School Board video – reviewing August, 2019 meeting (FIRST robotic ending mentors)

Published September 22, 2019 by justicewg

Aug board 1The Grandview Heights school board has started making video recordings of their monthly main meetings (there are still special meetings that are not recorded, with either video or audio). Although I personally have been pressuring the board to be more open with the public and share recordings of the meetings, the responsibility for taking the issue to the board and pressing for votes was completed by board member Molly Wassmuth.

Wassmuth was the member who asked the administration and board president for their view on the possibility of making video recordings back in 2018, and the result was a shotgun blast of illogical and petty reasons to object from Culp and Truett. Read the post from January 2019 for the full story, but the short version – they had objections to the possibility of ADA, confidentiality, copyright, and privacy issues for those attending board meetings.

Normally this list of objections would have been the end of any attempt to continue with the proposal from a board member, opposition from the superintendent is sure death for normal board suggestions. I don’t know how Ms Wassmuth was able to press the other board members into voting in favor of the video recording, but I suspect it might be the reasons I listed at the end of my post on video recording the board. The board knew it was inevitable that video would be required by the state at some point, so doing it by themselves allowed them to set their own policy on what would be on camera, and how they could edit the final video.

Another possible reason for the passage of the video resolution – in May 2019, the board failed to allow a vote of support for Pride month in a resolution that was brought up by Wassmuth. The excruciating silence from the board as a second was requested, a failure that shamed the community, might have moved the board to have some sympathy for Wassmuth, and allow her video resolution to pass.

Video of the August meeting – The Board doesn’t answer questions from the public.
At 8:25 of the video, Truett gives the rules for the public comment portion of the meeting. He says the board policy is “the board will not answer questions or engage in discussion at this time”.

I knew the board was refusing to answer questions from some members of the public because of my own experience, I was denied an answer to a question I asked at the October 2014 meeting. As I recorded in a post at that time, this was a new policy from the board, in the past I, and many other community members, had gone before the board and had questions answered at many meetings.

“We don’t answer questions” was just an ad hoc decision from then president Douglass. At some point, it became policy, and president Truett states at the beginning of each public comment section of the monthly meetings “we will not answer questions”. Strangely, this policy is not printed in the sheet of rules the board has created for the public comment section. The board limits comments to five minutes, they require names and addresses, they reserve the right to end any comments from parents, and order them to leave the room (this “we can throw parents out of meetings” is a made up rule that is not supported by Ohio open meeting rules. The board can tell parents to shut up, but removing them from meetings is a decision that is reserved for police officers). But “the board doesn’t answer questions” is not a written policy, it is just the policy Truett has made for his meetings.

As I wrote in my post back in 2014, the Grandview school board used to have a small meeting, with a few parents attending, and they had the time to answer questions – that was part of what made the small community of GH different from the large impersonal cities that surrounds it. That attention to the parents, and their questions, is now gone from board meetings. That is a policy decision by the current board, and could be changed if parents demand it from the board.

FIRST Robotics mentors given the boot

At 9:12 in the August meeting, Jenny Johnson addressed the board about the FIRST robotic team and the Lego league. The FIRST Robotics Competition is an international organization that has been a high point in the educational program at Grandview for more than 23 years. This was a team with a dedicated group of supporters, headed by a couple of mentors who had deep experience in the skills needed for the creation of robots. Many other parents were involved, and the reputation of Granview’s team was always high in the competition.

According to Ms Johnson, the two mentors for the team were recently told they were no longer needed, and that teachers would now be running the team. These teachers had little experience, one of them was even unsure that he had been selected to take over the team.

The former mentors made the needs of the robotics team a priority during the 6-7 weeks of the build time, spending up to 80 hours per week mentoring the team members. Their experience was vital in leading the kids into many high honors in the competition. With an unannounced decision, the board and school administration ended all of that. The board left it up to the mentors to explain to the kids why they would be ending their time with the team.

The replacement teachers will be working full time at their normal positions in the school during the busy build time for the competition. Even with three teachers, the loss of experience and dedication to the event has been devastating for the kids who were looking forward to this year’s team event. According to Johnson, up to half of the team members have pledged to end their involvement in the team. There was no discussion with mentors about the change prior to the boot out the door. There was no discussion with team members. This was just a decision handed down from above – if you don’t like it, too bad.

The teachers who are taking over the team had no experience with the robotics events – they never attended practice sessions, never went to competitions. There was another parent who spoke about the decision who thought the motivation for the change was vendetta from the teachers against the mentors, and the $3500 extra each teacher would be paid was a main motivator for the change.

A lack of respect from the board will kill the robotics team

Each of the parents and students who took time to explain the loss to the school caused by this decision, stressed that it was the lack of information and lack of input from team members before the decision that killed the trust the parents and students had with the board. If half the robotics team is gone, the associated Lego league will die too. The grants of up to $25,000 needed to fund the team will end. The students may chose to move the team outside the school, and end the program in Grandview schools.

At the end of the comment period, the board refused to answer any questions. The board and the administration has made no public explanation for how the change in the robotics team came about. The questions from those angry parents and students are not worth addressing, according to this board.

(edit) Read the comments below, some important new info was posted about the issue.

5 comments on “School Board video – reviewing August, 2019 meeting (FIRST robotic ending mentors)

    • No, I was not aware of that. I wonder – is this a cosmic karma payback, the same board member who promoted sealed decision making is now booted from his long held mentor position?
      I’m sure it was a tightly controlled group that made the decision to end the robotic mentors, filled with backstabbing and leverage from the teachers, and who knows what other craziness. I’m also sure that we will never hear the true story from the board or the administration.

    • There’s a bit more to this story. One of the teachers taking over the program has a child who was on the First Robotics team last year. At an out-of-town competition last year – Indianapolis, I believe – the teacher’s child basically left the competition and walked many blocks alone back to the hotel where the team was staying. The teacher was rather angry that this happened, and apparently this inspired her to get involved.

      I can identify with the teacher’s anger. I’d be angry too. But the teacher’s child was in 10th grade at the time, so I’d be directing about 98% of that anger towards the child, not the mentors.

  • I think I know of the teacher mentioned in the comment above. Per two of my closer friends who were on the team, that teacher has long disliked one of the two mentors who was canned.

    Secondly, that mentor who I mentioned is a very polarizing figure within the FIRST team. She has burned bridges with many members of the team (in fact I know at least two who left the team because of her) and has treated people poorly there.

    This mentor is notorious for picking favorites, and sure enough, the reaction of the team upon her dismissal was mixed (many like the people at the board were angry, but some on the team are very happy to see her go). Per one I know who is still in the high school, most of the team has moved on from her removal.

    Long story short, there is more to the removal of the two mentors than shady dealings behind the scenes.

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