Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tail Wagging the Dog

I was reading this Columbus Dispatch editorial about charter schools, and it made me think about how wrong-headed our concept of governance has become in this country.

Over the past ten years, I've had the privilege of being asked to serve on a number of governing boards, some at for-profit shareholder owned corporations, and some at not-for-profit organizations.

In more cases than not, I have found myself to be the lone voice willing to argue with the management about who it is the organization was built to serve. Many organizations seem to get this exactly wrong.

What I have observed is that the governing boards of many organizations come to feel that their job is to help the management impose its will on the stakeholders. That’s exactly what went wrong with America’s financial system.

After all, those big bonuses that went to the CEOs and other executives came into existence with the blessings of each corporation’s Board of Directors. It was misguided logic for those Boards to create compensation systems that rewarded short term results at the risk of long term viability.

It’s because the risk/reward equation gets screwed up by stock options. The management of the corporation bears little risk but can reap huge rewards. Meanwhile the true owners of the company – the shareholders – risk their entire holdings for much smaller potential rewards. When the business blows up, which we’re seeing too much of right now – the executives walk away with fat termination deals while the shareholders and bondholders lose pretty much everything they invested.

In much the same way, I think many school boards, including our current one, believe it is their job to impose the will of the Administration and the unions on the people of our community. That’s exactly the wrong perspective.

It is the job of the School Board to impose the will of the people of the community on the Administration, not the other way around.

The best example of this misguided thinking was the action of our School Board to pass a resolution supporting the Getting Right for Ohio’s Future effort, which would have taken away the direct voice a community has in funding our schools and given it to a newly created body of appointed officials that would have the power to compel the General Assembly to fund schools the way they dictated.

This dialog about charter schools comes from the same place. Those who are most invested in the public school model – the teachers, administrators and staff – are fighting to preserve a system that benefits them, in spite of the clear choice of many parents to move their kids to charter schools.

Ask Dick Hammond if you don’t think this is true. Mr. Hammond served on the Hilliard School Board until the last election, when he lost his seat largely because he also lost the endorsement of the Hilliard teachers’ union – because of his support of charter schools. Interestingly, Mr. Hammond was the only school board candidate who is actually a professional educator. When asked during the Candidate’s Night why he supported charter schools, his answer was that charter schools wouldn’t exist if the public schools were meeting the needs of all the kids. I agree.

This November, our community will have the chance to fill three of the five seats on the School Board – a majority. It is an opportunity we cannot squander. If you want to help in that effort, please contact me at


  1. It is the job of the School Board to impose the will of the people of the community on the Administration, not the other way around.

    That sounds like a platform to me.

  2. It sounds like rational thinking to me.

  3. elaborate more on the unions endorsing candidates in the last election and the impact of that.

  4. I am not necessarily disagreeing with anything said (Just being disagreeable), but:

    How does one decide what is the will of the people?

    Does the will of the people who want lower taxes supercede the will of the people who want awesome schools, and are willing to pay anything to get it? Vice Versa?

    Just wondering how a candidate will base a platform around what the "will of the people" is, knowing full well this is an incredibly divisive issue with many folks on both sides.

    Can the job of the school board be to impose the (unspoken?) will of the students, who want/demand/NEED the very best education we can give them?

  5. I think the point here is that the community has been left on the sidelines and given economic conditions the community should have some input and be given some consideration.

    As far as supporting huge increases in spending it should be noted that there has been very consistent support and growth in
    the HCDS

    So perhaps we should spend
    15,000 per student ? $20,000
    How will the average homeowner
    afford these tax increases.
    Of course our district can as the increases received can match up just fine with the above spending patterns.

    Of note, increases in the budget are inevitable. Thus our taxes will go up. Would not our tax dollar go further without having a levy every two to 3 years if we
    reduced the growth of our spending

    At some point the 90% cost factor
    in compensation will need to be
    reduced from 7% to perhaps 2.5 to
    3% Given those reasonable adjustment most would agree to vote for levies. But if our district and its entities keep talking like these are pay cuts when they are really not, then things will be divisive.

    A person getting an increase of
    4,000 per year will certainly look
    at financial stability differently than a person who has been laid off
    an actual reduction in pay, or no
    increases, bonuses.

    An open checkbook is ok as long as you have the funds to pay the increases. What happens to the rest. No one seems to want
    to answer that.

    Benefits are also a determining factor. Schools are out today.
    Holiday, In the private sector many are working today.

  6. Musicman:

    The presumption is that with a representative form of government, the people elect candidates who share their values and opinions. Our school board has five seats, which should allow a diversity of values and opinions to enter into the decision making process.

    However, if you look at the minutes of any of our school board meetings going back over many years, you'll see that with very rare exception, the votes are 5-0 in favor of every motion.

    You'd like to say that this is because the members of the school board have a history of discussing these matters thoroughly, and don't put motions up for a vote until a consensus has been reached. But if you have ever attended a Hilliard school board meeting, you know that they rarely discuss anything at all.

    Democracy is ugly stuff. By giving the people a vote, and making decisions by majority rule, there are always those who come out on the losing end of every decision.

    'Will of the people' doesn't mean the will of all the people. Rather it is the composite position developed after discussion and compromise. And the ones who don't get exactly what they want have to accept the decisions (or run for the office and try to change things).

    The enemy of democracy is apathy - the single most dangerous disease in our country. My mission has never been to impose my will on the community by the way - I just want an informed and spirited dialog to take place. That's why this blog was created.

    And after more than two years of trying, only a handful of people seem to care.

    The only group that really mobilizes for the school board elections is the employee unions: HEA and OAPSE. They bring both voters (their membership and families) and money to the election, and the candidates they endorse tend to get elected. And I'm quite sure they don't represent the will of the people.

    We need to counter that this election...

  7. Anonymous:

    First of all, I appreciate your comments, but please pick a name to use - even if it is a 'handle' - so we can tell if we're talking to one person or many.

    Here's some previous posts that talk about the impact of the endorsement of the teachers' union:

    The endorsement interview

    Post-election analysis

    Campaign Spending

  8. New to the site, Paul. Thanks for all the hard work. Although I am still not sure what to make of all of it (esp being one of those evil 'new build' homeowners). But I dont think my $7k in property taxes w/ 0 kids is going to hurt you.

    As for the board... What do you expect? I am honestly not trying to be nasty, but look at your board. Now, I don't know them personally or professionally and I could be way off base here. But upon review of their bios on the district's website, one word came to mind: UNQUALIFIED.

    The board is there to do a lot more than just read a CAFR. But you need at least one governmental accounting expert.

  9. CPA:

    Thanks for stopping by.

    By the way, I've never said that residential development is evil - only that when it isn't balanced with commercial development, the incremental funding burden increasingly transfers to the homeowners.

    As to the qualifications of the Board - it goes back to the apathy thing. The people of our community who are most qualified to sit on the Board don't seem to be interested. While I may be critical of the performance of our Board, I also know each one of the members fairly well, and respect them for their willingness to serve the community.

    Most folks in our community prefer to heckle from the bleachers (or their skyboxes) but aren't willing to get in the game.


  10. Paul,

    Help me understand this:

    The administrators running our district are highly qualified, many with terminal degrees. We may not agree with their points of view, but they wouldn't be where they are without a wealth of experience. Let's be honest, they are doing an outstanding job of educating our students, which is their job.

    Now, according to our current system, a school board composed of community members is THEIR boss. These people have no requirement of training/experience at all.

    Perhaps, notice PERHAPS, these board members TRUST the experienced members of the administrative team, and value their experience and expertise in the field.

    It seems a little backwards that the ones who have the ability to make sweeping change (board) are the ones with without necessary qualifications. Shouldn't the ones with the experience/expertise be the ones making the decisions? I guess this confuses me about private sector boards of directors as well.

    My point in all this is that I think the problem comes from the community not voting in people who accurately represent their point of view, which is what I think you are saying.

    But then why do we focus our blame on the administrators and teachers, whose jobs are to ensure high quality education for our students (which they do)? Perhaps we should be electing a Superintendant and Treasurer, instead of electing unqualified people to tell the Superintendent and Treasurer what to do.

    This may not be you, but many of the "complainers" seem to be flinging attacks at everyone, hoping something will stick, instead of investigating and finding the root cause.

    So, what changes will take place when we put board members in place who have differing opinions?

    -Lower salaries? (Even though Hilliard is not excessive in comparison to other districts.)

    -No administrative retirement pick-up? (Even though the practice is common and widespread.)

    -No teachers union? (Even though that would create enormous problems if we were the only district to do that.)

    -No fine arts training for students? (We'd be the first large district anywhere to throw that away.)

    What changes will we see??? I want to see change too, but I also see daily the impact our schools have on students. It frightens me to think of our school systems possibly being approached as businesses, instead of places of learning.

  11. That sounds like a call for action on my part. I regret not finding your site before the Apr 6 meeting. I look forward to meeting you in person at the next one.

    My instinct is that those qualified do care very much and are indeed interested. But they have determined they get more benefit from other uses of their time.

    Looking at the most recent board minutes, there is a middle school tennis coach is making the equivalent of $75k per year ($2,828 / .05 * 12/9). The 12/9 is to factor in that summer off. That makes me want to quit my job and become a teacher (esp if we throw the pension into argument). What is the board (who sets the course for the entire district) compensated? Probably not enough to get those qualified individuals to give up 10 hrs (a guess) per week. Talk about a misallocation.

    Judging from the volume and complexity of your efforts, you are no doubt analytical, passionate, and unabashed. I am truly grateful to have someone around who is not afraid to tell it like it is. But for every person like me, there are probably two who have hurt feelings or bruised egos.

    It must make it hard for them to thank you for the free $200k worth of consulting work you have provided them with.....

  12. Music man-

    I can't tell you how many not-for-profit engagements I have worked on where the users of the service benefited when things began running more business-like. It's hard to help people when you are not solvent.

  13. Musicman:

    First off, it is possible to be both highly qualified and not very competent. I'm not saying this is the case with our administrators, most of whom I respect very much, but it's not a given that the possession of a degree yields good performance.

    Also, if you look back through what I've written over the years, I've never had an argument with the way our administrators have managed the educational program.

    My beef has been that they - and I'm really talking about the Superintendent here - have failed in their responsibility to educate the community about school economics, and instead prefer to go down the road of seeking a funding mechanism that takes away local control we havevia levies and puts funding decisions in the hands of elected state officials who march to the drumbeat of lobbyists from the unions rather than the public.

    Said more clearly, our Superintendent would rather have our state convert to system with no local voter control than make the effort to 'sell' the community on the validity of his funding requests.

    It's really that simple.

    All those things you list should be decided in a community dialog facilitated by the school board. Then we would go through a process of determining how much we're willing to fund. If that process is done effectively, levies should pass with 90% support because the amount and timing of the levy would be the results of an effective community dialog.

    All those things you list, and many more, have to be on the table. Otherwise, what purpose does a school board fill? If they're supposed to rubber stamp what the Superintendent wants, then let's just eliminate the school board.

    Ours is pretty close to that already.

  14. Musicman says:

    "How does one decide what is the will of the people?"


    In order to answer that we need to back up: It is first and foremost the wish of the people that their children receive the highest quality education at the lowest cost. It then becomes the will of the people that those ends are met by those they entrust their children and treasure to (the school district).

    But, it takes great effort by teachers to provide a top-flight education, and it takes great effort by administrators--and shared sacrifice by all district employees--to contain costs.

    This is where the disconnect exists and where the will of the people is defied by the school district: Unions decide the amount of effort that is exerted by their members, and lack of oversight by school boards on the administration fosters an environment of rampant waste, abuse and, often, fraud.

  15. Good Op-Ed piece on The Public Education War Against Charter Schools in todays Dispatch by David Harsanyi:

  16. More teacher union sleaze.
    UFT officials were caught giving cue cards to Manhattan City Council members from which to pose questions to legislators regarding Charter schools.

  17. Paul,

    I never meant to imply that qualified meant "good". I've worked for many well decorated boobs in my career.

    It sounds like your main concern is that the school district is not communicating with their constituents in an acceptable fashion? I would agree with that 100%.

    My main concern is that if we elect "business-smart" board members who think money first, quality second, we could be in trouble. That, Anonymous, is what I mean about trusting the experienced.

    What is the bottom line for schools? I believe "high quality education" is the TOP priority. How much that quality costs should be secondary.

    Schools should obviously be fiscally responsible, and it is the job of board and administrators to make that happen. But we will see a demise in our district when the budget starts with a ceiling, instead of starting with the needs of the students.

  18. Musicman says:

    "but they [administrators] wouldn't be where they are without a wealth of experience. Let's be honest, they are doing an outstanding job of educating our students, which is their job."

    Just a few days ago I showed you how Hilliard district graduates suffer from a 33% college remediation rate (average over the last five reporting years).

    Would you continue to use a mechanic whose mistakes or faulty work required you to take your car to another mechanic 64% of the time?

    Please explain how it is that these people "are doing an outstanding job of educating our students, which is their job". If it is their job to educate our students, and only 64% (or less) are being graduated without being proficient in high school math or English, then why are they still employed. If you or me were effective in our jobs only 64% of the time we'd be shown the door in short order.

    There is no accountability in the public school system. The unions guarantee this, and school administrators are mostly former teachers, promoted upward. Same for superintendents. They system is run by, and for, people who have never worked in the private sector, who are process oriented rather than results-oriented, are not managed and not held accountable by anyone (least of whom school boards).

    The system is incestuous and corrupt. Completely devoid of any redeemable quality. This is not a subjective statement but reflective of the fact, supported by statistics, that they fail the only thing they are tasked with: preparing our kids when they leave their classrooms.

  19. Musicman:

    It's something more than you may be thinking - I'm talking about a real two way dialog, where the educators and the public negotiate an acceptable balance of programming and cost.

    I've been in some of the truly poor rural schools in this state. Perhaps you have as well. A good friend of mine recently retired from teaching with 35 years of service. With a Masters+ she was at the top of the pay scale in her SE Ohio district. Her final pay was $42,000, about the same as a 4th year teacher with a Bachelor's in our district, and half what she would have earned in our district.

    Nonetheless, her school district offered its students everything state law requires. Anything between what they offer and what our schools offer is optional, and costs a lot of money. It is appropriate that there should be dialog about how much of those optional programs and services we desire here.

    I suspect that more people are feeling that spending in our district has started getting a little out of control. We've totally lost track of the difference between 'must-have' and 'nice-to-have.'

    It's time we have a little of that kind of conversation.

  20. musicman,

    You make a very passionate appeal for the characteristics of education quality that are beyond the raw numbers of finances. I respect your views and passion toward your profession, recognize that many other educators feel the same, and only wish that this passion and self-satisfaction was enough to provide a sustainable, quality education for our kids.

    Unfortunately, it is only a part of the equation. The desire for dialog and strategy we discuss so often on this blog is in an effort to adequately balance this passion/quality experience, long-term expense projections with the realities of available support from the citizens ("the will of the community").

    It is not fair to hide behind "it's best for the kids", then don't open up for a realistic discussion on what is best for the citizens that support the education organization. There is a balance somewhere in there, however it will NEVER be met without concession from the teachers, administration and board.

    Concession can start by being open and honest about finances, future projections and all the factors that contribute. Concession can continue by the employee groups leaning more on their passion and self-satisfaction of being educators, and less on their unprofessional union stances, such as "work to the rule" and the stealth tricks like not calling step increases a raise.

    We need to start by putting all the cards on the table, letting guards down, and not being afraid to openly address the issues.

  21. Mark, could not have said it better.

    Musicman, so with an unlimited amount of funds, what happens to those on fixed incomes, retired,
    layed off, pay cuts, double digit medical costs. Are they just supposed to lose their investment in their homes ? Why because, no consideration for adjustments, not cuts in the school budgets.

    The district chose to ignore proposals to make adjustments in increases. Somehow getting a
    3% raise instead of 7% is detrimental to my childs educational opportunity. So if we continually add 7% to the compensation model, business as usual do you think the remediation rate will be any better.

    If the teachers and other employees here are unhappy
    with the very postive raises and medical and benefit program, perhaps they would be happier elsewhere. I hear CBUS is allways hiring.

    Bottom line, positive proposals have been put forward, and what we got was..............silence.

    Question, how much money do you think the HEA will pour into
    he school board races to insure they keep getting the same package over and over. What do you think?
    Do you see this as an issue.?
    How is that about the "kids"?

  22. Rick says:

    "I think the point here is that the community has been left on the sidelines and given economic conditions the community should have some input and be given some consideration."

    Your community has NOT been left on the sidelines. Your community walked over to the sidelines and allowed the board to hand over the referee duties to the district. Your community allowed the board to hand over the striped shirt, hat and whistle to the district.

    Residents don't bother to look under the hood of what should be the most rigorously scrutinized organization they are involved with. Residents scrutinize their bill at Denny's more closely than they scrutinize the organization that is responsible for the education of their children and it's shameful.

    But who can blame them for being disinterested in examining the minutiae of the district. Most are two income families so Mom and Dad don't have the time it takes to cut through the countertransparency that shrouds district results and business. The only board member worth a damn at Olentangy has to do battle with her treasurer and board to get copies of contracts and expense reports. With this lack of transparency it's no wonder people don't bother to get involved. And then there's the "trouble maker" stigma. Parents also don't get involved because they don't want to get snubbed by their neighbors who are PTA members and drink the district Kook-Aid, or worse, teachers to take it out on their kids.

    Hilliard also has its "Community Relations" department to spin endlessly for the district, and the local papers have allowed themselves to become extensions of the district image machine. Why? Open them up and take a look. You'll see that the majority of advertising in them is by realtors. Realtors that rely on, in large part, the image of the school district to sell homes. There's a mutual understanding that the papers show the local schools in a good light, the realtors sell lots of homes and the realty ad revenue keeps coming in to the paper. It's a circle jerk at your expense. The district creates an expensive, yet substandard education for your kids and then use your taxes to tell you that it's a top flight product, and the papers confirm this by not printing anything critical of it. Ask yourself when the last time the district announced that it had erred, or that it could do things better. When was the last time you had a teacher or administrator apologize for something in which they were egregiously wrong? Never, I bet.

  23. Paul/Anonymous/Rick,

    -I am FOR the dialog you speak of, truly. I feel like I'm saying that to a brick wall, though. I am FOR more transparency, FOR higher expectations for teachers, FOR all the things you speak of. What I am NOT for is the contention that these people in HCSD do not know how to educate students.

    -Anonymous, your rant on the remediation rate was somewhat confusing (only to me?). Sometimes you said the remediation rate was 64%, other times used 33%. The accurate number is 33%, which means essentially 1 in 3 need remediation. That number seems high to me too, but why? You are making sweeping assumptions based on this one fact, without considering the multitude of mitigating factors that can affect this number. Have you ever taught in the public schools? Do you know how difficult it is to teach 30 different students at a time? Do you know the home lives, personal baggage, educational attitudes, or learning styles of all these students? Have you ever stopped to think about the individual students, or only the numbers you read in the paper? Should every student go to college? Might some go that really shouldn't? Many many things that can affect this number.

    -I taught in a district who, at the time, paid the LOWEST salary of ANY district in Franklin County or any of its' surrounding counties. I get rural. You are right Paul, we offered everything required by the state of Ohio. Lots of smart kids too (Good parenting in large part). However, those kids were NOT as well prepared as students in HCSD. No way, no how. So, what are your "nice to haves", that we can cut??

    -Rick, taxes may be tough for some on fixed incomes, etc...So if ANYONE in the district can't afford, we shouldn't raise taxes, right? I've never understood that argument. If you can't afford it, you vote no. How on earth can each one of us look out for every single other person in our community when voting? We would NEVER vote yes for ANYTHING. People vote NO for cemetery maintenance, Rick. CEMETERY maintenance!! Who doesn't want that?!?!

    It seem like we agree on the basis of what we want to happen, I would just like to see it happen without insulting the people who work hard for our students every day, and making blanket statements about our schools' effectiveness without having SEEN how they work. There is more to life than numbers on a page.

  24. Musicman:

    The "nice to haves" are all the things that go above and beyond state requirements. They are by definition optional, and their inclusion in our education program should be the result of a dialog between the educators, parents and taxpayers.

    Our community does not have unlimited financial resources, and the truth is that those financial resources are being increasingly consumed by the combination of the growth in the number of employees and the substantial pay increases that have been, and will be, given to the employees.

    This growth in compensation and benefits cost is squeezing out our ability to do other things.

    And the increasing tax burden required to support this compensation growth is squeezing stuff out of our household budgets as well.

    Your point about our levy system imposing taxes on the unwilling has merit - it's what Jim Fedako over at Anti-Positivist accused me of when I gave my support to the last levy. While Jim willingly states that his politics lean almost to anarchy, I too believe that the best way to fix what is wrong with our public schools is to abolish them and simply let parents pay for education directly from their own pockets (with public assistance akin to food stamps for those who need it).

    The solution has become the problem. Time to move on to something else.

  25. The analogy of the mechanic was supposed to be, "Would you continue to use a mechanic whose mistakes or faulty work required you to take your car to another mechanic 33% of the time? Or, "...was able to fix your car only 67% of the time". Gee-that's confusing.

    I'm not making "sweeping assumptions". The Ohio Board of Regents is TELLING US what the result is--I'm not casting aspersions about the value product of your districts effort--it's plain for all to see just how inferior it is.

    "Have you ever taught in the public schools? Do you know how difficult it is to teach 30 different students at a time? Do you know the home lives, personal baggage, educational attitudes, or learning styles of all these students? Have you ever stopped to think about the individual students, or only the numbers you read in the paper? Should every student go to college? Might some go that really shouldn't? Many many things that can affect this number".

    What does this have to do with Hilliard Schools graduating 1/3 of its students without ensuring that they are proficient in high school level math and/or English? What you are also forgetting is that these are kids who are trying to attend college. Whether or not these students “should…go to college” is irrelevant. But for the sake of your point, if these students are not “college material” then their guidance counselors didn’t exactly do their job either, did they?

    Musicman—please, stop being an apologist for your district. There is no excuse for this. It is a disgrace and a scandal.

  26. Anonymous,

    You are making assumptions about the quality of a district without, in my opinion, the facts needed to do so. A 33% remediation rate in 2-3 subjects is not, and should not, be the major factor in the quality of a district. This district worked for me, my siblings, my in-laws, my friends, and is currently working for many young people in my family. I know it is working because I SEE it is working. The State of Ohio says it is working; the test scores say it is working. Is it working for 100%. NO. Find me a school/business/venture ANYWHERE that works for everyone. Or at least share your idea of what percentage is acceptable. However, I can tell by your insulting and sarcastic tone that you are choosing to not listen and think about what I say. I respect your right to not listen to me, so I will not litter this board with more posts towards you.


    I understood what the extras were, I wanted to know which ones YOU think we should cut. My point is this: What if we abolish public schools and go towards your charter school plan? Here is my worry:

    -Schools will specialize: Music school, athletic school, A&S school.

    -This specialization will result in increased salaries for teachers that teach the specialization of the particular school, and lower salaries for those that don't (eg; Math teachers make a lot in a math-centric school, while foreign language teachers in that same school make much less.)

    -What if your child has an interest in Math AND a foreign language? They may have to choose one focus or another, and the quality they get in the other area could be diminished.


    -A school decides they are going to be well-rounded, and are going to be competitive with salaries in ALL areas. This school then becomes VERY expensive, more than whatever voucher is provided by the state of Ohio. Parents will have to be willing/able to pay private school-like tuition in addition to their voucher.

    -This creates a have/have-not system where the wealthy can get a well-rounded education, and those not so fortunate can get a good education in one specific area, or a decent all-around education. I think this creates undue burden on the parents to provide for their childs elementary/secondary education.

    My last point:

    It is the job of the community to educate their children, it is the job of the parents to make sure their children take advantage of that. We pay it forward. Someone paid for my education (probably you Paul/Rick, Thanks!), I took advantage, and now I pay it forward to your/my/others kids/grandkids/etc...

    I just can't imagine a situation where we give parents a "coupon" for school, and say good luck.

  27. Musicman:

    Here's a post I wrote about a year ago describing what I think could be a workable charter school system. Note that the tuition at all charter schools would be the same - but each school would be free to allocate its funding any way it likes as long as curriculum requirements are being met.

    For a really good explanation of this kind of system, read the chapter on school voucher in Milton Friedman's book "Free to Choose."

    What programming and services would I cut from Hilliard schools? Don't know. Part of the answer would come from looking at student participation numbers. Part would be cost/student analysis.

    Look, the list of things that are offered now is not exhaustive - we offer what we can afford at current funding. Is Latin offered? How about rare instruments like the lute? How about gross anatomy?

    And we have to be willing to say out loud that the extraordinary pace of compensation and benefits cost growth is squeezing everything else out of the budget (e.g. the most recently announced reduction in bus service).

    All I've said is that we need to have a real dialog among people who have good understanding of all dimensions of these issues, and not just a selfish focus on their own needs.


  28. Where do I start with this:

    Musicman says:
    "You are making assumptions about the quality of a district without, in my opinion, the facts needed to do so. A 33% remediation rate in 2-3 subjects is not, and should not, be the major factor in the quality of a district."

    1/3 of Hilliard students are being graduated without having learned high school level math and/or English. We're not talking about Biology or Chemistry--we're talking about the two most basic disciplines they have received instruction on for their entire tenure at Hilliard schools, beginning in elementary school.

    Musicman says:
    "This district worked for me, my siblings, my in-laws, my friends, and is currently working for many young people in my family. I know it is working because I SEE it is working."

    Response: Working relative to what? Relative to the masses of Indians, Chinese and Pakistanis that companies all over Ohio and the rest of the country are hiring?
    Relative to the international rankings that show Third World countries beating the pants off our kids in math and science?
    Tell me what it is that you see. I'd like to know.

    Musicman says:
    "The State of Ohio says it is working; the test scores say it is working."

    Only a fool would judge a formula or service provided by the state as accurate or adequate. This year the state made up a new ranking out of whole cloth--"Excellent with Distinction"--without raising the bar from a score perspective. Then they added "Value Added" criteria to more easily allow districts to attain "excellence". Then they allowed districts passes for two years to get there. So, if a districts AYP on, say, ESL students was going to make them miss their mark of "excellence" they were essentially given a waiver if they promised the state that they'd make AYP on those trouble areas within two years. So, even though a district misses AYP they're allowed to keep their "Excellent" ranking--so long as they promise with a cherry on top that they'll make it withing two years. What a scam. Only in education would one ever see this kind of nonsense.

    Why are you trying to rationalize 1/3 of Hilliard students being graduated without having learned high school level math and/or English?

    Musicman says:
    "Is it working for 100%. NO. Find me a school/business/venture ANYWHERE that works for everyone."

    Nothing works perfectly, but at least in the private sector affirmative steps are taken to correct course--because if they are not taken the company goes out of business. No such mechanism exists in school districts. Worse, administrators and boards go to great lengths to hide or whitewash problems. A measureable end result that you have discovered is that 1/3 of your students are graduated without being proficient in high school level math and/or English.

    "Or at least share your idea of what percentage is acceptable."

    100% of Hilliard graduates should be proficient in high school mimimum level math and/or English. Again, these kids are being remediated in college because they didn't learn high school level math and/or English.

    Musicman says:
    "However, I can tell by your insulting and sarcastic tone that you are choosing to not listen and think about what I say. I respect your right to not listen to me, so I will not litter this board with more posts towards you."

    I'm not being sarcastic. I think I'm providing some insight to you and others on this board. I just have little appetite for people who try to rationalize the inexcusable. What is going on in our school districts is a scandal and your kids and my kids pay for it in lost time, development and preparedness.

    Stop trying to rationalize this. It's foolish.

  29. Paul wrote:
    "All I've said is that we need to have a real dialog among people who have good understanding of all dimensions of these issues, and not just a selfish focus on their own needs."

    Paul, I agree wholeheartedly with that. But wouldn't you also agree that some of those who are complaining about the schools right now are putting a selfish focus on their own needs?

    I think it is a two-way street, but most people seem to only want to drive down the "HCSD are imcompetent" side of the street, not the "some community members are selfish and would never vote for a levy ever" side.

  30. Musicman:

    Yes, I agree that many people prefer to rely on their own uninformed opinions rather than make the effort to understand the mechanics and have the debate.

    As I have said many many times, it is this indignant, ignorant apathy which most endangers our democratic system.

  31. Musicman,

    This isn't a sarcastic statement, so please don't interpret as such. You're in denial much like an alcoholic--I'll call you an edu-holic. You're in denial that the Hilliard school district is seriously flawed.
    Until you accept that you'll always think that critics are just trying to hurt the district.

    Ironically, it's people like you who are killing our kids' future. You clutch to this notion that "public education = good"--even when the evidence is shoved under your nose that proves otherwise. And it's not just obscure data that means nothing: it's data that all district administrators are aware of and act as if it does not exist. That's negligence. If you or me have knowledge about a crime and do nothing to stop it, then we're accessories. The government officials who were given evidence of an impending earthquake but did not alert residents are liable. That your district administrators (superintendent/ assistant superintendent of "instruction and accountability" LOL) are well aware of the remediation stats and have no explicit plan in place to deal with them is, in my opinion, negligence.

    By protecting the status quo you are just as complicit as they are to the unpreparedness of Hilliard graduates.

    That's all I'll say on the remediation topic.

  32. Anonymous: I find agreement in much of what you say, but ask that you engage in the debate without the name calling and personal shots. It weakens the impact of your argument, in my opinion.

    And again I ask you, please pick a name, even if a 'handle' so we can be clear how many people we're talking to.



  33. I'm not interested in registering or getting a Google account so I'll sign each post with "TJ".

    I have attacked no one on this board, nor have I engaged in name-calling. I compared someone who is in denial that his public school district is negligent, to an alcoholic. It's the same: clinging to something that provides comfort even though it is not good for you.

    It's Musicman's right to deny that Hilliard's 31% remediation rate means that the district is failing your kids; it's his right to attack the messenger on his stats (though, no doubt he's seen them by now on the OBoR website), or...whatever denial-laden, comment he makes on it.

    But it's also my prerogative to respond inkind because it's dangerous rationalization. It's that kind of thinking and attitude that has led your community to walk over to the sidelines and applaud when the board handed over the referee duties to the district years ago. It's people like Musicman who are the passive spectators to your kids' education. He--and residents like him who stick their heads in the sand--are the enablers that created this problem.

    This isn't "mean-spirited" commentary. It's 100% true, and we all know it--not just with Musicman, but with all but a few residents in your district (mine as well). It's complicity of the worst kind.

  34. I probably "know" more about what is wrong with schools than anyone reading this board, with the exception of others who work in the buildings on a daily basis as I do. I could talk for hours about the things that need changing; that is one of the reasons I read this board: Not to defend the school district, but to discuss and debate RATIONAL change. We are supposed to trust all you private-sector people because you work in the real world. Well, I work in a school. You should value my opinion as well. Anyone who has read my comments for any length of time should know that I am not a school apologist, but one who wants to see BOTH sides of the issue.

    Calling the whole system a complete disaster, rampant with fraud, is not only incorrect and ignorant, it does little to bring change to the table. Comparing individuals who probably know MORE about the inner-workings of the schools than you an "alcoholic" does little to bring change to the table.

    If I am to respect everyone elses experience in the private sector on this board (which I do), then I would expect a respect for my experience, without the assumption that it is based on a head-in-the-sand, pro-union viewpoint. I have shown that to be untrue, but some still focus on what they THINK my viewpoint should be, as opposed to what it is.


    When you are done posting, click on Name/URL under "Choose an identity." You do not have to register for anything, just type your name, and hit "Publish."

  35. Musicman:

    Well said. I for one appreciate your insider's view of the education system.

    School systems are lot like the military. There is the world of the front line soldier (classroom teacher) who is in daily contact with the enemy (ignorance) and for whom there is little which is theoretical or strategic. All they ask of the higher ups is a clear mission, minimal distraction, and sufficient resources.

    Then there is the Pentagon (Central Office) and the Command Headquarters (the HEA/OAPSE offices). There, far away from the battlefield, the issues are power, money, and politics. Troops in the field know that their lives depend on accurate and instantaneous communications. Meanwhile the folks in the Pentagon and the Command HQ are 'managing communications' both within their walls, and with the outside world.

    I am a big fan of war movies, and one of my favorites is "The Battle of the Bulge," with many stars including Henry Ford and Robert Shaw." Shaw plays a German tank battalion commander. At one point his aide asks him "when will the war be over?" The commander answers that the German High Command had known for a long time that they couldn't win the war, so their objective was to prolong it forever, even if it meant generations of German soldiers would die.

    I think that describes the American public school system. While the soldiers (teachers) are fighting on bravely in the classroom, the war is lost, but the High Command is desperately trying to figure out how to keep their world going.

    At the risk of stretching this analogy too far - note that the best thing that happened to Germany (West Germany at least) was to finally surrender and let a new system take its place.

    Our public school system is our domestic Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. We continue to pour resources in, but don't seem to be gaining much. We can't 'win' this thing as long as we stick to traditional strategy and tactics AND allow the current power structure to remain in place. Nor can we just surrender and walk away.

    A radically different approach is needed. I'm suggesting that adding an unprecendented level of choice to the system, as described by Milton Friedman and others, is one worth considering.


  36. What insight? That "...they are doing an outstanding job of educating our students, which is their job". Of course. 1/3 are pushed off to college without being proficient in high school math/English. Great job!

    Tell difficult is it to type while shaking your pom-poms for Hilliard?

    I've scanned this post for any acknowledgement by Musicman regarding Hilliards high remediation rate, and the closest I see is his questioning of how I referred to the stat in an analogy, or his criticizing me for making "sweeping assumptions". What assumptions are those? That the Board of Regents remediation stats mean...that...1/3 of Hilliard students entering college aren't proficient in high school math/English? Now there's an assumption!

    What he does say, however is that the distric may not be perfect but it's doing an excellent job of educating our kids. Right-O.


    The remediation rate is the Gold Standard of how well your district is preparing your kids for the next step, and for 90% of them it will be college. It isn't your PI; it isn't your dopey state-branded "Excellent" rating, or any other artificial appraisal or accolade or aggrandizement from ODE, OSBA or other public education, boot-licking, sycophantic institution.

    Colleges from around the state are TELLING YOU that your school district is turning out a high number of graduates who are not qualified to even enter their classrooms without being re-taught high school math and/or English. If this isn't a spash of ice water in your face then you must not understand the significance of this. Also on the Board of Regents website are stats on remedial students' low success rates in completing college. They take two years longer, on average, to graduate college, and have a much higher percentage of never completing college than students who required no remediation.

    For the sake of argument, let's say that Johnny or Jane really wasn't "college material": If that's the case then "Guidance Counselors" are not worthy of the title they are given. These people obviously did a poor job of "guiding" these students down a path that better ensures success versus a path that guarantees failure.

    Let's say it's a matter of retention due to Johnny or Jane finishing up their minimum requirement of Algebra II in their Sophomore year, and by the time they graduated they forgot what polynomials and run-on sentences are. Then that's a problem for the district, too, because the district administrators know what the remediation rates are and they choose to do nothing to addresss them.

    That a district will never utter the word "remediation" in public points to how corrupt the system is. How else can one sum it up?

    1/3 of students not allowed to take college level math/English until they "re-take" high school level math/English. Thousands of additional dollars out of parents' pockets; 6 and 7 year college completion timelines; significantly lower college graduation rates. The district does not acknowledge this is a problem, or that they have a role in this--or that they have a moral responsibility to correct it.

    And Musicman doesn't acknowlege this is a problem, but he attacks my tone.

    I'm having a hard time believing that Musicman is a real person and not someone just having fun on this board. He can't be for real.

    And if he is for real, and he is a teacher in your district--as he postures to be--then he is the object definition of this problem. Case solved.

    Don't take this personally, Musicman. If you are unable to see an issue with Hilliards remediation rate, then I don't know what else to say.


  37. TJ, actually Musicman does not teach in the HCDS, but does in another district. Lives in the HCDS however and has obviously a lot of contacts with teachers in the district.

    Many good points are thrown out here, and actually it is good to see some passion on this subject, from both sides. At least we are talking about it versus how school leaders focus only on the positive stuff, which by the way there is alot of in HCDS.

    I want our students to continue
    to have good opportunities. I agree that the remediation should be addressed. But if we fail to get a rein on our increased spending ALL of that will be
    in jeopardy, no matter how high we are rated, or what steps we take for remediation etc.

    If many of us were getting the increased compensation like our district employees are, we would be glad to continue our support.
    And in fact, HCDS community members have done exactly that
    without an acknowledgement from our district and its employees

    There are simply two paths to go.

    1. Get some honest and open and yes
    tough communication going. It is not going to be pretty. But Isnt it about the kids ?
    2. Limit spending to 2.5% NOW
    Anyone read the new school proposal in the Dispatch this morning? Signal to the community we are going to look first at
    90% of the expenditures instead of taking all the cuts out of the
    10% part.

    Waiting for a response....might be a longgggggggggg wait.

    The other alternative that should scare the crap out of anyone associated with this district would
    be organized opposition starting up that has happenend in many districts, where any increase despite all of the good things, is a bad increase, and "just do with less like we do" I dont support that, but fear when it rears its ugly head.

  38. Los Angelas school distric is laying off 5,000 staff. Listen to the superintendent's comments toward the end of the clip:


  39. "Declining student population, declining revenue and unchecked program/employee growth... someday it had to catch up with us..."

    That's not exactly our situation as we've had both student growth and increasing revenue. Our problem is that the revenue sources are changing in proportion (more homeowner contribution, static commercial and state contributions). We've certaining had growth in programs and services, with employee numbers growing at twice the rate of growth of students.

    Thanks for the link.

  40. Rick,

    I hear you on the spending. That's how I became interested in the goings-on of our district and began attending some of the meetings.

    The remediation point was supposed to be a factoid to let you all know about, and then let you ponder your own districts issue. It developed into a topic when Musicman dismissed it as insignificant, while he praised the "excellent job" that was going on in Hilliard schools.

    I heard that the Olentangy board meeting the other night became very heated with Smith, as usual, not going along with the majority's nonsense. I'll have to pull down the audio when it's posted.

    On the agenda was to extend Medicare tax reimbursement to elementary/middle school/elementary principles and asst principles (which then becomes included in their SERS/STRS retirement base)--that perk was previously offered to only a few central office administrators--, and the purchase of CD player/stereos for the districts enclosed tractor/mowers (buy your own freakin' MP3 player, for God's sake).

    I also read in our local paper that (yet) another ceramics course is going to be put on the curriculum. So, we'll have five ceramics courses and three jewelry courses while having only two computer science courses. We have a 20% remediation rate.

    Where does it end?


  41. Paul--about that.

    Your former mayor, Tim Ward, was all over increasing commercial development. I spoke with him frequently when he was mayor and he was so frustrated with council and the local papers were very biased against him.

    Cope was on MORPC, for goodness sake, and oversaw the massive, residential development that Hilliard undertook during that time.

    These folks--along with Schonhardt--are responsible for this. But, yet again, the local papers spun Ward as the bad guy and your scheming council as the good guys. Now Schonhardt is your mayor. Your near total reliance on residential taxes didn't "just happen". It took years or community apathy and neglect to get there. Everyone moans and groans about how their taxes are increasing while their services are decreasing, but nobody is willing to hold public officials accountable. Nobody want's to take the time to become involved. More residents spend more time watching Buckeye football in a season than they do learning about what their elected officials are doing--in a lifetime. And now residents are moaning about it.

  42. You are absolutely right about Tim Ward, and I've written about my disgust with Hilliard politics for a long time:

    Tim Ward (a comment on this post about Jennifer Smith's first days on the Olentangy board)

    Don Schonhardt has been in my crosshairs on many postings. He is a carpetbagger who I believe came to Hilliard just for the opportunity to profit from all this development. I suspect it was him who encouraged his buddy Mike Cope to leave Hilliard City Council and run for a seat as a Norwich Twp trustee, just to expand the base of influence of their little band of ...

    Which now includes Dan Nichter, who like Schonhardt showed up in our community one day and ran for a seat on City Council when the timing was right.

    And finally, I couldn't agree with you more that apathy is the disease that destroys democracy. It has allowed greed and corruption at every level of government. Here in Central Ohio, it has allowed residential developers to dictate municipal policy for decades. There's a really good book on this subject which I have recommended many times on this blog. It's titled Getting Around Brown by Gregory Jacobs.

    We're hoping to take a bite out of that here in Hilliard. We have a good core group of people who are gathering, first to get informed and then to get the right people elected to the school board this November.

    It may be our own little "Tea Party"


  43. Rick,

    I agree with everything you said about cost containment coming from the 90% instead of the 10% HOW ABOUT THAT, WE AGREE!!

    In a related story, my districts unions just agreed to a pay freeze (base) for next year, which will save the district millions, and I couldn't be more excited. Still waiting for the same from HEA...

  44. Complete pay freeze, or just suspension of the 'base pay increase'? In other words, will the step increases still in place?

    This is a pre-emptive ploy being used by OEA locals all over the state: volunteer to forego the base pay increase and hope no one realizes that the step increases are still there.

    Don't know about your district, but here in Hilliard, the step increases are the larger of the two (3% base vs 4.15% steps). Admittedly, step increases aren't applicable to all teachers (it's about 70% here in Hilliard), but it's also generally true that by the time a teacher hits the top of the step table, they're making decent money ($79,000 in the HEA agreement).

    It's not that I don't appreciate the teachers' unions volunteering this concession, I just wish they would tell the whole story, which would sound like:

    "We'll voluntarily forego the x% base pay increase normally present in our contracts, but insist on keeping the y% step increases."

    I think the public would react favorably to that, and just might agree to that offer.

    But to try to fool the public into thinking "we're not asking for any raises" while attempting to keep step increases in effect is a gambit that I think might backfire in today's economy.


  45. Paul,

    Sorry, I should have been clearer. It is base pay; step increases are still in place.

    While I concede that it is usually (and IS in our district) painted to be more of a sacrifice than it is(except for those that don't get a step increase), it IS still a gesture that costs employees money, and should be met with nothing but praise.

    ANY step in the right direction is a step in the right direction. Sometimes change takes time, and I think OEA units that have done this ARE sacrificing, even if not the amount many would like.

    As always, keep in mind that I am a union shill, and could do without their existence entirely...

  46. MM:

    Actually you did say "(base)" and I just missed it.

    My reaction is to the manipulative intent of this offer. The unions want the public to think, when they hear the phrase "freeze," that no teachers are getting any more money, year over year.

    Since that's a very common situation in the private sector these days, it has the ring of shared sacrifice, and would likely elicit a positive reaction from the public - who pays the taxes that underwrite teacher salaries.

    But it's not the whole story, because it leaves out the step increases. When the public finds out it's been duped, I suspect the reaction would be strong.