Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nov 09 Election Analysis

The Franklin County Board of Elections has posted online the Official Results from the November 4, 2008 General Election, which included Issue 78, the 6.9 mill operating levy for Hilliard City Schools. I'm sure a wealth of information can be mined from this data, but here are some things that struck me as interesting:

  • Overall, with 41,160 votes cast, the issue passed with 22,224 votes in favor and 18,936 against, a spread of 3,222 votes, or 8% of the total. However, I think that you also have to acknowledge that if 1,644 of those FOR voters – just 4% – had voted AGAINST the levy instead of FOR it, it would have been defeated. That's pretty darn close, and not anything that should bring confidence or a sense of a mandate to the School Board or Administrators. This one squeaked by.
  • As is usually the case, the precincts in the City of Columbus were quite supportive of the levy, voting 10,647 FOR vs 7,439 AGAINST, a spread of 3,208 votes (18%). If the votes from the City of Columbus precincts were removed from the results, the levy would have passed by just 80 votes. What is it that's different about the folks in the part of the district which lies in the City of Columbus? I've long felt it was the result of years of hearing the propaganda: "Hilliard Schools and Columbus Taxes," which is only marginally true. All residents of the district pay the same school tax, but do pay differing amounts of municipal property taxes, with Columbus residents paying the least because many of their city services are funded via income taxes.
  • But I think there's more to it than that. The only two Columbus precincts that voted against the levy were 77-E and 77-F, which encompasses The Glen, one of the oldest of the Win-Win neighborhoods, having been built in the 1970s. I suspect that many of these homes are owned by the original owners who are now empty nesters, and who have seen their property taxes explode in the past 20 years. If there's anyone who understands the connection between residential growth and property taxes, it those of us who have lived in Hilliard for a few decades.
  • Contrast that to the newest Columbus precincts – areas which were annexed for development in recent years. For example, Columbus precincts 75-A (WestBrooke Park, off Alton-Darby south of Heritage Lakes) and 76-F (Hilliard Green, Roberts west of Walcutt) recorded the largest margins in favor the levy – of any precincts. Both were built out in the last decade.
  • There is a similar pattern in the Hilliard precincts. The most supportive precinct was 4-D, which includes Brookfield Village and Hyde Park, southwest of Hilliard Rome Rd and Tinapple – newer homes, most likely with kids. However, the levy was defeated in Hilliard 3-A, 3-B, and 3-C, which includes some of the oldest neighborhoods in the district (around Beacon and JW Reason elementary schools).
  • As is usually the case, the levy was defeated in every one of the five townships within our school district. In total it was 2,674 FOR to 3,476 AGAINST, with Brown Twp, where I live, having the largest spread: 530 FOR to 901 AGAINST. Being a 20 year resident of the township, and a current poll worker in my home precinct, I think I understand the sentiment of many of my neighbors: a) property taxes have grown at a completely insane rate; and, b) who asked you to put that monstrosity of a high school out here anyway? While the folks in the other townships don't have the second issue so much, many certainly do share a long history in this community. And many feel they've lost any influence over what's happening. We remember when the district was named "Scioto Darby Schools" after all. Since when did the Mayor of Hilliard gain so much influence over our future?
  • I found it very concerning that the voters in the portion of our school district within the City of Dublin defeated the levy, 825 FOR to 1,005 AGAINST. In fact, the largest negative precinct margin was for DUB 2-G, which includes Ballantrae and the surrounding developments, at 250 FOR to 357 AGAINST (18% spread). These folks identify with Dublin more than Hilliard, and I think many believe they got assigned to the wrong school district (even though that land has been in the Hilliard School district for 100 years). There was certainly a lot of angst in 2007 when there was some discussion of shifting the kids in Ballantrae from Davidson to Darby. There remains a feeling among many in our community that Davidson is the more desirable high school because it serves a 'better clientele,' if you will. I heard those very words from an old friend last night – one who has a kid in Davidson. Goodness knows what kind of stigma will be attached to Bradley.
  • Because of the ease of the absentee voting method, and the memory of the long lines in November 2004, we had an extraordinary number of absentee ballots cast this election – 17, 157, or 42% of the total. The vote was 8,485 FOR to 8,722 AGAINST, a defeat by 237 votes. Again, Columbus absentee voters supported the levy 4,149 FOR to 3,527 AGAINST, but it was defeated among absentee voters in every other municipality. My hypothesis is that absentee voters tend to be the more elderly of our population, and that they more than most of us are very sensitive to increasing property taxes. Jim Fedako over at Anti-Positivist had much to say in criticism of my support of the levy, accusing me of conspiring to make such folks choose between paying for food or property taxes. While his accusation was more than a little hyperbolic, there is a little truth to what he says. We can choose to protect the senior citizens by the way, simply by raising incremental funds with an 'earned-income-only income tax' rather than property taxes (disclosure: this kind of taxation would be beneficial to me vs more property taxes).

If something isn't done to change our spending trajectory – driven almost entirely by the teachers' contract – I suspect it will be very hard to get another operating levy passed any time soon. And on our current trajectory, an additional levy will be required in 2010 – sooner if the State of Ohio cuts funding because of its own budget crisis.

The leaders of our school district – the School Board, the Administration, and the union leaders – need to get serious about building a strategic plan for our future. The plan needs to consider several contingencies, especially a material reduction in state funding, and that plan needs to be presented to the people of our community so we can educate and align the community to the plan.

Forget about the rising cost of diesel fuel, or how much gets spent on copier paper. Don't worry about the Audit & Accountability Committee you promised as a political gambit before the election – there's nothing to audit without a plan anyway. It's all about growth, personnel costs and state funding. Nothing else needs any attention right now, at least in terms of finances.

And the only one of those we have any direct control over is personnel costs. The union leaders can either help craft a solution, or become the greatest threat to the future of our district. 

My advice to the union leaders is that they: a) initiate the dialog with the School Board about the future of teacher compensation in Hilliard; and, b) join the effort to put pressure on Mayor Schonhardt and the Hilliard City Council to develop responsibly in the 1,000 or so acres they just annexed west of Alton-Darby Rd. 

And by 'develop responsibly' I mean to pace residential development with commercial development - don't build houses (Mayor Schonhardt) that attract kids to be served by our schools unless you also deliver new commercial development that generates matching school funding.


  1. So Paul, you have clearly established your assertion that teacher compensation is the #1 financial concern of the district. I can't say I disagree. I also can't say I agree with the "torch holders" who are ready to chase the HCSD administration down High School Drive either.

    So, we all know what you think the problem is. What is your solution? I'm SURE you have access to the teacher salary schedule and know a little of their health benefits.

    Have you considered drafting a serious proposal for how you would fairly compensate teachers, while at the same time keeping costs in check?

    I know you are a fan of opening up public education to the free market, but that probably isn't going to happen any time soon. Do you have a fix for our CURRENT situation?

    I get nervous when we get so caught up in the details, or in our "perfect world", that we lose sight of all the "real world" factors that exist in our current situation. Not saying that is happening with you, but with some I read on here I see it.

    So, what is fix??

  2. Musicman:

    Because the teachers' lobby has had so much influence over state lawmakers in the past, we are limited by the Ohio Revised Code as to the structure of the teacher compensation system. It must indeed recognize both years of service and levels of education. So although I disagree with Superintendent McVey's interpretation of this law in its details, the fact that the structure is mandated is clear.

    But there are still a lot of knobs that can be turned:

    1. The size of any annual increase (3% in the current agreement)
    2. The size of the step increases (4.15% in the current agreement) - it doesn't have to be uniform by the way. It can be larger in the first years for example, or it can be a fixed dollar amount in all years, or a combination of possibilities.
    3. The years in which steps apply (0-15, 20 and 23 in the current agreement). Years can be added or subtracted, the spacing can be different, etc.
    4. The specific educational levels required to move over a column. Maybe make the current MASTERS+15 the PHD column, and define more intermediate levels.
    5. Adjust the algorithm for sharing health insurance costs. Right now, the risk is all on the taxpayers.

    The points is that there has to be a serious discussion about how to operate the district in a time of general economic distress.

    One stance for the union leaders to take is screw the young teachers, lay them off if there isn't enough money to go around. So far that's the signal I get.

    Mostly, I believe, because they think there's always more money to be had if they put up enough of a fight.

    I'd hope the union leaders would instead look for a way to lessen the slope of the employee cost line without sacrificing those young teachers.

    I don't have the answers - that's the reason we need to have a dialog among the leaders prior to the expiration of the contracts in 2010. And it's why we need a jointly-developed strategic plan to map our route going forward, so we can struggle through these issues once, then put our attention on execution.


  3. By the way, teacher compensation is the #1 issue on the cost side of the financial situation.

    However, there are two other strategic issues we have to pay attention to as well: a) unbalanced growth; and, b) cutbacks in state funding.

    Our issues are on both the revenue and expense sides of the budget, and the revenue side has never been in more jeopardy. That means we'll have to solve expense side issues first, and you don't get far into that exercise without figuring out salaries and benefits have to get most of the adjustment.


  4. It's hard to argue with Paul's assertion that employee salaries (all employees, not just teacher's) are the largest driver in district costs. It makes sense that this is the case as it HCSD is a service organization with no real expenditures for raw materials, etc. This model is certainly in line with any service-based company. Let's settle that first.

    It's also true that we are limited by the CURRENT system to fix our CURRENT problems. While it's beneficial to "blue sky" it's more important to have reality-based solutions. Musicman, I hear ya.

    So for today, let's put aside charter schools, merit pay (ok, maybe this could work, but it still doesn't lower costs it just shifts the rewards within the population), and state funding increases (in any form). That leaves us with either increasing revenue and/or reducing expenses. Everyone knows where I stand on this issue (must lower rate of expenditure growth), so instead of beating that dead horse there are a few points I think are important to bring into the conversation....

    1) I do think we get a bit "idealistic" on here sometimes. And that's not a bad thing. Most solutions are a compromise of ideal solutions and what reality can allow. So while we can discuss the ideal solution, we must also be aware that the most reasonable expectation is a compromise between two extremes.

    2) Language is a tricky thing. And in the absence of "tone" in written communications such as these, words can be misconstrued as more negative than intended by the author (then again, maybe not). However, depending upon one's "side" of the issue, I think certain words or phrases can result in connotation of different attitudes. For instance, I think Rick and I do this a lot. We actually agree on many basic topics, but select words are interpreted differently by the other.

    3) One of my respected bloggers used the word “bailout” when describing any levy put on the ballot. One may be able to argue this past levy was a “bailout” as the check (salary structure) was written before the funds were available. However, let’s all remember that levies, under the current school funding structure, are a necessary evil. Costs WILL go up! And that will result in additional revenue requirements by the district. And other than bake sales, the only revenue “knob” the district has is to ask taxpayers for an increase. It’s the RATE of growth that is of concern here, not that there IS growth. Growth due to employee compensation packages will go up at some rate every year (as it should), medical costs will go up most years (even if the percentage of these costs paid by the employees is increased), and additional students will ultimately lead to more teachers, more janitors, more classrooms, more supplies, and on and on. My point is that it is reasonable to expect a moderate level of expenditures annually, therefore future levies; But a 2 or 3 year cycle at a rate of 10 mils (on average) is more than I consider to be reasonable. Rate of growth must be controlled.

    4) Here’s another one of my “KJ thoughts”…. Me and free time are a dangerous combo! There’s a lot of talk about “teachers can’t expect high raises in tough economic times”. I agree. However, this implies that teachers COULD expect better raises in more profitable times. What if we used a benchmark such as the Federal Reserve Prime Rate? Like a variable interest rate, salaries could be set at, pick a number, 1.5% above the Prime Rate. So, today teachers would receive a 1.75% raise (well below the national average for 2008 by the way) but in past years they would have received more like a 7% raise.

    OK, it’s tongue in cheek. But my point is that the argument that “in today’s times” teachers can’t expect these types of raises is to say that there IS a time they should expect them? So, if we all are doing bad then teachers lose too; but if we are all doing good then teachers benefit as well? Ok! I’m all for it! But I don’t think that’s really what we are saying. Since it is a 3 year contract, it’s impossible to know what the economic conditions will be in Years 2 and 3. So, unless we tie raises to an index of the economy, we should just stop the discussion of salaries being tied to good or bad times. Those in the public sector benefit, or lose, based on the productivity of their company or the profitability of the times. THIS IS A KEY POINT …. Public sector employees (read: government employees) generally are not tied to a product or a revenue stream, thus their salary plans, unionized or not, are FAR MORE structured than those in the private sector. We in the private sector are compensated based on the company’s performance, not necessarily our own, (performance plays a role, but doesn’t guarantee one a raise) on a yearly basis. Other than a merit pay system (which is outside of this discussion), we have to have a very structured salary plan for public sector employees. My point? What is a reasonable average compensation plan for public employees? Is it 3%? Is it 5%? Is it 1%? Well, what is the average public sector increase over the past 10 years? Reports say it’s just over 4%. So, in my opinion, public employees should expect a reasonable (3 to 5 percent annual) salary increase over a 10 year period.

    Is that an acceptable number? I certainly think it is, but I’m just one person. But that is basically what WE have to decide!! What is a reasonable compensation model for public employees? As a private employee, I’ll take my chances on receiving higher raises in good years and lower ones in bad years. I believe it works to my advantage. However, many may say a safe and consistent moderate raise that is guaranteed is their preferred arrangement. It’s like playing the market…. Want a steady 4% guaranteed return on that 401K, or a chance at 18 to 20% increases with a hefty risk? OK, today, I’d take 4% (LOL) but in the long run we would all take the risk on market values increasing, on average, greater than 4% annually.

    So, let’s determine what is acceptable and then we pass every levy from this day on? Or do we still complain because money is being pulled from our pockets? I have a feeling we will gripe anytime a levy is on the ballot, because it’s considered a “bailout”. Generally speaking, if we can establish a “reasonable” annual compensation growth rate then we could forever put this debate to rest, right? I would hope so, but I doubt it.

    But if we all realize that

    1) school districts are not profit centers, but cost centers
    2) a moderate level of operating expenses is a given (translating to more levies),
    3) public sector raises can’t easily be tied to current economic conditions and that raises may sometimes be “out of sync” with the fiscal climate (good or bad), and
    4) that the real solutions are most likely going to be less than the idealistic view (on both sides)…. We should be able to develop a solution that is digestible by most.

    Anyway…. It’s a different viewpoint and a slightly different twist on things than the tired conversation we’ve been having since this time last year.

    Merry Christmas and let the shooting of my theory begin! :-)

  5. Ok, I'll take that, for now. :0)

    I wish everyone understood the complexities involved like you do.

    Yelling FIX IT!!! won't work, and diminishing the efforts and positive attributes of the teachers in our fine schools won't either. Nor will questioning their motivations.

    I guess I feel like this could be accomplished while still treating everyone with the respect they deserve, instead of devolving into bitter resentment.

    I look forward (for many reasons) to seeing how this all plays out.

    Thanks Paul...

  6. I am getting to the point where I don't believe it can be fixed, at least in the next 5-10 years. We are going to have to make sacrifices, and the end result will undoubtedly be less than we are accustomed. However, by just ignoring the inevitable is going to make it A LOT worse than if it were transparently addressed, sooner rather than later.

    Instead of hearing our board state "It just doesn't get any better looking each time we see it" to the 5-year forecast, I would much rather hear "We are on a collision course here, and we need to pull everyone together and collaboratively decide how we can do the best long-term for the school district, the kids, and the taxpayers."

    I am woefully ignorant to the details behind all the moving parts, and thus don't have suggestions toward the fix. However, I know it is not going to reach an optimum result by being ignored.

  7. I had a great conversation today with a guy from Dublin who is a kindred spirit to those of us seeking a better solution for dealing with public school finances. One of the things we talked about is this dichotomy of emotions about teachers as individuals vs the teachers' union.

    Every one of us has a relationship with one or more Hilliard teachers that is based on respect, kindness and often genuine friendship (sometimes even more, eh KJ?).

    At the same time there is this thing called the Hilliard Education Association which puts on its warpaint every three years and sees how much it can pull out of our wallets.

    So okay, there is an adversarial aspect to contract negotiations that causes this dichotomy. KJ's suggestion of tying raises to some standard financial measure is one way to change the complexion of this negotiation, but it doesn't make it go away (the 'spread' is most definitely a negotiated number). By the way, there is no reason this notion couldn't be incorporated into the HEA agreement. It's just never been done to my knowledge.

    Nor is there any requirement that the contract be for three year terms. You may recall that the union leaders wanted a two year agreement this time - I suspect on the belief that: a) they made some concessions that they wanted to 'get back'; and, b) they believed their bargaining position might be better in two years. Given the dramatic change in the economic environment in the last year, I suspect they're thankful that the contract has a three year life.

    I think there's a lot more flexibility available under the state-mandated structure that has never been explored. That's the reason I advocate starting the discussions a year or more before the contract expiration.

    This is doubly true now that it is likely that we'll once again have to put a levy on the ballot at the same time the union contracts are expiring in 2010.


  8. Instead of hearing our board state "It just doesn't get any better looking each time we see it" to the 5-year forecast, I would much rather hear "We are on a collision course here, and we need to pull everyone together and collaboratively decide how we can do the best long-term for the school district, the kids, and the taxpayers."

    That's EXACTLY what we should be hearing! Can't be said any better.

  9. "I advocate starting the discussions a year or more before the contract expiration.

    As do I!!! It only makes sense, but it won't happen. I don't see why it can't occur other than neither "side" wanting to concede something that isn't necessary in 2 years.

    I am completely in the dark when it comes to understanding negotiation protocol and what is or isn't allowed to happen or when it can happen. What is the prohibitive factor in starting negotiations now? Or at least forming a cross-functional task force, or red team to use government terms, to address financial projections and salary structures? Is it because neither side wants to or is there a state mandate against it?

  10. "Every one of us has a relationship with one or more Hilliard teachers that is based on respect, kindness and often genuine friendship (sometimes even more, eh KJ?)." .....

    LOL yea!! But I try to be, and hope that I'm, rather impartial nonetheless.

  11. It is truly interesting to listen to all the comments about teacher salaries, etc., but the bottom line issue here is only receive a sideways glance. That issue is residential development both inside the City of Hilliard and the areas outside the city proper but still inside the school district. At last count, I believe more than 60% of HSD students live outside Hilliard'city limits. Certainly a large portion of our economic woes come from salary and benefit issues....by far the largest portion of our problems is that "Win-Win" has been nothing but a losing proposition for Hilliard taxpayers for many years. I do agree that pressure needs to be placed on both the Hilliard City Council and separately the School Board, we need to recognize that Hilliard City Council has been the largest problem we've faced for a long, long time. A lack of serious controls on residential growth inside out city limits coupled with the multitude of high density apartment, condominium and cluster communities inside the school district have lead to overcrowding in the schools, the need for costly-yet-avoidable new construction on short notice and high costs. Hilliard residents would be best suited to pressure Hilliard City Council for a stoppage of new residential construction inside our current and newly annexed city limits and for our council members to place the same pressure on surrounding cities to halt the high density residential developments they are tossing in at break-neck speed inside te portions of their cities laying inside the notorious "Win-Win" zone.

  12. It seems the only real change agent is the draconian action of taxpayers rejecting future levies. Barring that, I don't see the union making concessions, nor the mayor becoming uninterested in pleasing developers. It's business as usual until...it's not. And who determines when it's not? Not the BOE, not the Mayor, not the union. They all want to keep pressing down levies on us as far as the eye can see. Only the voter can change the equation by rejecting levies. I hope this is overly pessimistic...

  13. I think a number of points need to
    be made regarding "torch holders"
    and "real world factors"

    The last 3 contracts would indicate that there has absolutely a significant increase in the compensation module. Other thanPaul suggesting a simple one year freeze or lesser amount adjustment, I think the vast majority including myself have said that no one is opposed to raises just an adjustment in the growth of their adjustments. Somehow that makes us anti education.

    I would say the real world factors are definitely weighted in favor of the district employees versus the students and their parents and certainly the taxpayers. While we are paying out very significant pay raises, we are continuing to ask the community to significantly raise their taxes. The community stepped forward with support from many of us on this board to clearly provide a continued investment in their schools. What the community,students and parents
    get in return is a consistent
    "you dont get it". We have double digit medical increases coming each year, and in many cases zero increases and some pay cuts. So we get that the teachers dont care,
    but the money has to come from somewhere.

    Musicman, you should remember that the HEA supported huge campaign support to the current board team. So why just call out the individual taxpayer. Apparently you must think we are all making
    what the teachers are making?

    In my career and volunteer work
    I have created "thousands" of
    PLANS. The basic principles of planning and execution is that
    you can have the best of planning
    but without a commitment to be on board to execute, you have nothing.
    Based on the zero response to past proposals, it is clear we are on the same business as usual and the same contract expectations.

    I made in the public forum a suggestion to start looking at
    a reduced spending plan starting at
    about 3%. So with a zero response from the board (This was made before the election) and the
    negative response in the audience
    that evening from the employee groups in attendence, do we really expect the district and its employees to be willing to make
    ANY type of adjustments. Given the teachers activity in the last negotiation, they showed it worked , and I am confident along with many others that they will use
    this same tactic again. This is reality not some farfetched idea.
    We can only base our expectations on what has happenend.

    So if the teachers support this type of action and have said nothing about changing their future tactics, how does this make them concerned about the students at negotiation time ? The actions that occurred are apparently being given a free pass.
    So why be suprised by the reactions in the community. We have heard ZERO teachers who supposedly "disagreed" with these actions

    As previously noted I think this is what we as individual homeowners need to start planning for.

    1. A contract increase based on
    the same tenants as the last 3.
    Otherwise I think you will see
    the same type of activity in the buildings as the last time and most likely a lot of strike talk.
    As we have heard nothing from the HEA what else can we really expect
    Nothing has changed
    2. More employees needed to accomodate expected requests for more planning time
    3. A reduction in state aid due to the states fiscal situation.
    An 8 to 10% adjustment in the next 3 years probably is a good starting point
    4. An increase in at least 1.5% in
    our districts contribution to STRS
    5. A new bond levy for continuing
    investment in our infrastructure.
    We may catch a break somewhat with
    previous expiring assessments.

    So given the above which are all very likely, simply how much can
    we be asked to increase our tax
    contribution. Conservatively we could see back to back double digit
    millage increase in a 2 year cyle.
    So if in the ball park we will be asked to increase taxes over
    $1,000 per year ,which would be unprecendented by the way, shouldnt we have some sort of heads up from the district of some clear cut revenue increaseexpectations from the community.
    Lets be clear the entire new revenue stream will come from us.
    There is no other place to get revenue from. All the while we see zero restraint and "planning"
    in our compensation module.

    So while many in the community
    are struggling, perhaps the HEA has some ideas for "us" on how we are going to pay this new and significant cost and their 7% pay increases.

    To those who say we have been to
    "harsh" on the teachers and the
    district, we have only their past and current actions to go by.
    There is no indication at all by their actions that any of this will change.

    To not acknowledge however that
    the job actions in the classrooms
    will continue during the next
    negotiations, that students will hear the constant drum of how they will be harmed, that students will lose scholarship and financial awards for college, because of
    "working to the contract"
    How is that about the "kids"

    Just be upfront and tell us what the "bill" is. That is the expectation from our district and its employees. Their actions speak louder than words.

  14. Anon:

    Glad to see you making those points. I agree that the Win-Win has ultimately become a bad thing for Hilliard Schools, although I was very much for it 25 years ago when I lived in a neighborhood (Golfview Woods) that was in jeopardy of being sucked back into Columbus City Schools.

    But we also have to acknowledge that the residential development in the southern part of the district has been paralleled by a significant amount of commercial development that pays more than $2.4 million/yr in school taxes. The City of Hilliard has a lot of catching up to do in regard to the residential vs commercial balance.

    By far the nastier development pattern is one like in the northern part of the school district where all the residential development is in either Hilliard Schools or Dublin Schools, but one of the largest taxpayers, Tuttle Mall, is in the City of Columbus and Columbus City Schools. That's been Columbus' strategy for years - dump the kids on the suburban schools and keep the commercial development for themselves (ie also Polaris and Easton).

    The grand experiment is the large development north of Hayden Run between Cosgray and Avery. That was annexed to Columbus and under the Win-Win any kids in those developments must attend Columbus Schools. I think the developers were hoping they could attract young singles and empty nesters who don't care that much about the school district (until it comes time to sell their house). Or perhaps they are still figuring out a way to get Columbus Schools to say they don't want the kids, and appeal to Hilliard Schools to accept them. Hope our School Board realizes that this would be a very bad thing to do.

    I've come to believe that the Big Darby Accord is just an attempt by Columbus politicians to appease developers who want to push into Brown Twp, but not with Columbus annexation. The fight between Mayors Coleman and Schonhardt about the accord is, I think, who gets the power to grant the developers' wishes (there must be some reward for that, eh?), and how the tax revenue gets split up. Neither is all that concerned about the school districts in my opinion.

    If the people of Hilliard were paying attention to any of this stuff, why in the world would they elect Don Schonhardt to a second term - unopposed? And why would they put Dan Nichter on the City Council without the least bit of vetting (our local newspapers are worthless in this regard)?

    This issue of development as it relates to schools is the reason I created this blog in the first place. Check out these posts and you'll find what I've written about development, going back to the very first post on the blog, written almost two years ago to the day.

    You can also check out the Research on our associated website, and cruise down the buttons on the left to see what I've written about development over the years.

    I came to be a critic of our teacher compensation system only after observing the ugliness of the last negotiation. If the HEA took the stance that it understood the economic conditions in the private sector and wanted to participate in creating a sustainable solution, I'd be a big supporter of the union. But instead they'd rather be a bully who is daring us to call their bluff (to strike). It might just come to that unfortunately.

    And what they really want is to take away all of our local control of school funding and put it in the hands of the state legislators, whom they influence mightily.

  15. KJ:

    My reading of the current contract is that contract negotiations must start no later than Oct 1 of the year the current contract expires (ie Oct 1, 2010 in our case), but says nothing about starting earlier.

    The contract also prohibits the teachers from going on strike until the contract actually expires, which would seem to me to be a calming factor in starting negotiations early. But like you, I've never been involved in negotiations with organized labor.

    I think the current School Board so abhors the negotiation process that they prefer to put it off as long as they can. That plays into the hand of the HEA leadership, who prefer to have urgency and the threat of a strike in their array of weapons.

    I think the real answer is a common one - "because it's never been done that way before..."


  16. KJ,
    Negotiations don't start sooner because there is leverage in the possibility of a "strike", as far as HEA is concerned. Those are my thoughts anyway.

    The tone of your post is my point exactly. I don't disagree with your thoughts, they seems very reasonable.

    What I think you miss is that, like it or not, the tone/tactics of the HEA do NOT represent who the people IN the HEA are. Those on the negotiations team for HEA are no doubt ardent Union supporters, who feel it their duty to get as much as possible for their constituents. However,

    1. Many teachers take a back seat in negotations because they don't like conflict, don't wish to be bothered because pay isn't an issue, or maybe don't care about pay, but wouldn't mind making more.

    2. Speaking up against a union is not an easy thing to do, as scare tactics are used (at least in situations close to me) to keep folks "in place".

    3. There are probably many teachers who would be ok with less of a raise, but feel like if HEA can get it, then great. I think we would see a very different HEA membership if a strike vote came around. It happened in the SWCS. Folks were enraged at the SWCS administration, and were "carrying torches", until talk of a strike came around. All of the sudden, reality sunk in about what the ramifications of that would be, and cooler heads prevailed.

    You seem to place blame/hold a grudge on the individual, instead of the group doing the work. I know some will say the individual is responsible, but I think a change in HEA leadership would cause greater change.

    This next statement will be unpopular. I would RATHER have HCSD administration that are great at making our kids great students than ones that are great at managing money. I know I know, we should expect both, but I for one am THRILLED at the performance of our district, and would gladly pay more for it to continue. I wish they would have raised the millage on the last levy so we didn't have to endure any cuts.

    "Our schools are fantastic, and we pay a LOT for them" is much better to me than "Our schools stink, but at least they are cheap!!"

    I suppose that puts me in a minority...

  17. Hillydale:

    What you say is true. The true enemy of American democracy is apathy, not terrorists - I've written about this many times. Yet we keep electing and re-electing politicians who are clearly not acting in our best interest.

    But I think another option to just shooting down levies until things break is to elect folks to the School Board who think about this stuff in a different manner than our current Board.

    If you believe that, think about becoming active in our effort to change the way our school district is run. Our next meeting is Tues Jan 6th, 6:30pm at the Hilliard branch of the public library.

  18. Musicman:

    There is much wisdom in your words.

    To your point about the skills of the administration - I'd argue that there is a clear point of demarcation between the duties of the Superintendent and the rest of the Administration.

    The Superintendent needs to have one foot in the profession of education, and must pay attention to academic matters.

    But the other foot needs to be one of a business person whose primary focus is gathering the resources necessary to get the primary mission - education - accomplished.

    He's like a general leading an army, Think of Eisenhower in World War II for example. The point of the D-Day invasion was to put a mass of troops on the ground in order to initiate the drive to Germany, and the end of the war.

    Certainly, a big part of the planning was how to get the initial invasion force onto the beaches and what tactics they would use to break through the Nazi resistance.

    But if you study D-Day, or something more contemporary like Operation Desert Storm (the liberation of Kuwait), you'll find that far more planning was put into what my Navy supply buddies called "beans and bullets." Within a few hours of landing on Normany, our troops were out of both food and ammo, and had they not been quickly resupplied, few would have made it inland.

    The generals spent a ton of time worrying about how to supply the resources necessary to support the mission. Check out Into The Storm by Gen Fred Franks (with Tom Clancy) to get a sense of this. Nearly half the book is devoted to the planning and preparation for the battle against the Iraqis to free Kuwait. They spent six months preparing for a ground war that lasted 100 hours.

    The Superintendent's job is like this as well - half planning and logistics (resources), half executing the mission. His lieutenants can devote their energy completely to the mission, trusting the Superintendent to get them the necessary resources.

    Given that, the Superintendent should be powerfully motivated to build a relationship of mutual respect and trust with the community. One of his top priorities should be the education of the community in all matters relating to the funding of our schools.

    Instead, our current Superintendent chose to be one of the leaders of the movement to take away local control of our school funding and put it in the hands of the General Assembly. That's a choice he made to make his job easier, not to serve our community better.

    The Board attention should be about 95% planning and resources, and very little on education matters, which none of them have any training in anyway.

    Unfortunately, they don't have any training or experience in how to be an effective Board either. Otherwise they would understand that their most important task is the creation of a sustainable - yet adjustable - strategic plan which melds our desires for the school district with the resources we are willing to commit. Their job is to be the voice of the community.

    Instead our School Board behaves like most corporate Boards of Directors in this country - being more concerned about pleasing the management (Administration) than they are the shareholders (the community).

    We'll not survive unless that changes.


  19. Musicman,

    I appreciate your posts. They are always thoughtful and well stated. I like the way you can "tell it like it is" and your willingness to speak your mind from, perhaps, a different point of view than most of us on here.

    Unfortunately, I think you are correct about the HEA membership and their relative involvement IN the union. Most will say it doesn't matter, as they choose to be in the union and they accept the results of the union's negotiations. Your description of MOST teacher's roles (or lack thereof) in negotiations is accurate.... but sad.

    However, I do understand your point that the "personal" shots at teachers as individuals is not an accurate portrayal of the teachers as people. I said the other day that I tend to be too harsh, personally, on the BOE and Admin.

    I had a boss tell me once that "Workplace agreements or disagreements about business issues are not personal. Likewise, constructive criticism or even performance evaluations aren't personal. One must separate their personal life, and egos/feelings from work."

    That made a lot of sense to me. It's much like customer service. Customer service gets the ugly end of the stick most times, but it's not a personal attack against them, it is an attack or gripe on the organization that created the mess. In much the same way, I think that is how we treat the HEA, BOE, and Admin. It's not the PEOPLE of which we disapprove, it's the organization of which they are part/lead that we disagree with..... It's not personal.

    Anyway, thanks for adding quality posts to this discussion. We have some very insightful and impassioned folks on here. Wish this translated into the district leadership!

  20. Musicman, so we all missed something here. The huge turnout at the board meeting really did not happen by the teachers.?
    I think the vast majority supported every contract negotiation ploy including the negative effects financially on
    graduating seniors.

    Can you give us all an idea
    how much more of a pay increase
    we will need to come up with to
    satisfy your spending growth needs ?
    Will it be 10% a year, 12%
    As 90% of spending is tied up in salaries, that is where your spending request would go correct
    We allready have an outstanding
    infrastructure for our employees to teach in. Do we need more buildings also. ? More equipment, more employees ? How do we really pay for all of this. Especially in this economic climate. Many of us are worried if we will even have a job let alone dealing with increased medical payments and
    pay freezes/cuts Why should the teachers expect more and more.

    Can you tell me where the individual homeowner is going to come up with thousands of dollars in new taxes to pay for your request. Just curious ?

  21. When I used the term "bailout" it was somewhat tongue in cheek given what is happening in today's economic environment, but it was also accurate in that, for the last levy request, it was needed at least in part to bailout the district from an HEA contract that we could not afford and which was agreed upon despite the failure of the levy a month earlier.
    As far as the individual teachers not being representative of the HEA, baloney! Hate to keep beating a dead horse, but that generous contract offer was rejected by a very substantial minority of the teachers. Why? Sorry if I believe that they thought they should get a better, offer, but that is what I believe, and it was all to do with finally having to cover some of their own health plan. And now we have the STRS wanting even more from the district to cover the retirees? Where is that supposed to come from? Not the pool of money currently available from our latest levy, but from an increase in millage on the next one. The HEA will emphasize that the teachers contribution is also going to rise - well they are the ones who will benefit, in spite of their ridiculous reasoning on their web site and in their brochure which point out all the wonderful benefits to our kids, the local economies, and the people in the great state of Ohio.
    These are issues that have to be addressed in the near term, not when the Board faces up to the fact that it is contract time again and fears a strike so badly that they cave again. But I have absolutely no faith in the Board to actually do it.
    Oh, and the City Council and the Mayors office? I have e-mailed all of them in regards to the residential development and gotten the same response as my e-mails to the school board - NOTHING. I am beginning to think like Paul - exactly what are they getting out of it? There MUST be something for them to ignore the educational crisis in their city.

  22. Paul,

    Good points about the Superintendent, he perhaps has missed the boat on half of his duties, but seems to be doing well on the other half.


    Your latest post again validates my point. You are so filled with hate and anger towards this district and its' teachers, that you fail to see this issue in a rational manner.

    Do I believe that the new building was necessary? YES. Do I believe teachers earn what they make? YES. Do I believe our administration has made errors in planning/judgement in regards to teacher salaries? YES.

    Will I continue to debate with someone who comes to this discussion with cynicism and negativity, who serves opinions up as fact, and blames those in the trenches for the problems up above? NO.

    In my opinion, you are a NO voter, who will be convinced of your districts wise fiscal managing only if they close schools, eliminate teacher positions, close stadiums, and lower teacher salary. That isn't a school district I want to live in. Great schools cost money. We have great schools. We pay the cost. We should be concerned about how to wisely control things moving forward. Not on focusing all our negativity and hate on the teachers who work tirelessly for the kids of our district.

  23. Musicman:

    You've got Rick all wrong. He and I have been involved in this stuff for a long time, attending many school board meetings and information sessions together over the years. He and I share thinking on most stuff. In particular we want our district leaders to commit to developing a sustainable budget. Rick has put a reasonable idea on the table in this regard - a budget which allows for a 3-4% spending growth each year. The Board has pretty much ignored this, just as they ignore all the ideas I've submitted for their consideration.

    Rick is pretty mad about that, and he should be. He's been saying for a while the same thing KJ says - we supported the Nov 08 operating levy in order to give our leaders time to engage the community and come up with a new way of doing business, with the goal to widen the interval between operating levies, and to lessen their magnitude.

    But if our school leadership just continues with business as usual, our mode will shift to one of campaigning against the next levy. If the only way to force change is to take away the money, then so be it.


  24. Paul,

    I may have Rick all wrong, but he presents himself here as someone who pays no attention to the good things happening in our district, one who only focuses on placing blame on any and everyone associated with HCSD.

    He repeatedly says things like "How much money will it take to satisfy teachers?" and "It clearly isn't about the students", things which are unnecessarily inflammatory at best.

    So, to Rick, if I have misguidedly pegged you as an overzealous "Bean Counter", an individual who has nothing but disdain for this district, the student-centered decisions they make (facilities/staffing), and for the taxes you pay to it, then I sincerely apologize.

    However, being a crusader for fiscal change and prudence does NOT make you a friend of the district if your heart is not in the right place.

    If those pushing for change do not keep the best interest of students FIRST, we will be stuck with a system that contains costs, yet does not give our students the top quality education they deserve.

    I what what many are getting "all wrong", is that our #1 goal should be kids, and ANYTHING we do should be done with that in mind.

  25. Musicman:

    I think the position pretty much all of us have taken on this forum is that it is the leaders of the school district who have lost sight that it's for the kids, not us. After all, it's our kids we're talking about.

    The fiscal problems we have in our district, our community, and - one could argue - our country, is that those constituents our government entities were created to serve have been largely forgotten (in our apathy) and that loudest voices in the dialog have become the bureaucrats and the people to whom the largess of our taxpayer 'generosity' is doled out.

    And yes Mr Fedako, I did indeed vote in favor of the last levy, and because the FORs outnumbered the AGAINSTS, the levy passed and those who voted AGAINST have to pay it anyway. As I've said many times, I wish our schools were voluntary paid for out of pocket, with only those needing help getting tax-funded assistance (a la food stamps).

    But we don't have that kind of school system yet, so we have to work hard to make the system we have work.

    The sea change that's coming (is here?) is that personal income is more precious, and so taxpayers are likely to shift from a mode of generous apathy to one of expecting more in terms of 'results' before any more money is handed over.

    This has been coming for a long time, but our leaders have been largely ignoring it. My mission, now joined by a good number of folks, has been to educate and motivate the people of community to act, not just bitch.

    Rick has been in the trenches as long as me on this stuff. I just happened to put a blog together. Please don't take shots at Rick until you are willing to stand up at a school board meeting and make your voice heard on the record, as he has.


  26. Paul,

    What are the "results" you are looking for? Our schools are fantastic, Davidson HS was just named one of the best high schools in the country, and the district received the highest rating from the state.

    Right now, folks are unhappy pouring their money into a district that works, and gets great results. What on earth will happen when the district has to cut back to get under budget, because the community will no longer support them (see Newark/Johnstown/Northridge/etc...)? The product will be less, and people will say "I will not support a district that is underperforming."

    Our district operates under the rules set forth. They do nothing illegal, and they operate EVERY YEAR under a budget. They also have made some mistakes in running their "business", just like every other company out there. It seems like the HCSD is being held to a standard of flawless execution, with anything less being a crime to taxpayers. No matter the excellent rating of the district, and the excellent students who have received an education from great teachers. We want to keep our money, so we vote no for roads, police, fire, schools, etc..., and justify those no votes with our unhappiness with the product. The HCSD is one of the premier districts in the state, for the QUALITY of education given to students. We should be applauding them for their excellent work, and teaming together with them to make it run more efficiently.

    I am starting to think I am in the wrong place for like minded people. If what you and others are after is merely a district that costs less to operate, I guess I am not on board for that. As I've stated before, my voice is heard with my vote (for school board); I cannot at this time stand up at a board meeting. But I can choose to vote in people who are of like mind. Does that mean my opinion means less? Or that I cannot call out someone who appears to come at the schools with such a negative point of view?

    Every kid gets ONE shot at an education. If we give up on our district, and vote NO on anything, the kids lose!! And they don't get another shot at taking music classes, or foreign language, or playing sports, or being in key club. They LOSE!

    The adults don't learn a lesson from it, the kids just lose.

    We should be talking about how to continue making our schools great. But instead we complain about our "lavish" facilities, which really aren't so, our "greedy" teachers, who make what other teachers in similar districts make, and our "clueless" administration, who have managed to make our district the envy of many.

    You don't fix the problem in Iraq by cutting off funding to the troops. You don't fix the problem in schools by cutting of funding to the schools. It just doesn't make sense, and in my mind to threaten that action is to show little regard for the young people of our district who count on US to give them a chance.

  27. Musicman, not sure where you were 6 years ago at Memorial Middle School
    during a community funding forum?

    In attendance were our board members
    administrators, state senator, state rep. I asked the critical question then about where we would replace the elimination of an element of the business tax that solely funded schools. This has affected funding for the HCDS. As with my proposal to limit spending during this tough economic time
    my question was met with silence and adversarial comments from the employee groups. So we tried and failed. It is more than most have done to go on the record

    Many of us have tried to do the right thing, and be involved.Sorry we failed at it, so we might as well walk away because we are not in lockstep with you and the HEA

    We also have the absolute
    responsibility to our families to insure that they are able to better themselves through a higher education. Your support for the HEA and their members to deny scholarships, awards and instead getting more loans as "they were working to the contract" and could not take the time to provide required back up information is
    interesting but understandable given current attitudes in the district and with its employees.

    I am happy to walk away from the process as we tried to bring some
    financial sensability to the district and its employees in these tough times.

    Hopefully Paul and Marcs group will
    have some success in trying to make a difference. My only fear is that they will face the continued resistance that the HEA and its members place
    in the way to continue the positive elements of our district.

    Expecting an unlimited checkbook
    and unlimited funds to increase expenses in this time of economic uncertainty though is somewhat puzzling. Apparently, our district and its employees have become insulated from the economic everyday realities that are occuring.

  28. Rick,

    I apologize if I have angered you. I think we both feel strongly about our opinion, and probably will never agree with each other on the 'reasons' for feeling how we do.

    I would like to say, once and for all, I am not in 'lockstep' with HEA. I wish you would read my postings, which have stated repeatedly my disdain for unions, and what they have done to our schools. You seem to repeat the same things over and over, that teachers are greedy and that I am for the unions. I do not 'support' the HEA any more than you 'support' the board members who were elected to administer this district.

    I agree 100% with your desire for change. I DO TOO!!!!!!! Our difference comes in our willingness to let children suffer the consequences. You seem willing to sacrifice the education of current/near-future students, for the betterment of far-future students. I am unwilling to pay that price.

    Please don't respond about the teachers working "to the rule", and how that negatively affects students. I agree. Work to the rule was implemented in my district as a tactic, and I refused to cooperate, as did many other teachers. I get it. Your student was negatively affected. That really is an injustice.

    But does that give you the green light to deny other students their opportunities? I certainly hope not...

    I will not comment on this thread anymore, as I feel I am not having a debate with someone who wishes to debate.

    What I want is this: A fixed system, a better system of funding, that we reach without sacrificing:
    a) The great schools we have
    b) Any decrease in opportunities for our students.

    Anything less than that is a sad day for our community, in my eyes.


    Thanks for allowing my comments to be posted. I appreciate you bringing these issues to a larger audience.

    Thank You

  29. Musicman:

    "results" is probably not the best word I could have used, as I was thinking one thing and you another.

    What I was trying to say is that there needs to be a comprehensive community discussion about this fiscal stuff. Just saying "it's for the kids" and "you just have to pay more" isn't enough. We must have a real dialog about salaries and building cost and revenue sources. The school leadership can't duck it any more - the genie is out of the bottle.

    We have to really discuss whether there is any correlation between teacher compensation and student performance, or between raise percentages and teacher retention. All that kind of stuff.

    I'm not looking for a district that costs less to operate, but we need to have a conversation about whether the people of this community believe we have to spend more and more to maintain our current level of excellence.

    I think that at the core, we need a re-calibration to the private sector. Without question there was a time in the past when private sector compensation ran ahead of the education sector. So stuff like step increases were created to catch up. Now the private sector is sucking wind, but those catch-up devices in the education sector are still charging on. We just need to dial that knob down, in my opinion.

    As I said last fall, the HEA could have scored huge points in our community by volunteering to skip one year of 3% base pay increases (keeping step increases intact). But they wouldn't even acknowledge the suggestion.

    One of my first assertions, made to the Superintendent and Board several years ago, was this: if they were really doing a good job of educating and communicating with the community, levy votes would always be 80-90% in favor. But the norm in our community has been for levies to get voted down at least once, followed by an appeal to the emotions and threats of disaster until we get to a 55/45 slim majority for passage.

    You hit a nerve with your analogy of the troops in Iraq by the way. A nephew of mine is a decorated US Marine (including two Purple Hearts). He worked hard to become a Marine, including LOTS of physical training prior to reporting to boot camp. But he and his fellow Marines had to overcome inadequate equipment (e.g. they had to buy their own extra magazines for their weapon). Meanwhile, $zillions are spent on stuff that doesn't help the combat troops in the least. My nephew has chosen to complete his enlistment and get out, and our country will lose the services of a good Marine.

    It's not that the military isn't getting enough money, but that they don't seem to want to allocate enough of it to the point of contact. That's were the lowest ranked troops are by the way. There are no generals going house-to-house kicking in doors. Give the generals a fancy house, a big headquarters and a huge staff, but make the poor E-4s on the front lines buy their owns magazines... what sense is that?

    Our buildings are extraordinary, although not perhaps when compared to other Columbus suburban districts. I've heard what folks from other parts of the state say about our facilities - they're blown away.

    I just haven't seen any convincing studies that connect the amount of per-pupil spending with academic performance. I know that there is some number which is 'enough' but how much more than that do you have to spend to get 'excellent?'

    I suspect that the truth is that when you make a school district expensive to operate, and therefore require higher taxation to fund it, you end up discriminating against kids who might have greater academic challenges - discrimination which is expressed by making it too expensive for such kids to live in our district.

    I think others believe this too - read the comments I posted from the redistricting effort. Those who paid a lot for their homes expected their kids to be kept away from the poor kids (rich kids at Davidson, poor kids at Darby). In other words, they were pissed that buying a expensive house might not grant them insulation from those of lesser means after all.

    Hilliard is too diverse for us to allow that kind of shenanigan to go on. Otherwise you get the mess of SWCS, with Central Crossing vs Franklin Heights. How can that community justify the difference in those facilities? Maybe they should have spent less on Central Crossing and put a bunch of that money into Franklin Heights.

    We just need to talk about this stuff - and the school leadership should be facilitating the conversation.

    Saying we'll implode if we don't just keep spending on this trajectory doesn't cut it. But if the school leadership refuses to have this dialog, then I think we have no choice but to cut off the funding and see what happens.


  30. Paul wrote:
    "Saying we'll implode if we don't just keep spending on this trajectory doesn't cut it. But if the school leadership refuses to have this dialog, then I think we have no choice but to cut off the funding and see what happens."

    That is a frightening thought, in my mind, although one that probably most clearly draws the divide between folks in the community.

    I can say that I clearly see your, Rick, and others viewpoints. I hear everything you have said, although I don't think all on hear do their fair share of listening. I agree with the problem, I guess where we differ is on the solution.

    I don't think there is a justification to cut off funding to students, because they are the ones who will suffer. That is unacceptable to me. There are better ways to make change, starting with a new school board. Taking any student, and basically sacrificing their educational opportunities, is not something I am interested in being a part of.

  31. I find it interesting (and very concerning) that the majority of Ballantrae residents voted against the levy. According to one of the comments from a Ballantrae resident to the redistricting committee that you had posted on your blog, the folks at Ballantrae were so supportive of Hilliard CSD and would start turning against the district had option 'A' been implementing, moving them to Darby. Looks like they're not all that supportive anyhow.

    In some ways, I thought option 'A' made the most sense of the final three options, since it was the most likely of the three to create a sense of balance within the district and put an end to the 'better clientele' attitude that some in the Davidson attendance zone seem to have and that you mentioned here. That being said, I think the three HSs will be balanced OK, although some minor changes could have implemented to make it even more balanced.

    I do agree with your assertion that Hilliard CSD is too diverse to allow certain portions of the community to try to insulate their
    children from coming into contact with those children who come from families in rentals or those who hail from the more modest subdivisions.

    Here are the numbers from last year's report card. Not much difference between academic performance or other key indicators between Davidson and Darby, with the possible exception of the LEP/ELL balance between the two schools.

    Hilliard Davidson
    Performance Index = 104.1
    Economically Disadvantaged = 15.1%
    LEP/ELL = 5.5%

    Hilliard Darby
    Performance Index = 103.6
    Economically Disadvantaged = 10.9%
    LEP/ELL = 2.5%

    It will be interesting to see how the numbers shape up after redistricting has been completed. An early indication will be next year's ('09/'10) middle school numbers.

    I'm more concerned about what has happened at the elementary school level. JW Reason and Hilliard Horizon have a much different socio-economic mix than Darby Creek, Hoffman Trails, Scioto Darby, Norwich and some of the others. For instance, I'd argue that the BOE actually exacerbated the situation at JW Reason with redistricting.

    Most importantly, I do agree that NOW is the time to take a hard look and openly communicate about the financial future of our district. I just read this morning that Gov. Strickland is warning that education cuts are possible. I wonder whose share of the state pie gets cut first, if that happens. Hmmm.... Any guesses?

  32. Musicman, I certainly hope you do not leave this blog. Your perspective is extremely valuable, one from which I benefit greatly.

    If everyone was so supportive of the education provided regardless of cost, we wouldn't have to worry about the impending doom. However, how long do you feel this District will last at a sustainable support level when it looks like current levels of taxes may DOUBLE within 10 years? I am more in this because I know we won't get enough sustainable support for the entire district just from people like you and I.

    I have always thought that Hilliard is trying to compete at a level with the Dublins, Upper Arlingtons and Bexleys that it just can't sustain. Can't do it. It is just not economically feasible. It would be great, but we are going to burnout financially if we try. It is a sticking-your-head-in-the-sand approach to ignore it.

    We have to find the optimum balance, and this starts with 1) the District making it a long-term initiative; and, 2) the District openly communicating and educating the constituency on the nuances and factors involved in balancing funding levels and quality levels. This activity would be enhanced by your participation, whatever form it can take.

  33. Regarding the Davidson ranking as one of the top 10% of High Schools in Ohio. Great news. 10-15% is about the level I think Hilliard should strive, and I am perfectly comfortable with that quality level for my son.

    From the opposite point of view, if we offer and strive to be so great, why isn't the emphasis on Darby not making the list? In a company that strives to be a leader, there would be 15% of attention spent on patting Davidson on the back, and 85% putting the screws to Darby on not making it and putting a plan in place to resolve.

    I would be interested in any Darby-folks on the list for their impression of the reaction to the report, or a clarification on the methodology of the report that excluded Darby.

  34. Here's a link to the US News & World Report section ranking the nation's high schools.


    Interesting, in Franklin County many of the schools rated in the top 3 categories were from Columbus Public, including Briggs and Marion-Franklin. Among the notable area schools missing from the list were New Albany, Dublin Scioto and Olentangy.

  35. Musicman:

    Your comment begs an important clarifying question:

    If the teachers had reduced their 2009 increase by 3%, as I recommended, how would that have affected the kids?

    It would have saved us taxpayers $3 million/yr - forever, and kept all programs funded without any of the announced cutbacks.

    Note that among those cutbacks will be the cessation of busing for morning kindergartners within walk zones. The leadership (Board, Administrators and union leaders) is taking it out on our littlest kids. The walk could be up to a mile. Clearly lots of parents will now need to start picking up their little ones at noon, as few parents will actually let them walk (I wouldn't). It's probably the poorest kids that will end up actually walking (observe who is on the sidewalks east of Horizon Elementary at noon on a freezing day next month...).

    Remember that 'spending trajectory' might as well be restated as 'compensation trajectory' as compensation is what drives our spending growth.

    So the real dialog should be "if our goal is continued Excellent ratings in all schools in our district, how much do we have to pay our teachers, and therefore how much are we willing to let our property taxes climb?

    There is no doubt a spectrum of valid answers to that question. There are also some built in assumptions in that question which may not be valid. For example, is there really a positive correlation between teacher salaries and school performance?

    Or could it be that other factors are more important, such as family wealth, parental involvement, and parental education levels? I suspect that's exactly what the Ballantrae activists think, and they may well be right.

    That's the kind of stuff I want to get out in the open. It matter less that to me that folks agree with my position than it does that these are the things we talk about.

    For too long, the public dialog has simply been "if you love your kids, vote for the levy." Those days must end, and our dialog needs to shift to the more meaty and less comfortable underlying truths.


  36. Seems like the argument often comes down to "we need to pay the most to get the best" and that reasoning is flawed. Education costs will be one of the hot issues in Ohio in 2009, and many districts are going to be in the same boat we are in - how to continue with what we have while the state cuts its funding to the "wealthy" districts. The playing field will be leveled when it comes to our comparable districts, and all of us will be forced to do with less unless the taxpayers keep approving double digit levies. It would be nice if Hilliard could lead the way in reining in costs, and hopefully we will have some folks running for the Board who are up to the challenge, and those folks get the support they need from the general public - US. Paul did not lose by all that much the last time he ran, in spite of an almost non-existent campaign fund. Let's make sure we support "change" with
    some action to ensure we get that change. There are no easy answers, but it can't be business as usual, and it can't be done by electing those who have the full support of the developers and the unions. This goes for City/State government as well, quite possibly even more so than the HCSD members.

  37. Mark,

    Please clarify what you mean by 'putting the screws to Darby'. Do you mean giving the school specific consequences for not making the list, or do you mean by focusing and tweaking areas that would enable to school to be on the list?

    I've looked at the ODE report cards from '06-'07 and '07-'08 for the two high schools. Looking at the data contained therein, Davidson has a bit of an edge, but it doesn't appear to be really sizeable and if anything, it appears in many areas to be decreasing. Of course, this is only one piece of information (although a good one) and doesn't necessarily provide a complete picture.

    I'm not a current parent at Darby, but that is where my children are slated to attend in the future. There certainly appears to be room for improvement at Darby, but it seems like there have been successes, too. Overall, the school appears to be doing a good job. So, from my perspective, I'd like to see the areas needing improvement addressed, while keeping the programs that the school seems to excel at, rather than cutting them as a consequence for not making the list.

    BTW, I would be curious what parents of New Albany think that NAHS didn't make the list and so many Columbus Public HSs (Briggs, Marion-Franklin, etc., etc.) did?

  38. SJ:

    The Davidson vs Darby controversy has existed since Darby opened in 1997. Both of our kids graduated from Darby, and the eldest is one of plankholders, as she was a sophomore when Darby opened in 1997.

    From the beginning, there were families assigned to Darby who fought to be allowed to transfer back to Davidson. This was especially true of athletes who would be transferring from a powerhouse program to a start-up. I can understand that - especially if my kid had a shot at a college athletic scholarship. But it made it tough for Darby to get established. We'll see this again when Bradley opens.

    Until the last couple of years, most of the immigrant kids ended up at Darby, because of the careful way the attendance boundaries were drawn. The effect was that Darby for many years had hundreds more kids than Davidson. Only when the disparity got really large were all new kids directed to Davidson. And some Davidson folks complained loudly that their school was getting 'crowded like Darby.'

    The other phenomenon is that teacher seniority plays significantly into job assignments. I don't think the administration can force a Davidson teacher to take a job in Darby. I suspect that Bradley principal Dave Stewart will be hiring lots of new teachers to build his faculty. Note that the union contract prohibits the transfer of more than 10 years seniority to a new hire, so an experienced teacher from outside the district with a comparable pay scale would be nuts to apply (however, experienced teachers from low paying teachers might be able to give up seniority and still get a pay raise).

    So, there may be a few teachers who request transfers from Davidson and Darby to Bradley, but I'm guessing that most will be new teachers with ten or fewer years of experience.

    Darby, having now been open for ten years, probably has a good number of teachers in the 10-20 year experience band - probably the power years for a teacher.

    If there are any parents out there whose neighborhood has been shifted to Bradley, it would be great to hear your thoughts.


  39. sj, my 'putting the screws' comment is derived more from experiences in the private sector. It would entail setting expectations for the Darby Principal to "fix" the reasons why Darby did not make the list, thus focusing and tweaking as you mention. In the private world, it would also mean consequences to the Principal if the level wasn't raised.

  40. Mark,

    Congratulations to Davidson for making the USN&WR list this year. I can see the merit in constantly looking for ways to improve upon the education our schools deliver. In addition, I can see how certain methodologies are effective at pointing out areas that need further examination.

    I do see an area that is a potential cause for concern, or at least clarification. It is that different methodologies can produce different results. For instance, you have a school such as Briggs that was rated 'Effective' by the State of Ohio, with a Performance Index of less than 95, making the USN&WR list. Conversely, New Albany, which is consistently rated 'Excellent', with a Peformance Index of over 105, failed to make that list.

    So, which methodology and/or rating system should take priority? Should it be the State of Ohio's (where Darby garnered an 'Excellent'), or the USN&WR, where Darby failed to make the list? Should it be a combination of both systems, i.e., making the USN&WR list and getting an 'Excellent' rating from the State? Since there are other methodologies and ratings systems out there, which additional ones (if any) should be included?

    Lastly, I can see value in the idea that there should be accountability from the administration. However, I am opposed to any consequences that would eliminate opportunities in arts or athletics for Darby students, in the event that the school does not make a specific list provided by a specific publication.

  41. I think Mark wrote "consequences to the Principal" which doesn't seem to mean penalizing the students with fewer opportunities. He may want to clarify this, but I think it refers to the Principal maybe looking for another line of work should he fail to live up to the districts expectations in the education of our kids. Perish the thought, but I think he should include some staff in that scenario, although we all know there is almost no way of attaining that.

  42. Hillirdite, I understand that Mark wrote 'consequences to the Principal'. I just wanted to make it clear that I don't think opportunities should be taken away from the students.

    If such a system were ever to be implemented, I think it would need to be very clearly outlined what the specific expectations are. Also, consider the fact that Davidson did not make the previous year's USN&WR list. If changes to administration and staff would have been made in response to the results that year, would that have had a possible negative impact on Davidson making the USN&WR list this year?

    If Davidson doesn't make the list next year, should their administration face consequences, or is there some kind of 'grace period' given after making the list (before the school is expected to garner that same achievement again)?

  43. I am really not all that impressed with "rankings" in a national publication to begin with. While I am not a big fan of all the testing our kids have to go through, at least that testing gives a somewhat equal footing to all the schools, and
    is much more subjective than objective. So I am more impressed with our Excellent with Distinction than our Bronze Medal, or whatever they called it.

  44. Hillirdite,

    Your previous comment somewhat touched on the questions and possible concerns that I have with rankings in national publications. The methodologies in the ranking systems need to be analyzed and understood. I don't want to take away from the good work that appears to be happening at Briggs, but the school's graduation rate is less than 70%. That starts to put questions in my head. I believe that useful information could be gleaned from a publication's report, but I wouldn't rely too heavily on one source.

    I think that looking at a composite of a number of ranking systems, ratings and factors is more effective. I also believe that a school is much more than a set of standardized test scores. Do I want my school and school district to perform well on standardized tests? Of course, I do. However, I feel that is only one measure of the overall effectiveness of learning that goes on inside those walls.

  45. Yes, I meant consequences to the staff responsible for delivering results, not the kids.

    My original comment stemmed from frustration crossed between the desires to provide the best education (musicman's point of view), expectations (Top 15% seems good to me), and how we deal with it in the private sector (much more attention spent on underperforming units).

    I need to remember that applying private-sector principles to public services is not allowed.