Friday, December 6, 2013

Supplemental Materials for the December 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 December 9, 2013 at 7pm at Weaver Middle School. This will be the last regularly scheduled Board meeting for 2013.

Item B2 is a presentation of the results from a community survey taken in August. A couple of observations:

  •  A large majority of folks say the community and the school district is "going in the right direction."
  • More folks said "managing the budget/cutting costs" should be the top priority than any other choice.
  • 86% said the quality of education provided by the district is Good or Very Good.
  • 30% approve or strongly approve of the job being done by the School Board vs 9% who disapprove. But 60% said they don't know or don't care. This apathy is what's going to kill America.
  • The community is evenly split on this dimension: a) should we have the very best schools we can even if it means raising taxes; versus, b) we need to control costs, even if it means we're not being the best. (sorry, missed the "not" in the originally published version)
  • Over half said we should put more emphasis on reducing operating costs
  • Over half said we should put more emphasis on preparing students for college and higher education
  • About half said we should put more emphasis on advanced coursework
  • About half said we have enough emphasis on fine arts (why wasn't there a question about athletics?)
  • Less than half said we should increase the access to technology. About the same fraction said we have enough access to technology now.
  • Less than half said we should more more emphasis on building security. More folks said we are good where we are.
  • Best sources of information to evaluate the quality of the district?  More said the teachers than any other response. Next was students.
  • Best source of general information about the schools?  #1 is the newspapers, followed by the district "E-News."
  • Here's a critical demographic: 62% of the respondents don't have kids in our schools.

Item F1 is mandated by the Ohio Revised Code and our own Policy KH to allow the school district to accept various items which were donated this year. We thank the efforts and generosity of the contributors.

Item F2 is an amendment to our appropriations. This is the legal mechanism required to take possession of additional revenue made available to us.

Item F3 is the 2014-2015 school calendar.


  1. Paul,

    I must admit my lack of knowledge and understanding of surveys and polls. All said I have never been contacted for anything about Hilliard Schools. What I do know is that the past two levy votes were close with low voter turn out. What a shame we need to spend money to survey registered voters.

    I go to one question, #8. This result tells me the election results are and indicator of both registered voters and voters. So it does matter who votes or which side gets the voter out.

    I also shows how divided the community is as a whole. It also means if an anti levy group mobilizes voters they win. If district family and friends vote they win.


    1. Elections have been about turnout for a long time. That's why low turnout elections can be so unpredictable, and why it matters that a candidate or issue group gets their voters to the polls.

      That why we have this cycle that goes: a) put a levy on the ballot, it fails because the turnout of parents is low; b) threaten to take away busing and sports; c) put the levy on the ballot again and it passes because the parents show up.

      No way to run a community.

  2. Paul,

    Left out one statement. If we are a split community about school funding at the polls and as a whole. We need to look at the largest line item, the compensation package. In previous posts I gave my support of the last contract. The survey tells me as comp costs go up and the need for a levy will arrive.

    Maybe a option will be to move the teachers to the health care exchange.


    1. The community will have to decide how big a fight they want to have with the teachers. This is what happened in Strongsville earlier this year, a community much like Hilliard.

  3. Paul,

    First, please refer to my posts about the last contract.

    I find your statement, " The community will have to decide how big a fight they want to have with the teachers." a great concern.

    First, please remember that we the voters, elect you the board to run the school system. The largest part of the operations budget is teacher costs. The teacher contract is approved by the board. So do not make teacher pay a fight with the community. I feel that the run away costs of instruction is a direct result of the board going along to get along. This is one area that I feel the board has failed.

    Before you tell me about how the unions got started please respond to the following questions.

    1. Who do you know that has just started to pay 15% of health care costs with a deductible under $500.
    2. Do you think voters would pass a levy if the new salary plan was part of the levy (ie) the public had to vote the contract.

    I think it would be a tough sell to tell the public teachers are under paid along with educating them on the step and lane and their retirement plan. While some younger less tenured teachers might make less than the community as a whole. The average teacher is on par with most.

    If we address the process of getting comp costs under control as a fight then I question the system. I have been told they are part of the community. It is about the children. The fight only shows me they are about teachers. That would be ok to say that, but please do not hide behind the it is all about the kids line.

    We have good teachers in Hilliard. Since we do not score them as individuals or at all for salary they are a group. Yet they march to the top of the pay scales with education and seniority. Being from the private sector I lack the experience in the system. Education costs in Hilliard are very high when you look at global leaders. So we pay high and are middle of the pack at best. We have lost our ability to be global leaders and it starts with education.

    It is hard to respect a group that would want to fight over a already generous pay package.


    1. There are 57,526 registered voters in our school district. The final numbers aren't in, but my guess is that no more than 10% of them voted in the November election, which seated 3 of the 5 members of our school board. So you tell me if you think the current Board is a good cross-section of the community. I can't tell.

      Here's what I think:

      - Hilliard has exploded in size in the last 20 years because folks want to live in this school district. End of story. It's not for the scenery, to enjoy roundabouts, or the outstanding shopping. If you have kids, this seems like a great place for them to go to school. If you don't have kids, it seems to be a place where your property values could hold and maybe grow.

      - Almost no one understands how the government economics work in a community like ours. Specifically, unmanaged growth, with an imbalance of residential and commercial revenue sources, tends to drive a community toward unsustainability. It's a "Tragedy of the Commons"phenomenon.

      - The teachers earn what they earn because they organized and fought for it. They show up at the polls to support causes important to them, like the repeal of SB5. And they'll fight to preserve what they think is a fair deal. We saw a little of that in 2007-2008 when the School Board wanted to negotiate greater contributions to the cost of providing health insurance. How hard do you think they'll fight to prevent what they might perceive as unreasonable give-backs?

      The Strongsville teachers decided they had been asked to give back too much, and that community had to endure a very unpleasant strike. If you were moving to Greater Cleveland, and had children in school, is Strongsville still a place where you'd risk investing in an expensive piece of real estate? Would you like to be selling a house in Strongsville right now? I might consider, but only if I could buy a house for well less than in another comparable school district.

      By the way, the average teacher doesn't understand our community economics any better than the rest of us. That's why I've advocated for years for better education of all parties.

      Not because having greater understanding is an end in of itself, but because we aren't going to get all parties around the table to work on developing sustainable solutions until we all understand the facts, and dial back the emotional component.

    2. But Paul, we don't even have two parties around the table; we have outside hired-hands to do the dirty work that have no skin in the game.

      You want to fix this problem, you need to put board members and teachers around a table, not a bunch of over-paid professional negotiators...

    3. That's not how the process worked, not this time at least. The style of negotiations we use involves rounds of presenting and defending proposals relative to particular sections of the contract, determined before negotiations begin. Then the two groups retire to discuss the proposals. The parties then reconvene to either accept the proposals or make counter offers.

      It's not like each side throws their gladiator into the arena and hopes for victory...

  4. Paul,

    We are way past the emotional part. As part of an educational program will we ever see the salary grid in a district mailing? I give credit for current and past adm for posting on the web site.

    Why is it that the district is unable to live with $1 less, yet 100% of tax payers can live with less as a result of a passed levy.

    I think to community would be in shock if they were to learn about the total comp program and costs. I think it woould also be a leaning moment for the teachers to learn what the non school workers have for a total comp program.

    While I approved the recent contract, we will not be able to cover the costs for long. Both sides need education, so when and where does the conversation take place. If invited do you think the teachers would come to a community meeting?

    I have trust that Dr. M will address this issue, but we need to start sometime before the levy request.


    1. No we're not. The presentation we heard last night from Paul Fallon confirms it. Almost no one in the community understands the economics, which de facto means decisions are being made on an emotional basis.

      Yes, I hope that as a key element of a public education program that we expose more folks to the pay grids we use for both teachers and staff. But it has to be in context: Why does it look like that? How did we get there? What other alternatives are there? Have others tried them? If so, what happened?

      We have far too great an investment in our public education system to blow it up with half-baked ideas. If it's radical reform the public wants, they have to be willing to endure the consequences.

      One of my favorite movies is "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson. Everyone should listen to the speech he makes before his fellow South Carolinians when they start pushing for armed rebellion against the British Crown.

      He tells them that it won't be a neat little string of engagements that take place in protected battlefields, where the two sides can blast away at each other without jeopardizing the lives or property of any of the civilians.

      He tells them that such a war will come to their farms and their homesteads, and that their wives and children will suffer along with the soldiers.

      He doesn't say that independence from the British isn't a desirable thing - only that the cost to the colonists will be substantially greater than the instigators of a war have imagined.

      I remember once working an an international standards project in Canada, and happened to be there around the Forth of July. My Canadian friends said they never really understood why the American colonists fought our war - that Canada seemed to get to pretty much the same place without one.

      I suggested to him that perhaps Canada reached its level of independence from the Crown because the Americans fought our war first, and that they were a "free rider" in that regard.

      So that's another choice we have to make. The call for radical reform in public education is happening all over the country. If the majority of people in our community want that kind of radical reform to take place in Hilliard - and the evidence is not there to suggest that this is the case - then do we start the war and suffer the consequences on behalf of others, or do we let the fighting take place somewhere else - being like Canada.

      So first we have to education the public about how things really work. Then we have to ascertain whether the public is okay with our current trajectory, or wants change. If they want change, then we have to figure out what cost they're willing to bear to enact such change.

  5. Paul,

    I will only pull out a few items to address. I suggest that as part of educating the community we only address where we are. Things are what they are, we have a contract. We have a new leader who is innovative. Lets charge our teachers with being innovative. Lets start telling the community where we spend our money, ie what teachers are paid and what there medical and retirement costs the district.

    I do not know where the line is between half baked ideas and blowing things up. I do not feel blowing things up is the answer, nor do I think we can keep going on the current path.

    We can start where we are, going back to the past serves no purpose. But if you want to go back lets go all the way to why 3 high schools and why do we own the property we own. You fellow board members are unwilling to even talk about those issues.

    Every day the passes is a day closer to the next levy. The sooner we talk, well!!!!