There is an email circulating in Granview that is supposed to be a response from superintendent Culp to the G4G video. I’ll get back to the email, but first some straight talk about the way things work in the Grandview Heights school board, why they don’t respond to any criticism – and why they should be the ones responding to G4G.
A long history of Policy Governance
I have written often in this blog about the way the school board believes in Policy Governance. If you want a the long form story on that theory of governance, you can read the Wiki article. Here is the short version:
“The board will focus on strategic leadership rather than administrative detail; observe clear distinction between Board and CEO roles; make collective rather than individual decisions; …”
That quote was from the Columbus school board website, back when they were firmly entrenched in Policy Governance. It is as good a summary as any I have found for how the Grandview board operates.
The board treats the superintendent like a CEO of a private company. They don’t want to be bothered with hearing complaints about the daily operation of the school, they are only “big picture” focused. So you get board meetings where the super lists his recommendations, and the board complies, five votes yes. You never read challenges to the ideas the super promotes in any school board meeting.
The board is big on using ideas from business, like using a committee composed of people from private companies. This is part of the “run the government like a business” that is a mantra of the republicans.
The board almost always votes unanimously. Years pass between split votes. The theory from Policy Governance is that the board should be letting the CEO run the school, so there should be no opposition from the board. In a practical, real world application, the people who want to change school policy go to board members in private, then the board communicates with each other outside of meetings to form policy.
Another big reason the board is always unanimous – members who stake out positions in public that are not immediately accepted and become unanimous policy would be venerable to challenge in the next election. You can’t pick out individuals when the board is always a faceless collective.
The present board has another favorite method of forming school policy outside of meetings, the facility Task force and Finance committee are run by board members, and greatly control school policy, but they are closed to public attendance and meeting notes are not allowed out of the room. Culp tries to claim these meetings are not being run by the board, therefore are not part of the Open Meeting laws. He is wrong.
The board should be responding to G4G
I have written about the G4G in the past, I talked about how they are a unique challenge to board policy, and how the political unity of the community depends on the board taking the group seriously enough to make a public response.
In past years, the board was not afraid to speak out when a group would ask the board for more in depth consideration of issues. When parents spoke out about the removal of the A+ grade, the board held a meeting and answered questions. When the school wanted to change the policy on alcohol use in 2008, there was a public meeting at which questions were answered. Past board presidents were not shy about publishing letters in the local newspaper when a controversial policy subject at the school needed an explanation.
That willingness to talk to the parents has disappeared from the school board. There are occasional “Superintendent speaks” letters published, but I challenge anyone to remember the subject of any of them – they are all bland rah-rah boosterism. Those letters, and the mailed out newsletters, all about the Andy Culp show, with nothing said by the school board. I can’t put an accurate date on when the board became firmly entrenched and unresponsive, but for me it was when board president Douglass said “we don’t answer questions at board meetings anymore”. That message was reinforced by Jessie Truett when he said in response to questions about board actions “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).
I wrote about the group-think isolation of the board, and how they are convinced they will “manifest” the money for the new school with the correct attitude (and spending lots on money on consultants). The G4G breaks the board’s view of reality – so it must be ignored.
A short response to Culp’s email
I’m not posting Culp’s email. If he wants to publicly respond to the G4G video, he should have done it on the school website. I’m sure you can find it if you ask around.
Culp says in his email, “the Financial Advisory Committee has not yet decided on a project recommendation and NO COSTS to residents or proposed levy/millage amounts have been determined.” That’s NOT what the schools said in the first presentation before the Finance committee, read the document on the school website titled “Facility planning Process Presentation” (the file real name is FAC PP meeting 1 Andy.pdf). That document makes it clear that the board believes the Plan C, $50 million tear down was the honest outcome of the public meetings, and the job of the finance committee is to find the money to complete that option. Read the slide titled “Facility planning process, nest steps”. There is a bullet point, “How to fund the facility recommendation”. There is nothing about looking at cheaper options.
Culp defended the actions the board took with HPG, Culp said there was no mystery, it was about subcontractors used by HPG. Let’s see, how many explanations does that make we have heard from the school about the HPG scandal? The board said it was just “we have parted ways” when they were asked about the split by the TVN reporter. They said it was just “due to some issues that have arisen with regard to conducting the facility planning process” in the official meeting notes. Now Culp says it was subcontractor issues. In the video of the meeting, Truett says it was that Harrison “personally attacked members of the board and the task force in an unprofessional way”. The problem is, when you have a different version of events over time, your credibility is gone. Did HPG dump the school in the middle of a contact over a simple subcontractor dispute? Not likely. We will never get the true facts from the board. The HPG numbers remain suspect.
Finally, the first sentence of Culp’s email is the following:
“Importantly, we embrace all of our communities points of views as well as their right to express their views and such feedback serves to enrich the final outcome.”
You know how the school board can really show respect and embrace all points of view? By openly responding to opposition to the facility recommendations, and scheduling a public meeting at which G4G is allowed to speak before the public. Then the board can answer questions from the community at this same meeting.
It will never happen.