Highlights of the Video of the May 29, 2018 finance committee meeting at the high school auditorium.
Update – as of 6/7/18, the video of the finance committee report has been deleted from the Google Drive where it was located. (later) As of 1:30 PM, the video has been returned, but the URL has changed (updated in the link above). The time stamps were slightly changed because of the re-upload, but are close.
The numbers seen below are the time stamps for the sections of the meeting video, which is posted on the school website. You can drag the progress mark of the video up to any section that are mentioned below (on a desktop, not sure if you can step ahead in a phone video). Warning – the video is almost two hours long. This post is long too. Both are important to understand what is happening at the school.
Highlights of the Finance committee video
:10 Superintendent Culp gives an opening speech.
4:00 Someone asks if the minutes of the finance committee meetings will be posted on the website, along with other material. Superintendent Culp tries to deflect the question by answering that there will be agendas and “outcomes” posted, and tries to slide past the fact that the real meeting notes are not going to be given to the community.
5:10 A questioner asks again about the meeting minutes, and tries to get Culp to admit that the meeting notes will not be shared. Someone off camera tries to shut down the questioner by shouting at them to hold their questions until the end.
5:35 Culp says “we have outcomes, we have meeting notes, we have all kinds of documentation that was shared at the meeting, but most importantly, the document you have in your hands”. He again avoids saying that the meeting notes are not going to be posted. Listen carefully here, he said the meeting notes exist, he just doesn’t want to talk about them.
6:00 Culp turns the meeting over to Jack Kukura, who is speaking for the finance committee. At this point they inserted a video with high production, complete with dramatic music. It is about the finance committee, and it tries to dazzle you with public relation buzz words, praise for the board and superintendent because they want to build a new school, and more. There could be another post covering just the contents of this slick video, but I’ll just summarize it with one observation and a question.
They make a big point in the video about how the information for updating the facilities is complex, with engineering data, with lots of state and federal standards that must be considered. If that information is so important, why didn’t the board allow community members to attend the finance committee meetings? Why didn’t they video the finance meetings? Why is the board refusing to release meeting notes from the finance committee?
10:20 Kukira speaks for the committee. He tells us that he lives in Marble Cliff, but that he used to live on Wyandotte in Grandview. I think he was trying to say “I’m just one of you middle class people”, but by bringing it up, he suggests a question – just what is the average income level of the finance committee? Do they know what it is like for a normal middle class resident who struggles to keep up with high taxes?
11:05 Katie Matney asks, “Out of curiosity, can I have a show of hand of those who graduated from Grandview Heights? Who had children in the school, but not now? Who has children in the school now?”
Why use the show of hands to get this information, they can always use the “tickets” that people are supposed to fill out to get that info. Maybe the reason there needed to be raised hands was to make clear to people in the auditorium which of their neighbors in the seats are natives, because born residents tend to discount the views of new residents? Maybe they want the current parents to know who are the older people who no longer have kids in the schools, so that they can discount the opinions of those who will not have to use the school buildings (but will have to pay the taxes).
My suggestion for the next community meeting at the school – have a show of hands for the people who have a total household income of more than $100K. Then ask who has more an $200K income. If those other questions were valid, the income of the guy sitting near you also should be known.
12:00 “Grandview buildings are 90 years old, and are past their lives”. The finance committee is starting from the assumption that the school buildings are dead, and as they imply throughout the meeting, they don’t want us to fix these “Dead” buildings, they want new ones.
12:40 Matney says her kids are not being sent to private schools, and they are happy to send them to Grandview schools. Why is that important to say? Maybe some of the committee members didn’t send their kids to Grandview schools?
16:00 Kukuria returns to talk about the scope of the committee meetings. He says that the group was only looking at the “tear down the middle school” option, and didn’t look at other cheaper paths. He tries to say that the committee was somehow independent enough to reject some of the recommendations from Culp, but when you look at the final documents, you see that their “independence” was limited to asking for more expensive total numbers. The only cuts they suggested – and according to Kukuria the only split in opinions for the committee – was for renovation of Stevenson.
I listened carefully to that section where he talked about issues that could not be brought to consensus on the committee. He said “there were concerns about safety and security in the buildings, which cost more, and therefore we were not able to come up with all the renovation needs at Stevenson”. He later says “we are only looking at doing security and ADA upgrades at Stevenson”.
And yet the committee had no problem spending more on the cost of the new middle school, like the connector section to the HS. Kukuria didn’t make it clear what the disagreement was about on Stevenson, but I think I can figure it out by reading between the lines.
There has always been a segment of the community who wants to see Stevenson and the High School building torn down, and a large campus built on the middle school location. Energy efficiency is best with one large building, and those with a fetish for new modern buildings hate the old fashioned look of the schools.
I think the disagreement on the committee was about spending funds on Stevenson, the “old building haters” don’t want to spend a dollar on a place that they assume will be torn down soon anyway. Even though 75% of the responses on the surveys said that Stevenson should be saved, that 25% who want it gone were in control of the finance committee. So the recommendation is “do the least possible at Stevenson,” (and hope that the board will get more money from the community to tear it down later). I would bet the board will also will do inadequate maintenance at Stevenson, so the building gets progressively worse. And then they will say “look at this old falling apart building, we MUST replace it”.
More after the jump.
23:00 Matney talks about phases of construction. No trailers for classrooms will be needed, by building the new middle school first between the high school and the middle school while each is still in use. There will be a “partial” demolition of the JG commons and the gym.
For those who don’t know – that part of the middle school is the newest section, built in 1996. The bonds used to build it will just be paid off as it it torn down, under their plan. Nothing is explained in the documents about how the middle school student will get a replacement cafeteria or gym during construction.
24:30 The finance committee decided that they will not recommend renovation of the sports stadium at the same time as other construction. Costs would be about $2 million.
26:00 No money will be requested from the Ohio Facilities Construction commission.
30:00 Security in the schools. Kukuria says “it’s horrible that we have to talk about this right now”. Why right now? There have been shootings and bombings in schools since the Bath school bombing in 1927. They are sad and terrible, and a blight on our country. But you have to admit that they are not unexpected any more. I think the “right now” he is talking about is that he knows that the security of the kids in the schools will become a major talking point for the pro levy group. They will paint scenarios where the schools could become the next shooting tragedy, and imply that only new construction will be good enough to protect the kids.
30:50 School enrollment. They slightly increased the projection of enrollment because of new Yard construction.
33:50 Quality of materials in construction. He told a story about defective replacement windows in the HS, and said they want better materials in new construction. This would increase the costs.
35:00 Talking about the connector between the middle school and the high school. He said this area could also be designed as a shelter during tornadoes. That would require the connector to have no windows – windows are bad during tornadoes. I don’t know why this idea was presented, all of the buildings have interior spaces with no windows that are closer than this connector.
35:20 K says “Construction costs are always going up”, so we need to build now. Yes, cost normally go up, but in 2008, just ten years ago, the economy tanked and construction costs went way down. The committee doesn’t have a crystal ball, but they do have access to history, which shows costs can go down.
36:00 Matney “I really can’t stress enough the amount of dialog that went into these recommendations – over 30 hours”. Too bad we couldn’t have attended meetings to see this for ourselves. Too bad we can’t see any meeting notes from these meetings.
Questions from the audience
37:00 Three new committee members joined the other two on the stage to answer questions from the auditorium.
43:00 Curtain tells a story about how population projections are impossible to get right and often wrong. That doesn’t stop the committee from using a ten year projection to ask for more space.
43:45 “We are not throwing any of your questions away” Why would it be necessary to announce this? Does the school administration think that this is a valid option, so they need to tell us they will NOT be tossing questions in the trash?
44:00 Q – How much levy money will be spent on maintenance? The committee says none.
52:05 Culp – “I will take all the “conversation with the community” when I make a recommendation to the board on June 27th.” So get busy conversing, you only have 23 days left (and I don’t think Culp will be available on weekends).
59:45 Q – Why can’t the operating and the construction levy be voted on separately? Much silence, then the committee says something about a holistic approach and problems when only one passes.
1:00:40 Q – Wouldn’t you be punishing the school if they levy didn’t pass because they were combined? Matney: “It’s not “you”, it’s “we””.
New heights in bloviation are being hit at this point. “We” are not sitting up on that stage, Ms. Matney, you are. “We” were not invited to the committee meetings, only you were. “We” didn’t make the recommendations, you and your committee did.
1:04:05 Q – How does the Grandview tax rate compare to other schools? A – “I didn’t bring my papers I had on that, but it is low”. Q – Isn’t the total real millage high compared to other schools? – A- “there are many ways to look at that, your are suggesting a different way.” (Grandview total mills is the highest out of all county school systems.)
1:06:08 Q – What plans are being made for maintenance staff so we don’t get back to where we are? – A – Yard money will be increased by the time we need to work on the schools.
1:08:25 Q – Why wasn’t safety and security a part of the original recommendations as the plans went through other meetings? A – “the original estimates were about deferred maintenance.” That means the inclusion of the safety and security to the finance committee work was outside the scope of their work, and suggests that it was added as a talking point just to scare parents.
1:09:05 Q – What kind of study has been done to understand how many people will be pushed out of Grandview because of a new tax? A -Much shrugging, followed by by “there has been a process in place for two years to give feedback”.
1:11:30 Q – Why did you fire the original facilities consultant (HPG). A – Culp repeats the claim that it was about sub-contractors. Someone asks if it was true that the board fired HPG because they didn’t like the numbers HPG was giving them. Culp says no, then gets into a comedy back and forth with another administrator. This seems to be a favorite comedy subject for Culp, he also spent 10 minutes at the first community meeting, making jokes and discounting stories about rumors he had been told.
1:14:35 Q – Many promises were given for transparency, why weren’t the finance committee meetings open to the public? At least 10 seconds of silence from the stage, and shrugging of shoulders. Culp sat silent. A – “Nobody on our committee made those promises”. “If we would have been open to the public, we would still be meeting”. Nobody asked to attend the finance meetings to become members, we asked to sit silently on the outside and be witnesses for the larger community.
1: 16:40 Q – What happened to the minutes we are promised? Matney – “We didn’t take minutes”.
Think about this for a while. The committee produced a six page, double sided document filled with statements from the group. But they also want us to believe they took no minutes.
Q – By not sharing those minutes, it makes you look like you are hiding things from the community.
1:17:25 Matney – “Having those feelings (of distrust in the committee) are normal and natural”.
I suggest that Matney be given the position of head of the levy committee, her smarmy condescending dismissal of questioning about the committee, and high self-importance, makes her a natural for the job.
Q – There are sunshine laws that say the committee should be open?
1:17:49 Curtain – “One thing that bothers me about this process is the idea that there was a lack of integrity on the part of the committee…We were auditing the recommendation…We looked up Andy’s tailpipe, and that’s what we were supposed to do”.
The bloviation meter is nearing maximum!
Q – But we were told that we would be getting meeting minutes! A – we heard you. Next!
We will be taking a break from the finance committee video to answer the question, why were there so many parents asking questions about the FAC meeting notes? Why did they insist they were told they would be allowed to attend meetings? I posted the same things in the last post here on my blog, so if you read that, you can jump down to the end of the intermission.
A community member asks superintendent Culp about the Finance committee, asks if there will be notice of meetings, public participation, minutes online. Culp says “I fully commit to that, I don’t think you can do it any other way.”
If you are pedantic, you might say he didn’t use the words “promise” when he said those words. But “Fully committing” is good enough to call it a promise. Culp didn’t say a word last week when questions were being asked about his commitment. He doesn’t answer questions via email. The board refuses to even acknowledge that Culp made a promise at meeting seven.
Standing by your word is what gives a person integrity. Failing to answer questions shows a lack of honor. Culp has a big problem, and if he is too cowardly to answer questions, the board should step up and tell us – why was the Facilities Task force closed to the public, and meeting notes kept secret? Why, even after Culp promised to have an open finance committee, was the door slammed shut?
Those are important questions, and the split in the community cause by the failure to address these questions might cause the failure of the levy.
Even if you don’t care about those questions, and just want to see the board fix up the schools, you should be asking the board why they are not answering those questions. Because you are going to see a long protracted fight, because the school board can’t fess up and answer questions they don’t want to answer.
End of Intermission.
1:27:05 Q – Why did the school negotiate tax breaks for GY residents? A – The committee didn’t seem to know much about the taxes that are paid by GY.
1:27:45 Q – Why doesn’t the school wait until after the TIF repayment at the Yard, when the school will be getting substantially more money, before they start new construction. There was a smattering of applause from the crowd.
A – “That would be in 20 years. Do you want to wait 20 years?” There is talk about the possibility of 15 years, but the committee doesn’t want to hear it.
1:35:58 Q – How will school safety be maintained during construction. A – The committee says there will be fences. For a committee that is supposed to know about construction, they seem ignorant of the dangers of fires often started in construction sites, or crane dangers. They don’t talk about the high traffic of heavy trucks that will be inches away from students.
1:41:10 Q – Why will the connector be more important than the full renovation at Stevenson? A – Because the connector will have spaces which could be used for future increases in enrollment.
1:47:25 Q – What will happen to the old Edison site after the building is torn down? A – they didn’t know, but assumed parking. What they didn’t say was that the space would be the perfect spot to move the K to 3 grades into a new building, after the school continues to push for demolition of Stevenson. The board will probably starting that push 5 minutes after the dedication of the new middle school.
1:54:50 Q – Last question – was there any member of the committee who was opposed to the levy number? A – They never took a poll of the members.
What a perfect way to end the meeting – the committee doesn’t really care what the parents of Grandview think, they never mentioned the group Good for Grandview, who are a high profile, 368 member group that is working against the $50 million dollar plan (they want a cheaper plan). The FAC also didn’t care what their own members though about the plan – listening to Grandview was not something they cared about in the least.
Addendum – I spent hours going through this video, checking and re-checking to be sure I got the timestamps and quotes correct. I might have shortened a long quote, so I don’t claim them all to be strictly accurate. They do however convey the meaning of what was said.
There was one quote from Culp during the meeting that I remember, but didn’t list above, because I had to check the old info and never got back to list it. Culp was talking about the options that were given to the community in the first survey, and said that “the cheapest option we had was something like 5 or 10 million”. Wow, he is the superintendent who was in charge of that survey, and he didn’t remember that $35 million was the lowest option you could pick on the survey? (If anyone finds that quote I would be grateful, I just can’t watch it any more).
And a cranky elderly person complaint – So, there is this thing with younger people? So they have to start every sentence with so? So it gets annoying? So then they start uptalking, so they end every sentence with what sounds like a question? So they are even uptalking? in the middle of the sentence? Yea, that gets old fast.