Candidate night 2013

Published October 30, 2013 by justicewg

The candidate night on the stage of the high school can be summarized as “four knowledgeable people with years of experience, and one person stretching for answers”.

The question is, what do you use for a basis for a vote – experience, or something more intangible, like the perceived competence and morality of the candidate, which doesn’t have a number?

The stage program asked questions for general discussion by any candidate. I tried to talk to each school board candidate before and after the stage program and asked them questions that were important for each individual candidate.

Sandy Kipp

Kipp just retired after 35 years working on the school non-teaching staff. My question to her was, “You will be a good representative of the staff at the school, what will make you a representative of the parents of the students?”

She answered with the standard “open and listening” spiel, I guess what stuck with me was when she said she thought the job was more about doing the right things for the students.

I asked her for a good story about embarrassing things that happened at the school, she was enough of a politician to say that would have to wait for some other time.

John Leutz

Leutz had one embarrassing incident in 1995 in which he used swear words in front of some students in a civics class and had to send a letter of apology to the school. I asked about it, he said that he has not gotten in trouble like that again.

A very interesting story about the incident, he said that at the time it happened he instantly apologized and though that was the end of it. Two months later, as he was nearing the end of his campaign for re-election as Mayor, he walked out of his office and found a news camera pushed in his face as the reporter asked questions about the swearing. The story made the TV and newspapers. He heard later that the reason for all the press attention was because some people “wanted to get him”. He was elected mayor a few days later.

Stephanie Evans

Evans and her husband recently opened the Ohio Tap Room, a growler shop that offers Ohio beer on tap. I asked her what kind of example she would be to the students at the school who might get in trouble with the rules for alcohol usage at the school. Kids can be highly tuned into the hypocrisy of the adults that set the rules, and a board member who makes money from beer while telling students that it is bad for them will set those detectors ringing.

She said that her tap room was not a standard bar, there were no drunks hanging around it. True, but it doesn’t change the “profiting from alcohol” part. She said they don’t serve intoxicated people, are very strict about checking I.D.s, and want responsible drinking. All standard bar owner mantras. None of them change the part about “the more people drink, the more money I make”.

She said that alcohol use was a deeply ingrained part of the community, and that the best we can do for students is to show them how to be responsible. That is the most true thing she said. But it doesn’t change the fact that she is a bar owner, and maybe we should be setting a higher standard for the board members.

Jesse Truett

Speaking of someone who doesn’t meet high standards.

I have been wondering about people who are supporting Truett, and I spoke with one of them in the hall. Their take on Truett’s leaving the school and turning in his teaching license – “That’s water under the bridge”. There is forgiveness for minor things gone by, and there is closing your eyes as a flood of water passes under the bridge. We don’t know how close Truett came to being charged with sexual battery. He’s not talking.

I asked Truett why he gave us two different stories about his departure from the school. He said no comment. I asked him just what exact kind of relationship he had with an 18 year old student while he was a teacher. He said no comment.

I have a suggestion for Mr. Truett, after you have just told someone twice “no comment”, don’t pull out that “I have been transparent with the community” line that your lawyer told you to say. Because it makes you sound like a big liar.

I pointed out that his statement of “I have been transparent with the community” was not at all consistent with his refusal to answer my questions, he said “You are not part of the community!” Warning to anyone who asks the wrong questions of Jesse Truett – you might become an un-person and then he doesn’t have to answer to you any more. He’s wishing people into the cornfield! (See the “Questions for Truett” post for more on him.)

Grant Douglass

He got away this time. If I had talked to him, I would have asked him if his construction company, which built the artificial turf football field, was going to be bidding on the $200K+ resurfacing job that will be needed on the field soon.

After the jump – a review of the answers the candidates gave on stage.

Candidate Forum

The main program of the candidate night was a forum moderated by Ann Fisher of “All Sides” on WOSU. This program was so much better than some of the poorly planned, lame questions, sleep inducing candidate nights of the past. Fisher was not at the top of her game, she fumbled a few times, but her questions were interesting, on topic, and avoided the “just how wonderful are our schools?” lazy questioning of the past.

It was a panel of (mostly) experienced political types who had plenty of time to prepare, and were all (except for one) smooth talkers who were in the center of their professional expertise.

I don’t know if anything can be learned from these sort of panels, everyone is trying very hard to be non-controversial. All of them were complementing each other and had small variations on the “Our schools are so wonderful” pitch.

The first question was about spending per pupil, the questioner said that we spend more than 15K per pupil now, the highest in the county. I found a “cost per pupil” chart on the school website that says $15,083, and a “expenditure per pupil” of $14,479. I can’t find a comparison for other schools for those exact costs, but the millage for Grandview is near the top (along with Bexley), and the effective rates are somewhere in the middle of the group.

None of the candidates had a problem with those figures. As long as levies keep passing, they don’t have to be concerned.

The question about when a new levy should go on the ballot produced a lot of buzzwords but no clear response. Douglas though seemed ready to go in the near term. It is the job of the board members to help pass levies, but they don’t have to be as eager to go as he seemed.

Kipp had the response that stuck with me. She said “the board and the administration fear putting levies up, and it is a good thing that they fear levies”

A question about the role of the board members – should they be more assertive, or should they let the super guide the school – produced some real differences.

Evans used the “no micromanage” quote that has been said many times by the “strong superintendent” faction of the board. They don’t want to micromanage, or macro-manage, or do anything except sit and listen to the super. Douglass said “nose in, fingers out”, but it was a different way to say the same old thing.

Kip and Leutz talked about “being the representative of the parents who voted for them”. I don’t know if that was a pledge to make any changes, but it at least it was not the same thing we have heard in the past.

Truett talked about “the 5 roles of the board member”, as though he was teaching a class. If you want a technocrat on the board, he was clearly the winner at giving answers from a textbook.

John Leutz impressed me with his performance, he was at ease, funny at times, clearly at the top of his game. Sandy Kipp was the surprise second best on the stage, she had a few answers like the “fear of the levy” that made everyone in the room wake up from the drone of the standard buzzwords.

Evans was clearly lost and fumbling for some of the answers. She had one question about options for education outside the school that she wanted to go at in great detail, because of her own kids experience. That was unfortunately the best she could do on the stage.

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