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All posts for the month September, 2014

Grandview murder from 2000 back in the news

Published September 29, 2014 by justicewg

The discussion about the Cooke murder in August 2013 brought up the story of a previous murder that happened 14 years ago. Mary Compton was stabbed by a friend of her children, allegedly while on LSD. The Dispatch has a story about the convicted murderer, Chad Davis, and his asking for a new trial because of mistakes by the judge in the original sentencing hearing.

Davis pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years to life. Judge Deborah P. O’Neill told Davis that he may be eligible for judicial release after serving 15 years. This was incorrect, the sentence he was given said that he could not ask for early release. Because of this mistake, he will be given a new trial.

Much more details about the crime and the trial, and the stories of Compton’s kids are in the very well written Dispatch story.

Kicking her while she is down

Today (Sept 30) the Dispatch editorial page has a story that rips on former Judge Deborah P. O’Neill. The judge was removed from office by the Ohio Supreme Court and stripped of her license (since returned, I think). This story says she had to pay $587,000 in legal fees connected to her failed defense. I can’t say she doesn’t deserve more bad press. But it does seem a little like they are adding to a pile-on.

Davis accepted a plea deal

Probably the last update on this case – Davis accepted a plea deal a day before his new trial was to begin. According to the Dispatch story he will be in prison for another 11 years, until 2027.

 

Reynoldsburg teacher strike, part 2

Published September 28, 2014 by justicewg
Reynoldsburg Superintendent

Reynoldsburg Superintendent

I’ve been reading a lot of press coverage of the Reynoldsburg teacher’s strike with poorly informed comments about the motivations for the work action. Some of this is just misinformation, some are talking points put out by the Reynoldsburg administration and reported uncritically by the press. This recent Dispatch story does a little better job, but it took them a while to get the facts out in the coverage of the strike. This is important stuff, because the Grandview Heights school board has been making plans that are similar to the changes being pushed on the Reynoldsburg teachers.

It’s not about the money

I often read stories and hear news reports that focus on the money that is being offered and the counter-proposal from the union, as though that was the motivation at the base of the strike. A careful reading of the facts show that the two sides are not far apart. The Reynoldsburg teachers would never have gone on strike for a fraction of a percentage point added to their pay.

For the best in-depth review of the financial numbers proposed by each side, as well as possible outcome analysis that exhaustively runs the numbers, read this story on the Plunderbund website (an independent Ohio news blog). No matter the outcome, it’s not about the money.

It is about replacing steps with performance-based pay.

The original demand by the school board would have stripped most of the step pay from the teachers and replaced it with performance-based pay, linked to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System. The OTES is a brand new program, still under revision, with no history to show it has any value in measuring what it is supposed to measure. The OTES has nothing in the documentation that even suggests that it can be used for teacher compensation.

Once the academic studies of the OTES are completed, they will almost certainly find the same results that many other teacher evaluation based on student performance-based testing has found. Kids do better if they have parents who are upper income, professionals, and who support their kids in their school work. That one last factor is more important in student test results than any difference in teacher quality.

Obviously students from high income areas will test better than low income kids. This will set up teachers to fail their OTES evaluation, and then if that score is linked to teacher pay, the teachers in low income areas will be stuck with low wages.

Student test performance is so closely related to student home environment that it can cause large shifts in test scores because of the differences between one class and another. So when a teacher gets lucky and has some smart kids with good home support, the teacher’s pay would go up. An unlucky draw of students could throw the teacher into the low compensation level.

Performance-based pay has been tried again and again in school systems. There have been no studies that have shown that it works to improve the results of student achievement. The only reason this failed plan continues to be pushed by school boards is that they follow radical right-wing dogma.

Taking away heath care gives more choice?

The Reynoldsburg school board proposed cash payments for health care instead of health insurance coverage — “initiatives unheard of in teacher contracts around the area” as reported by the Dispatch. The board, in its convoluted reasoning, tried to say this was to give the teachers “more freedom”.

You need to be soaked in the libertarian side of the republican group-think to understand how taking away something gives more freedom. You might think offering teachers the choice of either standard health insurance or cash would be the “freedom” option. Obviously you have not drank enough kool-aid. The freedom they are talking about is the freedom to buy Junk insurance, and the freedom of companies to rip off uninformed consumers.

The current Reynoldsburg board bargaining position doesn’t include the cash for heath care option. Is it possible that they were too embarrassed by their ludicrous explanations of this policy?

Reynoldsburg needs better lies

The Dispatch video interview with superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning is chock filled with whoppers. They don’t know why the teachers went on strike? Gosh, could it have been anything to do with those unprecedented demands on the teachers? And then when she is asked if there are outside political forces driving her and the board, she says, “First, I’m insulted”. Red flag! Anytime someone starts to answer a questions with the declaration that they are insulted to have to answer the question, you can bet a whole lot of BS will follow.

Everyone knows this was a pilot program pushed by the republican John Kasich administration. The strike was a push-back supported by teachers all over the state. For Thomas-Manning to insist that it isn’t shows an ass-covering move at a skill level that wouldn’t fool a two year old.

I’m guessing Tina Thomas-Manning will have a short career with the Reynoldsburg schools. After the present board members are voted out, she will be booted too. She will always have a position somewhere with Governor John Kasich’s administration. Watch this video that documents the close ties between the Governor and Tina Thomas-Manning, and also the school board members at Reynoldsburg.

Reynoldsburg School Board’s dirty tricks

Fake flyers that out the strike breaking teachers are the latest from the Reynoldsburg school. They were created in an attempt to make it look like the union (or a supporter) was passing out flyers that identified the homes of the strike breaking teachers. As the excellent  Plunderbund website shows, the flyers are almost identical to ones that outed teachers during the Strongsville strike. Huffmaster, the security and strike managment company, was the only link between the two cities. The only people that had those addresses were Huffmaster and the board. What a low trick – Huffmaster hires some desperate person (not necessarily a teacher, anyone with a college degree will do) and now it looks like in an attempt to smear the union, they out their own employee to the neighborhood.

Strike over

October 9, 2014, the Reynoldsburg teachers voted to accept a new contract and end the strike. They will continue to receive step pay, health care plans from the school, and some limits on class sizes were set. This was a full loss for the school board and superintendent, hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on strike breakers and added security.  I hope the parents and community members vote these losers out as soon as possible.

The final bill the Reynoldsburg board cost the community by engaging in this dumb fight is still being totaled up, but it will be more than a million dollars, possibly two. If I were a community member there I would be passing a petition to have all the board members removed by recall elections.

Up soon – I asked the Grandview Heights board why they were talking about “Strategic compensation” in the February meeting held in a cabin 20 miles outside the city, with no parents or press attending. The answers they gave will not make you feel the Grandview board is very different from the Reynoldsburg board.

(Follow up story about the Reynolsburg board)

Reynoldsburg Board of Education President Andrew Swope resigned in December, and said he was moving his family out of the area. Superintendent Manning is still at the school, but this Facebook page asking for her removal shows the mood of the community.

(Later) The Reynoldsburg board voted to end super Manning’s contract in Sept. 2016, she will leave the school in July 2017.

(Reynoldsburg strike part one)

DeGraw talks about a new pool

Published September 25, 2014 by justicewg

degrawlogoMayor DeGraw has put up another good post on the Grandview Heights blog. Once again, I’m impressed by the way the city works to communicate with the people of this city. Conversely, I’m ashamed of the poor skills of the board and school superintendent. It has been more than two months and Culp has done nothing more than put up an introduction post on the school website. If he follows O’Reilly, that will be the full extent of his website communication for a year.

Since this is what bloggers do, I’ll give the tl;dr version of DeGraw’s post.

Trick or Treat night will be moved from October 31 to October 30 this year.

Ohio Public Works Commission funding application for the work on First Avenue and Northwest Boulevard has been done. Trees were saved. (again, I’m impressed by the way the city responded to complaints and had a number of meetings. The school board would never do this.)

The dedication of the Wyman Woods shelter house and a park opening will be held October 25 after the Pumpkin Run. (here is where we are seeing the tax money from the Yard in use).

A crane with a large weight will begin compressing the soil that is being brought in to fill a portion of the 40 acres of land at the northeast corner of Grandview Ave. and Route 33. Loud pounding will be heard, for however long that takes.

The Yard – the new parking garage by Goodale is nearing completion and the Hofbrauhaus is scheduled to open October 21.

With the additional bed tax coming into the city from the second hotel going into the Grandview Yard, the Parks Board has been asked to look at improving the pool. Over the next few months they will be looking at upgrading or replacing the pool and facilities around the pool.

End of summary.

This is the start of the party – with new tax money coming in from the Yard, the city now has the funds to do projects that have been on hold for years. The stories about the decrepit old equipment that has been patched and re-patched at the pool have been discussed for years. The people who are sick of the patching are talking about a complete removal of the old pool and building it all new. The people who like the old style architecture of the building (what little exists) are asking the city to do historic preservation.

Projects like this – and others that are not so much upgrades as they are complete additions to the city infrastructure – will be hot topics for the next few years. Expect the return of the “We need a huge new city building and Fire house!”, and “let’s build a recreation complex with pool and tracks and gyms and stuff!”. The people who point out that no city the size of Grandview has these kind of facilities will be pushed aside by the “we have money, let’s spend it!” crowd.

(Nov.) That didn’t take long, the city is again talking about constructing a new firehouse and municipal building. No doubt, the city building is old and needs replaced, the question is what will be built, new facilities that match the needs, or oversized, expensive buildings that are more about keeping up with U.A.?

Crime in Our Community

Published September 22, 2014 by justicewg

The PTO Speakers Series will be hosting a talk on  “Crime in Our Community:  What you Need to Know and How You Can Help”, presented by Sgt. Leslie Jackson of the GHPD.  The talk will be on Monday, September 22, from 7:00-7:30pm in the Media Center at the High School.

The announcement of this presentation said there will be a Q and A session afterwards. I would be interested in hearing the answer to the question “Why has the police department failed to find the Grandview Flasher”, after more than a year and over 15 incidents of  exposing himself. There is a facebook group for the Grandview Flasher that has over 170 members, so I think there is some interest in the community for some updates on that hunt.

Jennifer Cook’s  murder  has also gone unsolved. I’m guessing that the same “investigation is in progress” line will be used. At this point, the case is so cold that the police might want to try something new – release some of the information that they were holding back maybe? I get that they don’t want to release much for fear of compromising the prosecution of the case, but if they never find the killer, there will never be a case that goes before a jury.

Reynoldsburg school board sabotaging the district

Published September 9, 2014 by justicewg
The real Raiders in Reynoldsburg are the school board members

The real Raiders in Reynoldsburg are the school board members

The negotiations between teacher’s unions and school boards are often tense. Full out warfare, like the Reynoldsburg school is going through, is the exception. You don’t often get to see the talking points that are part of the negotiations displayed so publicly as the board has done on its website. It is obvious from the changes the school board is pushing on the teachers that this is a group with a radical ideological agenda that is sabotaging the school district.

The Reynoldsburg school board has placed a FAQ on the school website, giving the board’s side of the negotiations. This is highly unusual move. Normally both sides might give brief comments to the newspapers when there are sticking points, but it is considered bad faith to the negotiation process to go full public with the details of the plans for negotiations. The school board and the teachers representatives are hired to do the work of reaching an agreement, by posting a long online listing of talking points, the board is trying to draw all of the community into a fight that they were supposed to resolve by themselves.

(Edit Sept 13, SERB forwarded an unfair-labor-practice complaint by the teachers union for review by a judge. See more below.)

The bad ideas that the Reynoldsburg board members are pushing are part of a general agenda from the political right-wing to deprive teachers of security and pay. Nothing new there, it has been the agenda of the Republican party for the last 30 years to cut worker’s pay and squash unions. The FAQ makes it clear where the problem in the talks are coming from, the changes the board is asking from the teachers are radical and ideological.

They are also a warning to the parents of Grandview Heights about how a board with a right-wing agenda – as the current Grandview board has shown itself to be – can bring about chaos in the school.

“Performance evaluation” becomes everything

The Reynoldsburg board wants to remove step pay from some teachers, the formula that increases pay as a teacher accrues seniority. This has long been the way teachers are rewarded in Ohio, minimum steps are part of state law (for the first 11 years). This keeps wages above inflation, and rewards experience. “Performance evaluation” is how the Reynoldsburg board wants to go, which leaves teachers in the hands of school principals for any raises. If a teacher has a conflict with an administrator, over issues which have nothing to do with the quality of education, the administrator has the tool in hand to take money away from the teacher. That’s not a great difference in how administrators have always been able to control teachers, but in the past the union was on the side of the teacher. This moves the power into the hands of administrators, teachers can do little to protest unfair treatment.

The present Grandview school board seems to have the same ideological beliefs as the Reynolsburg board. Reading the Special Meeting February 9, 2014 meeting notes – that was the meeting that was held in a cabin 20 miles outside the city, attended by no parents or press – the board was discussing “developing a process for strategic compensation”.

Recent agreements between the Grandview Heights board and the teacher’s union have allowed the base salary to be held back as an acknowledgment by the teachers of a poor economy. That shows the union is working with the board. It doesn’t mean they want step pay taken away permanently. It would be a horrible break of faith if the board was to make the voluntary sacrifice of the teachers into a reason to take step pay away.

Taking away the Reynoldsburg teacher’s health plan

The most radical action taken by the Reynoldsburg board is to take the health care plan completely away from the teachers and replace it with a cash payment, to be used by the teacher to buy their own health care insurance.

The board webpage gives a rationalization that this is a “fairness” issue. If a teacher has a spouse with a job that offers a poor insurance plan, they now can be added to the teacher’s plan (with all the same deductable payments). The board says this isn’t fair to the taxpayers, because some teachers don’t have spouses.

Some teachers even have children! Funny that the board didn’t add kids to the additional burden list that the board has to pay for. If they did, their argument would immediately be seen as the ridiculous libertarian style reduction of all social contracts to monetary transactions. Using the board’s logic, it is also not “fair” for parents to ask taxpayers to pay for educations for their children – but that has been the social contract we have lived with in this country since its founding. It is the bedrock foundation of the school and the board itself!

The board argues that the new healthcare laws allows spouses to buy their own health care plan, so it isn’t up to the school to pay for spouses any more. It is true that the ACA means insurance is more available. That doesn’t take away the expectation that spouses and children will be covered by the healthcare plan at the school, if the teacher wants coverage.

Remember, heathcare plans have always been negotiated by teachers with school boards, with variable levels of coverage. Teachers often have given up higher pay, because they wanted the security of a good healthcare plan that they knew would cover their family. By taking away healthcare, the board is slapping the teachers in the face, breaking the deals that were negotiated in the past.

This heathcare theft by the school board is also driven by a big political motive. The right-wing hates Obamacare, and have been using every lever they can pull to try to make healthcare more difficult for employees. By using the transparently false argument of “more choice” to take insurance plans away from the teachers, they fulfill the predictions of the right that the ACA would cause people to be thrown off healthcare plans. “Look at the failure of Obamacare!” is the cry of the right-wing, while doing everything in their power to push people off insurance.

(By the way, the number of people on healthcare plans has been going up, the costs for heathcare have been going down.)

‘Junk Insurance’ motivating the board members

Offering cash instead of a healthcare insurance plan might sound like a neutral policy – if the teachers use to money to buy coverage that was similar to what they had in the past, why is it bad?

Read this story about ‘Junk Insurance’, low benefit plans that don’t meet the requirements of the ACA.

By switching to cash payouts for insurance, the teachers now have the ability to buy these junk policies. They don’t provide much coverage, but they sell themselves as being cheaper than ACA compliant plans, even with the penalties that must be paid. For someone who is young, healthy, and has been brainwashed into thinking this is “freedom from Obamacare”, they might save some money – until they have a major heath problem, which will leave them in financial ruin.

When you read about “freedom” in stories about the ACA, the ability to make bad choices is the freedom that is most often being being sold. It is also about the freedom of insurance companies to rip off uninformed consumers.

The Reynoldsburg school board didn’t have to take the radical steps they have taken. This is what happens when you elect ideologues instead of people who just want a good education for the kids. The Grandview Heights board under Grant Douglass has veered into the same territory as the Reynoldsburg board. We should be watching what happens next, because that could be the future of Grandview.

More on release of negotiation details on the web

The rules for the talks that the State Employment Relations Board enforce say that negotiating in public, as the board has done, violates the Ohio Revised Code. It is corrosive to the process to draw the public into a fight that is supposed to be between the people sitting at the table. Instead of working between the participants, it becomes a battle of press releases, web postings, and protesters holding signs. All of those are expected when the talks break down and a real strike is in progress, but they shouldn’t happen before the work action. SERB has ruled that the Reynoldsburg board might be in violation, a judge will decide the case.

On one hand, I don’t have any complaint with the board opening up and sharing negotiation points. I’d like to see the counter-points posted by the teacher’s union. I think openness is a good thing in almost all cases (except personal information that privacy laws protects). But I understand how the rules for public-sector collective bargaining have been created, and why this sort of open fighting is bad process.

The best way the public could have been informed about the changes in policy that the school board members are attempting to force on the teachers would have been for them to announce their support for these issues during their campaign for office. Then the voters could have decided if they wanted to start a fight with the teacher’s union. I don’t know enough about the Reynoldsburg school board elections to say if this was done or not. I would guess that it was not done, most elected officials run on a generic “great schools, keep costs down” platform. When you have board members who refuse to answer questions from the public like the Grandview board candidates have done (and I don’t count the highly scripted candidate nights as adequately answering the public), how can we know what actions the board might take?

(Follow up story about the Reynolsburg board)

Reynoldsburg Board of Education President Andrew Swope resigned in December, and said he was moving his family out of the area. Superintendent Manning is still at the school, but this Facebook page asking for her removal shows the mood of the community.

More on Reynoldsburg strike