Thursday, December 26, 2013


In the course of seven years, I've published 438 articles to this blog. That's a little more than one per week, which has been my goal, believing that I should publish often enough to keep folks interested, but not so much to become just white noise.

I'm not sure there's that much more for me to say - at least not on the fundamental stuff:

  • The cost of running our school district is, and will always be, a function of the number of folks we employ and how much we pay them. I believe that the time has come when we must have an earnest conversation about whether we can continue to afford the expansive programming we offer, especially at the high school level, in both the academic and extracurricular dimensions.

    The regular appearance on the ballot of the property tax levies necessary to fund the rising cost of this level of programming will meet increasing resistance from voters, and our high tax rate will jeopardize our property values. But cutting our programming to the bone and becoming a less-desirable school district will hurt our property values as well. We'll have to make our choices very carefully, and with a lot of dialog.

    And it can't be done successfully with the abysmal community engagement we saw in the November election, with only 13% turnout.  Of the 56,488 registered voters in the Hilliard City School District, only 7,348 bothered to show up. That's fewer than half the number of students we have enrolled in the district - for an election in which three of the five School Board members would be determined. There's probably more folks at one of our intra-district football games.

    Granted, we, the leaders of our school district, should do a better job of creating opportunities for you to be engaged in these necessary conversations. I hope we take on that challenge in the coming year.
  • Our revenue will always be a mixture of local property taxes and funding from the State of Ohio. As long as our state and national politics remain so polarized, the state funding component will continue to be volatile. That means we need to keep a reasonable cash reserve on hand to give us time to make good decisions when state funding drops, rather than having to react to an immediate fiscal crisis.

    And until our local city leaders - Hilliard, Columbus and Dublin - decide that it's more important to protect the current residents of our community than it is to provide profit opportunities to residential real estate developers, we need to understand that when a new housing development goes up, the rest of us are likely going to end up subsidizing the cost of educating the kids who will come with it.

    By the way, I say that with the understanding that it may well be thought to be hypocritical for the School Board to enter into an agreement to sell 100+ acres to a home developer. This is a unique and unfortunate situation, and I've explained how I came to support this decision. Since the deal fell through because of the unexpected demands put on the developer by the City of Hilliard, we have one more chance to explore options. Who knows?

    Regardless, the general economic health of our public institutions - both the School District and municipalities - depends on bringing in businesses at a rate comparable to residential development. Or rather, the rate of residential development should be managed so as not to exceed the rate of new commercial development. It can be done as simply as refusing new annexation requests for residential development until a good more commercial development takes place.

    An expanding school district doesn't count as commercial development, even though Hilliard City Schools is the largest employer in the City of Hilliard. The income taxes paid by the teachers and staff of the School District may help fund the City of Hilliard, but that money starts out as property taxes paid by the residents and businesses already here in our community. What we need are more employers who get their revenue from outside the school district, like BMW Financial and Verizon.
I'm sure that every once in a while, some issue will come up which merits some explanation, analysis or comment, but otherwise I'll not be trying to keep to a one-article-per-week pace going forward. I also hope that soon all the supplemental materials for our School Board meetings will be provided directly on the district website, along with the meeting agenda.

Meanwhile, if you have a question or issue you want me to address, please send an email, and I'll be happy to do so.


  1. Paul,

    Thanks for all that you have done. This site has been great for those in the district. Now we find ourselves at a point of high risk for all residents.

    The way Dale McVey ran the district in the past and the boards lack of leadership has placed us where we are. Dale and the board never wanted an engaged community. They wanted everyone to go along to get along, but just say yes to all the levy requests. The board and Dale never took no for an answer. You provided lip service to the no votes, took money from vendors, told us how bad things were going to happen. The second vote passed and business went on until more money was needed.

    The narrow margins of the past two levy votes tells us the community as a whole is divided. Over the years I have asked in public and in private many questions to board members. If made public the reply to many questions would shock the voters. This is the flaw in our public comments at board meetings, the board seldom responds in public. The one item the board acted on was the review of Dale, the quality of the work product was poor in my opinion. To that point Dr. M has had to spend time with the board on the issue.

    We now have a leader who wants everyone engaged and would be a great leader for dialog. However so many have been turned off and have the opinion they will do what the want that they are now silent. I think you will find Dr M having problems getting teachers engaged.

    As for me I will support Dr. M leadership and maybe even a levy if he takes the time to have the community conversation. I think he will! However there are many out there who just feel drained and willing to walk away and can you blame them.

    It is important to remember how we got to where we are. Land holding, building a 3rd high school, 3 football fields and on and on. Who recommended and who approved!

    Now we asked one person to get us back on track. I hope he has the ability and flexibility to take us as a community to where we need to go.


  2. Thanks for all the work you've done and hopefully will continue to do both on the blog and on the board. It's a shame (and odd) that something as important to the community (and painful to the pocketbook) as the school district gets so little attention, at least when it comes to voting.

    Perhaps of interest, I came across this cry from the heart on another blog:

    "I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit. New standards + new curricula + new textbooks + new training = $$$$$$. I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the Global Scholars test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, waste instructional time and resources, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices.

    Treasure the pockets of sanity in the educational world. Support them. Encourage everyone you can to think outside these dreadful boxes that fear, ignorance, power-seeking and economic opportunism have constructed and called 'schools.'"

    National or even state “standards” are unnecessary and self-defeating. I’m for a diverse, heterogeneous “system.” I’m for lots of different kinds of schools sponsored by whomever teaching whatever the local community wants. My nephew goes to a public high school with a medical career kind of focus, but also with the requisite dose of the humanities. His father tells me that as a freshman, he is dealing with material that he (his father) first encountered in nursing school. He will graduate from high school with an Associate’s degree in some science field, will be immediately employable in a variety areas of health care, including, if he chooses, an EMT, and will be ready to go on to college, again, beginning as a junior. More of that, please.

    1. This criticism of the standardized tests hasn't made much sense to me. It's a little like the uproar about the Common Core. By that I mean folks don't seem to be thinking through the "if not this, then what?" dimension.

      In the case of the Common Core, I've not found one person who seems to think the CC is the work of the devil to tell me how it compares to the curriculum we have in place now. That's because few people have taken the time to examine the curriculum or any other documents related to the way we run our schools (e.g. the body of policies approved by the School Board). But they're willing to get riled up by the radio talk show guys, who aren't all that informed either.

      So when has testing not been a part of education? Teachers have always given tests to assess what their kids are learning, and what still needs work. Lots of tests.

      Then parents and government leaders began asking "is the education service being delivered in my school district up to snuff?" "Are my tax dollars being well spent?" The only way to answer those questions is to have a body of standardized tests for which results can be compared across large numbers of kids and school districts.

      That's not a new concept either. When one applies to college, the admissions offices don't accept the grade your kid got on Mrs. Smith 11th grade English midterm as evidence of how much the kid knows. They demand to see scores from one of the standard tests, like the ACT or the SAT.

      I remember when my kids we applying for college that the admissions officers said they didn't even pay that much attention to high school GPA or class rank, since there was so much grade inflation these days. Instead they looked at ACT scores and the essays - maybe even an interview.

      I do agree with you in regard to a diverse, heterogeneous education system. I'm on board with the notion that our public education system seems to be more like the factory model, where kids are put on an assembly line with their age peers, and run through the assembly stations at the pace of one station per year, seemingly unconcerned about each individual kid's rate of intellectual, physical and emotional development.

      In other words, we build kids the way we build cars. Some school districts don't have a lot of resources, and so don't offer many options. They struggle to produce lots of copies of very basic models. Think somewhere between Yugo and Honda Civic.

      Other school districts have more resources, and offer more models and options. Some are like the old GM, lots of brands, scores of models, hundreds of options. Lots of variety, wide range of price, quality not always the best.

      Some are the high end luxury versions - BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac. Great quality, high price - which also enhances exclusivity.

      Then there are the extremely high end models. Rolls Royce, Bugatti, McLaren. Custom built. Very limited numbers. Stratospheric prices.

      I think a challenge our community has is that we want to be a BMW district, but have Chevy resources. We got to get that sorted out.