Friday, November 23, 2012

Supplemental Materials for the November 26 Meeting

Here are the supplemental materials for the School Board meeting, being held at 7pm Monday, November 26, at Hoffman Trails Elementary School.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

UA Levy Defeated - What Does it Mean?

Three of the most highly regarded school districts in Ohio had operating levies on the ballot this month: Worthington, Dublin and Upper Arlington. The first two had theirs pass, while UA's failed.

I'll not try to analyze the whys and wherefores of those outcomes. Each community has its own personality and demographics, and I have no standing in their debate. But I think there is a lesson in the UA case which is worth examining.

I had the opportunity to attend one of the EducateUA meetings. This was the group who mounted the formal opposition to the UA levy. While that name sounds like the loosely-coupled set of EducateXYZ organizations across the state which I had some hand in organizing (e.g. the EducateHilliard organization which supported Justin Gardner, Don Roberts and me in the last School Board election), and it is true that I at one time had registered the domain, I had no part in the creation of this EducateUA organization.

My objective for many years has been to educate community members about the true economics of public schools in Ohio so that they can make informed decisions about the governance of their local school districts. The "vote YES if you love your kids" mantras frustrate me, as do the equally ignorant "we waste too much money on ________" rants.

The EducateUA folks decided to focus in on the compensation and benefits costs of their teachers. Okay, that's appropriate. As I've been saying for a long time, the economics of a school district is driven by the cost of the team of professionals recruited to fill the classrooms, and that's how it should be.

I know very few UA teachers, but have many UA friends, primarily through our long membership at Mountview Christian Church. Those families moved to UA to partake of the UA schools, which means to have their kids in the classroom with UA teachers. The majority of kids who come out of the UA schools are a tribute to both their parents and the teachers. It is a place of excellence.

Nonetheless, the mixture of sagging funding from the State of Ohio and growing compensation costs has driven the demand for increased school funding - primarily through local property taxes - to a pain threshold for an growing number of UA residents. That's a real problem, and it needs to be addressed.

But I don't understand how cutting off the funding is alone a solution. If the EducateUA people think the total spending on teacher compensation is the problem, what do they propose to do about it? After all, the compensation schedule for the UA teachers isn't something new. It's been evolving for decades, approved at each stage by the school board members the UA voters elected.

The total cost of the teachers is driven by their average comp/benefits times the number of teachers employed. The first is negotiated between the School Board the teachers' union, and the latter is a function of the programming and services the district chooses to offer.

UA has a rich set of offerings, and that takes staffing. But that didn't change overnight either. Where they are today is the result of decades of decisions, once again approved by those elected to serve on their school board over those years.

I suggested to the EducateUA folks that if they wanted to oppose the levy, they needed to tell the voters what they thought should happen if the levy was indeed defeated. From what I saw, they had no plan in that regard. They simply wanted to defeat the levy, and force the School Board and Administration react to the reduced funding.

My suggestion to them was that the likely reaction is very predictable - the Administration will propose to the School Board that extracurricular programming be eliminated, or perhaps made a Pay-to-Participate system fully funded by very high participation fees. High school busing would also be eliminated. Neither would have that much of an effect on the budget, but would be painful - like a punishment to the community.

Next, they'll cut some of the optional academic programming, like gifted services at the elementary level. Non-core courses at the high school level would also be on the chopping block, but which ones? The Last-In-First-Out layoff protocols insisted upon by the unions means that it's the lowest paid teachers who get laid off first, so lots of them have to be cut to make much of a difference. In the case of the Hilliard School district, approximately 15% of the teachers would have to be laid off to reduce the teacher comp costs by 10%.

I may be wrong, but from what I can tell, the EducateUA group has not thought through any of those realities, and has no idea what the Administration is going to propose to the School Board, now that their levy has indeed been defeated.

Not only that, but the UA School Board is in the midst of a Superintendent search, meaning that the Superintendent who really understands their system is leaving, and School Board has to convince the candidates to replace him that UA isn't in for a long levy battle of the kind which nearly tanked South Western Schools a couple of years ago. Few Superintendents want to walk into that situation.

Both the pro-levy and the anti-levy groups need to do a better job of thinking through their positions, and quit campaigning on slogans and emotions. There is a very real economic problem to be solved: rising costs, which are almostly entirely due to compensation and benefits, and softening revenue sources, both from a State and local perspective. Cost growth trends versus revenue growth projections are out of whack, and tough choices need to be made to bring them back into alignment.

I voted against our most recent Five Year Forecast because I don't think we're doing enough in Hilliard Schools to have that conversation either. If we can figure out now how to take $250,000/yr of cost out of operations right now, then it has the same impact on our projected +4 year cash reserves as slashing $1 million from our spending plan for FY17. Making moderately tough decisions now will help us avoid having to make gut-wrenching decisions in a few years.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens next in UA. Will they get the Superintendent they want, or will the best candidates be scared away by a levy battle?  How will the UA School Board react to the levy defeat?  Are they going to just go back on the ballot in the Spring?  I'm pretty sure they will, but will it be for the same mills, or less?  If it's less, will EducateUA still oppose the levy?  What if their levy is defeated again?

And more importantly, how will we prevent our community from going down the same path?

I know of no solution other than sincere, respectful, and empathetic dialog among the stakeholders, and we need to start soon.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Notice of Change in Meeting Time and Supplemental Materials

(RC 3313.16)

Notice is hereby given; there will be a CHANGE in meeting time of the Board of Education of the Hilliard City School District on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2012 to 5:45 P.M. located at Hilliard City Schools Administration Annex, 5323 Cemetery Road, Hilliard, Ohio.

The meeting is called by Brian W. Wilson, Treasurer/CFO of the Hilliard City School District Board of Education, at the direction of the President of said Board.

November 8, 2012

Brian W. Wilson, Treasurer/CFO
Hilliard City School District
Board of Education

Here is the supplemental material for the meeting.

Note that the meeting is starting early so that the Board may go into Executive Session before the public session starts. This is, as we discussed publicly at the special meeting this week, so that we can continue the work of selecting a new Superintendent.

I would expect the public session to begin at the normal starting time of 7pm.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Superintendent Search Process Begins...

(RC 3313.16)

Notice is hereby given; there will be a SPECIAL meeting of the Board of Education of the Hilliard City School District on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2012 at 5:00 P.M. located at Hilliard City Schools Administration Building, 5323 Cemetery Road, Hilliard, Ohio. The meeting will be held in regular session to view presentations by the ESC of Central Ohio and OSBA regarding the Superintendent search process.

The meeting is called by Brian W. Wilson, Treasurer/CFO of the Hilliard City School District Board of Education, at the direction of the President of said Board.

October 31, 2012

Brian W. Wilson, Treasurer/CFO
Hilliard City School District
Board of Education