board.

    Nonetheless, we need some radical change in the way the Board operates, and I think they've been slow to realize that. They're sometimes like a big goofy teenager who has grown up to be 6'6" and 300lbs but doesn't understand that those he thinks are his 'friends' are really just manipulating his actions to get what THEY want.

    If they can swallow their pride and ask for real help - from people in the community who are experienced in leading large corporate organizations and can see how the Board is being used - we might get somewhere.

    I think there is some evidence that they are listening to us - note how rarely they go into Executive Session these days. It gives me hope.

    This new Audit and Accountability Committee they're promising might just be the more important step they can take, provided: a) they abolish both the ACT Committee and the Finance Committee, neither of which is living up to its charter, and roll that responsibility into this new committee; b) recruit folks to sit on this committee who have large enterprise executive experience; and, c) they actually listen to what they have to say.


  10. Hillirdite:

    While only a few comment on this blog - and I appreciate that you do - there are about 3,500 unique people who check in at least once/month, and about 2,900 check in once/week (I don't count the daily visits from the webcrawlers). In the past week alone, there have been 134 new visitors.

    You folks that comment aren't so much readers as you are part of the SaveHilliardSchools team, helping the thousands of others readers make sense of all this though you debate.

    Keep up the good work.


  11. Paul, it is good to know that there IS that kind of exposure to the blog. I hope enough of them stand up and do something other than reading about the problems. I'm leaning more and more to the yes vote for all the reasons mentioned above, but I sure have misgivings about doing so. It's like pouring money into a 15 year old car - I know it doesn't make sense but I keep saying, just this once, over and over. I'll walk the walk if and when you run, but I honestly believe it won't help. sorry to come across as such a defeatist.

  12. Hi Paul,

    We about died when we received the color glossy print from the district. What an absolute waste of money not only in printing but mailing also. This is just another, though relatively minor, example of the lack of spending controls. In many of the non-profits I am involved with, they have opted to utilize e-mail alerts whenever possible and only print on b&w (never color) when necessary. What was the advantage of the full-color, glossy document other than reinforcing the need for the print position that may be eliminated with the cuts?!

    Also, in speaking of the brochure, it didn't say much other than the little "advertisement" regarding the Audit and Accountability committee which had no details whatsoever. Where could someone go to be included in the committee. We could find no reference or even an e-mail to a person responsible. I know professional folks (attornies and the like) who would probably be willing to be on a committee if it would be taken seriously and could actually be effective.

    Oh, absentee voting is happening and it's things like these that I fear will cause the levy to lose by a very large margin.

  13. "This new Audit and Accountability Committee they're promising might just be the more important step they can take, provided: a) they abolish both the ACT Committee and the Finance Committee, neither of which is living up to its charter, and roll that responsibility into this new committee; b) recruit folks to sit on this committee who have large enterprise executive experience; and, c) they actually listen to what they have to say."

    I am pining so much to hear this (or something like this) from the Board. Does anyone think there will be more pointed goal setting and parameters communicated for this group or in this direction before the formal election day?

  14. Mom - the glossy brochure was probably paid for by the HEA - I don't have it on hand but I do have the color card handed to me on my front porch Sunday evening. It was printed in a union print shop and typically, only Democrats and other unions pay the higher prices charged by union shops (there are only 2 in central Ohio.) So they paid a premium on that side too. I would gesstimate a printing cost of around $2000 and a postage cost of
    $.183 per piece if it was mailed at bulk rates. So if they mailed to 15,000 households, the cost was at least $4800. Seems they are pretty well funded, which is not surprising.
    FYI - about 11,000 Hilliard School district voters will receive their absentee ballots within the next two days. Since they don't have to be mailed back until the end of the month, expect to see more levy material in your mailbox, quite possibly the same day the ballots get to you.

  15. I nearly died when I received that glassy mailer too. And I immediately sent an email to Paul telling him about it, in case he didn't get one.

    I also told him that my first grader comes home with at least 4 sheets of paper each day, printed on one side only. I'm not even going to discuss the half sheets that are mailed out at the end of each quarter, from each of my kids teachers. I'm horrified each day when I start pulling paper out of backpacks, and see that it's nothing more than more crap I don't need.

    It's an unbelievably shameful waste of paper and ink. We don't live in such a wasteful manner because we can't afford it, and neither can this school district. This is just another example of how the school district just doesn't get it. My family would be living in a tent if we lived in such a way, with no regard for our spending. Yeah. The consequences for spending more than you make are harsh.

    Unfortunately, the school board can't see the big picture, but I certainly can. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out basic math. All these cuts the board proposes, wouldn't be necessary if the teachers and administrators would take pay cuts. That is offensive to me, because clearly, it's NOT about the kids. That's a little like telling my family that we won't be turning on the lights or running the AC for 2 months so that we can go on vacation in the spring. Preposterous!!

    Sorry, but a YES vote will tell the school board that everything is cool and groovy here in Hilliard. Nothing will change and in fact, it will only get worse. My rent will increase and I already pay nearly $1200 a month. I'm not paying any more than that. We can't afford it. I can't remember my last pay raise, I haven't been on vacation in years, and we don't have health insurance.

    I'm voting NO!

  16. I and my wife, as well as my in-laws will be voting NO as well.

    Though I applaud Paul for the work on this web site and believe in this cause, I think the elephant in the room is that there are very well-connected and well-funded entities at work that do not want the status quo to change. The builders want to keep building at the expense of the local homeowners property tax, and the HEA wants premier salaries and benefits from taxpayers who overall do not have these same privileges. I don't care how much glossy propaganda the district sends out, I know many people whose minds are already made up to say NO.

    I would truly consider voting YES if I had faith that the BOE and HEA were sincere about fixing our problems in the district. Unfortunately, living in the district for several years I have learned that our administration lives crisis to crisis. They say what needs to be said and do what they think needs to be done to see a levy pass, then it's back to busines as usual for the next 2-3 years until the next "crisis". Instead of using that time to plan and set the district up for some financial stability, I see no major changes until "the sky falls" when they need another levy.

    Unfortunately, given the poor economy and the recent bankiing troubles, I think many of those sitting on the fence will be leaning towards NO on jacking up their taxes in such an uncertain economy.

  17. Jane:

    I suspect lots of folks feel exactly the same as you. When outsiders perceive waste and extravagance in things they do see, it is assumed that there is waste and extravagance in the many things they don't see as well.

    Sending all those pieces of paper home might indeed be the most efficient way to communicate with parents. But maybe it's time to experiment with 100% online communications. Upper Arlington has a pretty cool website for parent-teacher communications as I understand it.

    The truth is that those few sheets of paper used, the toner consumed, and the copier clicks aren't what's driving our costs - it's all about personnel. But good leaders understand the symbolic nature of such things.

    My first (and last) real job was with CompuServe, which I had the good fortune of joining when I was nineteen years old, and the company only four. We had some tough years back then. At one point, the policy became that you couldn't get a new Flair pen from the office supplies window unless you turned in a used-up one. I'm sure the cost of Flair pens wasn't having that much effect on the bottom line, but it was a tangible, everyday reminder that we needed to be pay attention to costs in every corner of the business. And it was a lesson that stuck with me throughout my career.

    As our district grows larger, it's tougher and tougher for the school leadership to keep a pulse on the community. But it can be done. It starts with truly treating the community as partners, and not a herd to be manipulated.


  18. Anon:

    I can't argue with the way you feel. This levy had a poor chance going in, and the meltdown of Wall St and banking isn't helping people feel generous toward organizations they perceive as wasteful and unresponsive.


  19. I've made out my household budget for the next year and it does not include a tax increase for the proposed levy. I think the Hilliard community will speak it's mind by voting down the levy. It will hurt everyone in the long run, but we can not afford a tax increase to pay for the teachers pay raises. Sorry...not this time. Maybe the economy will be better during the next election.

  20. I am a first time writer. I am VERY tired of people complaining about paying more - we ALL are paying more. I bet these same people have many luxuries at home that cost more than $17 per month (cell phone, Wii, flat screen Tv and the list goes on...)

    Also, most of us were not very frugile with our money in the past decade, and we all are forced to tighten the belt. Our schools are no different - when we had the money, we did not plan for the future.

    I see that the difference is too many people have moved here that do not value a good education, and are going to ruin it for the rest of us who DO care. I want my child to have the best possible education, and not have things denied (ie - Camp Joy this year). I, do, however believe that as a community, we need to start holding the board and Central Office accountable and keep asking a lot of questions and demanding that our voice be heard.

    If people feel their RENT is too high - move to a school district that doesn't have the high standards that we have. But ask yourselves this - why did you move here in the first place? Oh, that's right, the price was right and the schools are great! Let's work together to keep it that way!!

  21. Actually, I didn't move here for the schools. I moved here 10 years ago to be near my sister, who was critically ill at the time. Why in the world would I want to move? Especially now. We're settled here. This is where our friends live. Just because I RENT doesn't mean I have no connections to the community. We're very involved in several non profits in Hilliard. Pulling up stakes isn't easy, just because people RENT.

    I don't have any of the luxuries on your list and I've always been frugal.

    You think that a school district that doesn't plan for the future is demonstrating "high standards?" I don't understand that way of thinking. Perhaps you should move to a school district that plans by skating by on the seat of their pants. We're not having anymore of that here.

  22. I recently attended 5th grade curriculum night at one of the elementary schools. We were told that if the levy fails, the kids would not be able to attend BizTown, a very successful economics program, even though "the money is there". Someone asked if the money had been allocated from fundraisers and we were told "No,that it was a gift from the PTO"- which makes it fundraiser money coming directly from the parents and students themselves! We were told that it would be cancelled due to lack of transportation. The teacher then went on to say that "no bussing for field trips is a central office decision and one we fully support." A good part of the evening was all about pushing the levy, which I don't appreciate. That was not the purpose of the meeting or the right time or place.

  23. I must admit, I am very tired of those who try to tell us that we are all "wasting" $17 a month on the luxuries, without knowing anyones true financial picture. It comes across as elitist to me as not everyone in the HCSD is living in a $300K home; in fact quite a few are not. Anyone pay attention to the home sales in the Sunday Dispatch? There have been a ton of homes in Cross Creek bought by banks - i.e. foreclosures. There are many of us who have not had raises in 3 years, and forgive us if we resist giving money so that teachers can continue to get 7% raises and minimal contributions to
    health benefits. If the teachers had settled for something less, I would be totally in favor of the levy; as it stands now, I am still on the fence. I'm not sure what I will be able to sacrifice if I do vote yes and the levy passes - it won't be my big screen or my new cars because I don't have any of those. It won't be my vacation - have not taken more than a day trip or two in the last several years. First time writers may want to go back and read some posts to see how the other half lives before informing us that we are perfectly capable of $17 a month, which is a distortion anyway - the average is probably double that and our 401 (k)'s are not giving us any sense of security either.

  24. Another Mom:

    Thanks for your comments.

    This is one of the reasons why I believe the wrong things were designated for cuts. They seem to be vindictive - like we're being dared not to pass the levy.

    I mean how much can it cost to run the buses to this kind of field trip?

    Nonetheless, the decision makers themselves will suffer little harm if the levy is defeated. It really will be the kids.


  25. Anon at 1:18

    I don't know where you are getting the $17 a month number, but the schools portion of the prop tax on my home would go up by more than double that. 6.5 mils is a 15% increase in the schools portion of our property tax. But just who do you think you are to scold people about how they choose to budget their money? Most people in this community who decide to vote NO are not thinking "Hmm, I think I'll screw anon's kids out of a good education and keep taking my luxury vacations." We are deciding that $400 a year is better spent on things like food and medical premiums, gasoline and our mortgage payments. I am sick of pro-levy people who use a snotty, superior, sarcastic attitude as if you think you can somehow scold or shame people into voting for something they can't afford. Your nasty tone is divisive and does nothing to change my mind about my vote. How dare you tell people if they can't afford it they should move somewhere else. This is why we need a fundamental change in the way our schools are funded so that people like You can't build what amounts to a private school district where the price of admission is whether you can afford the property taxes.

    Our economy is in the trashcan, people have lost a significant portion of their life savings in this downturn. Times are tough, and are going to get tougher. Our home values will decrease and not recover for 5+ years whether a levy passes or not. People are making voting decisions based on personal survival not on discretionary personal goodies. If you have a $20,000 home, and 2 kids in the schools, your schools tax covers 12.5% of your kids' annual cost. Your generous neighbors are paying the rest. Many of us can no longer afford these double digit increases every 2-3 years. Perhaps you are the one who is selfish.

  26. GS:

    You said: This is why we need a fundamental change in the way our schools are funded so that people like You can't build what amounts to a private school district where the price of admission is whether you can afford the property taxes

    You're exactly right about how our current system has led to what amounts to private schools in which the cost of your house is the price of admission. But the problem isn't the funding mechanism (ie property taxes) but rather the artificial boundaries.

    My core belief is that there should be no school districts with exclusive service boundaries. I'm for a 100% voucher approach. More here if anyone is interested.


  27. I understand not everyone shares my optimism. And I can understand that. We disagree that voting NO is a solution. It solves nothing except to create even more problems. There is enough blame to go around on WHY these problems exist, but voting NO won't solve anything except to increase the number of problems we, the collective community, must solve in the coming years. By "sending a message" with a NO vote doesn't buy us much. Cuts will be made (there isn't hidden money somewhere that will save those things on the list if the levy fails) and guess what, the BOE, HEA leadership, and Admin will STILL be there. Voting NO won't change that. Only the 2009 election and community pressure (voicing concerns at meetings, writing the district, etc) will change the leadership.

    If we want to control spending, we have to control those who hold the strings. We currently do not! Voting no will not give us control, it will only force their hand to make the cuts that really won't solve the problem.

    That's my major point is that I am focusing on the core issue, and voting NO on the upcoming levy doesn't in any way help us address that issue. We might "feel good" about it or feel that we've sent a message. But what have we gained by voting down the levy??? It doesn't make the HEA give money back, it doesn't force Dale McVey to quit, it doesn't force the HEA out of power, it doesn't force the BOE members to quit... all it does is cost the district programs and needed resources. At the end of the day, we will have the same issue... PLUS more!

    And for those that believe the HEA will back the current BOE... you are sadly mistaken. This Board is done. Right or wrong, the Board sealed their fate this year. They are (if not all, certainly the majority) are in their last term.

  28. Those who wish to vote NO for economic reasons have every right to do so; I can't even say I disagree. But those same individuals also must take responsibility for the ramifications of that vote. Those ramifications are reduced opportunities for students, lower quality of schools, and lower property values. If folks are willing to accept that, then fine.

    I'm with the folks who think that a no vote gets us nowhere but more problems.

    And as far as teaching "lessons" to adults, we should NEVER do so by punishing students. Vote them out of office for Pete's sake, WE put them there!! Don't punish the students, they've done nothing wrong. Like it or not, this levy is all about the students.

  29. musicman, if it was about the kids
    what happenend during the contract negotiations. It was certainly not about the kids then. What has changed with our teachers.?

  30. Anon:

    It's kind of a "heads I win, tails you lose" situation. If the levy passes, the employees win (the employees gain, the kids see no change). If it fails, the kids lose.


  31. Paul, just read your "proposal" concerning salary freezes, and while I realize that this is not a new idea from you, I DO think it is far too late to have any effect on the levy vote. There is no way the bureaucracy that is the HEA could get together to agree to this in time for the election, especially since many people will be casting absentee ballots in the next few days, or may have even voted down at Vets already.
    I DO agree that IF they made this concession, the levy would pass in a heartbeat, and if it fails, MAYBE they will consider this concession.
    But I capitalize "maybe" for a reason. I have seen absolutely no response from any of the staff, either HEA or administrators, since you first spoke of this at the Board meeting. Heads in the sand?
    Bunker mentality? You bet it is.
    But thanks anyway for bringing it up again.

  32. Hillirdite:

    They have more than enough time to act on this if they just have the will. Although early voting has begun, the sense I have is that most early/absentee voters are waiting until the last week of October to submit their ballots so they can take in all the debates and dialog.

    What they need is to hear from folks in the community who support the idea!


  33. Paul, I e-mailed Rick Slater supporting your proposal after you spoke at the Board meeting. I have yet to get a response. Have you ever received any response from them? And let's face it - the HEA threw the junior members under the bus in April. They did not change hardly any of their demands AFTER the last failure. If they could not see the handwriting on the wall, they won't see it now either. Another thriving example of it is NOT for the kids. Still leaning, barely, towards a yes vote, but I always wait until the end to send in my absentee.

  34. I think the HEA has already shown, for whatever reason, that it is not interested in preserving jobs as much as preserving salary.

    So asking the HEA to support that measure is like asking NARAL to support pro-life legislation.

    But if the HEA did that, it would absolutely ensure the passage of the levy, and I'd be passing out pro-levy literature!

  35. Anonymous said:
    musicman, if it was about the kids
    what happenend during the contract negotiations. It was certainly not about the kids then. What has changed with our teachers.?

    I'm not suggesting that teachers/admin behave as if it is about the kids. I'm saying it IS about the kids. Teachers/Admin can hurt students too. You are not suggesting because one group doesn't think about kids first that none of us should, are you?

    Real/Perceived poor behavior by adults associated with the HCSD should not give voters permission to behave poorly. Henry Ward Beecher said "Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you."

    We should not stoop, or punish, or teach lessons to, we should rise up and do the right thing.

    Vote YES. Then fix the problems facing our district.

  36. I think HUGE changes in the community will occur if the levy fails. Not just those cuts they've proposed.

    People who have been sitting on their hands doing nothing will sit up and take notice when little Johnny has to be driven to school, doesn't get to play middle school sports, etc...

    Maybe then people will try to do something, ANYTHING, to be part of the solution. Not just sit at home and wring their hands. I talk to every single person I meet, about this levy. I've helped people register to vote, because it's so important. Especially now.

    If the levy fails, there is NO chance that any of the current school board members will be reelected in 09. And maybe some will be forced to step down in the mean time. That would be a true bonus. This would pave the way for our schools to get out from under the current tyrannical ruling that we call the school board.

    People only take notice when it directly affects them and causes them an inconvenience in some way. If it passes, everyone will wipe their brow and say, "whew! That was close!" and move on to business as usual. When it comes time to vote in 09, all this "silly nonsense" will have been forgotten, and these same people will be still sitting on the school board continuing to wreak havoc.

    Nobody has said a single word to convince me that voting yes is the answer. I just can't see throwing good money after bad, because nothing will change.

    Oh, and by the way. I find it ironic in the extreme that the drama department will be taking huge cuts if the levy fails. Especially since Annie Bobbitt was deeply involved in the drama program and I believe that is her minor in college. OH! THAT'S RIGHT! I guess it doesn't matter to Mrs. Bobbitt, since Annie was their youngest and has since graduated and she doesn't need any HS drama classes anymore. It served her daughter well enough, so why should she care now?!


  37. "Vote YES. Then fix the problems facing our district."

    Sorry, been there and seen that argument before. Unfortunately, I have not seen this work in our district over the last several years.

    In my experience, YES vote = status quo until the next "crisis".

    Will the kids be hurt? Unfortunately yes. However, in my mind, the fate of education in this district short-term has been sealed by the past mismanagement of both the administration and HEA (and it's unsustainable raises and benefits package).

    Don't blame this fiasco on the voters who choose to say no.

  38. MusicMan wrote: "And as far as teaching 'lessons' to adults, we should NEVER do so by punishing students. Vote them out of office for Pete's sake, WE put them there!! Don't punish the students, they've done nothing wrong. Like it or not, this levy is all about the students."

    I agree! I understand all the frustrations that have been posted on this thread, and times are certainly rougher for some than they are for others right now, but boy, is all the negativity that has been expressed here ever depressing! KJ, Musicman, Paul, and others, I just hope there are enough of us left who understand the logic of needing to make repairs rather than blow up the boat at this point.

    And let's not forget that this district just brought back the best report card EVER on last year's standardized tests. Apparently the teachers were doing a little more than focusing on their contracts, or that would not have happened! I, for one, want to see that "Excellent with Distinction" rating continue. My kids deserve that level of education. Are things perfect? No. But I do see glimpses of change. For example, teachers at least *began* paying portions of their insurance premiums, and they are paying much higher amounts for prescriptions now as well due to the new three-tiered Rx system. I think we can expect those premium percentages to increase in future contracts since they are increasing each year of the new one.

    Moreover, the district is forming an Audit and Accountability Committee. Do we know all the details yet? No, but the fact that the committee will exist is a step in the right direction.

    How sad when people start believing "it's too late" and "nothing will work" simply based on the past. Change will never happen if such people and pessimistic viewpoints are allowed to prevail. I do still have hope...I am not giving up on this. If you are still undecided out there, please plan to place kids first and vote FOR the levy!!

  39. I understand both sides of this argument. Both cases can be easily made as to vote FOR or AGAINST this levy.

    I'm oversimplifying, I know.....

    The FOR side basically says vote yes now and fix the problems over the next couple of years. The AGAINST side says enough is enough and change won't happen until we send a message.

    I'm not 100% sure what the right answer is to this issue. However, I'm voting YES as not to bring additional problems to the equation. Please note that I am asking this in the most sincere manner... what do we expect to happen if we vote NO? Cuts will be made, the need for a new levy will not go away, and we will still have the same BOE, HEA, and Admin.

    Will voting down the levy force change other than the cuts? I think this is an important part of the discussion... What do we expect to happen after the election? If we vote YES, what do we expect? If we vote NO, what do we expect? Do we really get what we hope for by voting NO?

    Again, I am interested in this answer, because as I've stated... this is the last levy I will support without change. I've even said that I will be the first to start a NO vote campaign if the status quo is observed post-election.

    I'm just trying to break this down to it's simplest elements:

    Vote YES and work on solutions after the election (we can't go back to sleep and can't allow the district to do so either)

    Vote NO and watch the district make cuts and work on solutions after the election.

    Seems to me that we have the same work to do regardless. Why not keep the schools functioning at an acceptable level while fixing the problem instead of crippling the schools while fixing the problem? I really don't see what is gained by voting the levy down.

  40. Jane I must be missing the point when it comes to the Bobbitts. I think the cuts pretty much transcend the gamut
    of "extras" in the district. Now if the drama department had been left untouched, then that would be somewhat suspicious. And the main busing to be cut is high school, although i guess "little Johnny" could be attending half day kindergarden, which half the busing is also on the block. Personally, I am pretty sure they will find the money for the kindergardens should the levy fail. After all, they have the money for FOUR assistant principals in each high school. I find that more outrageous.

  41. Hopefully Pauls proposal might start some positive traction to address our revenue issues.

    I am still in belief that by a very close margin the levy will pass and the community will continue its past
    significant investment in its schools
    I support this. Given that we support our system with a spending level of over $10,000 per student
    plus a infrastructure that is top notch with continual support of bond issues I dont see how we can paint an electorate who are focused on "hurting the kids> or are
    "selfish: A good way to see a small margin of defeat is to continue the mantra coming from
    many supporters and from district employees is to continue down that road.

    By the way the Beecher rhetoric does not pay anyones daily bills
    or contributes to the financial
    burden of every day working people.
    We have enough of the bureaucratic
    prostelizing from our State of Ohio
    Education which is a multi billion dollar bureaucracy.

    By passing this levy we buy a small window for which change to come through. A specific increase per year that is limited to about 3 % per year, and... a commitment that
    a new levy will come no sooner than
    May of 2012.

    Note: A 3% increase in the compensation module based on
    about 125m would yield from the taxpayer an increase of almost 4% a year in money available to increase
    compensation and benefits.

    Some programs may need to be adjusted short term, and fees increased significantly, but with
    sound financial planning and the proper adjustments we can continue down our successful educational road.

    If specific financial plans and commitments are given, I am confident that the taxpayers of
    the HCSD will continue their past great support and financial investment.

  42. another mom wrote about Biztown:

    "We were told that it would be cancelled due to lack of transportation. The teacher then went on to say that "no bussing for field trips is a central office decision and one we fully support.""

    I know that this is just a very small cost of the overall budget, but according to the District's planned cuts if the levy fails, transportation for field trips is supposed to be cut for the 2009-10 school year, not the current school year. Why would they not follow the schedule for the planned cuts?

  43. Rick-
    Can you clarify some of the items in your post? Where/when did the Board commit to limiting cost increases to 3% a year? Where/when did the Board commit to not asking for a new levy until May 2012?

  44. GS, all

    For clarification that would be my suggestion that we limit growth to
    3% and stretch the levy to May of
    2012. If we would present that, I think it would go along way in furthering cost containment. Pauls proposal also would also be an important step.

    Sorry for the confusion. Whether the district would even consider this I dont know it is a plan that I think has merit.

  45. Rick,

    (tongue in cheek)

    Enough of that silly talk! Stating long term financial goals and working toward a "strategy" is not on the radar the current Administration and Board, even though it starres them in the face every time they do a 5-year forecast! They have their hands full trying to get past the next year, keeping peace with the HEA and the funding crisis of the moment.

    (tongue in cheek)

    Mark, I know silly me.

    I rarely have a decent idea, just ask my kids ! lol

    By the way that's why I really dont think we need another
    " committee ". I would submit it would be the same status quo group.

    Everyday people with a little common sense, can come up with good ideas.

    Maybe I will propose the 3% plan
    at the next board meeting. What does every body else think ?
    Any suggestions to add. We are all in this together.

    Paul, have you heard anything on your proposal yet?

  47. As they say, the silence is deafening...


  48. Just wondering aloud here...

    What do the aggresive "NO" voters think of the "Excellent with Distinction" designation for our schools?

    Can we say that the "inept" board and admin are doing an INCREDIBLE job of raising the academic achievement in our district?

    Can we say that the "greedy" teachers are doing a GREAT job of preparing our students for college and professional life?

    Can we say that the athletic/drama/music departments are among the very finest in the state?

    There are some really great things going on in our district, and these things have happened because of the very people we would like to chase off to Salem.

    They may suck at business, communication, transparency, etc... But they sure do know how to give our kids a great education.

    So, MAYBE, we should help them understand the business side by offering to help. If they don't listen, then we vote in new people who know business, or who are willing to listen.

    Schools are about kids, and our schools serve our kids fantastically. Voting NO will change that in a negative fashion immediately. Voting YES, with resolve to continue fighting, could actually make things better than they are.

  49. Very well said Musicman.

    I once had a poster in my office that said:

    "There are three kinds of people in the world:
    1. Those who make things happen;
    2. Those who watch things happen;
    3. Those who wonder what happened!"

    I attached an addendum to this list:

    "4. Those who just bitch but do nothing."

    As you said earlier, I respect an informed NO vote.

    But I have no respect at all for those who bitch and complain yet are ignorant of the truth and unwilling to put the effort into learning the truth or participating in the solution.

    I'm okay if you want to say "I don't know squat about school funding and I don't care to find out, and will always vote NO on any tax when I have chance." At least that's truthful.

    But to try to defend a NO vote with uninformed nonsense is an insult to democracy.

    Ignorance, apathy, and selfishness is what's killing America.


  50. There are wonderful things being done at Ivy League universities too, but I can't afford to send my kids there. Lets not equate money with success, at least not in an end-all fashion.
    The economy is tanking, and we have no control over what we pay for most of the things we need to survive; things that we DO have control over, such as the levy, need to be presented to us in a way that makes us feel we are going to get something out of it. Restoring the cuts is not going to do that - many of us want to know what is going be done differently in the future to reduce the hit on our pocketbook, and the Board has not communicated anything in that regard. They seem to have the attitude that everything is rosy, and all we need to do is keep sending them more money and things will continue to be rosy. I'd better see some fundamental changes
    in operations if this levy passes or I will be joining those who want to start a vehement Vote No campaign for the next one. And as Paul just wrote, "the silence is deafening".

  51. Musicman:

    I'm not an "aggressive NO" voter, but I did vote NO in March. My reasons then were:

    - I found it irresponsible to ask for that much at the time, especially without the HEA contract finalized
    - I had become much more educated in school funding issues via Paul's site, and became amazed at how little had been done by the Administration and Board in stemming the tide.
    - I became disenchanted in the lack of response for several very appropriate questions and issues raised by taxpayers.

    With regards to the education rating, I believe it is pretty clear that no one has an issue with the education received by our students. I would come close to saying the education level Exceeds Expectations, which is a reflection of the Board, Administration and Teachers results in the goal of providing education.

    However, it is also pretty clear that blindly striving strictly for the rating (as well as keeping peace with the HEA) comes at a very strong price for the fiscal solvency of the district, long term. I believe there should be a goal of a balance between academic quality/success and the constituency's ability to support it financially. I would rate the Administration and Board (and HEA) at a "D" level when it comes to this important component of the whole picture. So far, HSD has been fortunate it hasn't been a symbiotic relationship. It is now.

    I came into this election as a solid "NO" for the 6.9 levy. However, with persuasive arguments by people like yourself and Paul, I am starting to lean toward the "Yes" with follow-up, active monitoring and pressure to make sure fiscal changes are made. I am pretty pissed off that the public needs to take on that role, but if we shut the door on them without ourselves doing our due diligence, then we are being irresponsible ourselves.

  52. Hillirdite:

    I couldn't agree more. It's pretty much what KJ and others have said as well.

    As long as the leadership keeps dancing around the core issues of unbalanced residential/commercial development and labor costs, nothing is going to get fixed.

    And they will keep dancing unless we stay on them. A failure of the levy will allow them to blame the blow-up on the voters - they've already said what they're going to do if it fails - and not take action to change.

    Yet another school year will be fully underway before we can change the composition of the School Board. Our work isn't over, regardless of the outcome of this levy vote.


  53. On that note, Paul, my high school civics teacher's theme for the year was "You get the government you deserve." This message has stuck with me for many, many elections since my graduation more than 20 years ago. And it can be argued, "you get the school district you deserve." We all share in the blame for the situation we are in. Yes, we are overworked and overstretched parents and non-parents. The more I look deeply at the numbers, I see that the cuts are DEEP and REAL. Virtually no librarians serving the schools (lucky if the kids will get one for one day a week), no more gifted classes for elementary students (our brightest kids will leave), no more sports, extracurriculars, etc. It will take a long time to get all of these programs back. I think a lot of voters are either uninformed or in denial.

    This is not to say I am not empathetic to the financial crunch facing so many. We drive 9 and 10 year old cars, limit our kids activities, have one tv (no Wii or other video games), seldom treat ourselves out to dinner, etc. It is TOUGH, but life will be worse without a good school to send my kids to everyday.

    And to those who say they are tired of supporting other childrens' education, what would you think if my kids, upon graduation and in the working world, said that they are tired of supporting your future retirement or unemployment benefit? We all pay taxes for a reason and we all benefit in one way or another. I understand that if you don't currently have the means, you can't pay, but I know there are those who DO have it and whine about the kids "perks." Sorry, but librarians and gifted educators to me aren't "perks," nor are opportunities beyond the school class hours that schools provide.

    Please think long and hard before you select "NO" on the ballot. It will be a sad day for all if this levy is defeated. Please say "YES" to continuing an excellent district and then make it known (loud and clear) that you expect more for your tax dollars from those who exercise authority over them that what we have been getting.

  54. Paul,

    Do you have the same lack of respect for the uninformed YES voter? Or, would it be lack of respect for the Board for attempting to take advantage of that voting base with the 9.5 levy last spring?

  55. musicman,
    The school district expected to receive another "Continuous Improvement" for the third straight year until the state changed how the student's performance is measured. article

    I'm glad that they received the rating that they did, but the state was under tremendous pressure to revise the rating system because too many schools were disappointing their tax payers and making it harder to pass levys. Imagine if we were trying to pass this levy with another "Continuous Improvement" rating?

    Sort of the same logic as allowing multiple valedictorians as many schools do in order to help their graduates get into better colleges, or the inflation of grades that is a result of parent pressure on the school systems.

    The bottom line is it's basically the same school system (excellent, average, or somewhere inbetween) delivering the same results as the past years with a much higher ranking.

    The fiscal crisis the district finds itself in didn't happen overnight and it won't be solved with the passage of the levy. The failure to control the employee salaries and benefits has had a snowball effect on the costs to run the school. Without fundamental changes to the salary
    structure, passing the levy will buy us 2-3 years (at a cost of $16 million/yr.) before we're back in this same situation.

    And, to clarify my position on the salary structure, I believe that we pay first year teachers too little. I believe that we should pay more to teachers whose skills are in demand. I believe we should reward teachers and teacher teams who produce results. I believe that not all teachers deliver the same results and should not be paid the same. I believe that teachers who do not deliver should not be re-hired.

    I realize that changing the salary structure/union model is probably our biggest challenge, but it is probably the only way that we will be able to help each child attain his/her potential at a cost that is affordable to the taxpayers.

  56. Paul,

    I mostly subscribe to the idea that unbalanced residential/commercial development is the root cause of our district crisis, but aren't most districts going through this and if so, does that mean all city governments are in the hands of developers and as poorly run as Hilliard's?

    Or is this a systemic problem related to teacher salaries/benefits & the cost of school infrastructure gradually becoming untenable?

  57. Eire:

    Each district in Ohio has its own profile of residential, commercial and state funding. In general, the greater the residential & commercial funding, the less the state funding.

    Some districts, like UA or Bexley, have little if any room for expansion, so the residential component doesn't grow much. But neither do they have much in the way of commercial property, which means the residential base bears almost all the funding burden. But that mix hasn't changed much over the years, nor has the student population, so the primary driver of cost growth is personnel costs.

    Most of the rest of the suburban districts are in exactly the same boat as us. When they were small and slow growing, the commercial base was often as large as the residential base, meaning that the commercial sector paid for a good deal - half or more - of the cost of the schools. That's how Hilliard was when we moved here in the 1970s.

    Think of it this way - more commercial means more revenue and no kids. More housing means revenue and kids, but the residential revenue is not sufficient to pay the cost of educating the kids.

    So when housing is growing disproportionately with commercial development, the incremental funding burden transfers to ALL the homeowners of the district - by way of new levies.

    It's a complicated problem that requires the leaders of the municipalities and the school district to govern cooperatively. It doesn't help that many school districts span multiple municipal boundaries.

    Few school districts have solved this problem, to my knowledge. I think Dublin does a decent job of it, but then the part of the City of Dublin which is within the Hilliard School District (e.g. Ballantrae) is all housing and no commercial - pretty much all the commercial property in that part of the district is in either the Dublin or the Columbus school district (e.g. Tuttle Mall).

    New Albany has been pretty inventive, including taking steps to have as much of their undevelopment land as they could muster bought up as parkland, never to be developed as residential property. Of course, they've got a time bomb ticking over there, with HALF of their funding coming up for renewal on Nov 4th.

    The whole scheme of school organization is fundamentally flawed in Ohio, and the perversions are exacebated by politicians who seek favor from developers.

    If you have a chance, read "Getting Around Brown" by Gregory Jacobs. It's all about central Ohio, and the way developers have systematically screwed up the economics of the region for their own profit. It happened right under our nose, and it's continuing to happen here in Hilliard.


  58. KK:

    Well said, and I share those beliefs.


  59. Mark:

    Great question, and I'll answer by tweaking my previous statement:

    I'm okay if you want to say "I don't know squat about school funding and I don't care to find out, and will always vote YES on any [school] tax when I have chance." At least that's truthful.

    It's when you try to justify your position with ignorant BS that I object.

    Again, this school board isn't evil, just not qualified for the job. They did what Hilliard school boards have always done - throw a levy on the ballot and keep doing it until it passes.

    When the district was small, growth was less, and the labor costs just beginning to climb, that approach worked well enough to get us where we are.

    But you can't run McDonald's the same way you run the corner burger joint. We need to take it up a notch, and I'm not sure this Board gets it.

    Note also that the Board members themselves don't need to high-powered executives or educators. It's okay - even good - if they're a cross-section of the community.

    But they have to know how to hire good executives to run the district, and how to take advantage of the expertise of the citizens to give them counsel and advice.


  60. kk,

    The "Continuous Improvement" distinction was a product of a small number of sub-groups, NOT a reflection of how the district was educating the vast majority of its' students. The states change in assessment merely corrected an unfair and unbalanced method that was previously in existence.

  61. Musicman,
    So you're saying it's ok for a school district to be able to be graded only on "the vast majority" of its students and ignore the results (or lack thereof) of a small number of sub-groups of students?

    If we are failing to show progress with a small number of sub-groups, do we really deserve an "Excellent with Distinction" grade?

    Isn't that like saying that because a student did well on the easiest parts of a test, but failed on the few difficult parts, that we'll just ignore grading the difficult parts, because he pretty much knows the the topic and give him an "Excellent with Distinction" grade?

    I'm not saying the school district is failing, or that it even deserved the "Continuous Improvement" rating. All I'm saying is that it's delivering basically the same product that it was last year and the year before, so the state's change in the grade is irrelevant. Sort of like the old saying "You can put lipstick on a pig..." (humor, not insult, intended)

  62. KK:

    I think you and Musicman are actually in agreement - the school district hasn't improved that much between last year and this year - it's the scoring system which has been adjusted.


  63. kk,

    I wasn't absolving them from responsibility for those students, merely pointing out that a fantastic education is being provided, and that the "continuous improvement" designation did not reflect the district as a whole. If it had been changed in previous years, HCSD would have been rated Excellent in previous years as well.

  64. Quoted:

    "If it had been changed in previous years, HCSD would have been rated Excellent in previous years as well".

    Agreed. But if the curve changes for everyone, then you still have the same relative place in the class. Based on this change in the scoring, I do not see how Hilliard has overall improved (or worsened) with this change. They still fall in the same relative place in regards to the other districts they are compared against. Wish they would have stressed this more in the communication with the community - seems a bit on the shady side to me.

  65. Interesting letter in yesterdays Northwest News regarding the idea of not opening Bradley on schedule due to the budget crisis if the levy fails. While I would not advocate that particular step, the writer noted how the district got an Excellent rating in spite of the overcrowded high schools. And, it got me wondering (again) what the staffing level and class size is going to be in the 3 high schools once Bradley does open next year.
    I am assuming the total number of teachers/staff is going to go up
    but is the number going to decrease in the 2 existing schools? Anyone have any info, or thoughts, on this and how it might affect the budget?
    Is it buried in the "projections" somewhere?

  66. I have a brother-in-law who is the superintendent in a decent sized school system, and have had many conversations with him about school operations.

    On this point, he said that it is customary to start hiring the teachers for the new school a year or more before opening - if the student population warrants it. In other words, if there are ~4400 students at Darby and Davidson now, and if the 20:1 student:teacher ratio is being maintained, then there should be around 220 teachers - about 110 in each school.

    When Bradley opens, some number of kids will transfer from Darby and Davidson, along with a commensurate number of teachers. The redundancies will be primarily administrators and building staff.

    That's the theory anyway. I'm not sure of the actual staffing plan.


  67. By the way, I suspect this is another one of those 'devil is in the details' things.

    For example, the district may have had to hire lots of English, Math and Science teachers as the student population grew because all students take these classes. However, there might be free space in other subjects, eg AP classes, foreign languages, chemistry, such that those teachers for Bradley don't have to be hired yet. And chances are that after the students are distributed across 3 high schools, some of those kinds of classes will be underfilled again, and the 'efficiency' in terms of student:teacher ratio will go down.

    But that's just the way it is. Not every class has the same number of students, and those 'inefficiencies' exist, and are amplified if the building isn't at capacity.

    Some could argue that we should then bus all the AP kids to one school for those classes, or some other such notion. Again the details - what does that add to schedule complexity, lost time, fuel consumed. Not worth it.


  68. That's the theory anyway. I'm not sure of the actual staffing plan.

    Great theory. I'll be watching closely next September to see what they actually do. When I go the Davidson website and click on "Faculty" I see 170 e-mail addresses. While I assume these cover more than just "teachers" the number still seems high. But there is no way to tell from that exactly who is who, or who does what.

  69. I would expect there to be some out-of-balance situations. I do question how staff can be figured out a year in advance though, as I don't think they have the kids class requests that early. Must be a science to it.

  70. Students schedule classes in February/March of the previous year, well in advance of the absolute need to fill out all of the staff for the building. Additionally, already having two high schools, I'm sure they know what they are going to need. Scheduling is not as full of choices for students as one might think...

  71. Plus they more moving 9-12 scheduling earlier this year (I think it will be in November instead of Feb./March) so that the electives can be predicted more accurately. And as MusicMan pointed out, there are not as many choices as one might think. The schedule always contains a high number of "constants" -- i.e. everyone needs the core areas. Keep in mind too that the district has already been through this same kind of transition before, when Darby opened. I imagine they learned a lot about staffing/predictions then that they are applying now.

  72. Our eldest was one of the students who attended Darby the first year it was opened. The district had the luxury of being able to use what is now Memorial HS as a 'transition building' for the 96-97 school year while Darby was being finished. Grades 9 & 10 were split between Davidson and the Transition Bldg, while all 11 and 12 was a Davidson.

    For 97-98, Darby was opened, and grades 9-11 were split between Davidson and Darby, while all seniors stayed at Davidson. The transition building became Memorial Middle School.

    The split was complete in 98-99, when Darby had all 4 grades and its first graduating class.

    While a few of the Davidson teachers transferred to the Transition building and on to Darby, much of the Darby staff was new hires.

    A similar idea will be used to start up Bradley in that there will be no seniors its first year (2009-2010), allowing all the seniors to graduate in the high school where they started.

    My kid loved being part of the group who opened Darby. But there was also a current running through the community that Davidson was the 'better' school. That was particularly an issue with athletics, and a number of athletes petitioned successfully to be allowed to transfer back to Davidson.

    The consequence has been that it took a while for Darby to develop programs of the same calibre as Davidson.

    We'll see all that again as Bradley comes on line, and parents of kids with promising college athletic careers arguing that they should be allowed to stay at Davidson rather than shift to Bradley and be buried on what they assume will be a losing program.

    Or maybe the parents don't like what they think the demographic profile of one school will be vs another.

    We've already had some pre-emptive ugliness in that regard...


  73. Paul, any updates or communication back to you on your proposal to reopen contract.

  74. Paul, I'm shocked. (Tongue firmly in cheek) Both the union and the Board have taken the usual tact of no response to input from the community. The least they could do is say they will take it under advisement, even if they don't follow through, but they can't even do that. Shows how deep in distress the district actually is.

  75. I spoke to a teacher acquaintance over the weekend. She told me how badly we need to pass this levy and that if it did not pass the Hilliard Schools would "never recover." I asked about the union raise and how I thought it was quite high considering the state of the economy and much higher than raises in private business. She became very defensive, saying it was only 3% and that they had to pay some of their medical now. She would not concede that step increases were raises. Also, she insisted that their pay was only a "small portion" of the school budget. I pointed out that it is my understanding that 90% of the district budget is salaries, and she tried to convince me that was not true. I only repeat this story because it may explain why Paul has heard nothing about the board or the union considering pay freezes. Apparently they don't think pay is the problem.

  76. I think it's true that many of the rank-and-file teachers are naive when it comes to school funding, just as are many community members. They equate supporting a levy with loyalty and compassion, and voting against a levy as being mean and threatening.

    Things are getting pretty serious in our economy. Lots of optional spending is going to get eliminated from personal budgets, and a tax levy that seems to be paying for luxury-level stuff will an easy cut for many.

    It's tough to build trust when the stuff has already hit the fan...

  77. Anon's post shows how out of touch the district is, and quite possibly, how distrustful Rick Slater is. For a
    group of highly educated union employees to be that uninformed is ridiculous, and to expect us to pay for their ignorance is beyond reason. I think I just decided which way my vote is going to go, and I'll let the chips fall where they may. I'm not Congress - I cannot, in good conscience, vote to bail out an entire organization that is so poorly run and so full of either mis-informed or self centered individuals. Our students would have been better served had the Board allowed the teachers to go on strike if they did not like the offer, and then gone out and hired new teachers who had more than their salaries/benefits at heart. I'm taking a page from the levy campaign, and will do my best to convince 10 other people to vote No on November 4.

  78. Paul, thanks for the update, or lack there of. The last comment from anon, on conversation with a teacher is really not suprising.
    The status quo has been in place over several of the last contracts.
    I do believe that our teachers deserve a raise, and should be compensated fairly. But our economic challenges that I believe will not improve in the short term must move us in a cost containment
    direction. There will have to be
    adjustments, or the millage proposed will approach untenable

    Whether there is a levy passage or failure, we will need a financial game plan as I have stated before.

    I would limit spending to a 3 to 3.5% range as far as increases go
    given I see continued flat or perhaps additional losses in
    state funding given the states funding challenges. I think depending on how high one goes with the yearly increase (maxing out at 5) a significant increase in school fees related to athletics, music, strings, etc would also have to occur.

    It would be nice if there would be a re open of the contract but not
    holding my breath on that one.

    I do fear we are going to lose some programming simply because the dollars over the short term are not going to be there, and the
    public will not be able or willing to fund the schools at increments of 10 mills or more.

  79. Hillirdite:

    I respect your perspective, and can't say you're wrongheaded.

    My appeal is simply this: it will be very painful to go cold-turkey on our spending. Passage of the levy would allow us to go through a step-down program, with the goal of significantly postponing the time until another levy is needed.

    As Musicman has said, we can't take the ignorance/innocence of the teachers or the incompetence of the leadership as justifications to bring pain to the kids who are in school right now.


  80. Cutting out high school busing will not bring pain to the kids, "only" to their parents. Loss of 4 administrators will not bring pain to the kids, only to the administrators who are cut and, hopefully, to the ones who are left and have to pick up the slack. Same goes for secretaries and some of the other staff cuts. (My business cut out the receptionist first thing in a round of budget adjustments several years ago) I realize that these are only the "tip" of the overall cuts, and that many other cuts WILL affect the kids, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and start over with a new way of looking at things. I have said all along that I thought if the levy passed, it would only lead to more business as usual, and with absolutely nothing coming from the Board or the HEA as to what they will do in order to change the business as usual, I have zero faith in their ability, or even their desire, to change. Most of the cuts listed are designed solely to get a Yes vote, not because they make sense in the overall budget. There are no "Line Item" costs on the cuts - only by department. Many of the "cuts" are those positions affected, not eliminated. Staff is going to have to learn how to do more or equal with less; private businesses have been doing this for years.

    By the way, speaking of line items: can anyone explain to me how cutting PE credit for those kids involved in athletics, band, and cheerleading is going to lead to
    any reduction in cost? I thought giving the kids PE credit actually reduced the need for classes, not the other way around. This is only one example of smoke and mirrors - I want to see a detailed explanation of what each line is going to save, and exactly who it is going to affect. I think the picture is being painted much more bleak than it is actually going to be, at least for the kids. Maybe by the next election, when they try again, they will have some better answers. Because they have lost the 3 votes in my household.

  81. Hilliardite,

    To base your vote on something an anonymous poster writes on a blog doesn't seem very well informed to me.

    Your opinions and conjecture, while insightful, lack the FACTS that I feel one should consider when voting.

    How does no busing affect students? Some won't make it to school consistently anymore,and many will walk outrageous distances to and from school because their parents work. That isn't pain?

    How do secretaries/administrators affect students? These jobs weren't just created to have jobs. They were created because you cannot have a school without administrators and service personnel. Reducing those people increases the burden on the others in similar positions, which reduces the time those people can spend with students, or developing programs/interventions FOR students. That isn't pain?

    The bottom line is YOU don't know what pain this will cause. You think you have an idea, but you don't know. You have decided that these things are unnecessary, without any real information to back it up.

    You equated the HCSD to the folks in the middle of the banking/mortgage mess, and said you could not in good conscience bail them out. What is the HCSD peddling? Sub-prime mortgages? NO!! They are peddling a fantastic education for students whom we OWE IT TO to provide with a chance.

    They deserve the same chance you had to ride a bus, play the Tuba, ride the bench on the Freshman BBall team, travel on a field trip in middle school. Frankly, they deserve a better chance and a better opportunity than you or I had.

    Why? Because in America we pay it forward. We work tirelessly to provide the next generation a better chance than we had. WE owe THEM. Whether or not they are our biological children, they are the children of our community. And we owe it to them to give them a fair shake.

    We owe it to them to vote yes on this levy. We owe it to them to hold the school board accountable for our wishes. We owe it to them to ensure that the district is providing them with a top notch organization. We owe it to them to make sure they are in a district that serves as a model of how to operate. But most of all, we owe them the same/better opportunity that we had.

    I'm not talking about punishing them, I'm talking about paying it forward. You had your chance at a great education, and you obviously have put it to good use. Give these kids the same chance. A better chance.

    It sounds like you've got three votes in your household. Three folks who had a shot at an education. All three of you owe it to these children.

  82. Musicman - I base my vote on the cumulative events in the district, not from one post on the blog. And I don't believe anyone actually knows what the pain level will be until it happens - you sure can't tell from the Proposed Cuts page on the web site. I don't believe it will "devastate" the district. My vote is not to punish OR reward anyone - it is my only way of sending a message that will not fall on deaf ears. I have experience running a business in a difficult economy and I firmly believe that there has been a lot of fat accumulating in the HCSD when times were "good" and the money was flowing in. Been there, done that. When cuts were made a year ago, Denise Bobbitt made the comment along the lines of "no one noticed". My immediate thought was of course they didn't, they cut fat that we manage without to begin with. And that is what the Board has to start doing - figure out how to "manage" with less. If the levy passes, even by a 1% margin, the Board will take that as a mandate that they are free to continue their free-spending ways. Mark my words when they come back to us in two years for more and we go through this same exercise all over again because they refused to do any belt tightening, other than trim a little more fat JUST prior to the election.

  83. We have to be honest about our situation and understand because of our current economic situation
    whether the levy does pass or not, the programming we offer is going to have to be adjusted. I still believe the levy can pass, but a golden opportunity was missed via
    Pauls proposal, which he made twice, with apparently no action or even the courtesy of a response.
    This type of attitude from the district makes it hard for some in the electorate to handle.

    At somepoint the crossroad and its elements have to be dealt with and the sooner the better.

    The criticism heaped on the electorate about not supporting the schools properly is unwarrented. To this juncture this community has supported the district with consistent bond and
    operating levy support. Just look at our facilities, infrastructure,
    and dedicated parents.

    Some extracurriculars will need some adjustments. Busing will present some challenges to parents but isnt it the responsibility of the parent to insure their child gets to school. Carpools, ride sharing etc, might have to happen short term. We might need higher pay to play or to participate. There may need to be more fund raising for those who want to participate. It is the current economic challenge.

    Some of these programs could have been saved, but the last contract
    should have contained adjustments knowing that the district did not have the funds to cover the contract without adjustments to other programs. Apparently there was worry about a strike, so it begs to "how that would affect that
    kids "!smaller increases, note not cuts, would have insured some of these programs on the chopping block would not be occuring. That seems to have been forgotten and no one wants to talk about it.,

    While I support the levy I get the understanding from some who are ready to draw the line in the sand now. They are frustrated, they face economic challenges and we all are making daily adjustments
    in our spending.

    This effort to pass this levy still contains too much
    "you dont get it" " ante up and shut up" and in some cases a total lack of respect to the electorate. The lack of response to citizen proposals also shows a lack of respect for the electorate.

    I support this levy as a continued investment by our community and myself. But our spending levels are going to have to be adjusted.
    Are we really ready for that, and is it just the community that must
    contribute, or is everything on the table. Currently everything is
    clearly not on the table given the contract and job actions that took place.

  84. Musicman,

    Though I agree that no one should base their opinion on one bad experience / conversation with an educator, I think this is deeper than that. What about the utter lack of response to Paul's salary rollback request? What about the job action in the school? To me (as another no voter), this goes much deeper than that one conversation with a teacher.

    In regards to your comment:

    "Why? Because in America we pay it forward. We work tirelessly to provide the next generation a better chance than we had. WE owe THEM."

    How is the HEA throwing the junior union members "under the bus" if the levy fails paying it forward? How is the board agreeing to a contract with ridiculous raises/steps at the expense of the financial stability of the district paying it forward?

    Fundamentally, I completely agree with you that we should make this a priority, but this is a TEAM effort. You might argue that irrespective of how the HEA and board acts we should take the high road. OK, there's something to be said for that. But when are they going to team with us to "pay it forward" as a community? Why does taking the high road always involve throwing more money at a broken system of an incompetent board self-focussed teachers union? How many more times will we have to open our pockets once again to shore up this broken system?

    We will be paying forward in my own way by both my wife and I voting no. Some folks are worried about busing next year, while I'm looking towards a more realistic funding situation for years beyond that for both students and the homeowners in the district.

  85. Hillirdite:

    Total cost is the product of two factors: Quantity (of employees) and Price (compensation and benefits).

    The cuts the Board intends to make are all about Quantity - they're going to put teachers and other staff members on the street. It will be a lot of them because union rules require the newest, and therefore cheapest, to be laid off first.

    I'm saying it's Price which is the greater problem, and it's the reason I've proposed that the employees volunteer to forego their 3% base pay increases for a year.

    That won't alone solve the problem. We have to get the HEA and OAPSE back to the bargaining table and get them to understand that the people of our district will not continue to support the well-above-market acceleration of their compensation structure.

    There are a number of bold experiments going on out there, in places like Denver, Washington DC, and New York City. They all have a common feature - eliminate tenure, then pay the best teachers a lot, and get rid of the deadwood.

    We need to get some of that kind of thinking on the table.


  86. Paul, in an unrelated question, is there a good resource to learn more about the 3 candidates for district 6 that are running for state school board? The article in today's paper didn't really address the positions held be each candidate, although Moyer was very clear that he was planning to tax the richer districts for the poorer districts. An example he used was if a "rich" district put a 10-mil levy on the ballot, 2-mils would go to a "poor" district. I read that to mean that state funding would remain frozen PLUS we lose 20% of our OWN levy mony. Wolpert only addressed he report card issue. Didn't sound like he really had a plan beyond not penalizing effective districts for small subgroups not meeting AYP. Wasn't that already remedied this fall?

    Any help you can offer is appreciated.


  87. KJ:

    I haven't found much so far. I'm not inclined to vote for Moyer for the reasons you found. Plus his webpage seems pretty whimsical for someone running for state office.

    Kristen McKinley lives in the Hilliard School District, and is a lawyer representing school district employees. I don't know that the OEA needs more help on the State Board of Education, and would tend not to vote for her for that reason.

    That leaves us with Larry Wolpert, who I think is running for this spot as a consolation prize for not being picked by the Republican Central Committee to be their candidate for Steve Stiver's Ohio Senate seat.

    Of those three, I'll likely vote for Larry, unless I hear something that sways me between now and election day.

    If you run across something that gives more information on these candidate, please post a comment!


  88. KJ, interesting, I missed the paper this morning. We need to find out about this, and while I can wait to get specific details, here is another example of where is the educational part of our district leadership
    calling out these plans of candidates for the state board in OUR OWN DISTRICT. Where is the ACT committee on this.

    This is why I dont agree we need another "committee" More status quo that ultimately tax shifts all of the the new taxes to us.

    This is troubling but not suprising !

  89. It wasn't clear who or what McKinley represented and I had the same impression as you regarding Wolpert.

    Not impressed with any of the 3, but I can say for certain I AM NOT voting for Moyer.

    The other interesting point in the article is that each said they were waiting on Strickland's agenda for school finance reform. Wasn't that the primary basis of his campaign? Almost 2 years later we still don't know what his agenda will be?

    I don't blame the district for not communicating these candidiates. I'd prefer to make my own choice and would hate to be tainted by the district. I'd basically vote against anyone the district endorsed for no other reason than I completely distrust the district leadership. And I'm not usually a cynic. But I've seen way too much misrepresentation lately. I want a clean slate all around.

  90. Did some searching....

    McKinley was endorsed by the OEA. Not exactly what I want to hear. But I'd still be interested in hearing her thoughts on school financing and how to best spend our money in those districts that require heavy assistance from the state. (Note, I am not against sharing the wealth, but when districts vote down levies so the state will move in is WRONG). If the state needs to step in to build a school, then economies of scale should come into play and small districts should be consolidated to reduce the number of schools and operations being funded.

    For example, I am from Scioto County, a very poor part of the state. There are (and I am not sure I've counted them all) at least 10 school districts in a county of 75,000 people. Guess what? They ALL have new schools paid for by the state. Why not consolidate into 3 schools??? They still wouldn't be D-II schools with consolidation.

    But I regress.... sorry

    ok, so Moyer is out. Forget it. Not a chance he'll get my vote. McKinley seems to be tied to OEA. Not terrible necessarily, (not sure how much help the OEA needs from that postion), but not exactly what I'm looking for in reform.

    That leaves Wolpert, who seems to be a lifetime politician looking for a job.

    There are 10 Million people in Ohio and 300 Million people in the U.S. and THESE are the candidates we get?

  91. KJ:

    Thank you for asking the question. Most people, even those involved in K-12 education, are totally unaware of this election, yet the state board of education holds quite a bit of power.

    For example, they recently approved a new mandate for gifted services that will have a net effect of requiring Worthington (and I assume, Hilliard) to serve fewer gifted children, but serve them better. You can read about this mandate in the discussion forums here:


    You might also remember the constitutional amendment that would have turned 30-50% of the state budget over to the state board of education.

    Sadly, I've seen almost nothing about this election. I've spoken to Larry Wolpert a number of times and he is reasonable on education issues and quite knowledgeable. I know nothing about the other candidates, although Moyers web site is, in my opinion, horrible.


  92. Love him or loathe him, Bill O'Reilly did do something few of us on this comment thread have done - teach for a couple years at a rough high school. Here's his take from his latest book on the debate about money for public schools:

    "In most places there are plenty of school resources, and if there aren't, chances are the local school board is stealing. The feds are spending record amounts on education, and school-directed property taxes in many places are obscene.

    I taught in a relatively poor school. The books were there, and to do my job, I didn't need anything else besides a working air conditioner. My third-grade teacher had sixty kids in her class, and every one of them could read, write, and do math by age eight. Give me a break. Teaching is about presentation and accountability; money and resources are secondary. The U.S. public school education system has plenty of cash. What it lacks are competent, courageous administrators and creative teachers. Yes, better salaries might attract better people. But teaching is a calling, not a business."

  93. Marc,

    Thanks for the links. To be honest, I don't even know what the site is about. It's like some bad acid trip or something. What's up with that bunny?

    Did you find anything of value or any content at all?

    Moyer was out for me even before I saw his site, but now I completely certain he's not a legitimate candidate.

    McKinley vs Wolpert. I need data!!!!

  94. KJ:

    You can certainly go to the website for the Ohio General Assy and look at bills sponsored by Larry Wolpert. While I am wary of his motivations for running for this particular office, he is a born-and-bred Hilliard guy. My question is whether the developers have gotten to him too.

    McKinley is clearly a supporter of the teachers' union, and I therefore have to assume that she would have supported the Getting Right for Ohio's Future amendment, which would make the State Board of Education a kind of super-legislature, getting first dibs on the state Treasury with the primary objective to protect the compensation, benefits and retirement of teachers. As I have written on numerous occasions, I don't see how that can be helpful to Hilliard.

    I think I've talked myself into voting for Larry. I know him, have had conversations with him, and know he understands the local economics well.


  95. The Moyer website, verrry interesting, obviously has no plan except redistribute more money.
    If his 10 mill 2mill plan ever became law, you would never see another levy pass.

    The OEA candidate is of similar concern, so it leaves Larry Wolpert

    In the meantime, we have 3 weeks to go. It should be very close.
    All the more reason that it would have been nice that ANYONE had responded to Pauls proposal

    A proposal to limit spending has to be presented and will be seen by the electorate as a positive step
    to control spending.

  96. Thanks Paul, but honestly I don't think I even need to research anymore. I have no choice but to vote AGAINST the other two, so it's process of elimination. Unless I find something tragic in Wolpert's plan, I'll have to vote for him... well, AGAINST the other two.

    Rick, I admire your commitment to the schools and the levy. You have passion and courage to take a stand. I too wish something would come from the district additional to the campaign committee. The BOE has certainly heard some of us as they are putting the oversight committee together, lowered the millage, yada yada yada... but that's not exactly the bold moves for which I'd hoped.

    I mean, even if we can't get the HEA to respond, the Board or district could announce a freeze on their salaries, outline administrative change (sometimes it just has to happen to shift paradigm), Provide a 5-year plan to go with the 5-year forecast.... ANYTHING would be nice. The silence is defining and in the absence of communication, people fill in their OWN realities. Correct or not. And we all know what perception means.... reality.

    I'm still cheering for the levy and talking to anyone that will listen.... but I think it's going to be bad. You think the market crisis is bad, just wait until you hear the screams after this levy fails.

  97. Whoa, I was surprised to see that the Dispatch today spilled the secret heretofore known only to readers of this blog: "step increases". On the front page no less!

  98. I sent Charlie Boss a note congratulating her on the piece. This may have as much impact on the way our schools are managed as anything the Dispatch has ever run.


  99. A Final Call.................

    Just a short time remains. A community investment increase is needed to provide a new starting point with some new perspectives and a fundemental change in our spending growth.

    The effects of the economy have been debated repeatedly. While we will recover, the short term economic realities will require
    moving away from business as usual.

    Despite the continued mantra from many within the district, that the community is selfish, does not get the"new educational realities",
    is hurting the kids etc, the fact remains irrefutable that this community has supported its schools through consistent increased investment. We spend over $10,000 per pupil. That amount will continue to increase, perhaps not in the huge amounts that some would say is required, but will increase.
    Our school buildings, and our track record on bond issues that support our infrastructure has also been

    There has been a missed opportunity as many have said here, to send a message to the community about a one time temporary change in business operational spending.
    But what it done is done, the wherewithall is not there, and the lack of response is a clear signal.

    So a public call will go out to change our future spending module
    with limits on annual spending increases. As an example a 2% increase based on a 150M dollar budget will still provide @ 3M increase in spending.
    It will be only a starting point,
    but will signal to our community that while costs do go up, and that has to be understood, that we will practice some fiscal spending restraint. This will affect some programs, compensation modules in the future, school fees et al.

    For those of you still opposed to the levy it is understood you have some real questions and concerns . It could be also a financial challenge. Please reconsider as a valuable investment
    in our wonderful community. Join new voices in being involved asking
    tough questions respectfully, and
    perhaps providing some new ideas.

    For those of you on the fence,
    reflect on the good things that
    happen in our schools and our community. Know that your continued investment HAS made a difference. Join with new voices that will insure that we will move forward with positive change, and a rejection of past policies and attitudes that have come from SOMEwithin the district.

    This campaign has been hurt by our economic challenges but also by an element who continue to preach an elitist and self centered mantra that people dont care, people dont get it, ante up and shut up. This could not be farther from the truth. Witness the investment in the past that this Community HAS

    Our District Leaders and Community members have to categorily reject the selfish repeated denouncements that those who vote no should move out of the community because they dont care. District groups who have benefitted from a very beneficial compensation plan, have not one clue about individual households economic situation.

    The levy passage will insure a positive start to some some significant adjustments, attitudes, and provide a beginning for some positive new planning. The result will be a HCDS that all of us will continued to be proud of.

    Be willing to support changes, ideas, and new faces that will move us forward.

  100. "The levy passage will insure a positive start to some significant adjustments, attitudes, and provide a beginning for some positive new planning. The result will be a HCDS that all of us will continued to be proud of. "

    Rick, your suggestion that changes are guaranteed if the levy passes are just not accurate. Passage of the levy insures nothing but a property tax increase for homeowners and continued spending by the school district. There has been no indication by the board that they will do anything differently if this levy passes. In fact, and I have posted this before, I believe if the levy passes that the board will be business as usual until they use up this levy. My prediction is that they will start talking about the need for a new levy on the order of 10-12 mils within 6 weeks of when the board comes together after the 2009 board election. Call me cynical, but I would not be surprised to hear them say they have a mandate from the people to spend if the levy passes.

    I am voting no for economic reasons. I implore all of you that are so eager to open your wallets again to consider the many homeowners in this town who are struggling. Those of us living off our savings are screwed because of the market crash. An increase in property tax right now will be devastating.

  101. GS:

    Thanks for being transparent with your motivations - I wish everyone could be that way.

    We are entering a painful time for many. That's why I wish the school employees would take the voluntary rollback of pay - to show that they understand as well.


  102. GS, thank you for feedback. I am
    very well aware that this is a challenging time for many in our area. I have tried to call out those who have consistently criticized the residents of our district for supposedly not "getting it" and just
    "trying to hurt the kids"

    There has been a self serving policy but that too shall be changing. We all need to step up, get before the board and tell it
    like it is. I would urge you to
    do so along with your family, neighbors and friends.

    I will be asking at the next meeting to set a financial plan in place that will show some fiscal restraint. I expect to get
    a lot of flak about it, but some tough things need to be said, and we all need to look and support new ideas and fresh perspectives.

    GS I respect your opinion, but I am not going to give up. If we dont see change then I will be among the first to lead the way against levy proposals that fail to take into account a restricted financial
    planned increase.

    We all need to stand fast against those in the district who tell people to move if they will not support increased financial support
    via the levy at this time.

    Paul made a very professional attempt to make a very positive suggestion. With a lack of response in reacting to the last contract, it is time to stand up and propose a limited growth plan as I have suggested. I intend on doing just that.

    GS, stay interested in our schools
    and the many factors that affect its operation. We need everyone
    to step up and be counted.

  103. GS,

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    Just sealed my absentee ballot for the mail tomorrow with my no vote cast.

    I too am concerned with the initial impacts on students if this levy fails, but honestly the Board and HEA seems to be living on another planet with regards to their attitudes about this in the rough financial times many of the constituents are undergoing now. The absence of ANY response to Paul's proposal for salary rollbacks tells me the dog and pony show is posturing only, and that the administration and union are not serious about the situation the economy is in. The union's attitude on that sealed the decision for me.

  104. I think a year of cuts, while not "fair" to the students, is the only way the Board is going to respond to the call for changes in the district.
    I agree (and have stated before) that the passage of the levy will be interpreted as a mandate to spend as usual; not only that but it will validate the present board when what we obviously need are some new faces in there. Our senior citizens cannot afford the hike in taxes; many of them get immediate fallout from the market crisis. Home values are already in the tank so that is a tough argument. Let the board try to do a better job selling a levy next year - they have done absolutely nothing to sell this one.

  105. Hillirdite:

    Could be, but I think the current school leadership is apt to conclude that a defeat of the levy was caused entirely by external factors: economic crisis; levy fatigue; etc.

    They'll not blame an iota of it on poor communication and bad leadership.

    Their attitude will be "don't blame the school leadership for what you've forced us to do - we told you this would happen."

    Look, I don't want the teachers to get no raises whatsoever. If every bit of perceived waste were eliminated from the district, we'd still likely want to fund 3% or so annual increases to keep our great team together. Since that applies to 85% of the budget, we're talking 2.6% growth in total expenses per year for salaries alone.

    If we got ourselves used to a 3 year levy cycle, then that's about an 8% tax increase each three years.

    Of course, these numbers would have to be adjusted to keep aligned with the rest of the economy (ie - our ability to hire and retain good teachers).

    Voting NO on this levy won't make ANY problems go away - it will just force our current leadership to screw up the district, perhaps to the point that recovery will be lengthy, difficult and more expensive.


  106. Agreed when you say voting "NO" won't make any problems go away. I've got a real concern that a levy defeat will actually compound the economic hardtimes. When the economy finally does rebound, Hilliard could stay mired in a prolonged slump. I could see some local businesses negatively impacted and others shy away from investing here.

  107. Not sure if voting Yes will make any long term problems go away either.

    The board and HEA have shown no interest in addressing the long-term issues in the district. I have no faith whatsoever that a yes levy vote will mean anything other than business as usual to them.

    I'm taking a stand this time with a No.

  108. Paul-

    Thanks for the website and all of the research you have done. I enjoy your perspective and agree with many of your ideas...not all, but many. I do have one question for you and others who seem to be so excited about yesterday's Dispatch article--what, do you propose, should be the tool(s) (through which their pay is determined) that is used to measure an individual teacher's performance?

    I'm glad that article was written, though, because that did motivate me to do some research comparing the 16 districts in Franklin County. In addition to Hilliard, 4 schools received the "Excellent, With Distinction" rating on the state's report card (Bexley, Dublin, New Albany, and Upper Arlington). Hilliard has the lowest cost per pupil average of the 5 (and lower than Columbus and Whitehall) and the second lowest average teacher salary (New Albany's is lower). Now, here's the problem: as Hilliard has continued to provide an outstanding education at what appears to be a relatively good value, the state's system is geared to not provide any additional funds even though the student population continues to grow each year. So, in effect, the district gets punished for doing a good job.

    So, to wrap this up, I am saying I agree with Paul that we must first pass this levy to allow our schools to continue their good work, but we must then begin working to improve our current situation. However, I believe the starting point needs to be with our state government, and we need to force them, finally, to develop a solution that helps all schools, good and bad, provide our kids with a quality education.

  109. Thanks for your feedback.

    The situation that put me on this journey a couple of years ago was not teacher pay, but rather uncontrolled development and the effect it was having on the funding mix for our schools. That's still my primary issue. So while I agree with you that there are still things to be sorted out at the State level, much of our funding problems can be corrected locally, if we could just get the local municipal governments to quit facilitating developers at the expense of the fiscal health of our community.

    But then I found out that the approach for fixing funding that was getting the support of our school board was the one engineered by the teachers' union - the Getting It Right For Ohio's Future amendment. And so I began spending some time with the expense side of the equation - which is really a question of teacher compensation.

    Frankly, I don't have a clue how you go about determining whether an individual teacher is earning their pay, or has retired on the job.

    Nor did I ever expect the customers of my firm to know how I should be compensated either. Few of our customers were experts in my field, so I wouldn't necessarity want them to determine how to compensate me. But they sure could choose whether or not to buy our services, and my superiors could figure out how to translate that into my pay.

    We need to bring this kind of choice to consumers of educational services as well. I'll decide whether or not to send my kids to a particular school based on what I perceive the value of their services to be. It will be up to the leadership of the school to figure out how to recruit and retain teachers that parents want their kids to learn from. I suspect that they'll have to compensate great teachers more than the duds. In fact they'll be motivated to get rid of the duds to free resources to pay more superstars.

    Instead, what we have is a system were the only way I can select a school is to move, and I had better be able to afford a house in the right neighborhood. And we have teachers who are paid according to a collective bargaining agreement that ignores performance.

    And to complete the bizzaro picture of what our public education system has become, the current consumers of educational services - the parents of school age kids - are in a minority, and will have to live with a funding decision made by a majority that has little to lose by voting down the levy (hard to make the 'it will destroy your property value' argument right now).

    Our country has been controlled by big money special interests for so long that it can barely be called a democracy. When you're talking about public education in Ohio, it's the teachers' union and the developer PACs that call the shots.

    It matters less to me that you agree with my positions than it does that you and the people of the community become aware of these forces, and therefore wake up and retake control of our government - at all levels.

    There is no level of government more accessible or potentially responsive than our local school district and local municipalities, the bodies that control the place where we have chosen to live. Yet we ignore them - I know I did for the first 25 years we lived in Hilliard.

    I believe that if this levy is defeated, the district will be severely wounded, and it will take years to recover. The longer we take to pass a levy, the more teachers are going to get laid off - it's the only way to cut the amount of money that will be necessary.

    So let's pass this levy and get to work taking back control of our local governments, and getting the house in order.


  110. Anonymous -
    I agree with Paul that uncontrolled development does have a significant impact on the financial situation in the schools and wholeheartedly support his impact fees for new housing proposal.
    I also agree with another writer who discussed the inefficiencies the current funding methodology has (small, poor school districts receiving funding to build new buildings, based on the economic standing of the area). The missing link in this story is the performance of the schools - Money shouldn't be spent building new buildings when the product being delivered is inadequate, but money should be spent to support and expand those districts who are succeeding.
    I'm in complete agreement with Paul that the public should have a free choice as to where they wish to educate their children. And the administration who runs the schools should have the ability to hire teachers at the wages necessary to attract the teaching staff they desire, should be able to reward the best teachers with bonuses and to reward the teachers who are willing to teach the more challenging students with a higher pay. The administration should also be able to get rid of the 'deadweight' - those teachers who shouldn't be teaching, but are simply putting in the years until they can retire - without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to do so.
    You point out that Hilliard received an "Excellent, With Distinction" rating on the state's report card, but as I've pointed out before, the ratings are really meaningless - the real measurement is what the parents perceive the quality of education that their child is receiving. Remember, the HCSD administration expected to receive another "Continuous Improvement" for the third straight year until the state changed how the student's performance is measured. Changing the grade does not equal changing the product.
    As to the fact that the teachers are earning the second lowest average teacher's salary - Again, without a free market in operation, we'll never know what that means - are we underpaying teachers or are we overpaying teachers. From my perspective, we're doing both - we're overpaying the teachers who shouldn't be teaching (thanks to the union contract) and we're underpaying the best teachers (thanks to the union contract).
    Many people think that we need to start with the state government to force them to develop a solution that helps all schools and I agree. The problem is that you have well funded teachers unions fighting to support the interests of the teachers over the interests of the students.
    Imagine if, instead of paying 14% of all teacher's salaries into a pension plan, we paid only 6.2% (social security employer portion), freeing up 7.8% to be spent on salaries, books, busing, supplies, etc. I think we could go several years without needing additional funds.
    But, you may argue, then the retirement fund will fall short, and be unable to support the retirement of the teachers...Well, imagine if you raised the retirement age guidelines to the same as social security, (age 65-67) rather than the current retirement guidelines (the average retirement age for teachers is 58).
    If that doesn't save enough to fully fund the pension, consider taking away the "double dipping" that is permitted (Allowing teachers to retire, begin drawing their pension, and then to teach again with no reduction in pension payments.) Under Social Security, if you retire before reaching full retirement age (65-67) your benefits are reduced (any earnings over $13,560 / For every $2 over the limit, $1 is withheld from benefits.)
    I could go on and on, but, in the interest of time, I'd like to say that I believe that we, the public, are spending more than enough money to provide an excellent education to all children. It's just a matter of allowing a free market to better allocate where the dollars are being spent and to ensure that the value is equivalent to the cost.

  111. Excellent post kk. But I think we all know that the pension adjustments are never going to happen as the union is
    going to fight that tooth and nail, and the Board is obviously beholden to the union, as well as to the developers. The union barely accepted a contract that the majority of residents felt was far too generous. Our board is not creative enough to do things like New Albany did and set aside land so developers can't get to it - in fact they went the opposite way and SOLD land to developers. Our city leaders went ahead with the annexation in Brown Township (although it seems they had little choice?); only due to the housing crisis, development has slowed to a trickle but will change when the market rebounds, and we will be faced with more of the existing problems. The teachers, and the Board, act like spoiled children who keep asking and asking until they hear "yes". I still don't believe a No decision on the levy will "devastate" our district; yes, there will some pain but there is no gain without pain. Just once, I would like to see someone in power say that if the levy passes, they will do X & X differently, but the only creative ideas for change seem to be on this blog, and even this blog gets absolutely NO response to those ideas. All we get from the Board is how tragic it will be if the levy fails - no facts on what they will do differently in the future to help mitigate the situation. The levy slogan - Accountable Education - is a total lie. No one is being held accountable to the taxpayers, no one. And that is why my vote will be No, and my reasoning will be shared with as many Hilliard residents as I can find to listen.

  112. I agree with what Hilldrite said.

    I saw those "Accountable Education" signs in several yards in the neighborhood and wondered what district they were talking about.

  113. Hillirdite-
    So you, too, noticed the irony in the "Accountable" on the yard signs? I drive by and think, the administration and the board are anything but Accountable!

    Thinking I might not quite understand Accountability, I went to a couple of sources to look it up and found several meanings, most of which implied a direct relationship in the acknowledgement and assumption of responsibility and the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. I was thrown off by the "the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences" part, not quite sure how that described the actions by the board and administration. If anything, I find the actions of the board and administration represent whatever the opposite of the phrase "the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences" is.

    So, next I went to the district website to try to figure out what exactly it was that made the school leaders decide that term Accountable could be used to describe their actions...It said that Hilliard City School's #1 Goal is Accountability. (Laugh if you want, but sadly, I'm not making that up...check it out yourself here)...Does anyone else find that to be an odd #1 goal for a school district? Certainly one of the top 10 goals, maybe even in the top 5, but the #1 goal? This #1 Goal does seem to have a Cheshire Cat-like tendency, however, being able to appear and disappear at will, since it's not mentioned once in the Vision Statement, Mission Statement, nor in the Beliefs and Purpose Statement. And it certainly wasn't the #1 goal in the recent contract negotiations with the HEA.

    The site goes on to cite examples of their accountability such as "Reducing the levy millage request to 6.9 mills, based on community input." which again is puzzling, because, unless they considered a 56% NO vote on a 9.5 mill levy to mean that a 6.9 mill levy would translate to a yes vote, then what other community input was given? The community input I hear ranges from no levy to any amount that the board and administration believes it takes...

    They also cite reducing the budget by $5.6 million and cutting 100 positions, since 2005 as an example of their accountability. Again, I'm not sure that the district did that so much to be accountable...wasn't it more like a legal requirement in that it was the only way to balance their budget. Had the community continued to pass levys, I doubt that any position would have been cut, regardless of the need (or lack thereof) and the school would continue to spend at its historic rates...For example, since the administration decided that they could easily cut $3 million by eliminating positions through attrition, re-organizing, streamlining administration and finding new efficiencies (the 3rd example the site credits their accountability to), and the impact is so negligible that they haven't even felt a need to mention any impact, then couldn't they have actually done this 5 years ago, even when we didn't need to in order to balance the budget, and allowed us to put off another levy for a few more years?

    As it stands, even with the passage of the 6.9 mill levy, the district is going to come back in 2 years requesting more money and something tells me that it's going to be in the double digits (otherwise, they'll have to cut high school busing and middle school sports and after hours use of facilities, and anything else that will grab the attention of the public).

    Being Accountable is a proactive measure, not a reactive measure. Too bad the folks running the schools don't quite understand the difference.

  114. Hillirdite wrote "I still don't believe a No decision on the levy will "devastate" our district; yes, there will some pain but there is no gain without pain."

    Thousands of students will be hoping you are right if the levy fails. Despite all that is wrong with our system, the thing that is CONSTANTLY LACKING from your discussions is concern for the students. Like it or not, this IS about students, and there is a list of cuts that says this levy is much needed to maintain the quality of education.

    I'm sure the current students of our district are happy to know that YOU feel they should experience "some pain". A question for you, will those same students experience the educational "gain", or do they become the sacrificial lambs for your (and my/our) poor oversight of the district? They have done nothing wrong, but will face major reductions in their educational offerings because we let things go on too long. That is NOT right.

    Curl up with that list of cuts; just some biggies to point out:
    -6 less nurses
    -23 less intervention teachers
    -No proficiency tutors
    -18 Librarians gone
    -84 Assistant coaches gone
    -Freshman Sports/MS Sports gone
    -ALL field trips gone
    -Gifted/IT teachers gone

    How can one look at those things and say there will not be pain. Vote no if you like, but don't insult these students by insinuating that they don't NEED those things. Did YOU ever go to the nurse? The library? Sports? Field Trips?

    No pain? You've got to be kidding...

  115. kk, hillrdite, and anon-

    Even though I'm addressing this to you, my real intention is to try to clarify some of your information for others who may read this blog, because I realize I will never change your minds.

    First, kk says we cannot use the state's grading system because they changed it this year and it benefitted our district. Does this poster think the state cares that much for Hilliard that they rig the grading system just to benefit our district? Or, could it be, as our school leadership has been saying, that the system was previously unfair considering the fact the district was meeting all 30 state standards yet receiving a grade equivalent to a B or C? I actually agree that this should not be the final verdict on performance of a school, but I would then point to the many very successful programs (athletic, thespian, music, art, etc.) that also make our schools great. Then, kk goes on to claim the real measurement comes from the perception of the parents. I'm not really sure what to say to this other than I completely disagree.

    As to the reference of teachers as "spoiled children"...again, all I can really say is that I disagree. The vast majority of hard-working, caring, dedicated, professionals I have come across in this district do not deserve that label. As for the board, I don't know of any of them personally, but they seem to be decent people.

    Again, let me toss out some comparable figures, and then propose that in this free market system that is being discussed, the investors in our district are getting a good value. Hilliard is 9 out of 16 schools in Franklin County in cost per pupil. Of the other 7 in the bottom half of that category, only 2 (Reynoldsburg and Westerville) received excellent ratings, but not with distinction. Is there a better measurement of district spending? Of the 15 largest districts in Ohio, only Hilliard (#9) received an Excellent With Distinction rating.

    Finally, I would like to add that I do appreciate the interest and concern these posters display in taking the time to comment on this blog. My argument, though, is I believe these people need to focus more of their time holding state and local government officials accountable, because that is where the solutions need to begin.

    Paul- thank you for this blog and I appreciate your thoughts.

  116. Anon - sorry if my spoiled children comment offends you. When we are giving 7% raises to 70% of our teachers, as well as a very generous benefits and pension package, and the contract offer barely passes, then I am not going to change my opinion. When Paul's idea of a rollback on the steps does not even get the courtesy of a response, I am not going to change my opinion. And I am not just picking on teachers. When board members flip flop on building the 3rd high school, buy land where no one wants the school, and then sells the land to developers, meanwhile blaming the city for the over development, I am not going to change my opinion. When they build the 3rd high school in an area that they should know is going to lead to annexation and more development, then I am not going to change my opinion. I have run a business for the last 25 years and have had to reduce my own staff. I know it caused some pain but my exact words
    were I don't believe it would be devastating. I am a firm believer in you don't know exactly what effect steps are going to have until you make that step. There is still fat in the school budget and the Board is only going to cut the things that directly affect the students so that the parents will vote for the levy. Don't blame me for the Boards inability to operate
    within a budget, or to agree to a reasonable preset increase each year. Don't blame me because they agreed to an outrageous contract knowing the money was not there. Don't blame me because the administrative staff has far outgrown the student growth over the last 10 years. Don't blame me
    if Johnny can't play three sports in middle school (I am all for pay to play, and many of the courses my kids take come with additional fees, so why not sports?) These are very tough economic times, at least if you are not a teacher in the HCSD, and tough times call for tough solutions, NOT business as usual. Go ahead and vote Yes and in two more years vote Yes again, and then two years after that. And when you can't sell your house because the taxes out of sight, remember all those Yes votes. The state is NOT going to bail us out - there are many districts in Ohio in far worse shape than ours. The problem is as much, if not more, a spending problem, not a revenue problem. The total lack of transparency by the spenders makes it difficult to discern, but it is what it is.

  117. The "inflicting pain" argument does not wash with the following FACTS

    The community has provided funding that spends over $10,000 per student
    It has also consistently supported
    seperate bond issues to provide a
    very impressive infrastructure.

    There have been 3 missed opportunities to help pass this levy
    that would have shown the electorate some positive steps were being taken

    1. The contract negotiation and compensation model has caused a spending module that we cannot afford. So because we handed out dollars we DID NOT HAVE it is somehow the fault of those pain inflictors the potential No voter

    2. A proposal was put forth to put
    a one year freeze or perhaps look at some other type of temporary via contract adjustments. Again, NO Response. A huge signal that would have sent to the electorate that
    "everything is on the table" and it is not "business as usual.

    3. A sarcastic response to a proposal to limit growth with a
    3% starting short term This still would provide over 4.5 million dollars in additional spending each year, and over 3 years would add
    over 1,000 dollars in spending per student ! This would take us to
    almost $11,500 per student in

    So for those of you concerned about
    "inflicting pain" how does this wash

    Perhaps we should be simply showing all of the positives to pass the levy which I support.

    The same mantra about hurting the kids, voters being selfish, everyone has the money confrontations do absolutely nothing to help pass this levy

    As I mentioned at the coffee last evening, a great way to see this levy fail is the rhetoric that
    has come forth about "being selfish"
    "inflicting Pain" etc.
    Tell that to the family who has just suffered a layoff, a reduction in hours, a suprise medical issue,
    a widow on a fixed income et al.
    Guess what medical costs and insurance alone are through the roof and have been for the last 5 years plus. A $25 contribution
    for medical coverage per MONTH is somehow a sacrifice and is Progress
    ??????????? 7% raises ????

    NONE of you understands what goes on in an individual household. And to constantly hit the inflicting pain on the kids guilt trip is totally irresponsible.

    If anyone is paying attention to the state budget process, I think it is safe to say that very soon
    a reduced budget of about 5% is going to be proposed. This is going to affect our state contribution to our HCDS. This means even less money than we are receiving now.
    So somehow because of this, we are
    "inflicting pain"

    We have to start making some SPENDING adjustments. We may not be able to have all of the programming
    we have enjoyed, especially given our economic situation currently in the marketplace.

    Our Kids are more resilient that we think. As Hillirdite said there may have to be fee increases. With middle school sports, we can work with the Optimists if necessary.
    Perhaps we can look at library volunteers, invite our senior citizens to help out. Get our graduating seniors utilize volunteer time at the libraries for service hours. I am hopful the levy passes but are we not willing
    to look at alternatives if it does not.

    And as parents we need to step up, be positive, and find ways to tell our kids that things are tough right now. And that they need to understand that everything is just not handed to them !

    Passage of the levy will be just a starting point in some serious
    adjustments that still will have to be made. It will buy a little time
    to put new financial plans in order.

    If we dont, the levy requests will
    come fast and furious and they will
    dwarf the current request. Anyone who thinks we can pass levys in the
    10 to 15 mill range is sadly out of touch with the current economic reality

  118. Hillirdite,

    Your lack of concern for the children of our community is disturbing.

    They get ONE chance at Primary school education. For THEM, it is devastating. You may disagree with the cuts, but they will still be implemented. Your NO vote will cause these things to happen.

    I said all along, voting no because you just can't afford it is one thing.

    You are using our children to try to prove a point. You are trying to call the district's bluff, placing kids on the table.

    Rise above, be the bigger person. Don't stoop to the lowest level of tit for tat, I'll Show You Behavior. Support our schools, oust the board if that is your position.

  119. FYI, I have been converted to one of the Yes voters with the intent to actually hold the district accountable over the next couple years to address future issues.

    When I went to one of the coffee sessions, I specifically requested that when they use the term "accountable", they take the time to define it. McVey seemed to try to do that in the NW News I received yesterday, but I think he falls very short of the "report, explain and be answerable" requirements that should be part of the application of the term.

    The 5.6 million in savings represents 3-4% of the budget. To say that is being accountable is laughable. That should be everyday practice.

    It is great to be the largest, and potentially one of the least affluent, districts to rate an "Excellent with distinction". However, I think we have to seriously ask ourselves if that is a reasonable goal that we can sustain financially. Given the pleas from the campaign/board/administration and the future funding forecast, it certainly doesn't seem to be sustainable. Perhaps we should reduce our target to something we can afford.

  120. Mark, you are right on target. I proposed as a starting point Monday evening, and again at the coffee last night to limit spending increases to
    3% I think that unfortunatly due to the State Of Ohios current budget
    woes that we will see further cuts to our district in state funding.
    Somewhere in the neighborhood of
    3 to 6 %

    I think that if we have a new short term spending module this will help us.

    There are going to be adjustments in programs, even if the levy passes. We need to understand that and prepare our kids that some programs are going to have to be adjusted

  121. Musicman, I believe you are being very harsh on the comments made to

    I think there is a vast difference in devastating versus tough decisions. It makes it sounds that our kids will be permanently be damaged, will never get another A in class
    never learn another thing. They will never be able to play sports again ? No one wants these things to happen, but the LACK of response so far to citizen proposals is very troubling. Why is that Hillerdites fault ? You seem to be wanting to give the HEA leadership a pass ?
    Why is there a total lack of understanding by the district about what is happening to individuals and families economically.

    Will the PE credit adjustment be damaging ?

    Fortunatly we have an excellent
    EMS dept that serves our schools.
    Our kids will still be safe. Do we want to cut positions, not really.
    Would it have made more sense to
    give out a 5% raise than 7%. Would that savings "saved" middle school sports, nurses ?

    By the way all IT and Gifted teachers are not being eliminated, they are being reduced. There still will be a gifted program.

    Not sure how devasting, the admin staff reductions are to the students.

    I am hopeful that the levy passes and then we can move forward to
    bring in some adjustments to our spending.

    Financial reality is tough, a hardship on students with no middle school sports, compare to the family who just lost their job.
    Compare to the senior citizen
    who has seen their finances and
    money saved, severely reduced.
    Some perspective is in order.

  122. Musicman - I am sorry if you find my comments disturbing. What I find disturbing is people willing to pay what ever is dictated by a Board which has shown no accountability to the taxpayers, under the ridiculous assumption that anything is going to change. I am not trying to punish anyone and I resent the interpretation that I am. Send a message? Yes, a very loud one. Oust the Board? Yeah right. The Board is fully backed by the developers and the HEA, which by itself seems to be a major conflict of interest as neither of those groups is "for the kids" or they would not have acted in past years as they have. They are both about money. Now if I could oust the union AND the Board, that might accomplish something. But until I see people like Paul get elected, which will be a struggle because he will never get the backing of the power/money brokers, I refuse to throw more money at an expense problem, not a revenue problem. And that one chance you speak of? It is a 13 year process, not 1 year. There is plenty of time to change the management of our schools to something more in line with the present economic realities.

  123. Rick, just a couple questions for clarification.

    1) A $25 contribution
    for medical coverage per MONTH.

    * Is this for a single staff member? While contributions are not yet to scale, a family costs $66 (pre-tax) this year, and will cost at least $90 next year (pre-tax). Could be more if premiums go up, which they most likely will.

    Again, not defending the low amount, just trying to understand where $25 comes from.

    2) Can you elaborate on the "sarcastic response" to the proposed growth limit. I'd like to hear more about that. What was the proposal? Who gave the sarcastic remark? Was it our BOE?

    Again, I agree with much of what you say. I would just like to understand better these comments.


  124. In a normal competitive market, the producer of a service defines the features of the service and the cost that will be required to deliver it. The producer then offers that service to the public at a proposed price, and the public gets to decide if there is enough value (economists would say 'utility') to warrant the price.

    If there is, they buy it. If not, they don't. The producer then has a few choices. The price can be held constant and the features increased. Another choice is to lower the price and accept a smaller profit. The producer can also try to find a cheaper way to produce the product, either though greater productivity, or by lowering the cost of the raw materials.

    Or the producer can reduce the price, reduce the features (lowering cost), and try to maintain the profit margin. But this approach causes the potential customer to rethink the value relationship: is the service worth the new price given the reduced features? The answer may still be 'no.'

    But our public school system isn't a free market entity. It's very hard for consumers to find alternative service providers - you have to move, or pay private school tuition.

    The only practical choice we have is to set the price we're willing to pay. The School Board and Superintendent then decide how much service we're going to get for that price. When their cost of production goes up (salaries & benefits), they tell us we have to pay a new higher price, or services will be reduced.

    Because of the exclusivity granted to public school districts, that's all the choice we have. Especially in today's real estate market, it's all but impossible to pick up and move in order to find another, more healthy school district.

    As I commented in an earlier post, there's lots of knobs that can be turned in trying to manage costs, but they all pale in comparison to labor costs.

    Labor costs are a function of pay scales and the number of employees on the payroll. Both the labor unions and the management have shown that they are unwilling to reduce pay scales to achieve cost reductions.

    That means the only choice left is the number of employees, and that's the knob they're going to turn. In a professional services organization, fewer employees means lessened service.

    In other words, the community has said we want a lower price, and their response is to reduce service. They don't think there are any other solutions.

    I've offered one: take a one year moratorium on the growth of labor rates (ie - not a reduction). It has been completely ignored.

    So, as long as we keep defeating levies, the school leadership will keep hacking out employees, and will feel totally blameless.

    It's almost a scorched-Earth mentality: if you (the public) don't pass the levies, we (the School Board and Superintendent) will keep torching more programs and services until you cry uncle.

    We need new leadership to fix that. But remember that in the last Board election, the top vote getter was an incumbent (Maggied), and the candidate calling for radical change (me) came in dead last. In that same election, we returned Mayor Schonhardt to his seat without opposition.

    Where was all the activism a year ago? Why do folks get all worked up when a levy is on the ballot, but sit in total apathy otherwise?

    There are very few people in this community that can't afford this levy. If you are a homeowner, you almost certainly file an itemized federal tax return, and you will get to deduct a good chunk of the incremental cost of this levy from your federal taxable income - meaning the federal government will be paying part of this levy for you. The $400 additional tax on a $200,000 home will cost you more like $300 - maybe even less. Less than $1 per day.

    The hard thing isn't paying the tax; the hard thing is to actually get in there and do something about the way our community is being run.

    I fear that the belief of the people of this community is that by defeating this levy, the poor leadership will somehow be corrected. That's a very shortsighted and lazy conclusion.

    As Musicman says, the kids who are in school right now will feel the impact, and we can't fix it later for them. The cuts that will be made are designed to be visible and to inflict pain on the kids and parents. I wonder how many more car accidents and injuries there will be just because we'll have hundreds more drivers on the road every day.

    Too many folks want to deal with this like our country did Iraq - under false pretenses and with a lack of a plan. After the loss of thousands of young Americans, we still don't have a plan.

    Many say that things began to look up in Iraq after Gen. David Petraeus took command. He had a vision and a plan. But he had to start with a screwed up situation. Maybe he should have been consulted before we ever went in.

    That's all I'm saying here. There's a battle to be fought, but let's not make things worse before we get started.


  125. KJ, if I am interpreting the contract language correctly, a single policy will cost 25.00 per month moving
    to 50.00 per month in the 3rd year
    Extremely cheap, I have a cost
    of 2800 per year for instance for myself, plus my contribution on another policy for my kids of another 1200 per year.

    NO the BOE was not sarcastic, it came from the usual employee group sitting in the audience and out loud comments after I finished. Does the comment
    "He doesnt get it " jog your memory? LOL
    Things are entrenched, I understand that. I think it is important
    like Paul has done, to just not complain, but make suggestions
    and come up with ideas. Unfortunatly they pretty much get ignored

    It is unfortunate that no one responsed to Pauls idea. I got
    at least a inquisitive response
    last night at the coffee when I
    reiterated the cost costainment
    level being planned out. It might not be 3% as a correct number, but it is a starting point. I dont expect many to support it, because it does limit growth.

    I just feel given our economic climate that we send some new signals to the electorate that
    there are adjustments taking place across the board. I think that
    the "for the kids agenda" clouds
    some very discouraging attitudes
    from within the district structure

  126. Mom,
    I believe those color glossy flyers were printed with funds from the campaign committee. I doubt that the money came from the school district.

  127. Hillirdite and Others,

    I wish to clarify my point of view with you folks. I agree with almost everything you have to say, including the following:

    -HCSD doesn't do a good job of explaining its' rationale for decisions, or at least listening to the suggestions of the community.

    -Times are tough/Taxes are high, it stinks to have to pay more.

    -HCSD has positioned the cuts to provide the highest level of impact to place pressure for a yes vote.

    -The schools should be more accountable and transparent with the taxpayer dollars.

    -Unions are a mess, and contribute largely to the problem (FYI, I am IN a union in another district, and I am not a fan of them)

    Here is where I disagree:

    Rick says I don't know anything about the individual household in Hilliard. Really Rick? My bank account that is at $0.00 several times per month (Thank GOD for overdraft protection) isn't what is going on? My wife and I trying to juggle our many debts to make ends meet for our daughter isn't what is going on? The difference is that I think our students are WORTH IT. I would pay ANYTHING for our communities children to have the best. Alot of folks feel that way.

    When I think about our country, I think about a group of people who get together for the common good. Who do what is right by each other, even if it costs more, or isn't popular. The RIGHT thing to do is to pass this levy for the kids. The RIGHT thing to do is to speak with your vote, speak at the board meetings, speak to the papers, form committees, and be ever-vigilant as we FORCE the district to work for the community.

    The WRONG thing to do is speak with your NO vote. You don't like to hear it, but the kids suffer. I'm sorry, it is true. One chance is all they get. ONE trip to Camp Joy. ONE chance to play middle school football. ONE chance to have receive high quality band instruction at the fifth grade level. Voting no takes these things away, and for those students, they will NEVER get them back.

    I don't know how one could say to the kids "Sorry, it isn't your fault, but I'm voting to deny you the opportunities those before you have had. But don't worry, this will teach those that run your district a lesson."

    You may not like to hear it, or say we are past it, but how can this levy EVER move past the kids? It is FOR the kids!!

  128. Rick, thanks for the clarification.

    Also, I appreciate your stance on this levy and your persistence to impact change.

  129. Anonymous -

    Just to clarify my position. I am going to vote for the levy for one single reason - that the devastation and upheaval that a failure would cause to the district will take many more years and lots of extra money to rebuild. And I believe that is exactly why the Administration has chosen those areas to cut and been reticent on providing more details...Specifically how much each of their proposed cuts will actually save...As I pointed out in an earlier comment, some of the cuts don't seem to save much money, whereas others should have been made years ago. (Comments can be found here)

    One example of the district hoping the public will assume the worst is the threat to cut 10 gifted teacher positions. Will that mean eliminating 10 positions or eliminating 7 of the proposed new positions and reducing by 3 the actual number of positions? And how much would that actually save, given that the state partially funds gifted education positions? Questions like that aren't answered (and being cynical, I assume it's because the savings isn't that great and the administration doesn't want to have to answer further questions on the cost/benefit of such a decision.) I asked for a specific breakdown of the cost savings by individual categories and have heard nothing.

    For summer school and non-school activities, why shouldn't those activities be self-supporting? Why are we providing summer school busing when no other district seems to be offering such a convenience?

    I have yet to hear any other compelling reason to support the levy. When I dismiss the "Excellent With Distinction" rating, it's because I don't believe it is Excellent for all students. What if you were the parent of one of the subgroups whose needs aren't being met by the school? Would you still consider the education being provided excellent? If we are failing to show progress with sub-groups, do we really deserve an "Excellent with Distinction" grade?

    (To repeat myself:) Isn't that like saying that because a student did well on the easiest parts of a test, but failed on the few difficult parts, that we'll just ignore grading the difficult parts, because he pretty much knows the the topic and give him an "Excellent with Distinction" grade?

    And no, I don't think that the think the state cares that much for Hilliard that they rigged the grading system just to benefit our district? I think the state changed the grading system because too many schools weren't receiving high enough grades which created difficulty when those same districts tried to pass levys. And the low grades affected housing values. You can find several testimonies by Ohio school superintendents that state those very arguments. Personally, I consider it grade inflation as a result of too much pressure.

    I agree with you that there are many successful programs being offered in the schools (athletic, thespian, music, art, etc.), and I think it is wonderful that we have been able to offer these programs. But is it fair to ask the community to fund such programs when there seems to be no attempt to control our expenses? If we spent our money more wisefully, maybe we could justify such programs, even more and better programs.

    I wonder why didn't the administration and board pursue options such as increasing the pay to play fees for sports (we have one of the lowest in Franklin County) before threatening to cut middle school sports programs? There wasn't a single dialogue on the topic at any of the school board meetings (I've attended several and have reviewed the minutes of the ones I missed), or at least at any of the public portions of the meetings? I'm not picking on sports - I'm just saying there were other options that the district refused to even discuss.

    To ask me to pass the levy because the school believes it is somehow "Accountable" is the biggest irony, since there seems to be no explanation for most of the questionable decisions that have been made lately. I could repeat several of the examples that have already been cited, but if you take the time to read the archived versions of Paul's posts and the corresponding comments, you will be overwhelmed with examples.

    I'm not moved by the argument of the "hard-working, caring, dedicated, professionals" (teachers) because where was that car, dedication and professional attitude last year when the teachers chose to "work to the contract" and pulled such non-professional stunts as meeting at the flagpole to all walk in the school together as a way of demonstrating their unity? That's not exactly my image of professional behavior.

    Nor am I moved by the argument that "it's all about the kids"... Where was the "it's all about the kids" sentiment when negotiating a contract that contained raises greater than most of the general public had seen in years and that obviously would not be able to be funded without the passage of a new levy or the layoff of several of the younger teaching staff? Sounds like it was more it's all about the senior, average performing teacher position then.

    The argument that Hilliard is 9th out of 16th in cost per pupil does nothing for me when I know that we are unable to attract the best and brightest teachers by offering them salaries commensurate to their contribution because we're spending our money on poorly performing teachers or those who should have retired long ago.

    If Hilliard were to change their pay structure so that we could offer bonuses and performance rewards to the teachers who taught the subgroups who aren't showing progress, rather than forcing the new teachers with the least amount of experience to take those classes because senior teachers have priority in choosing which classes they want to teach - then that would be something to inspire me to vote for a levy - but that change would probably save enough money that a new levy wouldn't be needed.

    Think how much money could be saved if we could actually use the free market to determine who we want to hire and how much we want to pay them. There's a reason it is so difficult to find and hire a highly qualified special needs teacher - they are required to be required to be competent in content areas as well as in the areas covering needs of students with disabilities. Yet we cannot pay them any more than we do a PE or a Life Skills teacher. We cannot pay a math, science, foreign language, bilingual, ESL teacher (of which there are so few available) a salary higher than we pay a social studies teacher or an elementary education teacher (programs that are easier to complete and therefore have more teacher candidates than open positions). We cannot pay a first year teacher who graduated with honors and has demonstrated experience from volunteering with children any more than we pay any other average student, first year teacher.

    Too much of the money that we are already spending on our schools is being wasted due to the teachers' union-negotiated contract and I've seen no actions from either the school board nor the administration to make me think there is any hope for the current leaders to change current practice.

    So, sadly, the only valid reason that I can find to vote for the levy is knowledge of the time and cost it will take to recover from its impact. Do I think this will permanently harm students - not so much as it will cause severe damage to the reputation of our school district and to the value of our homes.

  130. kk,

    Thanks for responding. You have many valid points. I think maybe I should clarify my position to explain that I probably agree with you more than I disagree. I, too, would like to see our administration be more transparent about our tax money. I would also love to see some creative changes made to the way schools spend money.

    However, I will still disagree with your evaluation of the performance of our district. My point is that the state uses the same method to grade all schools in Ohio. Even after the change, we are still evaluated the same as every other district. With that system, we are given the highest score possible--and at a lower cost than comparable districts. I guess my point is, all schools face many of the same issues and challenges. The numbers I have presented seem to bear out the fact that our district, when playing by the same rules and facing similar issues, has proven to be very effective at providing our children with an excellent education at a comparitively low price. Can it improve? Yes. Do changes to the system need to be made? Yes. Again, though, I think these are changes that need to begin at a higher level (the state) because instituting these changes alone in our district is improbable and, I believe, would be damaging to us.

    Also, regarding your opinion of teachers, I just have to reiterate that I disagree. My understanding of the situation from last year is that teachers were put in a very difficult position. My impression is that teachers were more upset with a lack of respect shown by the board (and I don't think this had everythingto do with wages and benefits). By the way, I am not a teacher and could never do that job. The many that I know are all of those things that I mentioned in my previous post. I think what many teachers feel is an unfair attack from many areas of society. For example, look at the article in the Dispatch the other day that reported the statewide findings of the newly required criminal background checks. 57,000 teachers paid roughly 2.5 million dollars out of their own pockets for these checks because of the Dispatch's series last year. What did they find? I believe 9 teachers (out of 57,000) lost their teaching license. Is the state, or the Dispatch, going to refund their money? Now, I realize I'm going off the topic a little, but the point I'm getting at is that you (when refering to the union) are characterizing a large amount of people that I respect greatly because of what I believe are issues with only a few. We are probably going to disagree on that, but that is just my opinion.

    Again, kk, thanks for the response. I think maybe my mistake was lumping you with another poster who seems unable to express his/her opinion in a civil manner.

  131. Paul,

    In the Northwest News dated October 15th there is a letter to the editor from Michelle Bailey. In it, she talks about how the school board members are paid per meeting. She said that they are paid $125 per meeting with 24 meetings per year.

    She said that on May 17th, June 20th and August 4th the meetings were called to order, then adjourned with no information discussed. Except that the June 20th meeting was called to order at 5pm and adjourned 1 minute later, and in that 1 minute they spent $13,000 on weight room personnel.

    She also discusses how the school board voted themselves a "service fund" of $7500 on January 4th.

    They also held 30 meetings, instead of the 24 originally stipulated.

    What is this "service fund" for, and how could they make a decision about the weight room with no public discussion? When was this discussed among board members? Why are there board meetings that are closed with no discussions at all, yet they needed 6 extra meetings?

    Can you shed any light on this?

  132. Jane:

    You ask a number of very good questions.

    I don't much about how the Board is paid. Sometimes they call those short meetings when something comes up that has to be dealt with prior to the next meeting.

    I didn't look up all the meetings, but the August 4th meeting was a special one called to discuss levy options. The minutes certainly don't reflect that.

    In fact their minutes rarely contain much meaningful information. Compare this to what is published by the Board of Olentangy Local Schools - which includes audio - our communication is a joke. Sadly even the Olentangy Board pulls some shenanigans, including editing the audio as I understand it.

    I would in no case call our School Board accountable. They discuss virtually nothing in public, which indicates to me that they have their discussions beforehand, and somehow feel they have satisfied their obligations by carrying out their votes in public, always 5-0.

    And when it comes to elections, it's the teachers' union that decides who is seated on the Board, because most of the public puts no effort into understanding what's going on. The top vote getter in the last election was Doug Maggied, who by the way has a son who is employed as a teacher in the district. The other incumbent who ran, Dick Hammond, lost his union support (but had the political and financial support of Mayor Schonhardt, Judge Chuck Schneider, Rep Larry Wolpert, and Councilman Brett Sciotto), when Hammond became a member of the Board of a charter school - the sworn enemy of the teachers' unions.

    We've seated two new Board members in the last year, and I can't tell much of a difference, and it pains me to say that as I know and respect both Dave and Lisa. The only positive thing I've seen is that there are few Executive Sessions these days.

    At least not declared executive sessions. If they have found some other way to have these conversations outside the public eye, it's still illegal, and certainly not transparent or accountable.

    But let's remember, as mad as we may be at the Board or at the teachers' union, if this levy is voted down, neither will be punished. It will be the kids and parents who will feel the cuts.

    We need new leadership to fix our problems. Defeating the levy just makes things worse in the meantime.


  133. I have a thought....

    What if we were able to outline a letter to the school board, HEA, and administration statinf our collective expectations in the coming years. Whether we vote YES or NO, I would like to send to all members of the leadership team our expectations for the coming year(s).

    For instance...

    1) Transparency throughout the district
    2) 5 year plan to reduce costs
    3) Straigh Talk with the community
    4) Identification of "Lessons Learned" and announcement of these so we can understand that our leaders are continually looking to improve their processes and to ensure we don't make the same mistakes over and over.
    5) Etc.... (Can't think of everything as I write this)

    I plan to do this on a personal level. I plan to Vote yes for the levy yet send to the leaders my expectations and critical outcomes I will need to see for them to KEEP my support. I will gladly and eagerly vote NO on any additional levy unless I see change.

    I just want them to know, I'm watching and I have expectations. That my support of the levy was to save us time so that REAL change could happen. It is NOT a mandate to spend freely! It will be clear to them that they will lose my vote if such expectations are not met.

    I will also cite that my BOE vote is primarily dependent upon the action, or inaction, taken on the above list. I will also go so far as to call for new leadership if these items are not addressed.

    I encourage each of you to do the same! I would be happy to draft a form letter to that regard that could be mass distributed so that the leaders could see the volume of votes on the line and the seriousness of the community to be partners in the school district beyond writing tax checks.


  134. KJ:

    Good idea. I'll be glad to store your letter on my website and provide a link here.


  135. Thanks Paul. If this is something folks want to do,I will pull them together.

    If others have suggestions for line items to include

  136. Rick: "By the way all IT and Gifted teachers are not being eliminated, they are being reduced. There still will be a gifted program."

    You need to look further at the numbers per the gifted program (I don't know anything about the impact on IT). As a parent, I am in a panic if the gifted program is CUT -- these represent CURRENT staff. No more Explorations or Focus programs AT ALL in any of the elementaries. If you have a gifted child, you know how critical this program time is for them during the week. They have already cut the gifted reading program this year and I know my daughter isn't growing as much as she is capable of this year (just unchallenged in regular classroom "reading" books she read two years ago on her own).

    I don't know why the BOE has chosen to use the "REDUCED" word - I think it gives a very false impression to most that the kids will be OK with fewer staff. Not in this case. There is limited state funding, but no state mandate that gifted education be provided (only a mandate that students be tested). I was told by a gifted staffer that only one or two positions would remain to deal with testing and related paperwork.

    I have heard from more than one family with gifted children at my school that they will move if the gifted program is gone (and yes, it will be gone if this levy fails). We will seriously consider it as well.

    Take away the highest achievers and not only will test scores in the future suffer, but the challenges these kids give to their peers in the "regular" classroom will also be gone.

  137. kj,

    Count me in for signing/endorsing to show you are not alone. The more people the better. Good way to start a grassroots "watchdog" group starting immediately after the levy vote, win or lose.

  138. Excellent. I'll likely post my letter and those who wish to use it can simply cut and paste it into an email to the leaders of the district.

    The more the better as it will serve as formal notice that whether we voted FOR or AGAINST the levy, we have established expectations and will hold them accountable. Both by levy and BOE selections in 2009.

  139. Anonymous -

    I am glad that we are able to agree on some points and to agree to disagree on others. I think that it is important for all of us to respect each other's right to an opinion and for the most part, even though most of us posting to this blog are passionate about our opinions, we seem to be able to conduct our debates with civility. And hats off to Paul to keeping us all in line.

    One of my children attended Hilliard Schools for 3 years and had some of the best teachers I've ever met. And certainly Doug Lowery has to be the most dedicated principal I've met during the 17 years my children have been attending schools.

    Hilliard has much to be proud of for the education that it provides. But I do believe that there are still students whose needs aren't being met and perhaps it shouldn't be the HCSD's responsibility to meet those needs. If the Ohio education unions weren't exerting pressure on the state to limit the number of charter schools (currently they're limited to Ohio's 8 largest urban school districts and limited in number) then there would be more opportunity for parents to move their children to the school best suited to meet their educational needs.

    When you try to use figures like Ohio report card grades or cost per pupil in Franklin County to compare school districts, it simply doesn't work. None of these are apples to apples comparisons. All the school districts offer different products and service different student types.

    For example, Upper Arlington doesn't provide high school busing - but does offer foreign language instruction beginning in middle school. They also offer an International Baccalaureate program and have fewer IEP and low income students than Hilliard.

    Dublin, too, is beginning to offer IB classes and is revising their curriculum to conform with the IB degree program.

    Whether UA or Dublin are spending their money wisely or squandering it - it doesn't really matter to us in Hilliard, does it? Shouldn't we be most concerned with what our school district is doing with our money?

    How, if we don't compare our apples to UA's or Dublin's oranges, do we determine if we are getting our money's worth from our schools? It's relatively simple - look at where we are spending our money. Are we paying too much for labor - the only real test to determine this is to allow a free market to determine the correct wages and benefits for teachers. I would prefer having many science and math teachers trying to get jobs in our schools because we pay them more, at the risk of having fewer social studies and elementary education teachers applying - because we already have hundreds of applications to choose from for these applicants.

    And one new thought - I thought that the letter to the editor that pointed out that even with the "severe overcrowding" at the high schools, the district was still able to earn the Excellent with Distinction grade. Makes one wonder if possibly the pods that we installed at the high schools were more than adequate for still delivering a good education to our students and perhaps the 3rd high school wasn't as necessary as we were led to believe? I really do think that is a point worth thinking about.

  140. Gifted Mom, I am aware of the gifted program, and yes, as with a number of programs that will be affected it is not something anyone wants to see adjusted at all. That is why, in case you missed it , I am supporting the levy this time in the hope that we will see courage and leadership
    as we plan through some tough economic times

    Will all of the parents who are
    concerned about the potential cuts with a failed levy get behind
    various citizen proposals to save
    dollars that could be used to
    cut some of the reductions. Will
    any of you, who are talking about moving, willing to stand up first and ask for some financial planning
    Will you support vigorously Pauls
    proposal to have a 1 year freeze
    on the compensation model. Will you be as adamant in support of a proposal to begin limiting spending
    growth at a starting point of 3% as I have presented ?

    I believe strongly in a community investment and have allways said so. 6 years ago I spoke at Memorial Middle School at a school forum and warned about the tax shifts that seemed to be on the horizon to the local homeowner, because of changes by the state, and that we needed to reign our spending growth.

    A simple adjustment to the last contract could have saved some of these programs on the current chopping block.

    Thank goodness Paul started this blog, because it has motivated people to start putting forth ideas. Yes, none of us will ever agree on everything, but this blog has facilitated more discussion and awareness of some of the most boneheaded decisions and exposed some of the attitudes that come from within the district.
    It has people involved and for that we can all be grateful.

  141. Excellent point on the 3rd high school. I seem to recall that the 3rd high school reasoning was to offer extracurriculars, mostly music, drama, and sports, to a greater number of students. In other words, nothing to do with primary education, although I DO realize the importance of those things. At the same time, the two existing schools were sold to the voters under the premise of enough land, and the right design, to be expanded. I voted against the bond issue, solely because I knew that down the road, it would require more levy money to operate, as bond issue are only for buildings, not operations. I thought I had an ally when Cheryl Ryan was elected to the Board, and then BAM!- she switched sides shortly after taking office, saying that with her new "insider"
    information, she "knew" we needed a 3rd school. What kind of BS is that? I suppose it was to be expected - the Board votes 5-0 on virtually every issue. I am looking forward to a year from now when maybe that won't be the case.

    And ditto on the matter of everyone getting on board with some activism, regardless of which way this levy vote goes.

  142. Sorry hit anon, instead of Rick on my comment back to Gifted Mom.


  143. Rick,
    Don't assume you know that I have not been active. I have spoken out at board meetings, talked to board members personally, written emails to the administration on a variety of legal and other issues (and been quickly thanked and acknowledged). I didn't mean to imply that you weren't supporting the levy, but that you question whether the gifted cuts were that big of a deal and I am simply trying to say they are so there is no confusion out there. I commend you for your thoughtfulness on the issues on this blog. Why do you so harshly accuse me of not being out there? Many of us gifted parents aren't speaking at the public meetings because there is a stigma associated with proclaming your kid to be smart in public when there are so many needs in the schools that really must be attended too. We're asking for our fair shake, but don't want to come off as elitist -- trust me, we're really not.

  144. Gifted Mom,

    The proposed gifted teacher reduction continues to make no sense, yet the administration refuses to provide any further details as to how much the proposed reductions will save and what the actual impact to the current program (2007-2008) vs. the anticipated program for 2008-2009. (Do we even know what the current program count of teachers is?) It is in the admin's best interest that everyone will assume the worst...

    From the information that I have read on the Ohio Department of Education website, Ohio’s law changed July 1, 2008, imposing new standards for gifted instruction. For instance, gifted elementary students now must have at least 225 minutes a week of specialized instruction, while gifted middle school and high school students must get at least 240 minutes a week.

    "There were no minimum times before, said Scott Blake, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education." (Cincinnati Enquirer, July 8, 2008)

    Between the increase in minimum times requirements and the fact that the state subsidizes the salaries of the gifted education teachers and gifted education coordinator, how much can the district possibly save by the proposed reduction?

    And, if you are unhappy with the district program, wouldn't it be nice to have the option to move your child to a charter school developed with the needs of gifted
    children in mind? Unfortunately, until the state begins to allow charter schools to form in all school districts, you'll not have a convenient option.

    And I'm the first to admit that I can only base my opinion and assumptions on what I read in newspapers and on the Ohio Dept. of Education website, but given the district's choice of utter and complete silence over a productive community dialogue - I have to assume that this reduction threat was selected more for the number of voters it will impact than for the number of dollars it has the potential to save.

  145. Gifted Mom, first off apologies if I seemed harsh, not intended. I am very much aware having a "gifted" student and the stigma and the "politics" of the system. He went on to be a top ten student in our system and will graduate from college Magna Cum Laude. But due to the politics of our system, wasnt in the right group so he missed out on some advanced classes. But he has done just fine
    and perservered, like most gifted kids, learned a valuable but tough lesson, and sought outside academic activities to further his knowledge. And even though I am a former division 1 athlete, I would
    much rather have gifted and IT
    programs than sports.

    We simply have to be more aware of what is happening in our district and as I have said before, this blog that Paul started had done more for this district and the sharing of ideas than any other district sponsored forum. We may not all agree on everything, but
    we get the chance to air our ideas
    and thoughts. Everyone gets to see
    both sides of the issue.

    Simply put, and with a zero response from the powers to be, could even a 1/2 reduction in the contract module, money we did not have to spend in the first place, would have saved the gifted program.

    I am willing to hold the community responsible to increase their investment in our schools. It is the right thing to do.

    I also am waiting, which is actually a waste of time, for our district, the HEA, and it leadership to respond to positive
    citizen proposals about ways to
    alleviate our fiscal crisis.

    I am hoping that everyone joins in and KJ's idea.

    If I remember correctly, the HEA
    jammed a school board mtg during the negotiations.

    Wouldnt it be great if we could do the same with everyday regular citizens who want to support our schools, but want adjustments to our spending.

  146. Rick and KK:
    I do believe we are all wanting the same things here, and I appreciate your support for the gifted program (and kudos to your son, Rick!). My understanding is that there are 13 designated gifted "teachers" and 11 would be gone (again, with those remaining to focus only on testing). The new state rule does not mandate ANY gifted programming, but requires districts that want to provide it AND receive state funding, to meet the new instruction criteria. There is a "gifted conference" taking place this weekend at the Easton Hilton and I plan to attend tomorrow when the DOE rules will be discussed. It will also be interesting to see what Mr. McVey says in his introductory remarks on October 27 for a university educator who was invited to speak to gifted parents. Let's keep in mind that they've already eliminated the Gifted Director position -- the best advocate we had for gifted funding from the state and to implement the requirements.

    Thanks to you both and to Paul, as always. When (if) I learn anything new, I'll post.

  147. Please notice that on every mailing we receive about issue 78, it says, "Not Paid For At Taxpayer Expense" "Paid for by Community Partnership for Education." This is an organization of concerned community members who would like to see the excellence of Hilliard Schools continue. They have solicited donations from the community, held bake sales and raffles to raise money. Teachers are among those who have donated, as have many other members of the community.
    I just wanted to clarify the misconception that the school district is paying for the mailings from tax payers money.

  148. Thank you to everyone who writes well thought out comments on this blog and in the local papers. I hope that we can remember that we all want the same thing. We are all for a strong Hilliard area community with strong schools. Please check out your facts before you post them and remember that good, reasonable people can disagree on many things. If you have a suggestion on how things can be done more economically, get involved. Go to school board meetings or volunteer with your school's PTO. But, do so with an open mind and with the intent of not only voicing your opinion, but listening and considering other opinions, as well. Remember that what you assume may be quite different than the reality and that there may be legitimate, child-centered reasons why things are done the way they are. People who work with children on a daily basis may have a different prospective than someone who works in business. Your business knowledge may be very helpful, but remember that educating a diverse population of children is quite different than making a product out of homogeneous materials. We need the expertise of a diverse group of community members who can speak with respect and without anger to each other to solve the ever challenging issues that face us as we strive to do the best for our children. Whatever you think of the administrators and teachers of this district, or the way things are funded, you must admit that together, with strong parental and community support, our district has achieved at a very high level. So, we are doing many things right.
    Let's all support the levy, then pledge to get involved. Together, in a civil manner, without accusations and name calling, let's work to make the Hilliard School District the best in the state. This will not only insure a strong future for our children and ourselves, but will also increase our home values and draw new businesses into this area.

  149. I mistyped: the presentation for parents of gifted kids is Wednesday evening, October 29.

  150. Anon @ 3.02

    A number of very positive proposals have been put forth to alleviate our current fiscal situation. Those proposals which were not negative
    have been met with............................ silence.

    The facts include that indeed the community has consistently supported the HCSD with very positive funding levels. We currently spend over $10,000 per student, and have consistently passed bond issues to support a very positive infrastructure.
    The facts also include a compensation module that we do have an obligation to honor now, that were not financially sustainable as school districts are not allowed to operate with a deficit.

    Unfortunatly there will be some whowill allways oppose levies. Some just dont want to pay more, some dont feel they have the financial wherewithall due to
    persona finances.

    I believe in a consistent community investment. Increases will be
    allways on the table. But it is curious that a proposal to limit
    growth has been met with a definitive silence and with some

    The electorate continues to be
    hit with the "you dont get it"
    rhetoric. We should not be suprised when there is some push back.

    I think our community does value its schools and will continue to support proper and sensible funding levels. What will turn them off is the attitude that comes from within the district that is condescending
    and disrespectful.

    Also, everyday citizens should have
    the opportunity to express their views in a professional manner.
    Will the district, and the employess leaderships groups allow
    a free expression of ideas without fear of retribution.

    Less than two weeks to go to continue a message that this levy is important, and that new perspectives, and ideas are welcome and will be implemented to continue
    the financial health and programs
    of the HCSD

  151. KJ,

    I am sorry to hear this has hit you so hard. Your views and common sense declarations to support the levy have been a major influence on me changing to a "Yes while forcing accountability" vote. I hope the Board and Administration realize how supportive a voice they have lost.

  152. Marc,


    I chose to delete my comments to let cooler heads prevail. I DID send my letter to the district, but honestly expect nothing to change or to even hear back from them.

    Their handling of this issue will determine my vote.

  153. Mark - I must have missed something? Seems to me KJ is still supporting a Yes vote. As for myself, I have posted before that I wait until October 31 to cast my absentee, so that that I feel I have the latest facts. I am back on the fence, although leaning more to the No than the Yes. It is just so hard to justify the Yes vote when there is no feedback from the Board or the HEA to Paul's, and others, proposals. It makes me feel as if nothing is ever going to change; it will be take the money and run, and in two more years, we will get threatened with the same ineffective cuts in services. The Dispatch has an excellent editorial as a followup to their article on teacher pay, but it is harder to fight the union than it is to fight City Hall - the union knows how good they have it, in spite of their public stance. Without any changes in the compensation structure, the taxpayers are going to bleed to death. Too many people are afraid to stand up and have their voices heard on this issue, because it makes them sound like they are against the teachers. Well, the way I see it, you can't be For the Kids AND for the teachers, at least not to the present degree. And as long as the money keeps flowing in, in fact even if it isn't, 90% is going to continue to flow directly into the salaries. And I include the administrators in all of this, even though they are not part of the union. I for one, am not afraid to make my voice heard on the compensation; I have written several letters which have been published which make my position well known to my neighbors, and others, in Hilliard. If Paul runs in '09, I hope he will address this issue even more strongly, so that I can back him with all of the support I can muster. Because I cannot back anyone who does not deal with this major issue, no matter whose "feelings" get hurt.

  154. ... but honestly expect nothing to change or to even hear back from them.

    Their handling of this issue will determine my vote.

    And that is a major reason why I feel this levy will fail. I don't think it comes down to economics as much as the fact that we are all being ignored - i.e. NO ACCOUNTABILITY!!!!
    Whoever came up with that slogan needs to have their head examined.

  155. Hillirdite:

    It is my intention to run next year as long as we can get two other folks to run with me as a slate of candidates committed to radical change. I have no interest in being our version of Olentangy's Jennifer Smith, who is getting smacked around in one 4-1 vote after another.

    One of those radical changes is to sit down with the union leadership and figure out a better way to run our compensation program. While it is true that state law mandates the pay structure we have (based on experience and education), we have a lot of room to do some creative stuff.

    One thing the community will need to buy into though - that if respectful negotiations fail to yield sufficient change, the 2010 version of the Board will be willing to endure a teachers' strike. We can't go into negotiations with a mindset that a strike is to be avoided at all costs, because the 'all costs' are getting pretty expensive.


  156. Ms. Smith is to be admired for having the wherewithall to buck the system. At least ONE voice gets heard in the debates, which is one more than we have in Hilliard. Perhaps a couple of us, or more, should dedicate ourselves to the one letter per month that the NW News will publish from a particular writer, so that our voice at least gets into print. Because we sure aren't getting any other type of acknowledgment that our ideas are even being put forth. As for myself, I have only the passion - I have no other qualifications, nor the time required, to run for office. I hope those 2 others are out there to join you.

  157. Yep, I do admire her, and have had the chance to speak with her regarding her effort. My point is simply that her effectiveness is severely limited by being in a minority. Until she is joined by like-minded Board members, the most she can hope for is to bring public to pressure to bear on the other Board members. So far it seems to be their teachers' union which is filling the room on meeting nights - in opposition to Ms. Smith.


  158. Hillirdite:

    KJ deleted a post where he vented about the tactics of charging civic organizations for use of the facilities. My RSS reader picked the post up prior to that.

  159. I also read kj's post before it was deleted and I hope he might consider re-posting the facts about what the school district wants to charge these organizations for facilities and list (including $ value if available) the multitude of things these organizations have donated to the schools and the services that they perform and donate that eliminate a cost to us. I was stunned, but impressed, by how much is/was donated. They are clearly biting some hands that feeds them. Very regrettable.

  160. OK, I do think it's important to provide my letter to the district. Here is the core text... Keep in mind that I am putting personal information regarding my family, please respec that.

    Well, once again we find ourselves on the opposite ends of logic. I recently received word of charges that will be placed on local civic groups that use OUR facilities to offer academic and sport programs to our children.

    Can you please explain to me where the additional cost for use of outdoor facilities is incurred? HGSA uses the softball fields, HYLA uses the football fields, and the Optimist use the football fields. Additionally, the Optimist group uses the gyms in the elementary schools for basketball and other events such as oratorical competitions and student appreciation activities.

    Indoor use (at least for Optimist) have always been paid. I know for a fact Optimists pay for all janitors that are required outside of "normal" operating hours. I also know that the Optimist group has over $100K invested in the HEF (NOTE: THIS EVIDENTLY IS NO LONGER TRUE AS THE OPTIMIST REMOVED THEIR CASH LAST YEAR), offer 2 high school scholarships, pay for facility upgrades at the school's request, puts electronic score boards in all elementary gyms, provide funding for the Hilliard Oratorical programs, clean both high school football fields after each home game, among many other valuable services to the schools. HYLA and the Optimists share responsibility for the upkeep of the football/lacrosse field at Scioto-Darby elementary and work together on that venue. The irrigation system was paid for by both organizations. The press box, the concession stand, bleachers. all were also paid for by these organizations. They also reseed and fertilize those fields.

    If anything, the Optimist SAVES the district money! Please explain to me how the Optimists are costing the district? Would you like us to stop providing the financial support we offer to this district? I assure you it is far greater than any cost the district may incur.

    The following was provided to all HYLA parents in an email today...

    These fees, as they would affect HYLA, would be for use of the Field house, Memorial Field (where or Sunday games are played) and the field to the North where the younger girls play their games. These fees are:

    High School Field house: $20.00 @ hour @ court (we use 2 courts for our clinics)

    High School Main Gym: $200.00 first hour, $100.00 each addl. hour

    Middle School Gym: $100.00 first hour, $75.00 each addl. hour

    Janitor: $40.00 @ hour - Mandatory for any indoor function

    Memorial Field (our main field): $150.00 first hr, $75.00 each addl.

    This is strong-arming at its best! I have supported every levy in the last 17 years. And until today have worked with the district to get this levy passed. I have worked tirelessly to defend this district and to convince community members to support the schools and not let the district crumble.

    Granted, I also was very clear that this levy (should it pass) was NOT a mandate to spend and that I would personally be watching to ensure that the district continues to find ways to cut back and minimize the future size of levies.

    I'm sorry to say, today you lost my vote. (NOTE: Emotion may have gotten the better of me here) I have 3 kids in the district and a spouse who is a teacher. While she has many years of experience, by HEA standards (because she just recently re-hired after taking 2 years off for family reasons) is very low on the seniority list. She will very likely lose her job if this levy fails. I can honestly say that I am willing to take that risk and vote NO on this levy. Once again, your tactics are insulting and you continue to pull these irresponsible ploys at the absolute worst time. This leadership team loses more votes than they gain, that is for certain.

    I'm sure you remember me from last spring when I was very upset with your email ploy that pitted the community against the teachers which ultimately put the levy against the teachers. If that levy had any chance of success, you killed with that PR blunder.

    Since then, we have a board who comes out negative against the community for not passing the levy, a superintendent who has mislead or been mistaken multiple times in the past 6 months (HEA step increases are NOT required by law, by state law schools are community buildings and cannot be "closed to the public" ), the district sold land to a developer (have you no comprehension of the optics of such a move??), and now this? Extortion!

    The HYLA sent an email today outlining the costs you will be charging. As stated earlier, there are costs for outdoor facilities being levied against HYLA. Why? Also against the Optimist and HGSA. Why? Indoor costs I can understand (but as I previously mentioned were already being paid ABOVE the average overtime hourly wage of the most senior custodian) but not the outdoor costs.

    The estimated cost to HYLA per the new pay schedule is $6,600. This of course will be passed on to the parents through sign up fees. It will cost each player $30 more a year to play Lacrosse. Is the $6,600 really that beneficial to the school district that you would once again send a bad message to all HYLA, Optimist, and HGSA parents? Those parents make up a very large portion of the school community (those most likely to vote in favor of the levy). And you, once again, show that you are penny wise and dime foolish. This strong arm tactic (believe me, the emails that are flying around the Optimist and HYLA mailing list are not good) is one that saves a minimal amount of money for the district but offers very bad PR for the district. Have you ever considered a cost:benefit analysis? That's where the incurred cost of something is weighted against its benefit.

    I really need someone from this district to explain to me (and not in your PR language, but in candid conversation with mutual respect) how the benefit of $6,600 is worth the cost of losing a 6.9 levy? It's mind boggling!!!

    So, now you've lost one of your largest supporters and my vote! ( Again, emotion may have driven this statement. And you will lose more because HYLA and the Optimist members are extremely upset; as are the parents.

    I promise you, we were making ground on getting this levy passed. Honestly, the mantra was "pay now, fix the problems later". And that is exactly what WAS going to happen. But now I'm not so sure. I think, once again, you just delivered the final blow to a LOT of hard work by good people who wanted to see this levy passed. Believe me, it was not BECAUSE of you, it was in spite of you that this levy was going to pass. The community wants you all gone. I don't know if I agree 100% with that, but I will say that you've done little to convince me to stick up for you. So, now the levy is in danger and your positions within this district are in danger. Good work once again!

    Am I upset because my wife is a teacher? No! It's a break even proposition at best for our family that she teaches. But she enjoys teaching and she continues to take the hardest students at JW Reason (one of your more challenging buildings) because she wants to make a difference. She COULD transfer, but doesn't. When this levy fails, she will stay home and take care of our family. I'm ok with that. But as a parent of three and a taxpayer, I am completely upset and have lost all trust and confidence in this administration (HEA, BOE, Administration).

    Private school is an option for us. Most families in Hilliard are not so lucky. But because of your actions, the gifted programs my children deserve will no longer be available (or at least not to a meaningful level) and the district will be on an icy slope from which it may never recover. I'm lucky, I can (and will) leave you all behind. But I hope you realize your actions over the past year have damaged a wonderful district, hurt tremendous children, pushed those with a means, away from this district.

    If you would like to engage in meaningful and candid dialogue with me, I welcome it. Your silence will tell me you are not listening nor care about this district.

  161. This was my original response to KJ...

    Your anger is clear, and I understand it. I assure you that your rage is no greater than mine when it comes to this leadership group. They've managed to spread around causes for anger to about everyone.

    The things we've been arguing in this thread are still true - voting down the levy does no harm to the people calling the shots. They'll walk away from a levy defeat feeling no particular responsibility - especially now they have a nervous economy on which to pin the blame.

    Instead it will be the innocent kids and the youngest of our teachers and staff who will get zapped.

    And those of us - and I include you - who want to step up and change the way this district is run will be saddled with cleaning up the mess after the train wreck. I'd much rather take control before that happens...

  162. Paul, I agree with you, and suspect I will vote FOR the levy. While my message to the district leadership is accurate and valid, I fear I did what I've cautioned many on this blog against.... allowing emotion to drive my thought process.

    In the end, I will put the kids and the district ahead of my personal feelings regarding this leadership and will work to inact change in the coming months/years.

    However, the district leadership needs to know that we see through their transparent actions and are frustrated with continual blunders that put levies at risk.

    MANY MANY folks (some on this blog and others that do so more quietly) have worked to encourage passing this levy. The district leaders need to know that they are negatively impacting this hard work.... and continuing to put the health of this district at risk.

    For those that believe they can't speak up for fear of retaliation or whatever.... I just put a lot on the line for, what I believe to be, the common good. To make a difference, sometimes you have to take risks.

  163. kk,

    I understand that there are different priorities/needs/programs/ etc. for all districts, but I don't believe that makes the numbers I gave a complete apples to oranges comparison. I think, in the end, we are probably arguing over a point we both mostly agree on, but I don't think comparing cost per pupil, state grade cards, etc. is completely irrelevant. I think looking at those types of numbers show our district providing an excellent education to our students at a relatively good value.

    The problem becomes the fact that the state throws money towards underachieving districts, often getting little return, while ignoring districts like ours who do provide quality services (at least according to their own grading system). Therefore, it is us, the local property-taxpayers, who must bear the heaviest burden of maintaining our quality schools.

    That said, I will again agree with you that we do need to have more people involved in looking to some creative solutions to our problems and demand more transparency from our school leadership. I would like to see them more directly address the issues many of you have brought up on this blog.

    Now, I would also like to ask (genuinely) those of you (including Paul) who are proponents of instituting more of a free-market system for education how exactly that would work and how it would be funded? I have never agreed with applying those types of business principles with education, but am keeping an open mind to being changed. I have a hard time seeing where a system like that would be cheaper, and would allow for more equal opportunity access to education. It seems to me that wealthier families would still be able to pay for better schools, and that many services would go unfunded.

    Also, I am not a person who philosophically is supportive of unions. However, I believe the teaching profession is a different bird in itself where unions are necessary. They are necessary not for the sole purpose of bargaining better wages and benefits, but rather to help provide protection for these people who work with every parent's most valuable possession on a daily basis. I would argue that doing away with unions could actually make the profession less attractive to good candidates, as I don't believe the true value of a teacher is only determined by "parents' perceptions." Theoretically, I see the benefits of that type of system where performance carries so much weight on not only teacher pay, but teachers keeping their jobs. Practically, though, I can see this becoming a dangerous situation where teachers become so dependent on the opinions of parents (and their students) that they could feel pressured to compromise their principles. Do I enjoy the fact some teachers may retire on the job in our current system of unions? No. I'm also not sure that happens as often as it seems some commenters on this blog believe, especially in our district. I just think schools become much more complex entities with many different variables than other standard businesses.

    I think I have rambled enough, and welcome your thoughts...

  164. KJ, you are to be commended for re posting your letter. This is sad to say but I am really not suprised
    or shocked by any of this.

    I have thought long and hard about running for the board. I am not one to mince words, which some do not appreciate. But the long term financial health, and educational opportunities for our students is
    paramount in my feelings. This district needs a shake up across many fronts including attitude coming from within the district.
    As Paul has noted the consistent
    5-0 votes are sometimes somewhat of a bewilderment.

    I as I am sure many others who have
    communicated on this blog appreciate what you have done.

    I might be a Lone Ranger if I run
    but if I can even bring some new
    perspective to the table. Perhaps it is worth it.

    Again, because we failed to adjust the compensation model properly and spent money we did not have
    this is where we are. A slight adjustment could have saved short term many of these programs.
    Paul has a great proposal on the table, and even if that was tweaked some it would have sent the proper message to the electorate

    Perhaps others will want to jump in
    to run for the board. If you are considering it, let us all know your thoughts.

    This latest event unfortunatly shows it is still business as usual.
    It pains me to say, perhaps we should re think things a bit.

  165. Paul:

    A few links for you.

    First, there were significant changes to gifted education mandated by ODE this year. The changes are complex and involve more than just the number of minutes a child must be served. You can get an overview of the changes and what Worthington is doing about them from the parent perspective by visiting this site:


    Also, there was a discussion about the state board of education a while back. Here are two links with survey responses:



  166. Anon:

    First, thanks for the opportunity to have dialog on this. Second, it would be helpful if you picked a name or 'handle' to use when you post - just check the "Name/URL" button instead of Anonymous.

    The root of my free market idea comes from the theories of Milton Friedman, which can be found in his book "Free to Choose." But the general idea is this:

    1. You figure out a per-student spending amount that should be sufficient for a good quality eduation. For discussion, let's assume it's $10,000 per kid. How we raise this level of funding is a separate discussion.

    2. Each kid gets a voucher worth $10,000. That voucher can be taken to any accredited school (school districts would be eliminated), and that school can in turn submit the voucher to the State in exchange for cash.

    3. To be accredited, a school must follow approved curriculum, have accredited faculty, and accept the voucher as 100% of the tuition.

    4. To ensure the freedom of choice, there must be a transportation system which allows a kid to get from his/her homes to the school of his/her choice. There is no reason such a system would cost more than the individual district systems we have today, especially when combined with public transportation. In Europe, you see school kids riding the subways and public buses all the time.

    5. A school is free to pay its faculty whatever it wants. This means it will need to decide how much to allocate to building costs vs faculty vs extra services, such as sports, music, drama, etc. At $10,000/kid and a 20:1 student teacher ratio, a school of 200 kids would have 10 teachers and a $2 million annual budget. If 100% of that were allocated to teacher salaries, the average salary would be $200,000. Clearly some would have to allocated to building costs, materials etc. But it is entirely possible that teachers could be paid over $100,000/yr.

    Other schools might choose to emphasize sports, for example. In order to afford appropriate sports venues and equipment, they might allocate somewhat less to salaries and more to other stuff. Or they might develop an outside funding program to help defray costs (e.g. private endowments and corporate sponsorships). But remember, they still have to accept the $10K voucher as 100% tuition so any kid could still attend such a school.

    The question of how you compensate a teacher changes. Schools would need to compete for teachers that are felt to serve kids well enough to actually attract kids to come to school there. The deadwood teachers would be eliminated to free up resources to pay better teachers.

    I could go on and on with details, but that's the general idea. We could get all kinds of inventive school configurations. More importantly, we would disconnect the association between what neighborhood you can afford to live in, and how good your school might be.

    Sure the folks in a rich area might pour a lot of money above and beyond their voucher income into their local school, but they still have to accept any kid who shows up with a voucher.

    If teachers want to unionize in such a system, fine. If a school staffed by union teachers has high performance and attracts lots of kids, that's a good thing. They would admit only the best teachers into their union, and run programs to ensure that teachers remain trained and motivated.

    But if all the union does is drive up salaries and protect dud teachers, then less money will be left for other services, and one would presume parents and students would find other schools for their kids. No kids, no vouchers, no money. Such a school would dry up and die.

    But if the mission of the union were to ensure that their union members were the best in the field, then schools would clamor to hire them, and would be willing to sacrifice other stuff to make sure they can pay the union wages. If parents/students agree that the teachers are worth, the school will attract more students and thrive.

    Our current system is perverse in that it traps kids in failing schools and protects teachers who should really be in another profession.

    Appropriately regulated markets and competition are the best ways to drive innovation and contain costs. Complete laissez faire markets aren't good - they always spin out of control (e.g. the stock market), but the socialist way in which we run our schools always leads to general mediocrity, and develop into 'elite' and 'peasant' classes anyway.

    What about special needs kids? One way to approach this is by increasing the value of the vouchers granted to kids with special needs. This higher funding would allow for lower student:teacher ratios, more equipment, etc.

    What about administrators? Well, a single building school with a few hundred kids doesn't need all that overhead, right? But we might also see configurations where a number of buildings band together into a system, and in doing so achieves some economy of scale, allowing it to do things single-building schools might not (e.g. build a big football stadium). Such a system would need executive management. But the number and their pay would be driven by the same competitive market forces as everything else.

    Hope that helps explain what I propose.


  167. Thanks Marc.

    Marc Schare is a member of the Worthington School Board. His insights are much appreciated

  168. Anon - I could not disagree more that teachers need a union. I will admit that as a small business owner, I do not particularly like unions; I feel they had their place in the blue-collar industries years ago when worker abuse was flagrant, but in todays business environment, they are merely a stumbling block between management and the workers. Any business, and that includes school systems, needs merely to have an open door policy and a system of communication, with avenues of redress, to deal with individual events. What we appear to have in Hilliard is a union leader who does not respond to the taxpayers who fund his members, and who has absolutely no
    concept of how to satisfy his members "customers". I have spoken to at least 5 teachers since Paul suggested the salary rollback issue, and all 5 said they had never heard of it. It would appear that the idea was never presented, or even mentioned, to the general membership. That is typical of union leadership in general - the head of the union makes all the decisions except for the actual vote on contracts, and even then, the membership almost always follows their lead. So what we are left with is ineffectual leadership in not only the school board, but in the teacher ranks too. I hate to lump all teachers into one category, but it appears the majority doesn't care about such things as long as they get their 3-7% raises every year, as well as job protection that makes it virtually impossible to replace marginal teachers and reward the great ones. Can you think of any other college-educated work force
    with that kind of deal? Unions merely get in the way of a competitive work force, and when our average annual salary is 60,000+ a year with an outstanding benefit and retirement package, something just doesn't smell right to me. Our system is broken, and the consequence is the district is broke. And even though the administrators are not covered by a union, they have certainly enjoyed
    going along for the ride.

  169. I agree with Hillirdite regarding their comments on unions.

    Anon stated:

    "They are necessary not for the sole purpose of bargaining better wages and benefits, but rather to help provide protection for these people who work with every parent's most valuable possession on a daily basis."

    I saw a "20/20" episode a year or so ago where John Stossel noted how in NYC, it can take YEARS to fire a teacher, even those whose crimes are not laziness or ineptitude, but more serious criminal issues. This was because of the "process" the union negotiated to fire a teacher, which was really a flowchart that was several feet long. Now, we are not talking NYC, but this is typical of the shenanigans unions bring about. How does this nonsense "provide protection" ? I believe the current lwaws on the books provide enough protection for teachers as it would for any other provate sector worker.

    Also, most new teachers I know hate the union and would just as soon be done with it. It protects the lazy clock-watchers while the new members bite their nails at the thought of layoffs at levy time.

    You also stated:

    "Practically, though, I can see this becoming a dangerous situation where teachers become so dependent on the opinions of parents (and their students) that they could feel pressured to compromise their principles."

    I see your point to some degree, but in the end the parents and students whose opinions you fear should really be looked at as "customers". Parents want a good education for their kids. Provide that at a decent price with teachers working in a competitive environment, and I think we will all get better education and higher salaries for those teachers that really deserve it.

  170. Maybe we should be testing teachers
    every year as well as students; seems that would present a better gauge of how our schools are doing. Might be rather enlightening. Not exactly sure what the criteria might be but there must be some way to determine ability to actually teach as well as knowledge of subject matter.And is there a place to find job descriptions for the administrators? I would really like to know what some of the assistants to the assistants actually do to earn their six figures. Of course since the projected cuts are distorted with smoke and mirrors, I don't expect any of the above to happen.

  171. I know that this is getting off the topic of why we need to vote for the levy, but I wanted to respond to the discussion of the pros/cons of teachers having a union.

    I agree with hillirdite that unions had their place in the blue collar industries when worker abuse was flagrant, but the problem is the monster that results from unchecked power - and unlike industry that is able to relocate when union demands grow completely out of perspective with economic conditions, we are stuck having to continue paying more to placate the monster that has been created.

    I agree with Paul - if the goal of the union is to ensure quality teachers - that's fine, but wouldn't any school that has to compete with other schools for students want to offer that anyway? (Obvious plug for Charter Schools)

    The Dispatch reported in 2006 that in Ohio, an average case to fire an educator costs $50,000 - one reason that the schools often resort to a negotiated settlement. Illinois spent an average of more than $219,000 in legal fees to fire tenured teachers over the past 5 years article That article is quite eye-opening as to what the impact of union protection of teachers has on our school budgets and especially the impact on our students. Read Impact of poor teachers cripples students for years

    Imagine if we didn't have to spend so much money to remove poorly performing teachers and if we could actually remove poorly performing teachers?

    My child is enrolled in a Charter School and because locally they are currently limited to being situated in Columbus, I have to drive her to school every morning. It's a small sacrifice that I am fortunately able to make, in order to allow her to attend a school that is better suited to her needs that the program currently offered in Hilliard. She is able to ride COTA home - the charter school students are able to purchase an annual COTA bus pass for a nominal fee (Under $10, I believe) and her ride home, even with changing buses, is about the same amount of time she spent on a Hilliard school bus last year to get from school to home, so I think Paul's suggestion of using public transportation is definitely a feasible one.

  172. Due to the upcoming election and pending school levy we have no choice but to delay our basketball sign-ups from October to November, immediately following Election Day. The reason for this delay is due to the substantial increase in fees we will incur from the school system for facilities use (nearly double 07 expenses). Due to this change in pricing structure, we’ve decided to wait until the day after the elections to begin holding basketball sign-ups. Our fees will be $95 if the levy passes. If the levy fails our fees will be $160 per child, as we will be paying a facility use and janitorial fees for every practice and game (in prior years only weekend janitorial fees were charged).

    In addition to the change in fee structure, we have also had to scale-back our practices (from 14 to 10) and games (from 10 to 9). These changes were made in order to keep the participation fees as low as possible.

    Unfortunately, we will also incur an increase for next yea's football season as well. Like all other community sports programs, we too will be charged high fees to use school facilities (both for practices and games). We have already begun discussions regarding alternatives for next year in order to continue (and possibly expand) our football program without passing along exuberant fees to our parents. The use of non-school practice facilities for football will help facilitate this effort.

    We are sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and support.

    Best regards

    Director, HOBL

  173. Paul, kk, anon-

    First, Paul, I took your suggestion and picked a "handle" that I will now go by. Thanks for responding and bringing up some good points. I think I should try to clarify my position on the union debate, though as kk pointed out, it is a bit off topic to the really important levy issue for our district. Like all of you, I also do not like the abuse of tenure that goes on within teaching unions. Advocating for that abuse is not my goal here. I know it would not be easy to change that practice with our current system of unions, so maybe finding a way to get rid of them altogether is the best solution. However, I will stick to my belief that teachers do need some type of additional protection because they are possibly more susceptible to personal vendettas than other professions.

    I will admit I don't have links to articles that will illustrate my point, as kk did. But, I do know of situations where unions had to step in to protect teachers/coaches who were proven to have done absolutely nothing wrong. Does this happen on a consistent basis? Probably not. But, does the opposite happen frequently, where poorly performing, tenured teachers are difficult to fire? I would argue probably not to that as well. I think both are at the extreme ends of the spectrum. The point comes back to the fact that their children are every parents' most valuable possesions. So, does it make sense that they have more choice in their education? Yes. But, the other side is that it also makes sense to have a system in place to protect those who work with those children, as parents are not always able to be the most fair, balanced judges of teacher performance.

    For example, what happens when Susie doesn't make the team...or play as much as she/parents want...or get the ball enough? What happens when Johnny receives his first ever B, though he probably deserved it? Most parents handle those situations properly and are supportive of teachers...but, unfortunately, some do/will not. I just think giving so much power to students and parents can open up many more unfair challenges to teachers that could become very problematic without a proper support system for them. This could also lead to discouraging good teachers from entering or continuing the profession.

    You guys bring up many good points that I put a lot of thought into, and I realize my views are probably in the minority on this site. I do appreciate you considering my viewpoints and, most of you, responding in a mature manner. Finally, I am going to suggest maybe we table this discussion until after the levy because that should get the most attention right now.

  174. The HGSA has already said they will have to cancel next year's season because of the impact of these fees. To my knowledge there is no cost to the district for use of fields. HGSA maintains the fields other than the typical mowing that would have to happen anyway.

    Using the youth sports as leverage (with no basis for increasing fees on lacrosse, Optimist Football, or HGSA) is ridiculous.

    I apologize to everyone if I ever defended the district leadership. These are not scare tactics, this is ransom!!!

    I sent my ballot in today, and I voted FOR the levy. But I will be campaigning for complete management change at all level of this district. It's a fight they do not want, I assure you. I am a "customer" from hell. I expect and demand value and when it's not received I do all things necessary to take corrective measures.

    I'm taking corrective measures.

  175. BTW, boy scouts and girl scouts are NOT subject to these fees.

    I guess it's not a big enough impact to influence the vote!

  176. Prev Anon:

    I'm not anti-union - I'm anti-misbehavior. Here's what I wrote on my personal blog...


  177. KJ:

    What is the logic of letting any group be exempted from these fees? I grew up in Scouting (Eagle Scout), but still don't see why Scouting should receive preferential treatment vis a vis a church group, or a sports club.


  178. Paul, I'm not sure. No logic has been provided to me. I did hear conflicting reports that Cub Scouts so pay for use of facilities for special events. However, The Optimist were told that Cub Scouts/Girl Scouts would not be charged for meetings, etc.

    I honestly don't know the answer, all I know is I have heard 2 answers (one in an official capacity as an Optimist, and the other from campaign officials).

    Until the district answers my questions, I can't resolve any conflict in the information I've been given.

  179. KJ< would not hold my breathe waiting for a response.

    The actual increase amounts are really messages. While any revenue and expense stream is and should be looked, this one flys in the face of something with your customers(voters) called goodwill.
    It is a prioroty agenda with my customers.

    We are trying to balance millions in "cuts" based on 10% of the budget spending. A futile exercise.

    Next they will be charging us to come to board meetings, PTO meetings, coffes, parent teacher conferences, open houses.

    Paul put forth a very challenging but realistic proposal that has been refused to be even considered.

    I have proposed a specific spending growth limitation, that will allow us to plan short term to make adjustments until the economy recovers

    No matter what, if we value our educational opportunities in our community, it will require increases to make a very good investment. The problem is
    we dont have give and take, there is no giving, but plenty of taking.

    As in the case of the govt, main street, Wall street, et al we have spent money we dont have.
    The fiscal crisis is real because of out of control spending, The district spent money on a contract
    predicated on this levy passing.
    This has caused concern and
    a backlash from the community.

    A smaller rate of growth is going to be needed, like it or not. The sooner we put in a plan, the
    better off the district will be.

  180. What is going to be needed after this vote, regardless of which way it goes, is for the community to get together as some type of organized group, and make our voices heard. I have no idea how many individual posters we have here, but that would be a start, as well as contacting any and all who have written to the weekly newspapers in an effort to bolster the numbers. With that start, maybe our voice will be loud enough that it can no longer be ignored. We must DEMAND responses to our issues
    and publicize the responses or lack thereof. The Silent Majority needs to be heard. I find it hard to believe that the Board does not at least check in on this blog - Paul is pretty well known to them and we need to make the rest of us just as well known - yet we get no response, at least as far as we know since we are all pretty much anonymous. Anonymous voices tend to get ignored - we need to put a face on this effort. I know some here have said what we don't need is another committee; what we need is a new type of committee. Thoughts?

  181. I have a clarification regarding boy scouts/girl scouts usage of facilites. I also have the language that identifies Optimist, HYLA, and HGSA as exempt from fees. However, the message to these groups is that they must pay rental fees as outlined in the fee schedule.

    - Boy Scouts are exempt from rental fees.

    - HGSA, HYLA, and Optimist are youth oriented, non-profit groups. Please explain how they do not meet the criteria of Section A as outlined below?

    Building Usage Fee document (updated July 9, 2008) states the following....

    A. School and school-affiliated organizations.* Official school organizations and school-affiliated
    organizations, such as a parent-teacher group or booster club, may use a building’s facilities free of all rental charges but subject to personnel charges, when
    applicable, as follows:

    1) Required custodial services for a fund-raising project beyond normal duty hours shall be paid at the established salary schedule rate for the custodian(s) concerned.
    2) When cafeteria equipment is used for more than the preparation of light refreshments, a school employee shall be on duty and shall be paid at the established
    salary schedule rate of that person. The building principal shall determine if a worker
    is required.

    3) When other support personnel is required for the activity, that individual shall be paid at an established rate as determined by the building principal.

    * Board-approved, youth oriented, nonprofit groups, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and
    4-H, may use a building free of rental charges. Other community-affiliated, nonprofit
    groups may make application for approval by the Board. Custodial charges, if any, shall
    be determined by the principal in cooperation with the business manager.

    My understanding of this document is that youth-oriented, non-profit groups (such as Optimist, HGSA, and HYLA) are able to use facilities free of charge of all rental charges but subject to personnel charges.

  182. The Hilliard Service unit of the Girl Scouts has not been informed that they are fee exempt if the levy fails. It can not even schedule troop events after January 1 at some schools until outcome of the levy is known. This to me indicates that the fees WILL apply to scouts.

  183. KJ, perhaps you could get some of the youth group parents, leaders, etc to let us know here how they feel about the new fee schedule.

  184. Happy Camper, Rick, et al...

    I have asked to better understand how groups are classified and how fees were determined. Especially for those groups that use outdoor facilities, like softball.

    The latest document I've seen exempts Scouts from building fees, but again, who knows what the plans are if the levy fails. What I DO know is that the Optimist, HYLA, and HGSA have been notified of the fees that will be placed upon them should the levy fail. Perhaps the scouts will be included, who knows. I don't really care if they pay or not, how much could it cost to host a cub scout meeting? My point was how are groups classified and by what criteria is that decided. Why would the district charge for use of softball fields? Does that mean that if I take my daughter over to the fields to practice we have to pay? Of course not! So why should we impose costs on groups who cost NOTHING to the district???

    It's either:
    1) a true cost recovery (don't believe it for a second)

    2)a profit-making opportunity, or

    3)an opportunity to leverage the vote.

    Can't be anything else. Which do you think it is?

  185. Something I have been wondering, with all of this talk about fees, etc. What about pay to play at the middle/high school level? We could save SO MUCH MONEY AT THE DISTRICT LEVEL if this was an option.

    Most schools do this, and I would find it hard to believe that if the levy fails, the hundreds of parents who have kids that will be affected by the cutbacks would not demand this.

    I have heard that many board members don't want this because some kids would be turned away because they couldn't pay.

    I would bet that a majority of the people who don't vote for the levy would not care one way or the other if their child play or not, and I bet that scholarships could be made available. If the levy does not pass, I think the community needs to be present at the next board meeting and demand that they make this possible.

    What are your thoughts?

  186. HYLA letter to parents


  187. I'm not personally a fan of pay-to-play, at least not for officially sanctioned extra-curricular activities in our schools. Kids should be allowed to participate in sports, band, drama etc based on their skill and commitment, not wealth. We have these organizations in our public schools because they are felt to provide experiences - rounding some call it - that are valuable to all kids who participate. If that's not so, then these activities should be independent clubs, not funded in any way with tax dollars.

    I wonder if we would have our fancy stadiums, gyms and performing arts centers if all these activities and facilities had to be funded entirely by the participants...


  188. For those interested in this matter of fees for school facility use, you may want to read this earlier discussion.

    Do you think these are 'reasonable fees' our Board has implemented? Seems to me that a reasonable fee would be one that recovers true incremental cost, and that those costs wouldn't be different based on which organization requested the use.

    And why should some organizations be exempted from fees?

    This seems to me to be another case of punative decisions - almost like a dare to not pass the levy.


  189. Just discovered that for things such as Ski
    Club, the advisers are paid a stipend by the district. Level "C" which is the lowest, although I don't know how much that is. I also don't know if the $75 fee for Ski Club covers any of that - the only other expense is the charter bus from Lakefront, and the check for Ski Club is made out to Hilliard City Schools. The cover letter with the application said the Ski club may cease to exist if the levy fails. Wonder what that bus costs, and what 2 "Level C" stipends cost, and who is actually paying? Hmmmm....

  190. Hillirdite (and everyone):

    Per your comment regarding putting a face to this effort (as well as others about presenting a unified front), I agree and feel like we need to do the following:

    1) Meet as a group and establish a mission, platform and strategy.
    2) Make our presence and intentions known to the Board, Administration and general public.
    3) Hold frequent "Town Hall" meetings where the mission, platform and strategy are communicated, as well as presenting the most comprehensive and informed view of school funding facts and challenges as Paul has worked so hard to accumulate.
    4) Keep pounding the pavement and public relations vines in developing a brand awareness for the group.
    5) Develop the slate of candidates for the 2009 Board Election

    I sense everyone on this group is in agreement that it needs to be done regardless of the results of the levy vote, and we should start immediately. If there is a critical mass interested, would everyone like to have our first meeting on Sunday, November 9th? Perhaps we can meet somewhere (Iaconno's? Library? Other suggestions?) where we can reserve a large enough space.

    I would volunteer to coordinate the location, time and agenda with whom I consider the "leaders" of this forum.

  191. Personally, I believe that this is a dare to not pass the levy. I think all of the school board know that the implementation and enforcement of these fees would translate to a certain unsuccessful run for re-election. And I believe that the same can be said if they attempt to eliminate high school busing (instead of changing the start times of high school/middle school and 6th grade schools) so that buses can transport all of these students at the same time. I don't think it would even increase the bus time because there would be more students per stop and fewer stops. Why wasn't this option even looked into?
    Also, I noticed from the board minutes that the board approved such long distance trips as Hilliard Davidson Boys Cross Country to Carmel, IN Sept. 12-13, 2008 (Board Meeting 8-11-08), the Darby HS Girls Cross Country went to Indiana Sept. 28-29, 2007, the Davidson HS Indoor Drum Line went to Indianapolis March 1-2, 2008 - Are there really closer competitions that these teams could register for? One of the first cost cutting measures that other local districts implemented was to eliminate long distance athletic trips...Why isn't this even being discussed at the board meetings? Why does it seem like the board could not care less about reducing current costs, only implementing severe reductions if the levy fails. Keep in mind, this levy will probably only last 2 years and then they will be coming back for more money. And these levys are permanent. Not to pick on these sports specifically, but all sports in general...What percentage of the school population participates in sports programs? What percentage in theater, etc.

    If the board truly wanted to pass the levy, they should have asked for a temporary levy (one that expired in 3-5 years) with the commitment to reduce spending to meet the future payments - i.e. negotiate a more realistic contract with the teachers.

  192. No response at all from the district. Not even a "we'll get back to you" response.

    So, I'll be at the BOE meeting Monday and my questions can go on official record and get picked up by the newspapers. Is it so hard to answer a legitimate question?

    I'll take my 3 minutes and look at their blank stares and return to my seat. And hopefully there will be others who wish to ask similar questions or maybe even cover it in their report of the meeting so that others will be aware of the question!

  193. May I play Devils Advocate?

    Can we (for my purposes) assume that these administrators at least have the students best interest in mind when developing programming for the district? (If yes, continue reading, if no, better stop now)...

    Now, I don't condone their actions one bit, BUT...

    If you are an educational professional, and you see what is going to happen if this levy fails, you probably spend a LOT of time thinking about how to get the community behind you. All they ever read is how taxes are too high, and the school spends too much money. SO, one way to convince folks to back you is to show them some of the things you HAVE been spending money on, and show them that those things will go away if the levy fails. Could they have kept MS sports and cut something else that folks wouldn't see as important? Probably. But just because the public doesn't value it doesn't mean it is important.

    What if they came out with a cut list that was JUST administrators? Folks on this board think we have too many, even though our administrative cost is among the lowest. So that wouldn't do ANY good, because many people would say "Good, we have too many of them anyway." But administrators ARE important, and losing them would be just as devastating as MS sports.

    Also, people keep saying the district isn't even trying to save money, and that is just not true. Their current negotiated contract with the teachers is a better contract for the HCSD than they have had in a long time. Teachers are paying for insurance now. That looks to me like HCSD was trying to save money.

    The mob is getting whipped into a frenzy, and I think rational thought is heading out the window. These folks are trying their best to educate our students, and they don't want to see anything cut. However, they also have to convince the community that the cuts will hurt.

    Reducing the toilet paper budget at the middle school level may not get that point across. Cutting gifted education sure does. To me, it is a savvy way of highlighting what stands to be lost...

  194. KJ,

    Guess I'm not the only one that got blank stares from the board at a meeting. It seemed to me at the meeting that they were looking for more of a group-hug about what a great job they were doing on the levy than to address the questions that need to be answered. If they can't address the hard questions from the constituency in a professional manner, then they should move over and allow someone who can to be in their place.

  195. Can someone answer a question for me? There was a letter in the latest weekly paper where a current student was lamenting the levy and their concern for losing good teachers. My question is this; if you are a teacher in the HSD with say 15 years on the payscale, how easy is it to move to another district and keep your seniority? I know that police start over on the seniority list of they move, but I was not sure how that worked for teachers between districts. If they can, I can see that as a legitimate concern (even though I'm unsure how much hiring will be going on in the area with all the economic problems and failed levies elsewhere). However, if teachers start back at square one, I'm not sure how relevant of an argument this is.

  196. Mark, Count me in, I have blocked out that Sunday any time, It is time to put forward some leadership and ideas.

    KJ, I will be at the meeting Monday.

    OK everyone, whether you are for or against
    the levy, it is time to step up and be at this meeting. Invite your family, friends, seniors'
    etc. We will make things better. !!!!!!

  197. Anonymous (re: Davidson Drumline Trip)

    The Winter Drumlines are not supported financially by the school district. They need approval because there are students and teachers involved, but the entire cost for their operation is paid for by student fees/music boosters. Hope that helps...

  198. Mark:

    Thanks for driving things. Could we make the first meeting a day other than the 9th? Sundays are generally pretty busy for me, and that Sunday is especially so.

    How about the 16th, in the late afternoon for everyone?