Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More Work To Be Done

With your permission, this November I will be seeking another term as a member of the Board of Education of Hilliard City Schools.

I believe our community has some challenging decisions to make about its public school district in the next 12 months, and I would like to play a role in the process - preferably from a seat at the Board table - representing the interests of those who appreciate how good Hilliard Schools are, but who also understand that the spending trajectory we are on cannot likely be sustained.

Does that mean I am opposed to any and all future levies?

No. As long as the delivery of education services is performed primarily by teachers who are in-person in the classroom, we're going to need a large number of professionals to fill those positions, plus the support and administrative teams to back them up. Those folks, like the rest of us, expect to have the opportunity to grow their compensation over time. We also should expect that our cost to provide benefits will rise at some rate which will be influenced both by what medical expenses are covered, and what goes on with the national healthcare debate.

Unless something substantial changes about the way our district is funded by the State of Ohio, most of the additional money we will need to underwrite this growth in compensation and benefits costs will need to come from residential and commercial taxpayers in our own community.

So every once in a while, we're going to need to pass a levy of some size. How often, and how large is what we need to talk about - community members and district employees together.

Does that mean I think more taxes is the whole solution?

I believe our rate of spending growth needs to be moderated. How much though, is a matter that needs to be addressed with a lot of community dialog. This will require that we take the time to better inform our community how school economics work so the discussion can be based on fact and reason, not simply emotion.

This is the position I have held for nearly a decade, and you'll see it repeated over and over in this blog.

Our spending - nearly 90% of it at least - is driven by compensation and benefits. In other words, how many people we employ, and what we pay them. If we're going to moderate the rate in which our spending grows, this is what we'll have to work on.

The 'what we pay them' part is determined via collective bargaining with the union representing the teachers and other certified professionals, as well as the union representing the support staff. One hopes that when we go through this process later this year, it will take place with lots of empathy and reason - on both sides of the table.

That's not what happened earlier this year in Strongsville, a Cleveland suburb much like Hilliard. It led to an teacher strike that lasted eight weeks, and has likely left scars that will take years to heal.

The number of folks we employ is determined by factors such as the target student/teacher ratio, and the breadth of programming and services we choose to offer. As shown in the monthly Enrollment report, our elementary classrooms have an overall student/teacher ratio of 24.

Although the Enrollment report doesn't show section sizes at the secondary level, data I have analyzed suggests the student/teacher ratio in our middle and high schools is lower - a consequence of the breadth of courses we offer. I think we need to have a conversation about that.

Why another term?

First of all, because I love our community. My wife and I built our first house here 34 years ago, and stayed when we built our second/current home. We raised our kids here, and appreciate the quality of the education they received. I don't know for sure what our retirement years hold for us, but we have no plans to leave the area anytime soon. But we cannot long withstand the rate at which our property taxes have been growing.

We, as a community, have a lot of work to do if we want to keep our community affordable while preserving the value of our property. It's a tricky balance: the perceived quality of the schools drive up property values, while high taxes drive them down - particularly if there are other school districts in the region which are felt to offer better economics.

I believe that after spending the better part of a decade trying to understand the economic and political dynamics which make our community tick, I am very well prepared to represent you on the School Board as our school district begins a new era under the leadership of Dr. John Marschhausen.

I hope that you agree.

If so, then I need your help with the first step:  In order to have my name be placed on the ballot in November, I am required by the Board of Elections to collect 150 signatures on my Nominating Petition from registered voters who live in our school district. If you would be interested in signing, please let me know.


  1. "The number of folks we employ is determined by factors such as the target student/teacher ratio, and the breadth of programming and services we choose to offer."

    I think the most neglected factor is our age profile. Could have two young, energetic teachers for the price of one near retirement...

    1. One's effectiveness as a teacher isn't defined by age or compensation. But to your point, the teachers were offered an early retirement incentive in their last contract, and a large number took advantage of this. The financial impact of this successful program has been reported on in the Five Year Year forecast.

    2. Experienced teachers are not necessarily lacking in energy. However, younger teachers are by definition not as experienced. That said, not all teaching positions need someone with 20 years of experience and a Masters degree or Ph.D (which automatically gets them higher pay). So there are pros and cons all the way around. The key is to get the right teachers in the right positions.

    3. Mark: Exactly. I don't that anyone has a magic formula to predict who will be effective teachers and who won't. I don't think it has all that much to do with age, experience, or degrees - which by the way are exactly how we determine compensation.

      Sometimes a young teacher will know all about how to use technology and new strategies for teaching, but be unable to control the classroom. Sometimes a more experienced teacher will struggle with new curriculum, but is highly respected by the students.

      And I very much disagree with the notion that a 1st grade teacher is less valuable than high school physics teacher, for example, just because there is a great difference in the subject matter.

      I think that with appropriate training, I might be able to teach high school physics. But there's no way I have the patience and stamina to be in a primary grade classroom with 25 kids all day every day, much less try to teach them something.

      There are no doubt a set of characteristics which all effective teachers must possess. Sometimes "more of A" is a good tradeoff for "less of B" - it depends on the subject and grade level. In other cases, both A and B are essential, in other cases, neither might be.

      Matching the right people to each position is a crucial task for the principals. They also need to be effective coaches. And sometimes they have to be brave enough to change things when it's just not working.

  2. Paul,

    Why we agree on most items I would be far less able to work with fellow board members. It is why I will support you and not run myself. I will back you 100% for many reasons.

    1. Your efforts to share info with public.
    2. Your reply to all questions.
    3. Your real reply even if it is not what I want to hear.

    We need to get you two others so the 4-1 becomes 3-2.

    Thanks for your decision to run for another term.


  3. Paul, thank you for running again. I am sure you will have plenty of signatures. I would be glad to stop by and add my name. Your service, hard work, and willingness to look at all sides of the spectrum is greatly appreciated.

  4. Pablo--

    As I stood on my porch and signed another candidate’s petition recently, I wondered if you were up for re-election (in more than one way).

    I'm thrilled that you'll continue your effort to help us and the schools co-exist and continue to excel! Thank you!

    I’d be happy to sign your petition or support you in other ways.

    Be well. ce

    1. Thanks Charlie. If I drop off a petition form, would you ask some of your neighbors to sign?

  5. Yep, I'd ask a few for you. ce

  6. Paul,

    I appreciate the service you have given our district and would be honored to sign your petition. I am sure that my wife and daughter will sign as well.

    - Mark

    1. Thanks Mark! Will you guys be home Saturday?

  7. Paul,

    Some day when management is given the responsibility and task of providing results based employee reviews and matching the limited salary dollars to those who get results will things will improve. The step and grade system only serves to pay for degrees and years of service, not results.

    The district is in the business of growing our children, giving them grades for their results. When it comes to grading teachers they are not willing or (my guess) able to do so.

    Good news from the state of PA. A Senate committee passed a resolution to move state employees and teachers to a 401K based retirement system, with high cost of health care and retirement shifting to employees.

  8. I need your help understanding. In the 6/20/13 ThisWeek I see 2013-14 course offerings expanded. It states that revisions are required by the State Department of Education. While some changes might be such as social studies, but Chinese? This might be another example of just poor news reporting or a quote error.

    I have several questions.

    1. Were any other classes droped?
    2. Were min enrollment standards established?
    3. Were additional teachers hired?

    I understand the need to change and update, revisions and additions. But did one class replace another? If so I understand and agree. However if this was just additions other issues come to light.

    Did we add teachers for the new classes? If so I question the old line used during past levy efforts, no new programs just keeping what we have. Well new classes and additional teachers is not a new program, but it is not just keeping what we have.

    If we added classes, did not drop others where did staffing come from, did we have teachers not teaching a full load? What if only 5 students select an elective, do we still offer it?

    I hope this is the last action from the McVey admin that we will have to live with into the future. If the new class offering is a wash then I retract this statement. If not I feel we are owed a statement from Dale that he said one thing to get a levy passed then did something different after getting the money.

    The days until a new fresh start are very close. I hope Dr. M provides the leadership to HCSD that is needed.


  9. Paul, if you are still in need of signatures, I'll gladly add my name. You have my email, send me a note on how I can do so.

    1. I'd be honored to have your signature. Could you shoot your email again to savehilliardschools@msn.com? Thanks!