Sunday, June 20, 2010


The opening presentation of this year's annual Board Retreat was that of the Board's Audit & Accountability Committee.

The Board established the Audit & Accountability Committee in the Fall of 2008, during the period leading up to the vote on the 6.9 mill Permanent Operating Levy, which was passed in November 2008. The members of the Committee were named in February 2009, and they have been working very intently on their assigned mission, meeting much more often than is specified in their charter.

The Committee's latest report touched on five areas:

1. Assessment of the 2009 State Auditor's Report and Management Letters
2. Benchmarking Analysis of Costs – Update
3. 2010 Five-Year Forecast – Review and Recommendation
4. Strategic Performance Objectives and Measures
5. Compensation Expense

Three times in their report, the Committee said that the past rate of operating expense growth in our school district is "not sustainable" going forward:

Page 2: In conclusion, while the Audit and Accountability Committee commends the District for reducing costs per student for 2009, the past expense growth rate significantly above CPI rates is not sustainable.

Page 3: The rate of growth in costs is simply not sustainable nor supported by current economic factors.

Page 5: As we indicated in our previous report and again in this report, the current rate of expense increases is unsustainable.

They closed their report with this statement:

In summary, compensation expense is the driving force of education costs in all districts. In HCSD compensation currently comprises over 87% of total District expenses. While it is important that the Administration continually watch all costs, compensation expense for Administrators, teachers and support staff is the only expenditure that "moves the needle". As the District works through the difficult economic circumstances and the strategic matters raised in this report, we recommend that all employees of the District participate in the development of solutions. Equitably sharing the duty of implementing solutions, financial and otherwise, will be important to community acceptance.

This is a wise and accurate summary, in my opinion. There is no single cause for the fiscal challenge in which we find ourselves, nor is there an easy solution. While it is indeed true that compensation costs make up most of the budget, and that our costs have been going up at a rate much greater than is typical in our current economy, there are other significant factors at play as well.

The most significant of those 'other factors' is the fiscal maelstrom in which the government of the State of Ohio finds itself. Ohio is not alone. The cover story of Time Magazine this week (Vol 175, No. 25) is titled "The Broken States of America." The writers examine the growing number of states that, if they were private sector industries, would be inclined to declare bankruptcy in order to shed the obligations accumulated from a generation-long spending spree. Those obligations cannot be met without implementing incredibly severe cuts in current and future spending, and raising taxes to a point that could choke off our fragile economy.

Because so much of the State's revenues come from personal and commercial income taxes, when the global economy took a dive, the revenues of the State of Ohio fell dramatically as well. Regardless of the pro-education promises Gov. Strickland made as a candidate, there just isn't enough money coming in for the State to honor all those expectations. The State must cover the ever-growing cost of Medicaid, as well as run the corrections system, which are also primary consumers of State funding. The result has been a manipulation of the public school funding formula such that districts perceived to be 'wealthy,' as is ours, have been left to fend on their own.

In plain English, that means that 100% of the incremental costs of running our school district are being fully borne by the property owners of our community – homeowners and businesses alike.

There are those who argue that the solution is obvious: radical reductions in the rate in which salaries and benefits are rising. The A & A Committee report says it clearly – only the compensation cost component of our budget is large enough such that a change in the rate of growth will make a real difference. I have certainly saying this for a very long time as well.

But we must acknowledge that there are other viewpoints. As one of the School Board's representatives to the A&A Committee, along with Dave Lundregan, I observed their discussions on this point, which are summarized in this statement on page 2:

"The District and community must remain cognizant, however, of the effect on the quality of education provided to students in taking any measures to reduce the growth in costs."

In other words, this isn't a dialog concerning only cost management. We are proud of what is accomplished in our schools, sometimes with national recognition, as was just recently the case with our being named one of 174 "Best Communities for Music Education" in the country. As we go about solving the fiscal problems that face us, few want that to come at the expense of the quality of our schools.

One of the key tactics Gov. Strickland has used to reduce expenditures at the State level has been to lay off one in twelve State workers, in addition to reductions in work hours and mandatory furloughs. This is hardly what one would expect from a Democratic governor, but like our schools district, it is just about the only real choice he has.

And so that brings us to the economics of our school district. As I have written here many times, there are only three knobs that we can turn to adjust our finances:

1. How much more do we want to increase our local property taxes?

As you can see from the following chart, we taxpayers have voted to raise our property taxes at a rate just over 7% per year - since 1975.

click to enlarge

However, as time has passed, the interval between levy requests has shortened. While through most of the 1970s and 1980s, levy requests were seven years apart, we have passed new Permanent Operating Levies in 2000 (4.3 mills effective), 2004 (8.1 mills effective), 2008 (6.9 mills effective) and will have another one on the ballot in 2011. The size is yet to be determined.

2. How much do we want to pay our teachers, staff and administrators?

I have written much about teacher compensation – this article might be a good place to start. According to the CUPP Report generated by the Ohio Dept of Education, our classroom teachers in 2009 had an average salary of $64,703, which ranked 29th highest in the State among 614 districts.

Is that too much, too little, or about right? There will be no unanimity in the answer by any camp – neither teachers, staff, administrators nor the voters. Nonetheless, it will be negotiated this Fall, in secrecy, to a definite answer which will be expressed in new union contracts for teachers and staff, and individual employment contracts for administrators.

If you want to have any influence over this answer, you need to speak up now – right now – before negotiations commence. After negotiations end and the contracts are ratified by the unions, the only decision point remaining will be whether or not the School Board accepts the contracts.

3. To what degree will we accept cuts in programming, services, and staff?After the union contracts have been negotiated and signed, and the vote taken on next levy, the only knob remaining is how many people we employ.

As pointed out by the A&A Committee, the only class of expenditures we have that will 'move the needle' is personnel costs. There is simply no way of enacting millions of dollars in spending reductions without layoffs. And because the union contracts specify that employees are laid off starting with those with the least seniority – and therefore the lowest pay rates – it can require a large number of them to be laid off to reach a cost reduction target.

For example, my analysis suggests that to reduce spending by $1 million/yr, at least 30 employees would need to be laid off (15 FTE). To reduce spending by $10 million/yr would require on the order of 200 to be terminated.

At those levels, painful choices will have to be made. Which extracurricular programs and elective offerings will have to be eliminated? What services will be discontinued? How many more kids will we have in each classroom?

Reaching an acceptable balance of these three factors is quite frankly the most important task our community must undertake in the next few months.

In most ways, our schools define our community. The perceived quality of the schools is why we have chosen to live here, and is a significant factor in the preservation of our property values. Simultaneously, the compensation level we agree to for our school employees is the primary determinant of our property taxes, and every increase makes it harder for people to afford to live here.

I suspect that for things to work out, the school employees will have to accept less than they might like, and the voters will need to accept that they might need to pay more than is comfortable.

We can reach a reasonable agreement if the people of the community engage in the dialog, and the conversation remains respectful and empathetic.

Do you think we can do that without work stoppages, threats of strikes, name calling (on both sides), punitive program cut lists, and all those things which draw our children into the fray?

If it's really "all about the kids," let's show them how the people of one of the best school districts in the country figures out these tough problems. Wouldn't that be a wonderful gift to them – to show them how a community successfully deals with these situations, versus the 'scorched Earth' outcome we see in so many other places.

After all, we're going to leave them plenty of tough problems to solve when they grow up…


  1. Paul, thank you for the updates on the retreat information from the Audit Com.

    I am hopeful that the Hilliard NW news and This week publish this.

    Also the district could send this out electronically via email to all parents.

    I as you know have allready spoken to this issue at a recent school board meeting. My intent is to revisit this shortly, commenting in succession on the various points that the audit committee addresses, as there is no way in 3 minutes to adequetely express ones view

    My thoughts are no different than in previous times. However I now believe that instead of small increases, we will need a total freeze for year one across the board, with more medical coverage payments. A family pays $122.00 per month. Many pay that per week and even higher. A single person
    47.00 ? I recently paid 65.00 per week versus per month.

    Given the financial situation of the state we can expect at best flat funding if not a slight reduction. I also would expect at reevaluation time of tax assessments next year that the amounts will be frozen again or perhaps slightly less

    I am as well as many others in no position to absorb any additional taxes in the short term. We just added a significant amount while we increased our exepenses during the last contract.

    With all the many benefits to the employees on time off, past increases, very favorable benefit cost, a great pension plan, retirment access and being able to come back and double hit on salary
    we realistically must look at
    minimal increases over the next 3 years

    Reasonably, a total zero for year one. Step Raise of 2% in year 2
    only and 1.5% on regular increase with a .5% step increase is in order. This will also require a tax levy however.

    At this point I think the two employee unions should simply get on board, offer concessions to keep as many programs and employees
    as possible.

    I think there will be program cuts and this must be prioritized by
    enrollment in that area and if it is a requirement. Most likely some electives will go away.
    In some art and music enrichment
    at the lower levels, those programs are available for individuals seeking those programs outside of school through private instruction. I would expect pay to play to go up significantly and fees to increase.

    I am hopeful that there is not a contentious negotiation. I am going to reserve comment about that for now.

    We are however going to see if it is about the kids or someones pay raise. The district is going to have severe problems if it plays the you dont care card. This would be met with very negative

  2. Excellent chart showing how property taxes have risen. I was tempted to say, "that's the sort of thing the Dispatch should've developed" but I do realize that Hilliard is just one school district among many and that most journalism-types are not statistically fluent.

    Still, there does seem to be a lack of good tax information as a rule. You may see a chart showing the percentage of what the federal or state government spends money on, but wouldn't it be interesting to see a chart showing what the average person pays in taxes: federal, state, local, sales, gasoline, cigarette, property, etc, etc, etc... Taxed enough already indeed.

  3. Paul,

    Excellent post. In preparing for the pending negotiations and subsequent levies it would be interesting to know the impact of union concessions on expected budget variances of say....

    1) Step raises only for 3 years, plus an increase to 25% payment of medical premiums

    2) o% raises/step in Year 1, with 2% TOTAL raises (including step) in years 2 and 3, plus an increase to 15% payment of medical premiums and

    3) 2% raises each of the 3 years plus an increase to 20% payment of medical premiums

    I realize without all of the data it is impossible to give exact values. Perhaps the district can provide or you can take a swag given the data you have collected over the years.

    My point, and primary question, is given these scenarios what might the budget shortfall look like? I assume that even with any of the 3 scenarios above, a tax increase will still be necessary. I'm on record stating that I will not support a new levy without seeing significant changes in the district (cost control being one of them). However, I am not so naive to believe that tax increases will be avoided even with the most gracious concession by the unions.

    Can you offer a sensitivity analysis that gives us insight into where that balance between taxpayer contribution and union concessions might be? Without that information, I'm not sure I know what to demand of the school board and those negotiating these contracts.

  4. Rather than lay off a large number of workers with little seniority (and the smallest salaries), we should look at eliminating some positions at the higher pay rate, or at least reducing them to part-time status. There are far too many people working at the administrative levels in the middle schools and high schools. At the very least, we should have a moratorium on filling vacated administrative positions due to attrition.

    Just as one nurse handles multiple schools, some administrative personnel may be shared as well. How about job-sharing as a possibility... done on a voluntary basis so that two people may maintain an income, albeit half of what they previously earned. You might be surprised how many teachers would be interested.

    These options in lieu of "lay offs" would have far less impact on the kids in the classrooms than reducing the number of teachers.

    Also, cut down on busing costs by having all-day kindergarten classes. It has been very successful at Norwich for many years. Let Hilliard schools be described as innovative, creative, and bold.

  5. KJ: Thanks for the comment. I am indeed doing some sensitivity analyses that examine various scenarios of base pay and step increases, and will publish some of those, but only after confirming the numbers with the Treasurer.

    But can you provide some general guidance - ie "I'm willing to increase my school property tax by x%/yr as long as you don't ask for more for at least y years"?

    I'd like to actually approach negotiations with a general statement like that, and let the unions figure out how to apportion the money to base pay, steps increases and benefits.

    Still speaking for me of course - this is not an official position of the School Board.

  6. Anon:

    Thanks for the comment. I agree that we need to look at administrative positions as well as union jobs.

    I understand the point you make about the nurses, and there may be other jobs like that. But job sharing does not save any money - you pay the same, just half to two people. I think there are already examples of this in our school system.

    Shifting to all day Kindergarten does not save any money. In fact, our Treasurer has estimated the incremental cost to be a little over $1 million per year. That's because we would need twice as many kindergarten teachers, and that more than offsets any transportation savings.

    And we haven't even talked about housing - where do you put an extra 13 classrooms worth of kids?

    Keep coming with the ideas!

  7. Well, that's not quite how the all-day kindergarten works. The kids attend school all day, but alternate days. So half the kids go to school on Monday and Wednesday, the other half on Tuesday and Thursday, and each group goes on alternate Fridays. Ultimately, the all-day kindergarteners attend school the same number of hours as the half-day kids do. But this way, there would be no need for any mid-day kindergarten busing. The number of teachers and classrooms would be the same, too. I am unaware of any extra costs.

    This system has been in effect for 12 years at Norwich, and I believe at least one other elementary school has adopted it as well. Frankly, I am very disheartened to realize that you are unaware of how the all-day kindergarten system works. Likewise, the Treasurer you mentioned apparently made a financial assessment with a lack of understanding of the all-day system.

    So, Paul, here's your assignment: please talk with one of the all-day kindergarten teachers so that you may get a grass roots understanding of how it works... and most of all, how much the kids benefit from all-day classes! I am confident that you will become one of its biggest proponents.

  8. Anon:

    Thanks for straightening me out. I didn't know about the alternate-day approach now in effect. My response was regarding the all day, every day kindergarten that the State of Ohio has mandated for all schools. But unfortunately, the way state funding works, we would be getting no additional revenue for doing it. That's where the $1m incremental cost comes from.

    No question that your suggestion could save some money, and there are many other suggestions like yours that need to be examined. But as the A&A Cmte says, the only thing that 'moves the needle' is compensation costs, and we have to have a serious dialog about this in our community.

  9. Actually Paul, as a parent of 2 children who attended Norwich, I can tell you that it is Anon who is incorrect. The K program at Norwich is a multi-age all day EVERY day program where the Kindergartners and 1st graders are mixed all year long. Having had 2 children attend k-5 at Norwich I can tell you I LOVE LOVE that method. As far as I know, in Hillard there are no programs similar to the ones Anon suggested. I relative attends Olentangy Schools, and they have this odd all day every other day arraignment, and it is a horrible system from a child care standpoint.

    Perhaps it is Anon who should be the one doing homework ;)

  10. Paul, before the levy is brought to the table, a key ingredient to passage consideration will be the terms of the new contract.

    Significant changes have to happen
    Also the way negotiations are handled in the buildings will also be key factor. Not going to tolerate the garbage from last time
    If the HEA will not keep the negotiations outof the classroom, affect college plans for seniors,
    financial aid recs, then the crap communicated really means it is not about the kids.

  11. "I'm willing to increase my school property tax by 3%/yr as long as you don't ask for more for at least 6 years."

    Basically school taxes need to go up NO MORE than the rate of inflation.

  12. Paul,

    So you are now facing the calculation issues noted by Ludwig von Mises. Let's see how you react.

    Without a market, how do you decide anything? What rational decision could you possibly make.

    Keep in mind as you go through your thought process and board debates: We do not decide anything. The voting majority decides the winners and losers.

    Your question is not what We want. Your question is what can a majority (a voting majority, never a majority of residents) foist on to their neighbors -- all for the personal benefits of the voting majority.

    District employees are longterm beneficiaries of future levies. And parents of public school students are at least shorterm beneficiaries. Most everyone else loses.

    I hope you are not looking for the answer to sustainability in government.

    (note: Your administration and fellow board members will be looking to create a grassroots voting majority to support future levies. These folks will sell the levies using sticks and carrots. All for the kids.)

  13. Posted by Jim Fedako:

    "Your question is what can a majority (a voting majority, never a majority of residents) foist on to their neighbors -- all for the personal benefits of the voting majority...Most everyone else loses."

    Yikes. This is a huge part of the problem. The education of our communities children being 'foisted' on to our neighbors backs? What a burden to carry, huh? This really is an issue that cannot be 'solved', as even those as intelligent as Mr. Fedako miss the point entirely...

  14. Musicman, the simple point is the current situation is Unsustainable.

    We are faced with a huge impending shortfall. Over the last 3 contracts the district residents have supported levies and significant increases to the HEA.

    Without any new contracts figured in we can count on increased taxes for the state reductions in funding and for the upcoming new
    contribution to the STRS fund.

    What we have not seen as in other districts, is the HEA coming forth publicly and telling the taxpayer that their are going to have to be significant compensation adjustments. The medical contribution is very minimal, as well as time off, and the past 7% pay increases.

    Many are struggling with foreclosure, unemployment, pay reductions, double digit medical increases for over 10 years.

    Some programs are going to have to be eliminated unless someone has a magic wand to make the economic
    situation better overnight.

    The voters stepped up on the last levy and now the ball is in the other court.

  15. Musicman:

    You and Mr. Fedako of course represent opposite ends of the politican spectrum.

    All three of us know that the solution will be somewhere in the middle. While I might be closer to Jim than you on economic matters (see "Food Stamps"), I also know that changes that radical are not going to happen in the next 12 months.

    And so it is my duty, as an elected representative of the people, to influence the dialog that takes place among Board members, and to vote in a way that is consistent with what I said during my campaign.

    That's the reason I'm asking specific questions of the public right now. I'll make decisions and cast votes consistent with my personal philosophy absent public input, but I'd rather have the people of the public engage in this dialog and give all of us in the school leadership - Board, Administration and union officers alike - a sense of what the people want.

    Is it to capitulate to the union demands regardless of what they may be and what it costs?

    Is it to stand up to the unions and demand concessions, even if that leads to a strike?

    There are some who take a position at one of those extremes or the other. But the majority would prefer a solution somewhere in the middle.

    My mission in writing these articles is to get more people to speak up - not just those on the tails of the bell curve. We can't have the first piece of guidance from the 'silent majority' be the outcome of the next levy vote.

  16. musicman,

    Sorry. I missed your point. Can you state it in a different way?

    There are two issues: The specific issue regarding how Paul (or anyone, for that matter) can decide between (say) buses or band. Or salary or class size.

    In government, he is poking in the dark. The admin and others who benefit from school programs will say that all programs are needed -- and hence have to be funded. If Paul objects, they will say, "OK, Paul, buses or band? Salary or class sizes? Well?"

    He will have no response. He is not omniscient -- no one is.

    The other issue is around the concept of coerced funding.

    "Yikes. This is a huge part of the problem. The education of our communities children being 'foisted' on to our neighbors backs? What a burden to carry, huh? This really is an issue that cannot be 'solved', as even those as intelligent as Mr. Fedako miss the point entirely..."

    Your claim is hollow. I could make the same statement around most of my expenses -- none of which my neighbors are forced to bear.

    I feed, clothe, educate, etc., my children on my own dime. If I were to use the strong arm of government to force you to contribute, would you not consider that a burden?

    If not, then why not cut me a check and we can leave government out of the equation (you know, the evil middleman and all).

  17. My 'point' to Rick, Paul, and Jim:

    The education of our children IS a burden we all bear together. It isn't one group 'foisting' it upon another, it was a decision made by the wise folks who made this country so great. When it starts to be viewed as an 'us against them' situation, we have already lost. I am all for disagreements on salary, benefits, even program offerings. But when we disagree on the fundamental DUTY we all have to provide an education for our youth, one we ourselves were provided, we stand little chance of accomplishing anything.

    I was provided an education, funded on the backs of thousands of individuals whom I will never know. I see it as my civic responsibility to pay that forward, to 'pay back' the cost of my education by providing the same for other students, who I will never know. This is one of the greatest things about our country, that each and every single child has a right to a free public education.

    Debating cost is one thing, debating worthiness is quite another.

    BTW, my district is currently in contract negotiations, my guess is the results of this contract will be the bellwether for the next several years in our county.

  18. Musicman, I dont believe that many doubt the worthiness and importance of education. If you would bother to remember that the community in Hilliard has consistenly supported increases in their taxes to support education.

    The HEA and OAPSE here have CONSISTENTLY forgottten about that.

    And that is where the main contention is. Not whether education is important.

    Perhaps if the HEA leadership and its membership got a clue about current economic conditions. then perhaps everyone would be more sympathtic.

    Paul, in opening up discussion and he is the only one to do this on the board as I can see also agrees that we will see increases needed from the community.

    But anyone with any common senses can see based on the states financial situation, the current 5
    year forecast, that there is very little room for raises, and yes some programming may be affected.
    But how not giving the same raises in the past affects the childrens educational prowess is a reckless, self serving attitude that unfortunatly many teachers seem to have.

    If paying you more and more is the only way to insure educational success and it wont happen otherwise than that is why we have reached a crossroads.

    The facts and figures dont lie, and the smart play would be for the HEA to step forward today to
    take care of business, agree to some adjustments. and get on with it.

    I voted for the last levy even though inaction by district employees cost my daughter thousands in loans versus scholarships As we went over her next bill and more loans I thought long and hard about anteing up another 14 to 17 mills in perhaps less than 4 years Plus we will have to increase our taxes to pay for the increase to the STRS pension fund. Most of us dont get a pension, have nothing left in our 401 's and nobody is replacing that.

    One thing I know for sure, another disruption to the classroom and the buildings and threatning graduation and other crap is not going to be tolerated this time.

    Many of us parents and students took it on the chin from those
    "dedicated educators."

  19. Anonymous,

    You apparently didn't read my post, or Jim's for that matter.

    The ranting and raving about the injustices (that we ourselves have enabled) must stop.

    Thoughtless blather about whether HEA understands current economic conditions. Statements of how teachers are willing to hold students hostage, and are only after a paycheck. Failure to step outside of ones comfortable (albeit judgemental) box, and put themselves in the shoes of an educator.

    The disrespect and untruths that are tossed towards the ENTIRE group of those tasked with educating our youth is nauseating.

    Have we REALLY put money above our children? I am NOT saying we should pay blindly, OR that we don't pay too much. But the first point of conversation should NOT be how much it costs.

    I remember why I quit posting now!!!

  20. Last post is mine, missed punching in on keyboard properly.

  21. Musicman, if putting money ahead of everything was true, then please tell us why many of us have supported levies and that the Hilliard community has consistently supported increased levy amounts.
    In visiting the many buildings for various meetings I dont see where the community has NOT supported the proper infrastructure, programming. etc. Apparently you have not been to Hilliard Bradley.

    I do not see a movemment by anyone including myself to reduce or cut out large scale programming or cutting salaries and benefits.
    Simply asking as the professionals are on the Audit committee on how future increases are sustainable.

    Also something you seemed to miss is that it is apparent our property taxes will have to increase again significantly based on the states financial situation and the current 5 year forecast.
    If you do the math, that means an increase over the next few years of thousands of dollars in tax increases for even a modest or small home or condo.

    If you and your peers are sensitive to the criticism about
    real life occurences that affect
    the "kids" then quit painting anyone who questions the biggest or littless think as not caring like we usually hear. That is coming directly from your peers/
    We hear it every elecion levy in every district.

    I am probably the only one and accept the fact that I am that I dont find threatning graduation ceremonies, college paper work,
    and streaming that information toward students and parents is

    I have yet to hear from our district or employees that this type of practice is even regretable or should not happen.

    Given the current economic situation would it not make sense if it really was about the kids that an appropriate scaling back of expenditures compared to the last 10 years is a key ingredient in sustaining what is allready available.

    Otherwise you will see raises and continued premium benefits at unsustainable levels that will result in program cuts and job eliminations.

    Many of us have lost jobs, taken pay cuts, loss of benefits, cut out the "extras" There are 6 residences just in my immediate area that are in foreclosure.
    And some of us are selling to not lose the investment we made in buying a residence. The upcoming new levies are going to further
    complicate the finances of the individual.

    I believe that the community will end up paying a significant new amount in new taxes to pass levies.
    as they allways have.

    Will it be business as usual and
    the contribution and sacrifice comes only from one side.

  22. Musicman, with all due respect, "what it costs" is pretty much the focus of this particular thread so it SHOULD be the first point of conversation. Since none of the taxpayers get a say in the negotiations, and the history in the HCSD is that the negotiators ignored the voters during the last contract talks, you have to understand where some of us are coming from. I think we all realize that new levies are going to be a fact of life; however some of us are not going to be satisfied if the only cuts are in programs and services if we see compensation increases that we feel are out of line in a stagnant, or worse, economy. Active readers of this blog are fully aware of things such as step raises and upcoming increased pension costs which many of the taxpayers do not have a clue about; that is where my complaints of lack of transparency have come from. No less a figure than Dale McVeigh tried to ignore that during a Town Meeting several years back, and when called out on it by someone who knew better, tried to gloss it over. All that does is get peoples ire up. Hopefully, this time around, will pay attention to the committee which they appointed, and understand what "unsustainable" means, not in just costs, but in practices. I will reiterate - my vote is for a one year contract with no base raises and let's see where we are a year from now. The few teachers in our district who are not in line for steps will just have to suck it up, and maybe we won't have to have to deal with cuts for 6 months to a year due to the failure of the next levy

  23. Rick/Hillirdite,

    I don't disagree with what you are saying, I don't know how many times I can say that. Did you read what I wrote??

    My concern is when we look at education as a burden, which is what Jim said!!!! It ISN'T a burden, it is one of the things that makes our country great.

    How much it costs, whose running the show, what do we want in our community, are all great questions. But if we perceive the education of our children being paid for by the collective masses a BAD thing, then we have failed.

    If you were willing to look at someone like myself as an individual, and not lump me together with what you believe ALL teachers/school employees are, you would see that I don't disagree with your thoughts, AND I have taken steps in my own district by attempting to convince my union to change their way of thinking.

    My issue continues to be the way in which the discussions are held (tone), the level of respect (lack of?) with which the hard working teachers of our district are given, and the idea that public education is not a positive thing.

    VERY hard to have a dialog on this board when you keep saying the SAME thing OVER and OVER again. You are trying to convince me of something that I don't necessarily disagree with, yet you don't seem willing to take a calm and rational look at how the other side might be thinking.

    What YOU think is going through their minds, and what actually is, are largely two VERY different things. Although, sometimes it is easier to believe what we want, isn't it?? Such as:

    -All teachers are greedy
    -Teachers don't care about students
    -Administrators are idiots
    -Nobody in education 'gets it.'
    -Our district is failing its' students.

    ALL of the above have made their way onto this board, although not necessarily from Rick/Hillirdite.

    Now, I MUST return to my schoolwork, I could not get to it this morning because I was teaching students. On my summer VACATION no less!!

  24. MM:

    We seem to end up repeating conversations mostly because I keep bringing up the same economic issues. It's a necessary thing because there are still very few people who understand how the economic machinery of public education works.

    While I am disappointed that the Board as a whole does not seem to have the same sense of urgency as I do about tackling these economic issues, you'll note that it has been extremely rare for me to comment on matters outside economics.

    That's because if you take the economic issues off the table, we've got a tremendous school district. I'm honored to have been invited by one of our elementary teachers to do some weekly tutoring in her classroom, and enjoyed immensely the several times I got to spend with her and her well-behaved kids. I hope that relationship survives the negotiations, and she invites me back next year!

    Sustainability is about balancing resources with consumption. The US could have a sustainable energy profile if we had had the leadership and frankly the individual will to make the sacrifices necessary.

    Personally, I would tax the snot out of gasoline and diesel fuel (for highway use) and use the revenue to build nuclear power plants, foster an electric car industry, and provide seed funding for practical urban and interurban mass transit (think Europe or the Northeast corridor of the US).

    We created NASA to put a human on the Moon, but gained all kinds of technology spillover as a result. That same kind of effort needs to be applied to our energy situation.

    Because the current paradigm isn't working.

    The countries who have oil are like heroin dealers - they want to set the price as high as possible without pushing us over a tipping point that leads to the abandonment of oil as our primary energy source.

    I'm not sure our public education paradigm is working very well either. We seem to be investing ever more money, but not gaining ground on core problems.

    The answer can't be to just spend more money. We have to make some changes - some of them probably radical in nature. And we'll undoubtedly have to free up some resources to be able to afford the transition.

    Otherwise I fear we are running full blast right to the edge of the cliff.

  25. Paul,

    First-How appropriate that you repeated your posts about repeating; HA!!

    Second-You know I agree with most of what you write, more than many on here would give me credit for. As a school board member, MY school board member, I would LOVE to see you talk about the great things in our district on this board as well. I think that might help the viewpoint of some. I really believe that if all one sees is "XYZ", then "XYZ" becomes the reality, even if "ABC" is true as well. "XYZ" may be a really crucial issue, but to ignore "ABC", or to assume that everyone feels the same way about it that you do, is shortsighted.

    I know from your postings how much you value education. I have questions about some others who 'follow' you, or support you. I believe I said that to you before, you have a lot of 'followers' who really believe in what you are saying from an economic point of you. I am one of them. I think those people should also get an equal dose of how great you think our district is, and how great some of the PEOPLE are that work in the district.

    When that gets lost, and dollars and cents become the ONLY conversation, I worry we lose sight of what is important.

    THAT is what I've been trying to say all along, with little success.

  26. Point taken.

    My involvement with our school district has been via multiple paths:

    1. The experiences of our own kids in school. One became a teacher herself (who would do that if the school experience was bad), and the other is thriving in her professional school - I'm sure in part because of the foundation laid in her K-12 years in HCSD.

    2. In direct support of the teachers as a member of the Hilliard Education Foundation. Our teachers have learned to seek the resources of HEF to help them solve problems and present opportunities which might not otherwise be possible. Reading their grant application gives plenty of insight into the talent and dedication of our teachers.

    3. The economic channel. The driving topic wasn't teacher comp, but rather how unmanaged, runaway development has played a part is screwing up what was once a sustainable funding model. By the way, it looks like Homewood is starting the site prep on the 400 acres of land they own adjacent to Bradley. Any guess how many houses and kids that's going to add - kids that we'll all have to subsidize?

    But there is no denying that teacher comp is the primary economic driver on the spending side, and the element that will drive us to put levy after levy on the ballot.

    All of us, teachers and taxpayers alike, need to look at the situation together and recalibrate expectations before the wheels come off this thing.

    I don't write about other things because they aren't problem areas. Our schools are very good, but are endangered by economic matters.

    As so that is where I will continue to focus my energies. But to your point, I'll try to remember to remind folks occasionally that our school system is the jewel of the community.

  27. Count me as one who feels my kids got an excellent education in the HCSD. My oldest jus finished up her junior year of college and has been on the Deans list every quarter. She did not get there by having a lousy high school experience. My youngest starts college this fall and I am pretty sure she is equally prepared. I have never disparaged their education in the Hilliard schools, including the alleged 'work to the contract" issues 3 years ago which I saw no direct evidence of. What I have disparaged is the seemingly "out of touch" mentality of both the HEA and the Board when it comes to running a business. I fully understand that the "business" of education is different than the business I co-own and manage, but you still need a healthy sense of the reality of your current business environment. My largest expense is also personnel, and my personnel have had to endure, at best, token raises over the last several years. And you know what? Those that stuck it out are going to be reaping the benefits of that decision as we are fortunate enough to have survived and things are looking pretty bright for the future. That is all I am asking the HCSD - both sides - to do. Overall the economy is still in the doldrums and while considering the next contract, they had better keep in mind that the taxpayers are NOT going to vote Yes on a levy for the kids if they feel that the kids are not the ones benefiting the most. The contract will be announced before the next levy request is and I would hate to see a repeat of 3 years ago.

  28. music man,

    I would be interested in your defense of your propoaition regarding a "fundamental DUTY":

    But when we disagree on the fundamental DUTY we all have to provide an education for our youth, one we ourselves were provided, we stand little chance of accomplishing anything.

    Please define fundamental duty and explain why government education is necessarily such.

  29. Jim:

    Whaddayasay we have that conversation on your blog - I'll be happy to post a link to it in this comment thread.

    Your question is valid, it just derails this particular conversation, which is about what we can reasonably enact in the current political structure, which mandates public schools, whether we like it or not.


  30. Funding Government Schools:

    John Gatto

  31. Interesting notes in This week in Hilliard about a levy in 2011. but no mention of cost cutting? Sounds perhaps like another lofty contract that might needto be paid for.

  32. A letter writing campaign to the regional newspapers might help inform the voters on that scenario?

  33. That would be a very good thing.

  34. Musicman wrote: My issue continues to be the way in which the discussions are held (tone), the level of respect (lack of?) with which the hard working teachers of our district are given, and the idea that public education is not a positive thing.


    Whenever teachers bring up a perceived lack of respect for the profession, it always brings to mind this column from Van Keating, the director of management services for the Ohio School Board Association.

    I'm curious. Do you agree with Mr. Keating that "respect" is synonymous with "pay us more" or is there some other tangible way that the school boards and the public in general can demonstrate respect?

  35. Marc,

    With respect to Paul's wishes to keep this on topic, I'll keep this short.

    I make plenty of money, and certainly don't believe I "deserve" more. Most of my teacher friends feel the same way. Alas, despite my attempts, my union differs greatly from my beliefs.

    In regards to respect, I'd like to have discussions about teachers without them being vilified and painted as money and power hungry goons whose main interest is their pocketbooks. Sounds like you think that may be too much to ask, as you've already deduced that my call for respect was in regards to money. Perhaps I should have used the term 'civility', to be more clear.

    Too many people use far too large a brush when painting their pictures of what they think teachers are...

  36. Musicman
    1. The word "Goons" has never been
    entered into the conversation. That is a perception that you have brought into it.
    2. The question was about what is typically heard regarding respect.

    3. I will have to think of a word to decribe those who would bring negotiations into classrooms and buildings that affects students from Kindergarten through Senior year. Trust me I think someone will find one.

    Respect: If you dont respect the students and their parents by
    the type of tactics used in the last few years, then one might say that respect must be earned back at some point.

    Guess what it would be easy based on the forecast to just say no to everything and anything for the next 3 years given all of the outlined economic challenges. I dont think many dont expect a tax increase AGAIN, and will contribute AGAIN.

    So if the leaders cant agree to something simple like keeping negotiations out of the classroom, buildings, and the usual you dont get it, then perhaps the respect has not been earned.

    What an easy way to take off the table a contentious issue. ? LOL

  37. Typical Rick. Always talking, saying same thing over and over, ad nauseum, but not really listening. Painting with that wide brush again as well. Not EVERY teacher behaves/behaved as those whom you speak of repeatedly. By your logic, we should use Jeffrey Dahmer as the poster child for US citizens, Barry Bonds for baseball, and David Duke for politicians, yes? Despite your intent, which I actually applaud, you seem to prefer the hand grenade approach to diplomacy instead of the hand shake.

  38. Musicman,

    The simple solution which I have suggested is for the leadership to communicate clearly to the district and the public that the union does not endorse such activity and will actively discourage it.

    Do they have total control, of course not.

    If you are so convinced as a Hilliard Taxpayer, why dont you stand up at a board meeting as a community member and taxpayer and condemn such activity and call on your friends who are employed by the district to do the same

    Not sure why that is so challenging for you.

    The kids come first, the community HAS supported its district time after time.

    Strangly at this point your friends and the other 4 board members are
    very silent with a looming 5 year forecast, fully supported by APPOInted Audit and Accountablilty committe. Your 'friends" colleagues, fellow union members are amazingly silent to this point.
    Why is that ?

    There are severe financial issues coming and you have to do better than your previous comments about
    cutting out the cell phone, cable ,vacations, new cars. Guess what some of us dont have those ! LOL
    We made some of those cuts to pay for the last increase.

    If you would get off your sense of entitlement because it is about the kids perhaps you forgot I men tioned we will have to see some
    increases in our taxes over the next 3 years I detailed the 3.5
    mill increase with specifics.
    So I continue to look for ways for everyone to share in our investment.

    The issue is we have silence from your colleagues, union leadership.

    Many districts in this state and others have seen voluntary changes to insure a continued successful educational structure and an adjustment of benefits and compensation to acheive those goals.

    The silence here by the board,and the HEA is deafening.

    Does only the community have to
    make adjustments. History shows that despite your comments, it would appear so given past actions.

  39. PS MM
    Where was the handshake mentallity to you speak to when as a group of parents looking out for our students college futures went to school and got blown off when trying to secure information that financially affected the students college futures. We went to support our families. Sorry you dont get that. Grants are preferable to loans can you catch that. ?

  40. MM - As I recall, Ricks family was directly impacted by the occurrences of 3 years ago and is still bitter, for which I cannot blame him.

    Rick - I get your point but perhaps it is time to move on from what happened 3 years ago and not pre-suppose that it is going to repeat itself? At my company we use an expression "fix it, forget it, and move on" with "fix it" being the operative part. I feel that we need to do what we can to "fix it" without over-emphasizing the past mistakes, and it is generally better to walk into a situation giving folks the benefit of a doubt. Personally, I took a chance 3 years ago, several chances actually, and wrote letters to the local papers which were published. At the time I still had a child at Davidson, and she told me that several of her teachers complimented my letters, and I had no issues with any of her teachers for speaking my mind.
    A few of my neighbors were quite so kind. So in that regard I agree with some of MM's comments here. I also know that most of MM's posts do NOT defend the actions of the unions; and I fully believe that he/she "gets" what we all want and agrees with a lot of it. It can be tough to be part of a group that is lambasted on a continual basis when you are not of the same mind-set as many in the group. What we all need to do is educate the public through communication because most of the problems are due to people not having a clue what the real situation is in regards to our schools budget woes; those are the folks we need to get to. With all due respect....

  41. Hillardite, you make some excellent points, I have allways respected your dialogue and comments. I appreciate your feedback

    So we can wait and see what happens.
    Perhaps the same things will not happen. Perhaps someone being it the superintendent, the board as a whole or individual board members take a stance in advocating professional behavior and to leave the kids out of it.

    You can only go by history sometimes but naturally actions speak louder than words.

    I spoke in another post breaking down a levy request by specifics for Nov 2011.

    We have about 5 and 1/2 months left to go.

    Is there a sense of urgency on the parties involved or can we expect more of the same.

    I remain hopeful that the district and its employees will respect the students and parents this time.
    If they choose not to then let the responses speak for themselves

    Thanks again Hillerdite for your comments.

  42. REALLY appreciate the insightful post by Hillirdite...

    Will be very interested to see the A&A committee results regarding NCLB, I'd never even thought about that as a driving factor (although I doubt it will be very significant).

    A joint effort between community and school would be wonderful, but I wonder if it is possible? There are a whole lot of divergent opinions, and it is going to take ALL sides taking a step towards the middle to make it work...

  43. And here we are, five months later, and the board still has its collective head stuck in the sand.

    There's been no community conversation on how we fix this problem, just the union-endorsed board members commenting about how the levy is just a fact of life and we have to deal with it.