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Board to host open, ask anything meetings (A.F.)

Published March 31, 2017 by justicewg

truett-at-visioningThe announcement by school superintendent Culp about meetings to be held in the homes of Grandview residents has provoked a change of direction in the school board. Culp’s “ask me anything” home meetups is going to be done one better by the board.

“We remembered that the school board held meetings in the past for the community to ask questions about special topics, like the removal for the A+ grade, or the change in student drinking policy. We looked at our record and noticed it has been years since we have done anything like that.”

Board president Truett posted new policy for the board on the school website this week. “We will be hosting bi-monthly meetings at the school for the foreseeable future. There will be no limit in topic – anything goes. Do you wonder what the real deal was with the mysterious end of the contract with facilities consultant HPG? Come ask. Did we leave unanswered info about the sudden end to former super O’Reilly’s tenure? Ask us to come clean. There were questions about why the school pushed out band director Hennig, Lots of things happened there that we kept under wraps, it will be good to get them out. How about the lawsuit against the school, and the large payouts the school made to end those legal challenges to our treatment of a parent? We will be fully transparent.”

The school will be making video recordings of each questions and answer, and a detailed transcription of the questions and answers will be posted to the school website.

Truett commented, ”That thing I said during a meeting about how criticism and questioning the board is bad decorum? Yea, that was kind of a dumb thing to say. Any questions or comments are now going to be quickly and completely answered by the board.”

“Heck, I might even be answering questions about the real reason that I resigned from the principal position at the school, and turned in my teaching license. You can only hold that stuff in so long, before it makes a fellow a bit uncomfortable. It will be a good thing to tell the whole truth” said Jessie Truett.

(Later) Sorry, some times you need to be a little early on the April Fools to get “ahead” of the pack.

Culp is holding a “coffee”, and you are not invited

All of the preceding story about the board holding open, ask anything meetings is a joke, an April fools gag that was so far fetched that nobody could have thought it was true, like spaghetti growing on a tree. All of the questions that I listed are real questions that the board has never answered – click the links to read the stories behind the unanswered questions.

I had to go back in the archives of my old blog to find examples of the school board holding open meetings that were scheduled so that any community member could ask questions. There really was a meeting held so the board could answer questions about changes to the student drinking policy back in 2008, and another was held in 2006 to get parent comments on the removal of the A+ grade. I don’t think any public meetings to ask the board questions have been held since then. There was about a hundred parents that attended the school board meeting at which the band director was given the boot, but that was a regular board meeting, and the board did not answer any questions from the public. I think the board was so frightened by that meeting they are now refusing to ever get out of the bunker.

The announcement by school superintendent Culp about meetings to be held in the homes of Grandview residents – that is real, the link above to the TVN story explains it (there is also a Dispatch story). I asked Mr Culp for more detail about the format of these meetings – how would the homes be chosen, who is invited, is the meeting recorded? He responded that he would be the one making the choice, the homeowner would pick the attendees, and nothing would be recorded. I sent the following to him in response to that.

Since you are leaving the details of who will be invited to these meetings to the homeowner, and they will set the tone of acceptable questioning, I don’t foresee anything will occur at these home coffee meetings other than polite chatting that never asks the important, difficult questions. Why would a homeowner invite a superintendent into his home in order for him to be made uncomfortable?

Since you don’t intend to record these meetings, there will be no record of what was asked, or answered. Ephemeral meetings with no important content, and no trace left after. Possibly useful for someone who wanted to burnish a social standing in the community by bragging “I had the superintendent at my house”. (Maybe also parents who are looking to bank some influence with the school if their child were to get into trouble in the future.)

Do you really think there will be anything produced that would be of value for the people who have hard questions in this community? – JW

Big surprise – Culp didn’t answer my question! I guess he didn’t have enough coffee.

(Later) After reading the Dispatch story about the “Coffee Chat” meetings, I think I understand now what the real deal is. Jessie Truett, who will be running for re-election to the board in the fall, will be attending these meetings also. This allows him a way to get into people’s homes and do some early campaigning for his fall run. I think Grandview residents have woken up to the mistake they made in electing him, and the shame it brings to the school to have the guy as board president. I think Truett really needs the paycheck for the board gig, and is desperate to hold the job.

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2014

Published December 29, 2014 by justicewg

It’s the click bait time of the year. The internet demands these year end recaps. In no rational order:

Photo by    :+:+:+:+: on Flickr

Photo by :+:+:+:+: on Flickr

Honorable mention for a story I didn’t post –

Grandview Dad turns his son in to the police for peeping.

I thought about running this story, but just couldn’t work up the will to post it. I don’t want this blog to be about publicizing the stories of normal people with no particular lesson to be learned by discussing the story in public. Sneaking around taking pictures of women through their windows was a crime for which the 15 year old will be punished. Lots of kids do bad things and end up in trouble with the police. Why is this story notable?

The news media loved it though, I saw this story printed on newspaper websites all over the country. Google says it was in at least 50, including British and EU mentions. I guess there is sort of a moral quandary to the story, many parents would not have gone to the police. The possibility of the photos being part of the news stories probably made it a good click bait. For a time in November 2014 a search for Grandview Heights brought up multiple news coverage of this story, so it is notable because of the wide media mention of Grandview.

Mayor Degraw wins big time

Mayor Degraw wins big time

NRI lays out the future of Grandview Yard

This is the biggest development story of the year, possibly the biggest story ever for the future of the city. Although the announcement of the Grandview Yard development by NRI back in 2007 seemed like it would transform the city, the timing was horrible. Rumors of retail stores that turned out to be false, followed by a less than thrilling first stage development featuring a hotel and office building, and some apartments, left observers underwhelmed with the pace of the investment.

NRI dropped a bomb on the city in June with the announcement of a campus for the insurance arm of the company. What could have been a failed project is now assured to be a high density group of buildings with offices, more residential, restaurants and another hotel, and some additional retail. The city now moves into the position of having the taxes flowing in that can pay for the public services we only dreamed about in the past. Can the city cope with the sudden wealth, and make wise choices?

Board meeting of 4-15-14, at which a hundred parents and kids attended

Board meeting of 4-15-14

Band Director Hennig is out, despite impassioned pleas

More than a hundred parents and students packed into the April school board meeting to plea with the board to retain the school band director. Hennig had been hired the previous year and seemed to be doing a good job, the news that he would not be asked to continue with the school shocked the band parents. Despite the pleading and attempts to reason with the board, they went into a 50 minute private executive meeting and then voted unanimously to accept the forced resignation.

Board Vice President Brannan tried to do damage control with a “Keep Calm and March On” letter to the band parents that claimed the school superintendent was most responsible for the firing, but an investigation by Allen Froman at the TVN into the public records of band director Hennig at the high school showed none of them seemed to contain complaints that would cause principal Chafin to not recommend a new contract. O’Reilly said the Chafin had not made a decision on recommending a new contract, or recommending non-renewal, before the school board acted.

oreilly_smallO’Reilly resigns Superintendent position

It was quite a surprise to read the January resignation letter from Superintendent O’Reilly. After spending a low key seven years at the school, the sudden departure without a planned move to another school didn’t make a lot of sense. I listed some possible reasons for the departure in a post, but none of them rang true. Except the last paragraph, in which I documented the bad blood between board president Douglass and O’Reilly. Shortly after, the school also lost the treasurer, with no good reason given. There is a story still waiting to be told about those resignations.

dead_birdKids say the darndest things

The high school was up in arms back in February about a twitter account “@Ohfession“ that contained shocking student stories of drug abuse and titillating sex tweets. I guess enough schools complained to get the account pulled from the web service. One down, millions to go!

Post resignation investigation at the high school

Published May 1, 2014 by justicewg

Allen Froman at the TVN did some investigation into the public records of resigned band director Hennig at the high school, and got some documents, including forms Principal Ken Chaffin completed after observing Hennig in class and an improvement plan for Hennig. None of them seemed to contain complaints that would cause Chafin to not recommend a new contract. O’Reilly said the Chafin had not made a decision on recommending a new contract, or recommending non-renewal, before the school board acted.

I got a kick out of the request that Hennig needed to “respond to all emails from parents”. If the teachers at the school followed the lead of the school board members, they would be fine with deleting emails and never responding.

O’Reilly confirmed that Hennig was not accused of a major issue like illegal or unethical behavior, which would have caused immediate suspension.

So we are again left with no reason for Hennig to be asked to leave the school. Remember, in the damage control letter from board member Brannan she said that the school administration made the decision to get rid of Hennig, and the board just acted to accept a resignation that was placed before them. Yet when the documents that should have showed this decision were supplied by the school there was nothing but minor complaints.

We really have nothing to think at this point except that the school board is hiding the real reason. Did Hennig have a fight with someone who was politically powerful enough to cause his removal? Could it have been a parent group who thought Hennig was gay and wanted him out? Nobody is talking on the school board, until they do it will remain a mystery.

School board members lying to the community

I didn’t emphasize the lying that was revealed by Froman’s investigation into the paperwork at the high school. All of the observations, reviews, and recommendations that would have shown that the band director was in trouble were handed over by the school administration. Documentation is everything in a system like the school, they produce endless files on every teacher. If there was no paperwork that showed Hennig was in trouble with the administration, that was the truth. There is no “secret probation”. And Froman confirmed that with O’Reilly.

That means that board member Brannan‘s letter to the band parents was a lie. The board was not following the wishes of the administration, the action they took to get rid of him was all their own.

I don’t recall ever hearing about a school board in Grandview Heights that blatantly lied to the public like this one. I wonder, will everyone just shrug it off? Will parents wait for the next board member election to express their feelings about this, or will the levy in the fall be the target of those angry at the board?

Brannan tries to do damage control

Published April 20, 2014 by justicewg

Board member Debbie Brannan has sent an email out to try to do damage control for the school board, in the wake of the firing of Band director Hennig. The full email is after the jump.

Brannan is the board member to send out this email? Very odd, she has never been the public communicator in the past. Douglass is the boss of the board, so I guess he though it would be better to have someone else telling parents to calm down. Also, Brannan is the board member who will be up for election next (along with Adam Miller, but Miller was obviously working hard to keep the band director), if the voters are still angry by next election she will take the hit.

“The School Board hires the Superintendent. The superintendent then hires and evaluates the administrators. The administrators hire and evaluate the teachers.” – D.B.

What a load of buck passing B.S. Anyone with a minimum of knowledge about the school knows that the board is intimately involved in the final decision making about keeping or booting teachers. Do you think Ken Chaffin, young and newly hired to the school administration, was the one to decide that Hennig had to go? No way.

I heard that a big part of the reason super O’Reilly chose to quit was that the board (Douglass) was spending a lot of time telling him how to do his job. This decision by the board to get rid of Hennig might have happened back in January, could it have been the final push that drove O’Reilly out?

“Third, any observations / evaluations / improvement plans have a strictly prescribed process that must be followed. That’s why the union is there – for the teachers’ protection to ensure it is a fair process. “ – D.B.

Yes, there is a process, and the teachers union has a representative to give council to the teachers. They have no power to tell the administration how to do those evaluations, and if the teacher is being screwed over by the school, they can advise the teacher about the legal options they can take. Unfortunately the best legal advice for a young teacher who is being screwed over is “shut up and move on, because you don’t want to go down in the records as a teacher who likes to fight in court”.

If the process of evaluating Hennig was completed and the conclusion was that he had to go, why was there a 50 minute executive board meeting to decide his fate? That tells me there were board members who didn’t think the evaluations were fair, or that they warranted Hennig being booted.

“As we look to the future, Mr. Chaffin will be involving parents and students in the process of determining what Grandview values most in our High School Band program, and finding the best person for that job.” – D.B.

Again pasting the responsibility and blame on Chaffin. I wonder how long he will be staying at the school when he understands how this board is willing to stick the knife in his back?

“Keep Calm and March On” – Debbie Brannan

Don’t worry your pretty little heads about anything. Like soldiers marching in a line, you need to learn to obey orders, and the board has spoken!

(Yes, I know that “Keep Calm and Carry On” was a meme, it came from a poster used in WW2 England. Quoting from the Wiki article:

Design historian Susannah Walker regards the campaign as “a resounding failure”, and reflective of a misjudgment by upper-class civil servants of the mood of the people.

So it is very appropriate for Brannan to refer to that meme, her letter is also a resounding failure!)

(Later) A post-resignation investigation by the TVN found that Chaffin had not given his recommendation to offer a new contract  or withdraw an offer at the time the board acted, and super O’Reilly confirmed that there was nothing bad enough in  Hennig’s record to cause an immediate firing. This directly contradicts Brannan’s claim that it was the super and the principal who were firing Hennig. She was lying to the parents.

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Some advice for the superintendent candidates

Published April 17, 2014 by justicewg

Welcome to Grandview, super candidates (except Quint Gage, who has been living here since 1992). You are going to have all sorts of people asking you questions and giving you advice on how to conduct yourself in the interviews – who to suck up to, who to dismiss as irrelevant (and I’m certain my blog will be pointed out as being one of the places you should avoid at all costs).

There will come a time when somebody asks you about the current conflict over the band director who “resigned”. This will not be the current board members asking the question – the majority opinion of the board will be that there was an unfortunate incident that happened because some people are just too emotional, and it was not an indication of anything. Somebody else might sneak into the interview process and ask a question about the band director.

If you do any research into the history at the school you will know that the band director incident is a bleeding raw injury that points directly to the dysfunction on the board, and its failure to communicate with the parents, or care about the opinions of the public (except for certain politically powerful members of the community). It will be obvious that the band parents and kids have suffered a major loss, and are disgusted with the board.

You will be tempted to answer “this is obviously a case of a school board that has lost its way and needs a radical corrective course change”. Do not allow yourself to be honest in answering this line of questions! This board has very thin skin, and any suggestion that they have made an error will result in the immediate loss of any consideration for the job.

The safe answer will be, “I don’t know enough to comment on the situation”.

If you really want the job, the answer you give can hint that the problem was that the public needs to be “managed” so that they have no expectation that any group of parents showing up at a meeting will have any affect on the board, and that they should learn to passively accept the wisdom of the school board. Extra points if you can imply that “rule by mob” would be the result of changing the path of the board because of a highly attended board meeting.

Good luck in your attempt to get the superintendent position. You are going to need it – doubly so if you win!

Band Director Hennig is out, despite impassioned pleas

Published April 16, 2014 by justicewg
Board meeting of 4-15-14, at which a hundred parents and kids attended

Board meeting of 4-15-14

Almost a hundred parents and students packed into the high school library for a board meeting April 15th that determined the fate of band director Justin Hennig. Parents told stories of children who had been inspired by their band leader. Kids said they felt the band was the thing that made the day tolerable, and were devastated by the loss of their teacher, many of them struggling to hold back tears. After a 50 minute private executive meeting the board members returned to the library and voted unanimously to accept the resignation.

Nobody was happy

The parents who were in favor of keeping Hennig all spoke highly of his enthusiasm and ability to inspire the students. They struggled to understand how a teacher who could fill the room with supporters would be leaving after one year, before a fair trial of his skills could be completed.

One woman said, “We can’t believe Justin is leaving by his own choice, not one word has been said against him among the people I know. Either he did something very bad and the board is not talking about it, or the board was influenced by some powerful parents who he rubbed the wrong way, and now is the board is not talking because they don’t want to admit they were wrong. No matter which of the two reasons is true, we should expect more transparency from this board.”

A man said, “There is real damage done to the school by the board not explaining its actions. The band program will be hurt for years. What kind of replacement director can we expect to attract now, if one as good as Hennig is treated this badly?

Students talked about how they were inspired by Hennig’s classes, and gave tearful pleas for him to be allowed to stay. Some said that with their band director leaving like this they would quit the band in protest.

A couple of lickspittles were defending the board and told us we should trust them to make the right decision.

Read the tells

Although the board was tight-lipped the entire evening, there were some tells that you could read from the mannerisms of the board members.

Jesse Truett was clearly getting impatient with the parents when the public comments went past an hour. Scowling down at the table with his arms crossed, he was tired of listening. Debbie Brannan was spacing out, and was so uncomfortable she had to fan herself.

Stephanie Evans and Adam Miller remained attentive and reacted to the points the speakers made.

Although I was not impressed with the job president Grant Douglass has done in the past, he did seem to be giving a fair chance for everyone at the meeting to talk, and kept a smile, or at least a neutral face, as he listen to the parents and kids.

Douglass called the board into executive session in order to discuss the employment of Hennig. They left the room at 8:50 PM, with a plea by Douglass for the remains of the crowd to wait for the results, which “shouldn’t take long”. The board was gone for almost 50 minutes – a clear indication there was some impassioned pleas being made in the school office by board members who didn’t want Hennig to leave like this.

If it were only one board member who was trying to convince the others, the executive session would have been short. I’m guessing that Miller and Evans were trying to find a way to work some agreement from the others to change their minds.

I can almost hear the reply from Truett, he probably said “we can’t let a mob push us into backing down, or we will have a new mob at every meeting”. Brannan looked at Douglass and sat in silence.

That left Douglass as the deciding vote. He might have pasted on a smile for the parents who were speaking, but he knows there is a small group of parents who have the ability to take away his board seat, and there is not much up side to defying them.

Some true things

Superintendant O’Reilly will be leaving the school this summer, so he was the designated bad news guy. He said that Hennig had resigned, and had requested that the board not reveal the details. O’Reilly claimed that Hennig was the one to speak about the real reasons for his resignation, not the board. That’s a convenient excuse, but one that the board would have broken instantly if the reason for asking Hennig to leave would have been serious.

A man who claimed to be Hennig’s close friend said that the representative from the teacher’s union told Hennig to keep the details of his employment problems to himself. He said the band director would take back the resignation if the board offered him another contract.

A woman said that the reason that was given to Hennig for his failure to get a contract was a simple “you don’t fit in here”. I didn’t see anyone on the board acting at all surprised or upset at that statement.

Elections have consequences

Throughout the evening I saw parents struggle with the concept that a small group of politically powerful people could have booted Hennig. Do you have any other explanation for what happened that would fit the facts?

This city sat passively as one of the worse possible board candidates, a man who had been forced to give up his teaching license, was elected to the board. It elected a woman who is a complete void on holding any opinion, and is proud of it. You get what you voted for, Grandview. If you don’t like the way it is working, get organized, make changes happen at the ballot box.

(Later)

Read Post resignation Investigation for more on the Hennig affair. The comment by someone with the handle “AngryGHHSBand Parent” is required reading, I don’t know if all of that is true, but it sounds legit.

There is no reason why the removal of the band director had to be a secret, no reason for the lying from Douglass and Brannan. Other than they are poor board members who don’t deserve to be in office. Anyone who defends them is a suckup who is enabling the continuation of a poor school board, which will result in a worsening school.

Band Director resignation causing parents to speak to the board

Published April 14, 2014 by justicewg

Justin Hennig was hired as the band director in the place of long time teacher Kie Watkins, just last year. This webpage welcomed him to the school, and told us about his history as the Assistant Band Director for Fairborn City Schools. He is very young with a short working experience since he left college, so it was a little puzzling how he was able to get the band director position.
Even more puzzling was the email sent out on April 9th from the high school principal, announcing the resignation of Mr. Hennig. A quote from the email:

As you may already know, Mr. Hennig has resigned his position as band director and has spoken with band students today to make them aware. We wish him well moving forward and we are very appreciative of his efforts with our band program. “

Full email after the jump.

A teacher resignation after one year might be caused by a poor fit and other opportunities presenting themselves, but all indications are that this “resignation” was caused by a school board that was unhappy and left him with no other options. The board agenda lists his resignation date as May 31, and most other full time teachers are employed until the end of July before they resign.

Word is that there will be a parent group attending the Tuesday April 15 board meeting and pleading for the board to change its mind and keep Henning at the school.

I have attended a number of board meetings where parents gave this sort of “please don’t fire our beloved teacher” plea at various schools. All of them were unsuccessful. If the board responds at all, they have a standard line about “we hate to do this, but there are reasons that we can’t talk about, you have to trust us”.

The Grandview board will be the same, they might even refuse to say a word about the reason they took action against Hennig. In case you have not read my essay on this subject, the Grandview Heights school board doesn’t care what you think (unless they want your money), and has no reason to explain themselves.

(Later) No explanation was given by the board for accepting Henning’s resignation, five votes yes.

Almost a hundred parents and students were at the meeting giving impassioned speeches to retain Henning. A full post on the meeting will be up soon.

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