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All posts for the month February, 2017

Kasich budget hits Grandview hard, treasurer Collier tries to dance around bad news

Published February 24, 2017 by justicewg
collier-cut-head

Collier had her head cut off in the TVN photo

It has to be tough working for the mostly republican school board in Grandview, you have to deal with constant cuts from the republican controlled Ohio government, while whistling a happy tune and pretending everything will be OK.

School Treasurer Collier had an article in the TVN about the cuts in state funding on the way for the district, she explained how Grandview lost the most annual funding on a per-pupil basis – $684 – among all Franklin County districts. She tried to explain the cuts as a result of funding formulas that she said were hard to understand, or as she says, “Complex, isn’t it?”

No, it isn’t complex. Kasich and his republicans want to force small schools to merge with larger schools, that’s why Grandview was hit the hardest. If you want to keep Grandview from being forced to merge with another district (probably U.A.), you should be speaking up, denouncing the Kasich plans, speaking the truth about what republican plans will do to our school in the long term. But since the board members don’t want to hear that, we will be listening to the whistling past the graveyard.

Deception on taxes

Collier tries to pull a fast on on us by specifying the school tax rate, and claiming it is “one of the lowest”. First, our school millage is second only to Bexley. Second, our total property tax rate (school plus city, etc.) is the highest in the county. If you are going by the effective rate, Grandview is not at the top, so that is what the school wants us to look at, and ignore the other parts of the tables. Effective rates are important, but the total rate is where we know how we stand as far as taxing ourselves. We have passed the most tax millage in the county – we have no reason to expect voters to push taxes even higher.

City Total prop. Tax rate Effective rate, 2016
Grandview Heights 143.37 77.89
Bexley 141.65 73.76
Upper Arlington 133.06 75.03
Reynoldsburg 121.42 92.91
Westerville 123.92 95.41
Columbus 106.29 74.71

(Addendum) You might ask, why not link to the school website, shouldn’t they have the above data posted somewhere? And yes, under past Treasurers, there were charts showing mills voted and effective rates for the major school districts in the county. Treasurer Collier wiped this info from the website, then refused my request to replace and update the information. Then she changed her mind, and sometime around Dec 2015 she re-posted some of  the data. But as you see from looking at the data now on the school website, that fiscal information has been sitting unchanged since 2015, left to rot.

More loony plans from the Gov.

There is a second article in the TVN that covers much of the same news about the budget proposed by Kasich, and in this one Collier is not so pollyannaish. She is quoted saying about the state funding “That will be a pretty significant dropoff”. Funny, the other article made it sound like it was no big deal.

Kasich is pushing for a program of requiring teachers to take“externship with a local business”. The article makes it sound like a mystery plan with no clear reason for starting, but all republican plans can be understood if you listen to their constant bleating to “run government like a business”. They think that forcing teachers to spend time in local businesses is going to imbue them in the entrepreneurial spirit. Even when it makes no sense to push teachers with no students who could be in those businesses (any teacher under HS level), the R’s want to waste teacher time with social engineering.

Even superintendent Culp is quoted saying “It’s the local school board who knows what’s best for the teachers in their home schools and community.” I expect him to be hearing strong criticism from his bosses on the board over that weak opposition to republican plans.

More on Kasich and budget cuts from 2015.

(Addendum) I’ve had some people saying “so what, a cut of  $684  per pupil is not much for a year.” The problem is that as the 2015 post linked above shows, this isn’t a short term problem. The state might make another cut next year, and the year after that, then change the rules,  until Grandview Heights has no choice but to merge with another school system. And our school board might not be able to do much about it, but at least they should stand up and say “This is wrong”.

(April update) The Ohio House is planning to make some changes to the school budget, but Grandview is still singled out for the same cuts that Kasich wanted. The Senate is unlikely to help us. At least the wacky “externship” plan from Kasich has been dumped. Still no public announcement from the Grandview school board that criticizes the GOP or asks for parent groups to protest the cuts.

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Study projects little growth in schools

Published February 16, 2017 by justicewg

We all pretty much knew what the results of the study would be. A consultant group for the school delivered expected results – the only growth area in Grandview is the Yard, and the kind on people living in that area tend to be DINKs and young people with no kids.

Still, it needs to be noted for the future, the school board has gone public with the results, and they are not going to be able to use an increase in student numbers to push for new school buildings.

Culp is quoted in the TVN story saying that enrollment in Grandview has declined by 4 percent, or about 46 students, over the last decade. In truth, enrollment has been dropping since the 1960’s. The current student-teacher ratio, 16 to 1, is one of the better ratios in this county. The school expects to be able to absorb any increase in students without hiring new staff.

Truett Falsified Meeting Notes on HPG Break

Published February 10, 2017 by justicewg

truett-at-visioningThe early morning board meeting at which the school board announced the break with Harrison Planning Group (a facilitates consultant) was the most important meeting of the year. The data that was produced by Harrison will be the base numbers that will be used for all future planning of the facilities at the school, they will also be used in future attempts by the board to push for high tax increases to build at the schools. It is vital that the community understand the relationship between HPG and the board, in order to know where those numbers came from.

The 10/18/16 morning meeting (Pdf link), one of the special meetings normally attended by no parents, was quickly noticed and alerts sent out, motivating 13 community members to show up. The meeting was video recorded by me. You would expect the board would be very careful to set down the full record of the meeting in the notes that are the official record. But new president Truett didn’t look good at all in the video of the meeting, as I pointed out in a past post. Truett’s solution? Falsify the meeting notes to removed important sections of the meeting, cuts that completely altered the record of the most important words spoken at that meeting.

Truett’s hack job on HPG

There was obviously some very bad conflicts between Truett and Harrison. Truett said HPG “took request for change personally, attacked members of the board and the task force in an unprofessional way, and said he didn’t want to continue working with us”. We don’t know if that is true, but it was the words of the member of the school board who was on the facility committee who worked closely with Harrison, and his report on what caused the break is the official explanation given to the rest of the board members, and the community. We are not going to hear HPG’s side of the story, he has no reason to re-litigate a bad ending. If what Truett said is true, it casts a shadow over all of the work produced by HPG – if he really is “unprofessional”, how can we trust anything produced by his company?

The way Harrison was attacked also throws Truett in a bad light, he comes off as petty and vindictive. He could have given the facts of why they disagreed, and left the personal attack out of his report.

Truett’s solution to a bad appearance in the meeting notes? Delete any mention of his attack on Harrison from the official meeting record. As president of the board, he has complete control over how the meeting is recorded.

The written record of the meeting gives some reasons for the break, but as Truett said at the board meeting, “we worked though those issues, and got to where we wanted to be”. Looking at the video of the meeting, it is obvious that the conflict with Harrison was the most important fact that lead to a break with HPG. By deleting it from the record, Truett has falsified the official record, and is deceiving the community.

https://youtu.be/PIPeDsfHNLU?t=2m51s

(the above video should bring you directly to the section where the conflict with Harrison is talked about, if it doesn’t skip to 2m 51s. Note, this YouTube video is a re-upload to a new account made for this blog, the original video had over 181 views.)

Any criticism of the board is bad decorum

Two different parents spoke up at the 10/18/16 morning meeting, and without personally insulting a board member, pointed out the poor choice in holding a special meeting on the same day as a regular board meeting, in what (correctly) looks like an attempt to hide information from the community. The words of those parents were recorded in the meeting notes, in a short but fair summary.

Truett sat in an uncomfortable 10 seconds of silence after hearing the criticism, and said the following: (Starts at 12m 32s)

You know at this point, I want to be cautious in the decorum of our meetings, I an certainly happy, and any board member will have those discussions off-line. I don’t wana … I don’t think a debate at the board meeting is the proper setting. I do feel that ah … I don’t want to enter that debate, I don’t want to get defensive on that … Jessie Truett

The official record of the meeting deleted those words – carefully chosen by Truett, after a 10 second silence. That was the official position of Truett as board president – criticism of the board is bad decorum, any critic should speak to the board members “offline” (where it can be ignored and swept under the rug).

Good luck finding full truthful info in board meeting notes

I have mentioned it often in the past, the board does a terrible job of recording meeting notes for these special meetings, often summarizing hours on discussion in a few short paragraphs, with no record of which member said the recorded words. Under Truett, if it is possible, it will get worse – we can’t be sure that he will delete anything that might show him in any bad light, not matter how much the facts of the meeting are distorted by his deletions.

Truett has a role model who has a similar disdain for the facts, it’s pretty discouraging to see public officials act this way. There is a difference though, this isn’t Washington DC, it is little Grandview. You can make your voice heard, and it might be possible for the words to register. If you don’t want to see more of this deception going on at the board meetings, call, email the board members, let them know you are watching, let them know you care.

Postscript – The board holds special planning meetings near the start of every year, spending hours in planning the long term future of the schools. Like other special meetings, the notes to these meetings are short and lack the names of the members who are proposing big changes for the schools. I asked Truett to make an audio recording of the meeting, the same way the board make audio recordings of monthly meetings. His response?

“Today’s meeting was not recorded and as in the past, we do not intend to record future work sessions. “ Jessie Truett

What a surprise. If you can’t get off work to spend a weekday attending a special meeting, you will be denied a recording, and they will never make a recording of their special meetings, because … they can get away with it. They will tell you to get lost, and the fact that they are ignoring open meeting laws will not stop them from telling you to take a hike.