Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In April, I wrote an article discussing the fact that two new administrative contracts were signed at the same time two teachers were laid off. The administrative jobs are called Student Services Coordinators – a job title I was not familiar with. So I asked for a copy of the job description. Here it is (my comments in italics):

  • Establishes and maintains positive public relations program with local community groups and individuals to foster understanding and support for overall school objectives and programs. Don't we have a central public relations department? Does each school need a PR person too?
  • Works to create a sense of community among staff, students and parents which allows for open communications. Seems like a duty of the Principal.
  • Responsible for the Student Attendance Program. Job for a good secretary.
  • Coordinates the Student Parking Program. Why not let a student group handle this?
  • Works with Juvenile Court, Hilliard Police Department and Children's Services on the filing of reports, etc. Is there a lot of that going on?
  • Maintains the Student Locker Program and Audio-Visual Program for the building. Another possible student-run process?
  • Supervises the In-School Suspension, Saturday School, and Peer Mediation Program.
  • Coordinates the Student Assistance Program. What's this?
  • Enforces discipline policies. Isn't this traditionally what Vice-Principals do?
  • Other duties as assigned by the principal related to the job.

Okay, so what kind of qualifications do you think there should be for such a position? How much should it pay? I was quite surprised:

  • Education: Masters degree or higher in Educational Administration (same as a Principal)
  • Certification: Secondary principal, superintendent, supervisor, other administrative certificates
  • Experience: minimum of three years of teaching, three years of administrative or supervisory experience

So at Hilliard Davidson (and I expect Darby as well), we have…

  • 1 "Head" Principal.
  • 4 Class Principals
  • 2 Student Services Coordinators

… for a student body of say 2,000 students (more last year, less next year with Bradley opening). That's one 'principal-like' person for every 285 students. This group of seven administrators costs us at least $1 million/yr in salary and benefits.

The Governor's Evidence Based Model would fund one 'principal-like' person for every 733 high school kids. In other words, we have 2.6 times as many 'principal-like' persons on staff as EBM requires. People often complain that Hilliard Schools is "top-heavy with administrators." I think of the Central Office (and Support Service Facility) when that is said, but here is a strong suggestion that the individual school buildings, notably the high schools, may indeed be so.

There is more than one way to compensate an employee. One is the obvious way – more money. To a lesser effect, increasing benefits can feel like compensation, but the effect is usually short-lived.

Then there are the intangible things. Nicer office, better view, newer furniture, or a closer parking spot.

A more subtle way to improve the effort/reward situation for an employee is to reduce the effort – to take away parts of the job that aren't fun or no longer interesting or just an absolute pain. You can take the duties of two people and split them over three – giving the scut tasks to the new hire.

Is that what goes on with these administrative jobs? I know it's been a while since I was in high school, but our 3 year school of 1,000 students was administered by one principal and one assistant principal. They shared one secretary. The only other folks in the central office were the two guidance counselors. There wasn't a principal for every grade, or anything like these Student Services Coordinators.

The head football coach was also the Calculus teacher (and good at both). The head basketball coach taught History. All the coaches were teachers in fact. There was no such thing as an Athletic Director. Today, our high schools have an Athletic Director, an Assistant Athletic Director, and an Athletic Administrative Assistant. We have paid coaches for sports I didn't know existed when I was in high school. My high school had just one Band Director (marching over 100) and one Choral Director. They taught all the instrumental and vocal music classes – neither had paid assistants of any kind.

None of this stuff we here in Hilliard have is free. Nor is it mandatory. We pay a substantial premium in our property taxes to give our kids the opportunity to go to Hilliard City Schools and enjoy all these premium services.

In 2010, we will again be given the chance to say whether we think it's worth the cost. The Treasurer has already said that it looks like another operating levy will be needed in 2010, and the current School Board agrees.

But that's true only if we in the community agree that we want to keep spending this kind of money for all these employees. Programs = employees. The equation is that simple. I think our choices will be something like this:

  1. Keep all the programs we have, and continue giving the employees 7% raises – and pay for it by adding $200+ per $100,000 to our property taxes every two years;

  2. Keep all the programs we have and all the employees, but demand a much lower growth rate for compensation and benefits. We still might need to increase our property taxes every 2-3 years, but the amount would be much less – maybe half?

  3. Keep giving the employees extraordinary raises, but reduce the headcount significantly by cutting programs and consolidating job responsibilities (ie cutting the number of 'principal-like' administrators in the high schools in half).

  4. Really dial things back by reducing the rate of compensation growth, cutting programs and headcount, and consolidating jobs. We might be able to avoid an additional levy for several years if this approach is taken. Would we be happy with the school district that results?

There is a school board election this November in which three of the five seats will be up for vote (Bobbitt, Teater & Whiting). This Board has shown that it believes the only answer is #1. If you don't agree, then you need to do your part to see that others get those seats.


  1. I'm speechless. Absolutely, positively speechless. The depths of idiocy with which the HCSD is being run keeps reaching new lows every time I turn around. One year from now my youngest will have graduated from Davidson, and unless all three of the present Board members are replaced by that time, the For Sale sign will be on my lawn before Spring Break 2010. The lunatics are truly running the asylum.

  2. It occurs to me that just because two Student Services Coordinators were hired for Davidson doesn't mean there are only two of these folks on the staff. I'll find out more.


  3. When I was a kid, we brought coal from home to stoke the fire, and were responsible for allowing the teacher to live with us four weeks out of the year. Grades K-12 were also taught out of the same building, with the same teacher! What are we doing here in HCSD???

    It seems to me that we are SO upset at HCSD, that pretty much anything they do at this point is viewed as absurb ("The depths of idiocy", as Hillirdite said.)

    How any of us can pretend to know what it takes to educate students in the 21st century is beyond me. Is using anecdotal data from ones personal high school experience really the way to go there? We are so quick to judge these things based on our own experience that you COMPLETELY discount the experience/input/knowledge of the people in charge. In my opinion that will not serve us well.

    Before I get roasted on the spit, I am NOT advocating that we stop asking questions. I think these questions are good. However, it seems ridiculous that we are so very quick to judge things of which we do not have a clear understanding.

    In my district, a woman was elected to the board of education after being a vocal opponent to many of their policies/decisions prior to her election. She ran on a campaign of changing the way the BOE did business, she was going to "fix" things. Guess what happened? Once elected, she was immersed in the nitty gritty details of running a school district, and she COMPLETELY changed her tune.

    I just pray that we all act with a sense of responsibility towards our students, and that we trust the people who are doing the job. It is one thing for the state to be the cause of our district teetering on the brink of disaster. It is quite another to do it to ourselves.

    We keep coming back to money, money, money. Did anyone stop to think that maybe these positions help STUDENTS? We talk about them so little on this board. I will say it again, just so I am clear:

    As long as I feel that HCSD is providing my children (Now 2.5 years and 0 years, but you get the point) the type of high quality education I expect, I will pay ANY amount of money they ask for those services. I believe they are. It is about the OUTPUT primarily. How much it costs is secondary to my family. Please notice I did not say NOT IMPORTANT, just not the primary thing we think about. I cannot imagine saying to my children "I looked at my pocketbook BEFORE I looked at the quality of education you were receiving." Can you imagine that? Notice I didn't say we don't look at our pocketbook at all, just not FIRST.

    I am so proud to live in Hilliard, mostly because of the reputation our schools have for turning out students of the highest quality. If this is what the "depths of idiocy", gets us, I couldn't be happier!!!

  4. musicman - the job description was given in Paul's article, and the only reason I used 'depths of idiocy" is because he would have had to edit how I really feel. The HCSB lays off two teachers, obviously junior grade new hires, due to "lack of funds" and then creates out of thin air two new administrator positions? What is there to understand about this brilliant move? Mu sense of responsibility is to vigorously oppose any new levies until the current board is thrown out on their arse and I will be very vocal about doing it.

    sense of responsibility towards our students, and that we trust the people who are doing the job, ? You have got to be kidding me! I have absolute zero trust in the board, and little trust in many of my kids teachers. I am not the one to be responsible towards our students - the board and staff of the district are, and they exhibit absolutely none of that responsibility to either the students or the taxpayers. Seems in the time I have been away from this blog, you have become even more eager to be "roasted on the spit" and I'll be happy to step up to the plate in this case. The pocketbook remark was ridiculous in light of this post - you are content to throw boundless money in the boards direction, in spite of their irresponsible use of it, so you can look students in the eye and be proud? That is just plain insanity, but I suppose it follows the way the entire country is now being run. What a mess...

  5. MM:

    Actually, your words support my fundamental position:

    Our central problem is that the public doesn't understand and the school leadership feels they have no responsibility to help the public understand. The school leadership feels the public should just accept as gospel whatever it is the leadership thinks the school district needs, no matter what it costs.

    My postings are meant to pull back the curtain, taking the community on the same journey of discovery that I've been pursuing for the better part of a decade. I'd much prefer that the school leadership feel this is their responsibility, but they don't.

    Now on the topic of this job, the Governor's new, much touted Evidence Based Model doesn't say anything about positions like a 'Student Services Coordinator.' As far as I can tell, this is an entirely optional position that the leaders of our district have chosen to implement for reasons completely unknown to the public (and I suspect to the School Board).

    Go to a School Board meeting sometime. The section of the agenda where this stuff is voted on is blown through literally in a minute or two, with no discussion and a 5-0 vote. I know that the Board members get a briefing book from the Superintendent ahead of time, and there may well a defense by the Superintendent as to why he feels these positions are necessary.

    But you never hear the School Board discuss such things, and there is never a dissenting vote.

    Regardless of the fact that I was a high level executive in a large corporation, I would never get to create a senior management position without making a pretty convincing argument to my boss, who was the President of a multi-billion dollar division of a Fortune 100 company.

    Why? Because personnel costs are the most expensive part of any business, and you don't go adding to the cost burden without a darn good reason. More importantly, you don't want managers to even consider that adding headcount is the first solution to every problem.

    You ask us to have empathy for the educators. You need to walk in Hillirdite's shoes sometime. You can't imagine the pain he's feeling, having to lay off folks who depend on him for a living. Or mine for that matter. My partners and I had recently had to lay off virtually everyone in our company to keep the business alive - people that I personally recruited to share in our vision. And guess what, that list of who we laid off included me. Given the choice of keeping a guy who has specific skills we must have vs me, I dropped off the payroll (and the health insurance plan). Life has suddenly become very expensive.

    You live in an insulated world, protected by the union you claim to despise. One learns in business that when times are good, you save away some money to keep you going through the inevitible bad times.

    Our school board doesn't know how to do that. They spend all we give them, and when the administration and unions demand more, they expect the public to just pony up - no matter how difficult things are for the rest of us.

    The pressure is building, and the only way to prevent an explosion is to open all channels of communication and start listening to each other.

  6. In defense of the $125K teacher proposition, consider this.

    In Worthington, the average teacher makes, inclusive of retirement and health care benefits, around $93,000/year. That's the average. Paying a few teachers $125K/year does not strike me as unreasonable. It's quite possible that some might be close to that level already.

    The $125K teacher would be a paradigm change in an industry that desparately needs one. The $125K teacher could be expected to teach up to 30 kids in a classroom, would be willing to be judged on performance, would be capable of working with little supervision, would be able to mentor younger teachers, could get fired for lack of performance, would be responsible for their own professional development and collaboration time, would possess a "whatever it takes" attitude, would not demand a stipend for each additional hour worked, would never take beautiful spring fridays off and so on.

    More to the point, teachers that currently do all of the above deserve more than teachers that don't. Anyone want to argue that?

    The $125K teacher would represent a career path for teachers, something else the profession badly needs. A typical private sector career path does not exist in teaching. The only career path available is to go into administration and I've not seen any studies that show that great teachers are any more or less likely to be great administrators. Society should want to be able to keep great teachers in the classroom.

    If dangling the carrot of "master teacher" with a potential $125salary for a few people in each district allows that to occur, it's worth it in my opinion.

  7. Hillirdite wrote:
    I am not the one to be responsible towards our students - the board and staff of the district are, and they exhibit absolutely none of that responsibility to either the students or the taxpayers.

    Please explain how the board and staff have not been responsible to the students of this district. THAT is news to me. Are they challenged when it comes to community relations? YES. Do they do a fantastic job of educating our students? YES. This is a perfect example of the overreaction that plagues these dialogues. The HCSD does a great job at PRIORITY #1: Educating students. Your posts make me question what you think their #1 priority should be.

    Paul wrote:
    You live in an insulated world, protected by the union you claim to despise.

    You keep talking about opening up channels and listening, then you throw garbage like this out there.

    You can't honestly believe that because I am a teacher I don't understand how the real world works, can you? You do know that the district I work in has cut/eliminated well over 300 positions in the past 4 years, right? You also understand that many of those people are my friends and colleagues, right? You do understand that my current operating budget to run a music program of 200 kids next year is $166, right? And I'm sure you also understand that, pending the results of the August 4th levy in my district, the cuts that will have to be next year will most likely include me?

    Of course you don't understand that, because your perception of what teachers understand about the real world is based in cynical disrespect. Unfortunately, I am not of the age necessary to receive protection from my union (How does #3 on the RIF list sound??? Pretty insulated, huh?) I am also not in the right department to be saved by the State of Ohio. Music is one of the first things that can be cut, as it is not mandated (I'm sure you knew that, though.)

    But you have just got me ALL figured out don't you? I couldn't just be an intelligent, interested person, looking to bring another perspective, right? I MUST be an ignorant teacher with an agenda. I surely don't lie awake at night wondering how I'm going to provide for my family, do I? I don't wonder where the money is going to come from to fix the air conditioner that just broke? Certainly NOT. I haven't had discussions with my wife about what on earth we are going to do if things go south?

    It will be a happy day when you are elected to the school board, and your "open lines of communication" involve lecturing teachers on how insulated they are, and how they don't understand how the real world operates.

    I worry that instead of trying to understand what it takes to run a school district (Which is NOT a business), you try to cram the school district into a box that you feel comfortable understanding.

    As always, I will continue to listen and try to find common ground, although it seems I may be the only one on here not just trying to cram my ideas down anothers throat.

    I AGREE That:
    -Communication needs much improvement
    -The union/HCSD relationship prevents an honest look at finances
    -The compensation model cannot continue, and should be adjusted

    But I will NOT blindly beat down HCSD for things that I do not understand, and I guarantee that nobody on here fully understands:
    -Why the SSC positions are/are not necessary.
    -How the SSC positions relate to the teacher cuts made, if at all.
    -How many administrative positions it takes to run our district.
    -How challenging it is to educate our students to the highest level (WHICH THEY DO!!!)

    We seem to all make up our minds about what we think, then ask questions. The conclusions that are "jumped to" on this blog are amazing.

    But what do I know, right? My union insulates me from all of this...

  8. MM:

    Maybe I'm just not a very good writer, but it feels to me that you're the one who takes my questions and observations and blows them up with hyperbole (e.g. the 'taking coal to school' crack).

    I present facts (we have one 'principal-like' person for every 285 students vs the EBM standard of one for every 733), and wonder why, while you seem to be saying I shouldn't question such things.

    I observe that my, albeit dated, experience was that schools used to have much less overhead staff, and you call in invalid. I've learned that experience counts for a lot - it at least gives you a baseline from which to evaluate change.

    You accuse me and other like Hillirdite of always assuming the HCSD leaders are wrong. That's more hyperbole. They clearly do a lot of things right, and I even wrote a blog post with that very title.

    Yet they get some key things wrong, the greatest of those being their lack of appreciation for the importance of communications and dialog.

    But they also have to be acutely aware of headcount - our only material cost driver. I'm not talking about teachers in the classroom either. The ratio of regular teachers to students has been 20:1 in HCSD for a decade, and I think that's a good thing.

    What I'm talking about is all the administrative and staff positions. And yes, I'm questioning the need for athletic directors and the large staff of band directors (and I'm a bandie).

    I've said it before - I appreciate that you bring a teacher's perspective to the conversation, and hope you stick with the dialog. But please acknowledge your own contribution to the tone it takes.


  9. MM:

    ... and I hear you when you say that you're 'on the bubble' and at great risk of losing your position. I also appreciate that as a music teacher, like my daughter, it's especially hard to find a new one.

    I hope it doesn't come to that. Nor do I consider the kind of music teaching you do to be a frill.

    But there are lots of them out there - especially in the huge school districts like SW and Hilliard. All I'm saying is that maybe we've let the frills get out of hand, and it's time to give it another look - rather than just saying everything we now have is necessary.


  10. musicman - Reducing in-classroom teachers and hiring out-of-classroom admins to "coordinate" things that are already the responsibility of others is NOT being responsible with our money, and it is our money that is ultimately responsible for teaching our kids. The Board is merely the steward of OUR money and they do a lousy job of it.

    marc - my problem with the $125k teacher is the same as my reasons that I don't send my kids to an Ivy league college, or for that matter, a private high school - I simply can't afford it and I don't find it necessary in order for them to be successful. In our quest to be the absolute "best" in Hilliard, cost has spiraled out of control, the money has gotten so big that it is being mismanaged, and like the now bankrupt financial companies, the "little man" shareholder has no idea of what is going on at the top, both because he doesn't dig deeply enough and because the people at the top refuse to communicate with him. As I posted before, we don't NEED to pay relatively exorbitant salaries in order to hire qualified teachers. I agree with musicman as far as the quality of the education my kids have gotten here; what I have a problem with is paying too many administrators too much money, and with handing out 7% annual raises to the teachers during an economic crisis which tells them that they are immune from the situation. You can't say it is all about the kids when you are bleeding their parents dry.

  11. Great post Paul. This is the sort of thing we never see in the Northwest News and yet it's what the voters need to see. If they did, it would banish apathy.

  12. I'm for a $125K a year teacher, but only for school districts outside Hilliard where the need is real and where you need a Michael Jordan-like teacher. A great teacher in an inner city school district is where someone earns $125K.

  13. Paul,

    If I have continually misread you and your friends posts, I respectfully apologize. I don't think this medium works well for me; I need to stop participating in the banging of the head on the wall.

    As far as your thoughts on the "large staff of band directors", we'll see how that affects things starting this year. All 3 high schools are down to two directors each now, I guess we'll see how that plays out (Why a 100:1 ratio for band directors would be acceptable I don't understand, however.)

    I have NEVER told you to not ask questions, I just wish everyone would wait until they had all the information to make a decision.

    For the past 6 weeks, I have heard stories of people who voted "no" in my district, and many times their reasoning or justification was just plain false. My wife told me someone at her work voted "no" because the board of my district promised the last levy would last 15 years (Clearly not true). Another told her they voted no because the district wasn't REALLY going to cancel band/sports. When my wife told her they already did, the response was "...huh." People are making uninformed decisions, but the opposite pendulum swing is to be overly critical, and not let the experience of those who are in charge count for something.

    Questions are good, microscopes are good, respectful cynicism is good. Micromanaging the decisions of our board/administration to the point where every little thing that costs money is lambasted is bad, in my opinion.

    I take responsibility for my contribution to the tone of this board, but I don't think I've taken to the name calling of other posters, or to the HCSD staff as others have (idiots, lunatics, etc...)

  14. MM -

    I understand your feelings of being insulted and disrespected. I think a lot of times teacher are viewed on here as not have a clue about the so-called "real world". I'm sure that's largely because of the higher than average compensation the past few years (as the private sector has gone south); However, please don't think that teachers are viewed as not having "real world" worries! As you outlined, your issue sounds very similar to what we talk about often on this blog: 1) doing more with less, 2) risk of RIFs, 3) and higher taxes.

    Paul -
    One interesting reaction to your point that somehow business know how to save for a rainy day and schools don't..... HCSD certainly spends beyond their budget, but as I look at GM, Chrysler, BANKS (who SHOULD be good with money), and even cash-heavy MGM have shown that they haven't exactly planned for rainy days. I do take exception that somehow businesses are necessarily run properly while schools are not.

    I had a manager tell me early in my career that "layoffs are a failure in management". From where I sit, there is plenty of failure in both sectors of our economy.

    Giving respect to MM, I do have to agree (eventhough the I do not fully understand the inner workings of a school district) that the optics are VERY bad that we continue to create seemingly unimportant positions while reducing the number of teaching positions. We are trading valuable and lower paying jobs for questionable positions and certainly higher paying jobs. Bad optics at this stage of the game to say the least.

    As many on here have said.... if items were actually discussed at board meetings, perhaps the funding partners (Us) would have the intel they need to make educated decisions. But in a vacuum, one will listen to whoever speaks... right now, no one from the district is speaking.

  15. musicman - I will apologize for any name calling but I don't think I have done much of that - I referred to the "idiocy" of the boards actions and I used the word lunatic as defined by dictionary.com:


    2. a person whose actions and manner are marked by extreme eccentricity or recklessness.

    I truly believe the Board acts with recklessness - they vote 5-0 on every matter, they hold no public discussion, they have failed to respond even once to any e-mail or letter I have sent them.
    Don't they owe us anything in the way of information or explanation of their decisions? Apparently , they don't think so, and that is where "idiocy" comes to play - they are elected public servants yet they refuse to communicate with their constituency. What are they afraid of - having to defend their decisions? Taking the heat? The only time we hear from them is when the district has an impressive moment; I want to hear from them when things are not so impressive, like day to day.

  16. Marc: Thanks for comments about experiments with highly paid teachers.

    I think the theory with the $125K teacher is that you don't change the total cost/student ratio, but rather you reallocate the way money is spent so that it is directed to a corps of high performance teachers who can successfully take on the workload of a highly effective classroom teacher, plus most of the mandatory administrative tasks.

    The total cost of compensation is the product of headcount times average salary. The idea is you boost average salary, but headcount goes down.

    The tradeoff for the teachers is not only the increased workload, but also an understanding that they can be fired at will for not performing up to the standards of the organization - just like nearly all private sector workers.

    KJ: Indeed there are poorly run corporations out there. They tend to lose customers and go out of business. What happens to poorly run school districts? They think all their problems can be solved with more revenue.

    Yes, over time poorly run school districts lose their customers too, but only the families who can afford to move. Just observe South Western right now to see what that looks like.

    MM: You continue to make my point that communications is the issue.

    In its absence, people are just making up answers based on rumor and hearsay. I hope what I and other commentors say here rises to a higher level, and I'll not refrain from speaking my opinion when it is based on my professional experience in (and lifelong study of) the leadership of large organizations.

    I doubt that any candidate for school board in Hilliard has an equally comprehensive public record of their thinking as do I via this blog. Who do you know more about in regard to school policy - me or the sitting members of the Board?

    My intention is not to brag - only to demonstrate the kind of dialog I believe should exist between our school board and the community.


  17. As I become less apathetic to how a School District is run and learn of the nuance-after-nuance that is involved, the complexity is overwhelming. However, I feel that the first thing we have been asking for is explanation, and after radio silence, we start to dig and come up with our own unanswered questions leading to conclusions.

    If I were the School District, I would want to be much more in front of the inertia involved, but with very limited responses from the district to the direct questions, all I am left with is to ASSUME (and eventually believe) that all they are doing is following the standard playbook up to this point, which is to ignore tough questions/commentary, highlight students, and play the emotion card when needed. We are dealing with a $200 Million per year organization here, not a $200,000 charity!

    Here is an example. Regarding the busing consolidation, I saw articles in the local papers for a month, heard it was discussed in several board meetings, and can only assume it will "cost" multiple-man months to work out the details ($30,000?). All this for $150,000 in savings and a large disruption of families.

    On the other hand, two new School Administrator positions are created, probably costing over $200,000, and there is no comment, discussion, announcement or description presented? Breeze through with a 5-0 vote. And this after all the public outcry over too many High School Administrators!

    Here is a suggestion that meets the criteria we are asking: Have Dale McVey utilize one of this articles in the local paper to, in detail, describe the roles of each of the administrators at the High Schools, and provide tangible data that shows the benefit of having the quantity that exists. Additionally, define a High School administrative staff of 25 years ago (more like the point of reference the voters come from), and explain the differences (and thus the needs) of today.

    Not explaining why there are so many administrators at the High School when it is brought up so often only adds fuel to the fire.

  18. Paul,

    If I were next to you I would whop you upside the head!! It is amazing how much we agree with each other on so many things, yet differ on others. I DO think you are qualified, I just hope you are also rational if on the board. I would be interested in hearing what some of the dissenters think the administrations should look like, both at the high school and the district office. How many of each type administrator, AND what their justification is for their decisions. Who knows, maybe we can come up with a better solution to submit to HCSD!!

    FYI, I don't think for a second the the South-Western City Schools are poorly run. Their expenditures rank them 14th out of 16 in Franklin County in most categories. Our woes are related to reductions in state funding and a 10% voter turn-out. SWCS has been doing more with less for many years, and it just doesn't seem to be enough. Our superintendant, Dr. Wise, is one of the smartest straight shooters I have ever encountered.

    You keep asking questions, and I'll keep commenting. I HOPE you will continue this dialogue if elected to the board. A promise like that may just garner my vote.

    As for my comment about name-calling, in retrospect I believe I DID call 'Anonymous' a "self-righteous blowhard", so I guess I am not completely in the clear!!

  19. I strongly recommended to the Board that they participate in dialogue such as a blog (even sent them a description on how to do it), or at least make it one-way communication that provides a vehicle to explain why decisions are made and let us know all that they do as part of their role (e.g. how much communication they have with elected representatives). The response I got was fear of how that can result in negative publicity over-weighing the positives (sounds like that standard playbook). Once again, not putting enough effort into the tough issues.

    Kudos to Marc Share for taking the time to make his thoughts and decision process available to his voting public.

  20. MM - I think most of us, while not always on the same page, are at least on the same book. Regarding the dissenters ideas on staffing, it is very hard for us to know from the outside, as we don't really know what each positions qualifications and responsibilities are. That is why for the last several years, I have been asking for the admins to list their job descriptions/responsibilities and their qualifications. That is a very common practice in corporate America. Instead we hear the board inform us they have hired 2 SSC positions without telling us, until asked, exactly what they do. I remember a year or so back there was an article in the weekly paper regarding the renewal of many "coordinator" positions and I wrote a letter to the editor commenting on how the titles gave us no information, but my, we certainly seemed to be well coordinated. Of course, there was no response - met with the usual stony silence. I am not qualified to run a school district or sit on the Board, I fully admit that. But I would like to know what my money is going for, particularly in the administration positions.

    Oh, and I strongly agree that there are many totally misinformed voters out there - I hear a lot of that from my wife who works for Aramark in the central kitchen. Some of the stuff she tells me that she hears from her coworkers makes me shudder, and those are people who are in the schools every day no less. Then again, she also recently toured her new 'digs" at Bradley where the central kitchen will operate and thinks the facility is waaayyy over the top - she will enjoy working there but at what cost to the taxpayers?

  21. MM:

    Wow... that's exactly what my first boss used to say to me 30 years ago. ;-)

    I will absolutely disagree that SWCS is well led. If it was, there wouldn't be a problem getting levies passed. The community would be on board with the issues and mad at the right people (Governor, Mayor, etc), resulting in a condition where no levy makes it to the ballot until there has been informed dialog with the stakeholders.

    The Superintendent has a unique role. S/he must devote at least as much energy to nurturing a relationship with the voters as is spent on internal matters. In a district the size of SWCS or HCS, I have no problem with there being vice-superintendents responsible for curriculum, personnel, and business operations.

    But I do have a problem with a Superintendent/CEO who thinks community education and public relations are not essential functions.

    Nor is it true that SWCS ranks 14 of 16 in spending categories. I don't have the numbers before me, but I suspect that due to its sheer size, SWCS is second only to Columbus City Schools in terms of dollars spent.

    The problem is that everyone,especially school officials, wants to normalize these numbers by dividing by the number of students. As I wrote over two years ago, per-student statistics can obscure the truth.

    The problem is that not all spending factors vary with the number of students. School leaders want us to think in per-student terms because they want to be able to raise overhead costs at the same rate as student growth.

    It a two-edged sword however. One of the beefs many folks have had with the Evidence Based Model as first released by the governor is that it reduced the funding to districts which have had declining enrollment.

    Their argument? That their costs don't necessarily go down as the number of students decrease.

    I agree. And they don't necessarily go up when the number of students increase either.


  22. Mark said...
    I strongly recommended to the Board that they participate in dialogue such as a blog (even sent them a description on how to do it........ The response I got was fear of how that can result in negative publicity over-weighing the positives (sounds like that standard playbook).

    Mark, did you seriously get a response? That is more than most get. Congrats! (yes, I am being sarcastic because the response was hollow).

    From who did your response come? Is there anything worth sharing (good or bad)?


  23. KJ,

    I was at the coffee with the Board when I brought it up, and there were a couple Board members who verbally communicated their hesitation to a blog option, as well as one or two who seemed to indicate they didn't know how to go about it.

    I then sent an email that included the following:


    I have to say that this morning was VERY beneficial to my education process, as I learned about many of the actions, decisions and steps you take as a Board in providing oversight for the district. It is a discredit to your efforts that they are not more transparent or understood throughout the community. I would implore you to take any of the steps mentioned this morning to assist in educating the community, even it if is a one-way communication instead of a dialogue for now, in order to help understanding of the challenges facing us. I understand the concern about exposure or misstatements, however, I believe the overall risk/reward tradeoff is more beneficial to the district and it's constituents than not. If you believe you are taking the right steps and making the right decisions, do not be afraid to broadcast it!

    For an unsolicited (grin) suggestion of steps to take:

    - Create a free blog using Wordpress.com or Blogger.com.
    - Make it one that does not allow comments.
    - Blogs allow users to get the information/updates the way they want:
    + Go to the site periodically
    + Get automated updates via Email
    + Get automated updates via an RSS reader
    - Put some good content/articles on the blog.
    - Communicate the blog to the constituents via several methods:
    + District and School e-News
    + Article in the paper
    + Links off of the District site.
    - Start putting many of the activities/actions/reasons up on the blog.
    + Mention you went and met with the congress representatives.
    + Mention you met with the City regarding growth.
    + Mention your thoughts on Strickland's plan.
    + Dave, write a passionate article on why you think Hilliard is so special based on the diversity.
    + Announce your next Coffee with the Board!
    - If needed, have a central editor that reviews your submissions before they are published to manage risk.

    I'm sure there are members in the District or Community that can set this up for you. I feel strongly that there is so much more to be gained from this transparency than can be hurt. It can also be an outlet to establish a two-way dialog in the future.

    The biggest challenge I experienced in the corporate world is effective communication to a large audience, so I am fully aware of how daunting it is. I'd like to believe it is crucial to start trying other methods, and trying to take more control over the process than limit the methods to what has been ineffective.


    I received a couple replies thanking me for my interest, and they will hopefully get to more effective methods.

    I hope that the new School Board members will be promising to take such methods to EducateHilliard.

  24. Well, I have to tell you that this is one of the things about HSD that really burns my bonzoli. The thinking that "if the state says 1 is good, then Hilliard needs 4 because we're Hilliard and we're the best. " I can tell you that my pocketbook cannot afford to pay for 2.5 times what the state requires for anything. I am on a fixed income. I can't just pay whatever anybody wants. I want accountability, sensibility and good fiscal thinking, not "if one's good, 4's better."

    This essay is one of the most succinct reasons I have seen for changing the existing school board and I hope that you will consider sending it to the weeklies and the Columbus Dispatch as a letter to the editor. For me answer #1 is absolutely the wrong answer for our school district. I would vote for anything but the status quo. What we need is someone who can challenge staffing decisions that add to our costs. But my fear is voting for another Cheryl Ryan who promises change and turns out to be more of the same. If you guys are Change I Can Believe in, I'm behind you 100%. ( Oops, that slogan's already been used.)

    For Musicman, it is unconscionable in this economy to have the attitude of "I'll pay whatever it takes and the rest of you are just going to have to ante up". It is unacceptable for the people in this community with money-to-burn to keep voting to raise the taxes of those of us who don't.

  25. GS wrote:
    For Musicman, it is unconscionable in this economy to have the attitude of "I'll pay whatever it takes and the rest of you are just going to have to ante up". It is unacceptable for the people in this community with money-to-burn to keep voting to raise the taxes of those of us who don't.

    Do you have kids? If so, I'm sure you would do whatever it takes to do what you think is best for them. When it comes to education, I will pay ANYTHING a school district asks me to, as long as I am satisfied with the product my child is receiving (I currently AM satisfied with the product Hilliard produces.) If that means my family cuts back on other things, then so be it.

    But just so I am clear, YOU are asking ME to consider you when voting, right? Are you considering me? Are you considering what is extremely important to MY family? The way you are talking, we should vote no on EVERYTHING, because you are on a fixed income. Shouldn't we take every issue on its' own, and see how we feel about it as individuals and families? Or should we have the ThisWeek News interview you, and you can tell us how to vote based on what YOU want?

    I have great respect for the democratic process, and if many of you get your way, my family and I will graciously(ok, maybe not graciously) move along to another community. Don't you have respect for that process as well??

    The neat thing about this country is that we each get one vote. You vote what is best for you, I vote what is best for me, and we see how it pans out in the end. If you win, I look to move elsewhere, because I firmly believe the schools will suffer greatly with any future levy failures. If I win, you have that same choice to make.

    Your comment about "if one's good, 4's better," is part of what frustrates me on this board. You have NO idea if four is necessary, you just FEEL like it is too many. I'm not saying it is or it isn't too many, just that we shouldn't make such rash decisions based on what little we know.

    I am in the minority in that I trust our administration to make decisions that are in the best interests of our students, and if that costs more than other schools in Ohio than so be it. It scares me that you mock the fact that Hilliard wants to be "the best." That is why my family moved here 20 years ago, that is why my wifes family moved here 15 years ago, that is why my wife and I moved back here after college. I want the BEST for my kids. Cost is secondary.

    Now, GS, I have written time and time again that I DO think change is needed. I'm just not willing to make our students suffer to get it done. A "no" vote on a levy does just that

    Nice to see a new 'voice' on here!!

  26. There are several good reasons for the increase in the number of school administrators: 1) the paperwork required to operate schools has increased to a ridiculous level - probably 75% over my years in the business, (most of it sent to some office where is it never looked at) 2) schools are tasked with doing too many things, 3) the discipline issues in schools have grown more than the paper work!

    This society has relied on schools to practically raise kids. Soon there will be school personnel in the hospital delivery room to get kids signed up for school!

  27. musicman - it has been pointed out on this board many times that the teacher-to-student ratio has remained at around 20:1 for the last decade; what has grown in numbers is the administrative staff, as well as the overall payroll since overly generous raises have been handed out per the last 3 contracts. The state recommends "x" number of admins per student and HCSD exceeds this number by a factor of 3. It is not just Anon who feels this number is out of control - I think most here do. And please tell me why, in this day and age of layoffs, cutbacks, and no raises in the private sector, the teaching profession should be immune? We are expected to do more with less, the teachers are supposed to not feel any of the effects? And those on fixed incomes (which is probably a misnomer, I'll admit - my income has gone negative, fixed income such as Social Security at least gets a bump every year) should bear the cost of that largesse? I will say it is at least refreshing to hear you say YOU will move if another levy fails, rather than hear those who say if you don't like it here because the levy passes YOU should move. I am not against all levies, I realize costs are going to increase. I just want to make sure my money is spent in a way that is fair to ALL concerned - the teachers/admins, the students, and the taxpayers. I feel left out of that equation. There is waste, there is excess, and the costs need to be reined in, and it has to include the 90% of the budget that is wages/benefits.

  28. MM - It's nice you moved to Hilliard for the great schools. I hope it's not the only reason you moved here. I hope you didn't decide to live here just to take from this community and move on if it doesn't satisfy your wants. It's almost grifter-like to say you expect to drink from the Hilliard well and if you suck it dry, oh well, you'll just move on. And in the meantime, people who don't like it should move. This is the reason we need to eliminate the individual school district system in this country and establish a national curriculum with a standard cost structure.

    I think it would be unfortunate if in solving the funding issue your children might not get as much as you expect them to get. But then, what's it to you? You'd just move, right?

    And anonymous, I can't see why we would hire admins with masters degrees to fill out paperwork. I agree, you shouldn't have to deal with the discipline problems.

  29. GS,

    My family certainly didn't move here for the Donato's Pizza on Main Street! OF COURSE they moved here for the schools!! I bet a majority of the people who have moved here in the past 20 years had schools as one of the top priorities. It CERTAINLY isn't cost, as you can get much more for much less in Columbus or Grove City.

    My family has been a part of this community for 20 years. What we love about the community is the quality of the schools, among other things. If the schools change, we have every right to go elsewhere. We choose to live where there are great schools. If the great schools leave, so do we. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. You would do the same thing if your reason for living here changed, wouldn't you??


    I DON'T feel that teachers should be immune. My school district has cut over $15 million dollars in the past four years, and Hilliard has made cuts as well. Nobody is immune. If we vote no on levies, then HCSD will make cuts to teaching staff, just as they have in my district.

    It kinda seems like people around here don't even want them to ASK. Is that true? We want the schools to say "Times are tough, so we won't even ask, we'll just make cuts." So does that mean when times are great that people will vote YES, because things are going so well. I bet if we look at election results from the 'Roaring 90's', we'll see that assumption to be false.

    There isn't ANYONE who is immune. I, as a teacher, am looking at $10,000 of lost income next clear, not to mention the distinct possibility of losing my job mid-year. I don't think I should be immune, I just wonder why we would be wishing that on other people?

  30. MM:

    Your W-2 isn't really going to be $10,000 less next year than will be this year, is it? It's that you'll not get your base pay increase, and instead will get only your step increase, right?

    That's significantly different from Hillirdite, whose income actually went down.

    I've never advocated for cutting teacher pay. But I will observe that given the choice between taking a pay cut and laying off young members of their unions, the union leaderships seem to always choose the latter.

    Yes, I know you don't like the unions either, but that's irrelevant - the union leaders make these decisions on behalf of everyone - union supporter or not.


  31. Paul,

    If the levy fails, I will be making significantly LESS money than last year (Not specifically related to the base pay freeze). I will be in the same boat as those I am accused of not understanding, imagine that!!

  32. MM: I now recall you saying that you would get a cut in hours and/or supplementaries. I understand - my daughter the music teacher also is getting fewer hours next year.


  33. It kinda seems like people around here don't even want them to ASK. Is that true? We want the schools to say "Times are tough, so we won't even ask, we'll just make cuts."

    It is fine by me if they "ask" but if it gets voted down, I would like them to spend some time finding out "why". Or maybe they should ask ahead of time - "what would it take for you to vote Yes on X millage?" Personally, I won't vote Yes again until the school board has some changes, or alternatively, starts acting more responsibly towards the taxpayers with some open communication. I refuse to increase my funding of a broken system until I have some indication that things will be different. Been there, done that (the last levy issue). The fundamentals have to change so I know that they are not going to ask for 15 mills+ every two years until I am broke, or until property taxes keep someone from buying my house.

  34. MM-

    I consider your input a unique asset to this dialogue. But I must take exception to the "at any cost" point of view.

    It reminds me of the attitude in health care where people say "If it saves just one life, it was worth it."

    It's not that I don't want to spend a billion dollars on research to save a few thousand lives from a rare disease. But b/c resources are not infinite, I have to look at the OPPORTUNITY COST of the outlay. What if I could improve/save millions of lives with that billion dollars by using it for preventative care?

    There is no right or wrong answer, just a delicate balance.

    I think the opinion here is that HCSD is funded well enough to be excellent. We just need to make sure we are spending the money on the right things to maximize our return.

  35. Thomas,

    I totally agree with your assertion that it isn't just the money. I am sure our students COULD receive a great education for less. The problem is, any "NO" vote causes opportunities to be lost. HCSD doesn't just reorganize and offer the same great education, they reduce opportunities.

    I am not an advocate of reducing opportunities. Therefore, if my school district (Where ever that may be in the future) asks me for money, I will say yes.

    I am an advocate of children first. No votes hurt children, so I don't make them. People have many legitimate reasons to vote no, I just don't share their opinion.

    I refuse to believe that voting "NO" is the way we should tell our board/HCSD we've had enough. The result of that vote causes damage far beyond our intended consequences.

  36. MM:

    Here's something we agree on:

    "I refuse to believe that voting "NO" is the way we should tell our board/HCSD we've had enough."

    That's a conversation that needs to take place in School Board meetings, and in other dialog with the School Board.

    But no one shows up.

    Our Board just held a two day 'planning retreat' (more on this soon). Besides me, the only other people there for the easily accessible evening session were a Boy Scout who was no doubt fulfilling the requirements of his Citizenship in the Community merit badge (yes, I am an Eagle Scout), and his dad.

    The School Board should have a relationship with the community of such quality that they simply don't put a levy on the ballot until they know the community overwhelmingly supports it.

    But that's way too much work.

    Instead they are satisfied to have levies barely squeak by - after multiple attempts - relying on emotional appeals rather than an open dialog among a cross-section of the stakeholders.


  37. Paul,

    You seem convinced that the general public WOULD support the schools overwhelmingly if they were communicated with appropriately. Is that correct?

    I think we all agree that the communication has been lacking, or at least has not been at the forefront of what the board considers vital.

    However, I think this community has way more 'no new taxes' people than 'show me your need' people. I think a lot of people that read this board are 'no new taxes' people that are thrilled you are giving them ammunition with which to mask their true intentions.

    It is much easier to stand behind 'fiscal mismanagement and poor decisions' than it is 'I vote no for everything.' Kinda like when you don't WANT to go to a wedding, then find out you CAN'T because of a prior commitment. You tell the bridal couple you really wanted to be there, but you just can't make it, knowing full well you were loathing the possibility of attending. Not that I've ever done THAT!!

    I'm not sure that overwhelming support is there for the taking. Increased dialogue certainly wouldn't hurt though!

  38. MM:

    Nope, that's not quite what I said, which was:

    "The School Board should have a relationship with the community of such quality that they simply don't put a levy on the ballot until they know the community overwhelmingly supports it."

    It is entirely possible that the outcome of such a high quality relationship is a conclusion by the stakeholders that the spending trajectory of the school district is unsustainable, and something significant has to change. That could mean some or all of these things:

    - a change in the rate of compensation increases granted to employees
    - the termination of some programs that are 'nice-to-have' rather than essential (as defined by the stakeholders)
    - demanding a joint planning effort between the school district and the municipal governments to manage growth
    - linking with other similar districts to wield influence in the Statehouse on school policy and school funding

    Our system of democracy sets a very low standard in making decisions: half + 1 is sufficient. I want us to act as though we need 75% or more of the vote to take action.

    It shouldn't be that hard. Most of us moved here because of the schools, so there should be a strong bias for support.

    The fact that there isn't is a symptom of how broken the relationship between the Board and the public has become.


  39. But what DO you think, Paul?

  40. MM:

    1. I think there has to be a recalibration of the compensation program for all job categories. The current contracts reflect the boom period we've enjoyed for a decade or two. Now we need to reset to the tougher times of the present.

    2. We need to examine the allocation of headcount to various programs and services, and sort them into 'nice to have' and 'must have' categories - not using the criteria most recently applied by our Board (e.g. when they cut busing).

    3. There needs to be a strong official statement from the school board to the leaders of the municipal governments in the district saying that residential development must cease until an approach is developed which adequately funds the school district (ie not more houses without matching commercial development).

    4. And finally, there needs to be what I've been asking for since the beginning - an effective community education program so that these matters can be discussed and debated among people who understand the system. We can no longer afford to allow the dialog to be based on emotion and ignorance.

    As Hillirdite says, only then will I be willing to vote in favor of another levy.


  41. Sorry I was unclear. What I meant was, do you think there are enough people (overwhelming, as you put it), that will vote yes if those things happen?? I'm not convinced.

    Basically, I don't think it is reasonable to expect 75% percent support, because I think there are at LEAST 25% who vote no for everything. You cannot please those people, so to expect 75% seems a bit ambitious.

    You've got quite a list of things to accomplish before the next levy, if you are on the school board. How strange to have a school board member voting "NO" on a levy!!

  42. Musicman

    I suspect then you would not understand someone taking a pay cut,pays out 65.00 per week for health coverage has co pays of
    40.00 has no pension contribution
    asked to take unpaid days off, does not get snow days, time off inthe summer and around holidays could possibly wonder how they would have to continually come up with new tax dollars every other year or every 3 years.

    Could you give some suggestions on what they should eliminate to cover your pay at any cost idea

  43. musicman, I get what you are asking, and it is a good question. There is definitely a slippery slope when you pull the covers off of things once obscured, and I'm sure the "playbook" is formulated to avoid giving the "No new taxes" voters ammunition. It appears this slope was too slippery for some of the past Board members once they got into the guts of the situation.

    But, I have to believe we have a much better chance actually tackling this slope for the long run by honest communication and collaboration from everyone rather than the attempt to shove it down the voters throat "for the kids".

    I fear we are heading for a Southwestern situation (sorry) in five years if we don't try a different approach.

  44. You've got quite a list of things to accomplish before the next levy, if you are on the school board. How strange to have a school board member voting "NO" on a levy!!

    mm- do you mean how strange to have a member of the Board who does not march lockstep, resulting in 5-0 votes on every single issue since they were elected? What other government body does that? It is almost incredulous that they are all on the same page on every issue. They make up their minds in private, and do not solicit any input from anyone! Is every issue so black and white that they all vote yes every time? Of course, if a member were to voice dissent, they would merely end up like Jennifer Smith in Olentangy - shunned.

    Paul - might have been nice if the Board had publicized their "retreat" and mentioned that others were welcome to attend. I have only sat through a couple of Board meetings in my life, but they don't seem to allow for any discussion whatsoever. Yes, you can speak, but they they smile at you (or not!) and move on to the next matter, giving no indication that they even take you seriously or care that you were there.I can get more response from my Congressman than I can from my school board. Of course, I may have missed any reports on the retreat - I have been too busy to attend even your meetings.

  45. Mark posted...
    I fear we are heading for a Southwestern situation (sorry) in five years if we don't try a different approach.

    I say this as an HCSD supporter... I sure hope our BOE and administration are watching and learning from the events at South-Western. Granted, the two communities have key differences, but seems to me there is a lot that can be learned from this situation without having to experience it first-hand.

  46. You've discovered the ever-creeping headcount monster. OLSD hired an attendance tracker at one of our high schools last year for $86,000 and then re-titled him "Dean of Students" when a board member criticized the expenditure (the school email/documents application has electronic attendance tracking). We also hired a full time statistician (to spin the poor numbers, of course) and a "Budget Officer" when it was discovered that our Treasurer did not know how to budget from a zero base (she carried over all one-time and recurring expenses, and then put 10-20% on top for growth and contingency). The "Dean of Students" has "disciplinary duties". Well, considering that we have TWO Assistant Principals at each of our three high schools what the heck do THEY do?

    Anyway, we spent more than $700,000 last year for the employee portion of retirement for 70 administrators. So, you--the taxpayer--are mandated to pay the employer portion of STERS for all teachers and administrators (14%). While teachers have to pay the employee portion of retirement YOU pick up the 10% tab for the administrators. We throw on another 1% called "pick-up on the pick-up". So, administrators have full-paid retirement to the tune of 25% of their total income (not just salary). This is standard practice in Central Ohio. What Olentangy also does is pay the Medicare tax for all administrators--and count that in their retirement-calculated income! So, we pay them back the Medicare taxes that are taken out of their paychecks--and then honor that as income so that we pay more in retirement contributions. Stupid. It's a scandal. No wonder taxpayers are shooting down levies all over the place. It's unsustainable.

  47. MM:

    You said "How strange to have a school board member voting "NO" on a levy!!"

    I agree. What I said was that the quality of the dialog between the stakeholders - the public, the board, the administration, and the unions - should be such that no levy is put to a vote, or put on the ballot, until there is overwhelming support. It is not a sign of a healthy community to have levies get defeated once or twice before being barely passed.

    Isn't that like getting a "D" in boardsmanship - passing, but just barely?
    Anon: (please pick a name - even if it's a fake one - so we can tell if it's one person or many in this dialog. Just check the "Name/URL" button (right above "Anonymous") and you can fill in anything (presentable) you want.

    And I hope you keep coming back, because the people of suburban Columbus need to hear that this disease has spread all across the region. It's an indictment of how weak our School Boards are, and how powerful the professional educators have become.

    That being said, not a one of our communities are lacking folks who would make highly effective school board members. There's just very few willing to serve in this capacity, in spite of the fact that the schools are the most important civic organization in the community - certainly the most expensive.


  48. Hillirdite:

    I agree re the lack of publicity regarding the retreat. I found out about it via a brief mention in a story in one of the local newspapers.

    I'm in the process of writing my report right now, but here's one preview. Much much more time was given to discussing the smoking policy (e.g. how it should apply to folks attending football games) than to financial matters....