Sunday, September 8, 2013

Supplemental Materials for the September 9, 2013 School Board Meeting

Here are the supplemental materials provided in preparation for the regular meeting of the School Board, to be held Monday September 9, 2013 at 7pm, at Alton-Darby Elementary School.

The agenda is fairly routine, with a couple items of note. 

Item F1 authorizes our liability insurer to pay a settlement claim related to a personnel matter. No impact on our operating budget - this is why we buy liability insurance (correction: we did have to pay the $2,500/claim deductible).

As is our pleasure each year, we welcome several foreign exchange students to our schools, to our community, and for the host families - into their homes. It's a substantial commitment for all, and it should be a point of pride that these students want to come here. This year students join us from Germany, Korea and Japan.

Per Board Policy KH, we will be voting to accept a substantial list of donated materials, totaling $136,000 in value, much of it provided by PTOs and Booster organizations. Thank you to all donors.

House Bill 153, passed by the 129th General Assembly in 2011, and incorporated into section 3327.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, allows a school board to declare by resolution that it is impractical to provide transportation to a student, and to instead make payment to the student's family. 

The law doesn't specify how large this payment should be, only that it is an "amount that shall be not less than the amount determined by the [Ohio] department of education as the minimum for payment in lieu of transportation, and not more than the amount determined by the department as the average cost of pupil transportation for the previous school year."

The ODE has set the minimum to $240.66 and the maximum to $813.79 for this year.

Toward that end, item F4 on the agenda reads:
Superintendent recommends ... that the Board of Education authorize the Director of Business to decline as impractical any request or route of 20 or less students and approve parent applications for the payment of $250 in lieu of transportation as per criteria set by the State Department of Education.
I read this to say that the Administration wants to be given blanket authority for an indefinite period to define a bus route that would pick up 20 or fewer students, then declare it impractical to serve that route, instead paying $250 (per year) per student, meaning up to $5,000.

I see a few problems with this. The indefinite nature is one. I'd prefer that the Board be given the opportunity to review and approve the list of students who the Administration recommends be given payments in lieu of transportation - just as the Board approves bus routes each year (actually, it is required to do so by law: ORC 3327.01). I am interested in this information, and I also think future School Boards might also be interested. This resolution as worded would seem to make the decision process invisible to future School Boards.

And since we have Board Policy EEA dealing with student transportation, it would seem like the appropriate route for this legislation would be to have the Policy Review Committee look at it first, and incorporate whatever language is decided upon into Policy EEA.

Transportation matters are important. I understand that it's a big deal to tell parents that their kids won't be provided transportation, meaning the parents have to figure out another way to get their kids to and from school each and every day. I'm not sure what the fair compensation should be for being denied that service. We can calculate the cost per student for transportation in our current mode (the ODE says it's $684.21/yr), but I don't think $250/yr is a fair reflection of what it would cost parents to transport their own kids for 180 days.

I am not inclined to vote in favor of this resolution, but will listen to the discussion at the Board meeting before making my final decision.

Finally, although not on the agenda, the Board will be announcing three working sessions to take place over the next two weeks.  I believe that the sessions on Sept 10 and Sept 16 will be held in executive session so that we may begin preparing for contract negotiations with the Hilliard Education Association (teachers' union) and OAPSE Local #310 (support staff union). On Sept 18 there will be a public session to discuss the performance plans for the Superintendent and Treasurer. Watch for the formal announcements.


  1. Paul,

    I think we had several payment last year from the same carrier. If I remember last year our claims exceeded our premium. After several years of claims exceeding premium or exceeding 65% of premium we will see our rate and thus our premium go up. So while we have insurance to cover such items, it is not a bank account.

    The less frequent and less severe claims the lower the rate and premium.

    1. Good points. I also failed to mention that we have a $2,500 deductible per claim on this policy, so we did have some out-of-pocket expenses.

  2. Paul,

    I suspect any route of 20 or fewer students will be rural. Given how high the taxes are for rural residents, this policy once again tells rural residents that they are a cash-cow for the district.

    That said, I suspect the target here isn't rural students, but the private schools that HCSD is current transporting students to. The problem there of course is that while that may be the initial intention, down the road this authorization will be used for other purposes by future administrations.

    However, as you note, the open-endedness of this recommendation, plus the fact there is no review of affected students (or, it would appear, any appeal process available to affected communities) means that the board should reject this as written.

    But, it will pass 4-1.

  3. Paul,

    I was unable to attend the BOE meeting last evening.

    Concerning the "impractical" bus routes, was there any discussion/comments/concerns by any of the other board members, and what was the final vote on this matter?

    To "M's" comment about "the private schools that HCSD is current transporting students to". If it is indeed case, consider the amount of state dollars our district receives for those students as a part the district's "Average daily Membership" (ADM) count.

    According to the FY 2012 ODE CUPP report, our ADM was 15,712 while the total end of year enrollment was 14,951 - a difference of 761 students who live in HCSD boundaries but do not attend Hilliard schools. During that year the “district formula funding per student” was $1,919 and the total state funding per student (that includes the state property tax allocation) was $3,681. (I’m not sure which number to use here)

    So does this mean that our district receives at least $1.46 million in revenue (761 x $1,919) for students in which services are not provided, except for daily transportation? If that is the case, then the district could clear $1,669 ($1,919 - $250) by not providing transportation for those students.

    Am I understanding the financial part of this correctly for those 761 students who will not be provided transportation?

    Steve B.

    1. Steve: I asked that the matter be forwarded to the Policy Review committee for their consideration, which I believe is the appropriate legislative route since we already have a transportation policy. This means the issue will be discussed by representatives of both the Board and the Administration, then brought forward to the Board via three readings before action is taken. This gives the public three opportunities to be heard on the matter before it could become formal policy.

      Community members who feel strongly about this policy need to come forward and address the Board.

      Good question about whether we receive ADM dollars for such students. I'll ask.

  4. Paul,

    Most monday nights I meet several friends at a local eating establishment. One of those who attended is a teacher. The look on her face told me something was wrong. This is the second time she has had this look this school year.

    The death of Elijah Love was the reason. It is times like this that tells me intervention and greif action is needed. Glad we have the programs. ( Remember intervention was on the McVey hit list during the levy)

    Given the number of deaths in our district do to transportation (auto) one must question the item on the agenda last night about bus service.

    We have a professional transportation division in the district. Why would we place a student in several cars and not provide bus service. We pay little if any attention to some costs where there is no measure. I think you will find that accidents per student miles traveled is lower on the bus than by personal car!


    1. Dave: "Intervention" is being used in two different contexts here. One use is when one refers to the special attention a student will receive due to learning difficulties. The other is the case your speaking of here - when students need emotional support after some tragic event, as with Elijah's death.

      You make a point I've made before when there has been discussion about cutting busing. Our kids are safest when being transported on one of our buses, and at the most risk when there are multiple kids in a private car being driven by a high school student.

      But when I raised this point, I learned something else - only about half the high school kids who are eligible for transportation actually ride the buses. Many of the kids who can drive and have access to a car go that route - just check out how many cars are in the student parking sections at our high schools.

      Some high school kids are driven by their parents for other reasons. We drove our kids to/from high school because they would have otherwise spent an hour on the bus - each way - because we live out in Brown Twp (this was before Bradley was built).

      I suspect other parents drive their kids because their kids find the busing experience unpleasant, for a variety of reasons. School can be a tough place for some kids, and buses one of the tougher places.

  5. Paul,

    I support both types of intervention. I have seen many examples of how engaged the staff is with learning issues. It should be the base and one of the last things to be on the block. Sports or intervention, I pick intervention 100% of the time.

    Transportation is safe when in bus. If parents wish to not have bus transportation then they own it, their choice. If you are running a school, you need to have buses to get them to and from.

    If less than 20 children sign up for a class, should we drop the class? We should be more focused on what we must provide and in a effective and efficient manner. Transportation is a required IMHO


    1. "If less than 20 children sign up for a class, should we drop the class?"

      I think we may need to have exactly that conversation in the coming months. We offer over 300 courses in our high school catalog, and schedule about 230 of them in any given year. Each one of those classes need to have a teacher leading them, so the more sections, the more teachers, and the lower the student-teacher ratio.

      I'm not proposing a sudden cutback in programming, only that we need to have a strategic conversation about this, and use it to guide our hiring as teachers retire in the coming years.

  6. Paul,

    Just saw an article in This Week. "District start times save $74k. OK, I will bite. We are going to spend $74 less but we want to cut some bus transportation. I always take a 2nd look when we say save, as I think it means spend less.

    What happened other than change of bells to be able to cut cost. With so little change in the district (other than traffic circles that some board members and Dale complained about) why did we just know find a way to save???


    1. The reduction in cost is caused by reducing occasions when bus drivers had to just sit around and wait to begin their next route (e.g. when you see an empty bus with driver sitting in some shopping center parking lot). With the new schedule, drivers will generally proceed directly from the completion of one route to the start of the next. Same number of routes and route-miles, just less idle time, which costs money since the drivers are paid by the hours.

      I appreciate the transportation guys figured out this opportunity and recommended action. It's one of many ways that our Operations team constantly works to eliminate cost when possible. They could just as easily sit on their hands and let the opportunities pass, and no one would know...

  7. Paul, on further study it would appear that the bus routes with the most potential for savings under this recommendation would be the lunch time routes for kindergarten students. I suspect there are a large number of routes in the district where there are less than 20 kids on the buses at that time of day.

    Cutting these routes would be a significant misstep by the district because it would affect our less affluent members of the community significantly. Those are the ones without the means to provide their own transportation for their young children. $250 would be an insult to those people.

    The more I look at this, the more I think we cannot have such a blanket policy. I suspect more time will be taken up by discussing this policy, and discussing each route that the district recommends is cut, than will be saved.

    Frankly, we are penny-pinching here, when what we should be doing is spending this time targeting the real costs,such as those high school classes you note above.

    1. My Board colleagues agreed to forward the proposal to the Policy Review Committee for their consideration, and I've made my concerns known. We'll see what they come back with. Note that if it comes back as an amendment to policy, there will be three public 'readings' before enacted, giving everyone a chance to give the Board input.

    2. I was mistaken in my last comment. The Board policy EEA and the Ohio law is written broadly enough to allow the Administration to make decisions with Board approval, which is what they'll be seeking at the next Board meeting, on Sept 23.

      Anyone with an opinion on this matter should contact me or another Board member before the meeting, or address us at the meeting.