This incident is unique in that it both showed the failure of the “strong super” theory, and became a textbook example of how the board ignores input from parents.
In July 2003 superintendent Allen was allowed to retire then be re-hired, both with a bonus and a STRS buyout. This was not a vote of intent, this was a finished deal. Between the bonus and the buyout Allen was looking at a +$100K check. (and he would continue as super, taking in both his normal wage and retirement income). Given the hard economic times, and the fact that the board would not allow any teachers a similar deal, this was very controversial. As usual, the board didn’t ask for any public comment before the vote.
In April of 2004, it was announced that a special meeting would be held to discuss the retirement. The details of why this meeting was scheduled are unclear, but it can be guessed that the board broke the law when it didn’t have the public meeting before the vote. Before this public meeting occurred, Allen changed his mind and the retirement was off the table.
Jump forward to July of 2005, and Allen’s retirement was back on the table. This time there was a public meeting, and it attracted a large crowd. Speakers were heavily against the plan to allow Allen to retire and be re-hired at the same wage. They spoke of the unfairness of allowing Allen a deal that a teacher could not get, and of the bad timing (this was shortly before the 2005 levy). The teacher’s union spoke against giving Allen anything more than a teacher would be allowed.
Allen was given everything he wanted by the board, he was allowed to retire, take retirement pay, and be rehired at the same wage. It was an unstated assumption that Allen was given this sweet deal and a two year contract as a way of guaranteeing he would stay with the school.
Allen dumped the school and left for the London, Ohio system in the middle of the contract. Throughout, Allen received nothing but extravagant complements from the board. Even with the unquestioning support the board gave Allen, he still bolted for another job when it suited him. So much for the board’s theory of management.
Another important lesson from the Allen controversy was the outcome of Allen’s hearing. The board went into executive session, and disagreed on the pay to be offered Allen. The board could have returned from executive session and made a split vote on Allen’s retirement. This would have made public the internal dispute between board members. Instead, for the first time in the history of this board, they created a sub-committee to work out a compromise. At the next meeting they again voted unanimously to give Allen the generous retirement benefits.
The lesson the board learned from this incident was that listening to parents leads to conflict between board members. The board views internal conflict as a negative in all instances. The board’s solution was to isolate themselves and give parents even less chance to have a voice.
Alternate explanations for the board’s behavior
The strong super philosophy is certainly a documented reality for the Grandview schools, but there are other motives that can be driving the school board. The following explanations have been floated by readers of my blog.
Republicans vs Democratic party
Members of the SSG have explicitly said that “we are not partisan, we support candidates who are both Republican and Democratic”. That is true, but were those Democratic endorsement made as exceptions just to throw suspicion away from partisan goals?
Former board president McLeod was featured in a story in the TVN reporting she had just graduated from the Republican Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute. Former member Peters was given use of the robo-call phone system that belonged to Republican senator Steve Stivers on election day, a gift that would only be bestowed to the party faithful. I don’t have any conclusive proof of the party membership for the present board members (many of them have not declared a party for primary voting), but the philosophy of the board points to one party. Is it fair to think Republicans would be in favor of the “strong leader”, authoritarian management of the school?
If it is true that the SSG is a Republican group, they have one big problem – Grandview votes heavily Democratic, and has been increasingly blue. If the theory is true, they must work for the support of the Republican voters of Grandview, while hiding their partisanship from the majority of the city. I don’t think the board races can be pinned on a red vs blue philosophic difference, but it could be a factor.
(Update for 2015) President Brannan is listed as a registered Republican on the county website. Former Pres. Douglass is a Republican who has donated thousands of dollars to local Republican candidates.
Revenge of the Heathers
The SSG is a small social clique, and like all small groups that want power, they gain it by attacking others. The smear tactics used during the elections of new board member Adam Miller were classic clique attacks.
To be clear, the SSG doesn’t want YOU to have any power to affect the super or the school board. However, that doesn’t exclude them from using their own political power to influence the school.
Do the members of the SSG expect favoritism from the school when their children face punishment for school policy infractions? Do they pull strings for hiring and firing at the school (as in the band director “resignation”). It’s hard to document actions that could be occurring out of sight of the public, but the possibility exists.
Next – Summary and the Future