Grandview Schools

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Board tears up contracts, gives Superintendent and Treasurer big new compensation

Published August 12, 2019 by justicewg

truett-at-visioningThe August board meeting is the usual time to sneak administration raises onto the agenda. Parents are busy with last minute vacations, and preparations for school. Tracking the board is low on the to do list. This year, if you don’t follow the board agenda you are missing a huge boost to the compensation for Culp and Collier. What makes it stand out is the tearing up of their old contracts in the middle of the five year terms, so the board can sneak in a pay raise. The change in a tax free annuity in the small print give the administration a hidden increase. This is a blatant payoff for the passage of the levies to build a new middle school – which passed by the slimmest margin.

A review – the vote was 48% no, 52% yes. Compare that to Worthington, which passed a bond, on the same day, with a 70% yes vote. If we give Worthington a letter “A”, Grandview’s administration performance deserves a “D”. Not only was there no consensus, the formation of three separate groups that opposed the $55 million bond were a first in Grandview, and indicated the administration did a poor job in the facility planning process. Many parents felt the facility process was not fair or open enough.

If you didn’t feel the administration did a good job through the facility process, and voted no on the levy, you might be a little upset about the lavish new payoff for the school administration. If you voted no because you didn’t think the board should have pushed a big increase in taxes for facilities, you should be contacting the board and let them know what you think of the new raises for Culp and Collier.

Torn up contracts for new pay boosts

Read the agenda of the August 14 board meeting for the story on the administration raises.

The administrators had contracts that gave them generous pay boosts each year, regardless of any action taken by the board. They were not up for re-negotiation until 2021. The board has placed on the agenda an offer to tear up the old contracts, and give new five years contracts with significant new money. There was no reason to end the old contracts – I never read any dissatisfaction in the public statements from Culp. This is a payoff from the board for passing a construction levy, pure and simple.

Culp was hired in 2014 as a new superintendent, with no experience in the job. This was supposed to lead to savings for the school district.

“Culp’s three-year contract, effective Aug. 1, has a starting base salary of $146,000 — about $12,050 less than O’Reilly’s 2013 base salary … Culp’s salary will increase on the first day of each contract year by the inflationary rate as determined from the Consumer Price Index. – TVN, 2014“

So much for cost saving, the new contract starts Culp at $170,517 effective August 1, 2019. That CPI indexed annual raise was not good enough, Culp now gets a 3% boost every year, regardless of the economic conditions the taxpayers will face.

Read the small print

The contract is generous in the new base salary, but read on to the smaller print in the new contract.

“… the Board shall pay for a tax-sheltered annuity policy, after-tax retirement policy and/or qualified tuition plan for the benefit of the Superintendent in an amount equal to twelve percent (12%) of the Superintendent’s salary. The Board shall purchase the annuity policy, after-tax retirement policy and/or qualified tuition plan designated by the Superintendent, with a preference, to the extent practicable, for selecting a vendor from the Board’s present list of approved vendors. The policy(ies) and/or plan shall be the property of the Superintendent, both before, during, and after her separation from employment.”

That tax free annuity was included in the first contract with the superintendent, but only 2.5 percent of Culp’s salary. A jump up to 12% allows the board to hide the big boost in pay in fringe benefits the board hopes you will not bother to read.

The administrators also get the full standard retirement – and more. The contract says “The Board shall also pay the employee’s share of the School Employees Retirement System as a “pick-up on the pick-up.”

The Board votes Aug14

The board appears to be fully committed to supporting Culp, will our objections make any change in their payoff for the administration? If you were part of the 48% who voted no on the levy, this payoff deserves an email to say no to excessive spending by the board.

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Board resolution to support pride month fails with no second

Published June 23, 2019 by justicewg

I’ve seen embarrassing failures from the Grandview Heights school board in the past, this time they have hit a new low.

Ms Wassmuth brought a resolution before the board at the May 2019 meeting, which would have expressed support for Pride Month. This was not a policy change – in fact, the board already has policies in place that would protect students and staff with minority orientations.

Mealy-mouthed, timid support was expressed by two board members, but when a second to the motion was asked, there was an excruciating silence from the board.

More important to the board members was keeping the board from opening itself up to groups who might have the temerity to ask the board to support other good causes. Unspoken opposition to any student with LGBTQ orientation can be inferred by the silence expressed by most of the board.

Go to the recording

The link above goes to a clip from the May 8, 2019 board meeting. Near the end of the full meeting the board has an “other discussion” section, which is very rarely used by members. Wassmuth had good reason to bring the resolution before the board, she was asked by students in the Grandview HS to make the attempt. Four students attended the meeting, one spoke before the board with a passionate defense of students who have suffered bullying because of their orientation.

The recording begins with fumbling by President Truett, who failed to pass out copies of the resolution to the board. You have to wonder, was that failure intentional as a passive aggressive hit to Wassmuth?

Wassmuth read the full contents of the resolution. It contained nothing radical, just standard support for LGBTQ students, as the school policy manual already mostly agreed. The board was asked for no change other that a resolution of support for Pride Month (the Grandview city council has passed this same vote in the past).

A student spoke in support of the resolution. Remember how hard it was to speak in front of adults when you were a HS student? Now imagine speaking as a representative for a group that has faced discrimination and violence. This student deserved a “good for you for having the courage to stand and speak” from the board, instead she was given a curt “thank you for your comment”.

One of the board members (I’m assuming it was Mr Bode ) did speak in favor of the resolution, he even spoke about his own daughter’s involvement in the forming of an anti-discrimination group in the school, but when the time came to show the same courage that his daughter used to stand up and speak, Bode chose to sit in silence during the vote.

There was an unspoken sub-text to the meeting, there were probably board members who would have voted no on the resolution. In order to enforce the unanimous voting – which is the highest unwritten rule for the board – the members protected each other with a refusal to allow a vote.

At 18:00 in the recording, Ms Wassmuth asked for the motion to go to vote. What followed was the most pathetic 25 seconds in the history of the school board. I imagine Wassmuth was looking at the faces of her fellow board members, with a look of pleading. The were probably looking down, avoiding her gaze. And they sat, and allowed the resolution to fail with no second.

Imagine if you were one of the students who attended and spoke before the board, and then listened to the board sit in silence for a simple resolution of support? Does the Grandview board need to make it more clear – those student got nothing, no even a simple raised hand. An unspoken “we don’t really care about LGBTQ students” is the inference from this non-vote of four members.

Ms Wassmuth should get the support of the community for her attempt to make a resolution on Pride month. The board didn’t want to have votes on “months of support”, like most other public bodies do. However, this was special, and a group of kids speaking before the board made it important to act on. I’m hoping other board members will learn from Ms Wassmuth to stand up for what is right.

And if they don’t get anything out of re-listening to that pathetic performance, the rest of the board should just resign. It was a humiliation for the entire community of Grandview Heights. The best way they can serve the city now is to step down, and let a new board member with a functioning sense of right and wrong to serve in their place.

(edit) I sent an email to the board members who couldn’t second the Pride resolution, asking them about the reasoning they were using to fail to allow a vote on the issue. I know it will not come as a surprise, but they are refusing to answer questions about that vote. If you have any contact with a board member and can get a comment from them, please post below, or send me a message on the “about” page.

Surpressing votes is anti-democratic

Voting is how we know the minds of our representatives. They might bluster and give long speeches, but when the votes are called and a yes or no is required, that tells us the real opinion of our elected officials.

When the Grandview Heights school board suppresses a vote on Pride month, they hide the true opinion of the individual members. We need those opinions so we can decide our opinions of the members. We should walk into the voting booth informed by real votes, and not fantasy stories about how they would have voted if the issues were seconded and a vote called.

The always unanimous voting from the school board, and the suppression of voting needed to enforce it, is anti-democratic. This issue should be the top question for all candidates for a board seat.

Asking for documents from the school Treasurer, Ms Collier

Published April 16, 2019 by justicewg

collier-cut-headThe school treasurer, Ms Collier, is the designated person who responds to any requests from the public for open documents, including anything produced by the school board. Don’t ask why the school board can’t do this themselves, it is just the way things are done in Grandview.

My recent experience in asking for some documents was instructive for learning what the school thinks about their responsibilities as custodians of public documents, and their willingness to do the job that the state set out clearly in the Open Meeting Laws. The documents they finally posted bring up more questions then they answered. Jump down for the TL; DR, but first some establishing info.

Some points to begin

When I ask the school for documents, it isn’t for fun. I looked back in my emails, I have made one request for copies of facility contracts with consultants back in 2017, I asked for an expense spreadsheet in 2014. Those were vital documents for understanding the reasoning the board used to pass resolutions. I don’t ask often, and I don’t ask for much. My requests are important.

The school board is in the middle of the largest project it has taken on in decades, building a new middle school, and renovating the other schools. Millions of dollars in contracts are being signed by the board in a very short time. The way we keep public bodies safe from the corruption that can result from so much money changing hands is for the public to increase the level of auditing of all actions taken by the board. The files I asked for were the audio recordings of the school board meetings, necessary for understand the full story on the board’s actions. Read my post on the problems the board has had in the past in the severely short meeting minutes the board produces.

I asked for the audio files from 2018 meetings, and the 2019 meeting audio files as they become available. I made it clear in my request that I would be posting those files on my blog, so anyone in Grandview (or the world) could listen to the recordings. My hope was to lead them to realize the best policy for the board would be to post all the files on the school website

I’m not a lawyer

I don’t have professional knowledge of the Ohio Open meeting laws, but the laws don’t really need expertise to understand. The Sunshine Laws manual makes it clear that almost all documents produced by governmental bodies in Ohio are open – some exceptions are clearly explained, but most are open. Board meeting notes, and audio recordings of meetings, are open documents. Once given to the public, community members can redistribute them in any way they want, including posting them on the internet in Blogs.

I’ve been posting local government documents here on my blog (and a previous version) for more than 15 years. If there were any way the board could have legally stopped me, they would have done it long ago. A big part of the reason I started to post the minutes from board and council meetings, back in 2003, was to shame them into posting their own minutes on their own websites. They didn’t like seeing me posting school meeting minutes on a personal blog, but they had no legal way to stop it. I was successful in pushing both the council, and much later the school, into creating pages on their websites so the meeting minutes could be downloaded.

My request for school documents

On 3/15/19, I made my first request for some audio files of the school board meetings. I asked specifically for all of the audio recordings made during the 2018 school year (which would be about 17 files). I also asked for the audio files made during 2019 meetings, and to be sent any more the board made during the rest of the year. This was sent to school treasurer Collier, and one of the board members.

The response was – silence. Read the rest of this entry →

Brief comments on video of City Council Meetings in February 2019, and some suggestions

Published March 1, 2019 by justicewg

 

Video of City Council Meeting 2.4.19

50:40 Vote on the tax deal for the school and the NRI – South of Goodale ordinance.

56:00 Councilman Reynolds explains why he opposed the ord. He supports the schools and wants to see the tax burden lowered, but objects to the emergency status of the ord. The issue has been under review for a year, there is no emergency. That emergency just takes away the ability of the public to bring the issue up for a referendum. Reynolds also spoke against the development, saying that the school could have gotten a deal for new TIF money without a 450 unit apartment development that is not a good long term use of the land.

Discussion and other ordinances on the same SOG issue continues until 1:15:20.

1:20:45 Ord on City replacement and repair of sidewalks. More on the cost and logistics. Tabled until April 1. Note that Panzara voted no on the table of the ord. (he has spoken against the issue in the past).

Council Meeting 2.19.19

Molly (something, couldn’t hear her last name) spoke for more than 17 minutes about the issues she and her neighbors had with the new paid parking in Grandview Yard.

One more example for the difference between Grandview city council and the school board – I have never seen a parent speak before the board at this length, and never seen them answer questions like the council (my experience was that the board refused to answer questions).

Suggestions for improving video during council meetings

I’ll be sending this list to the council members, but maybe these suggestions could help you if you are trying to video a meeting and post it on YT.

Things dropped on the table create a loud “thunk” on the sound recording, sometimes making it hard to hear what is being said in the meetings. Some sort of sound isolation for the mics could be installed, but for now, just being aware and attempting to set your things down quietly could go a long way to improving the sound of video recording.

I know that the council chamber is small, and the city desperately needs a better, larger room. For now, lifting the camera up higher so all the council members can be seen, and people walking out don’t block the view, can improve the video.

Members of the public who have signed up to speak should be seated in the front row, so they don’t waste 20 seconds walking from the back of the room to the mic.

YouTube specific suggestion – there should be a listing of the topics and ordinances placed in the description box below the video title, along with the time stamp of the place in the YT video. Simply typing the numbers (such as 12:38) will create a hot link to the time in the YT video. This will allow members of the public to immediately jump to the section of the video that interests them, instead of being forced to scroll through a long meeting video looking for the content they need.

I understand there may be technical reasons to cut portions of the council meeting video out of the final posted video. Cutting section of a meeting out should only be done if it is really important, and a reason for the cut should be added to the description of the video. Cuts in the video record can seem as though there was attempts to censor content of the video, or remove words said by the council members or the public. Censorship in this case is a correct use of the word, because it was a governmental body that is altering a recording of a public meeting.

The board might not tear down the middle school commons?

This link is to the Grandview City Council Meeting of 3.4.19 so it belongs to a March summary, but one issue discussed is important news.

At 17:48 Council Pres. Kearns gives a report as the liason with the school board, and says that the board is looking at plans to keep the middle school commons and gym, at least during the rest of the middle school construction. The next community meeting will be March 27 at 7PM.

Once again, the school board has nothing on the school website that indicates this change to the construction plans (the Finance committee recommendation, approved by the board, was to tear down the commons at the start of construction and force middle school kids to walk to the HS for lunch).

 

Six reasons the Grandview school board refuses to make videos of their meetings

Published January 19, 2019 by justicewg

culp-leads-laughterSorry for the clickbait title, but it seems appropriate for the subject. The Grandview Heights school board has a tradition of obstructing inquiries into their actions and deliberations. You can read my featured article for more on why they do this. Most of the time they also claim they don’t have the policy of hindering transparency, and will simply refuse to answer when asked why they don’t do simple things like make video recording of their meetings.

I was able to access this list of reasons that board president Truett and Super Culp came up with that bullet points their lame excuses for not recording meetings. They added “and this isn’t all, we might have more” to the description of this list. If these are the best reasons they could come up with, they need to get more creative – every one of these can be easily dismissed via reading current board policy, or knowledge of video tech.

The six reasons Grandview’s board will never video record meetings

  • ADA compliance, especially with closed captioning
  • Delays in editing due to confidentiality of student names, rights, who may be presenting etc.
  • Platform usage, especially platform that may contain ads
  • copy right issues, considering student groups, theater productions, etc.
  • privacy concerns for private citizens
  • Costs associated with video taping these sessions and ensuring we have met all facets of legal requirements of the law in advance of releasing.

– List of reason for never video recording board meetings created by Truett and Culp

Why the board video opposition list is lame

There will be many block quotes inserted into this point by point take-down of the board, linking to schools that are making videos of board meetings right now. I could find thousands of examples, but I’ll just be focusing on near by locations. Like this FC school system –

Westerville City Schools Board YouTube channel – 114 videos.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLO7Mqfvx9dEJU5zoFIglhQvs7HyimlMfn

ADA compliance

If access to the board meetings was really important, they would already be videoing and captioning the board meetings. At this point there is no access for hearing impaired, there is no sign language interpreter. The meeting are held deep in the building on the second floor, requiring mobility impaired visitors to use an elevator that Culp was claiming has issues, back when he was holding meetings to show off the conditions of the schools.

Was the point of this bullet to complain that captioning is too hard? YouTube can auto-caption at the click of a button, and even if the captions need editing to correct mistakes, the cost would be a fraction of that needed to hire a sign language interpreter. I’m surprised the school chose to talk about ADA compliance, because it highlights the poor job the school is doing right now.

Bexley City Schools YouTube channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3Bq8Y1Lmkqpc1ufSoacQ7Q

Read the rest of this entry →

Watching Grandview Heights in 2018

Published January 1, 2019 by justicewg

Time to re-cap the best stories posted on the blog. In no particular order:

Board highballs the facility bid, admits finance committee is running the school

The school board’s push to build a new middle school was the top issue for the school system, and the tactics used by the board were the topic of many posts. This July story documented the highball bid used by the board to push for more money for construction. It also points out the board had no defense from the charge that the finance committee was a policy deciding group that should have been open under the Ohio Open Meeting laws.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/board-highballs-the-facility-bid-admits-finance-committee-is-running-the-school/

The Goodale Green Space Ballot Initiative

A group created a petition to change the Green Space rules on Goodale, after a disagreement over the city decision to allow a large new home on Goodale Ave. Ms Oster provided me with a long list of reasons the group had come together to make this initiative, as well as the petition that was signed by almost 400 Grandview residents. The citizen initiative placed on the ballot by the group failed to stop the house from being allowed to proceed.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/the-goodale-green-space-ballot-initiative/

Video of the May 29, 2018 finance committee report

A listing of highlights from a video taken at the school. School administrators shouted down questioners. The superintendent danced around questions about the meeting notes and closed door policy for the committee, but failed to answer questions, showing a lack of integrity. Committee members shrugged their shoulders when asked what the effect of the levy might have on lower income residents.

The most interesting part was when Kukuria talked about the only disagreement the group had between each other, over renovations for the Stevenson building. Apparently some wanted to do the $6 million in renovations that were recommended, while the final report suggested the school be given minor repairs. The conclusion from this report suggest the committee wants Stevenson to be allowed to deteriorate, so that it can be next up on the demolition list.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/video-of-the-may-29-2018-finance-committee/

City might take responsibility for repairing sidewalks

Councilman Reynolds proposed the city might take over the repair of sidewalks, and answered some questions. As far as I know this issue is still up in the air in committee.

(Edit) A TVN story covered the sidewalk repair proposal, still in committee and under study to find an accurate cost to the city.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/city-might-take-responsibility-for-repairing-sidewalks/

City of Grandview Heights – Comprehensive Community Planning process

The city of Grandview Heights started a comprehensive community planning process, much wider in scope than previous planning groups. Commercial development, residential development, neighborhoods, pedestrian safety and walk-ability, city finance – the whole gamut of issues the city council must plan for are up for public discussion. The process will continue into 2019.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/city-of-grandview-heights-community-planning-process/

Winner of the tallest snowman in the city competition

8 ft tall snowman

If the city holds another snowman competition, and if it ever snows again in Grandview, I defy anyone to beat my championship level snowman building.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/winner-of-the-tallest-snowman-in-the-city-snowman-competition/

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2017

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2016

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2015

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2014

Elections results for November 6, 2018

Published November 7, 2018 by justicewg

Screenshot 2018-11-07 at 11.24.43 AM

The City Charter

There was nothing controversial about the revisions to the city charter that I could find. Was the 15% no vote because of something we didn’t know, or are there people who just vote no for everything?

The Dispensaries issue

Issue #32 was a referendum on whether the city’s ban on dispensaries should be overturned, in a twist of expectations, the wording of the issue required an understanding that Yes vote means No to dispensaries. Was the final 60% No vote a popular choice to allow dispensaries, so that local taxes would benefit from the addition of the marijuana dispensaries? Or was it just confusion caused by those who think “no” means “just say no”? If you were confused, please comment.

The Green Space ordinance

Citizen referendums have a big hurdle to cross from the beginning, they need a lot of signatures, and organizational momentum that can be hard to sustain. The Grandview city administration did a number on that momentum for the Green Space via legal challenges that went all the way to the Ohio Secretary of State. Even though the group was victorious in keeping the ordinance on the ballot, the strident opposition from the Mayor and City Attorney probably gave an insurmountable hit to the question about the actions of going through this method of bringing change to the city.

I also though the “taking our rights” push by the anti-#31 group was overblown, your rights were never in jeopardy unless you own a very specific, narrow strip of land. I don’t think the “right to do a lot split” was worth getting upset about. If the “rights” issue was so important, why isn’t the rights of a group of neighbors to organize and decide how they want development to look like on their own street worth standing up for?

The school levy

A close vote, I don’t think the pro-#6 group can call the result a mandate, nor can it be seen as a blank check for the board to go into warp speed on the wrecking ball for the middle school. It will be interesting to hear how the board and administration plan to heal the rift in the community over the facility process. More later.

All levies passed in FC

Dublin – 58% yes, $195 million bond issue with 7.9 mills additional money.

South-Western – 61% passed a $93.4 million bond issue.

Whitehall – 61% yes on a bond and millage.

Worthington – Separate bond and millage levies passed with 70% and 62% support.

Grandview Heights – 52% passed a combined bond and operational millage.

The voters in Franklin County were all confident in the economy, at least enough to pass school levies. Other schools had large bonds, but managed to pass them with much higher percentages. An obvious question – why was Worthington willing to pass their bond with 70% yes, while Grandview had the lowest approval number in the county?