board

All posts tagged board

Grandview Heights school board is going to return students to school (later – students at home to start)

Published July 22, 2020 by justicewg

The Grandview school board is in session right now (7-22-20, 7:30 PM.) The plan for the new school year has not gone up for a vote yet, but given the board always follows superintendent Culp in his recommendation, it looks like it may be returning full time, but will start with a hybrid half day plan.

(July 29 – Culp is now following the lead of other FC schools and starting in the full time online learning mode).

(More than 200 parents are watching this board meeting as of 8PM)

Major changes will be required to make the school safe from Covid 19. All students, all staff and teachers, will be wearing masks full time (except while eating lunch). Sanitizer will be used often, work areas will be cleaned throughout the day. Plexiglass dividers will be placed between desks when possible.

The buildings will be off limits for all visitors – even parents will not be allowed inside. The lockers will be unused. The students will take packaged lunches from the cafeteria and return to the classroom to eat.

Culp said they will try to play sports as normal. Not sure how that can work. They are waiting for word from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Pandemic levels may affect the school

The plan showed a graphic that indicated the school will return to full time in the school if the level of pandemic is at a low and medium level (the exact factors for these levels was not discussed). At higher levels the school would go to the Plan 2 – students will attend for half days, and do online learning the other half of the day. The highest levels of pandemic could force full time online for all.

The plan is for the pandemic levels to be taken from Grandview Hts. infection levels, and Franklin Co. The incidents of infection inside the school will be part of the data.

Parents may opt out of in person school

An option will be offered to parents who want to keep their kids at home, something called the Florida Virtual Learning online school plan will follow an online curriculum, supplemented by local teachers (not sure how that can work when the teachers will be full time with the regular classes).

There is some confusion over the online school the board is recommending, there is a Florida Virtual Academy and Florida Virtual School. This article explains the difference. I couldn’t tell which one the board was suggesting from the video. (Later – Florida Virtual School, as linked above, is the correct online school.)

The school will be sending an email out to all parents in the morning that includes all of the info presented during the board meeting. The recording of the board meeting will be saved on the school YT channel.

Other schools announce their plans

(July 28) “At a Tuesday news conference, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon announced all students will learn online to start the 2020-21 school year. Columbus City Schools officials have abandoned their plans to partially reopen buildings to students to start the upcoming school year.”

The South-Western City School District, the second largest in the county, will be starting the 2020-2021 school year in a 100% remote learning model.

The Dublin schools (third largest) will start with the hybrid model.

July 29 change in plan – all online until pandemic levels change

The school was going into a hybrid plan with half of the students in the school at a time, which decreased the size of the classes and lowered the chances to spread Covid in the school. But the possibility remained that a kid would be infected, go to classes before he showed any symptoms, and spread the Corona virus to others. Testing would have shown the spread happened inside the school, and the school would have been shut down. This could have happened multiple times, wrecking havoc to schedules.

From Culp’s July 29 email:

Based on these new Franklin County Public Health recommendations and in deference to the sobering COVID-19 spread in Franklin County, unless something significantly changes, I plan to recommend to the board that Grandview Heights Schools begin the school year in full-time distance learning. … It is my intention to bring students physically back as soon as we are able based on improvement in the above outlined criteria and guidance from FCPH; therefore, I am not recommending a specific date to return to school.  – Superintendent Culp

Furlough for teachers?

There are a number of private Facebook groups where discussion of the schools and board decisions are taking place. Apparently someone suggested that the Grandview teachers should be furloughed while the school is 100% online learning, so that the money saved could be returned to the taxpayers.

This plan was not supported by many, and caused outrage in some. I don’t know why anyone would take a suggestion like this seriously, there would be so many logistical and legal issues (including a lawsuit by the teacher’s union) that I wonder if this was some sort of prank.

Board votes at Aug. 1 meeting

The board is making major changes in the school – but you can’t see the video

Published June 19, 2020 by justicewg

The Grandview Hts school board met in a special meeting via video conference on June 18th, discussing major changes in the school policy as they react to news about C-19 and how it will impact the school next year. How will they hold classes when the pandemic is still a hazard? Will kids be required to wear masks all day? Will the school hold split sessions, in alternate order to cut the number of kids in the school building? What about some children going to school in the morning, then returning home at lunch, and the second half of the class attending in the afternoon?

In the past, the board recorded the video of regular meetings and posted them on YouTube. But because the Ohio Open meeting laws doesn’t require these special meetings to be recorded, the board is in effect throwing the opportunity the keep parents informed about major changes in the next school year into the trash.

Many options discussed – except allowing the parents to see the board by video recording

The June 18 meeting covered three possible scenarios for the next school year. The school may continue to hold all classes via online learning with no students in the school buildings. This option was not discussed much, maybe because the board feels pressured to get kids out of the homes they have been restricted to since March. They are also reacting to the studies that show that school kids have been falling way behind since the schools emptied and online instruction has been forced on all children.

The second option is split school sessions. Half of the kids will have regular classes, while the other kids are doing online learning. Then the next day the second half will attend, and the first half will pretend to do their class work at the computer. This could be alternating days (good luck keeping track if your kid keeps alternating days of the week – every other week the schedule will be flipped).

It might be morning classes for some, while the other half attends in the afternoon. The idea of split sessions is to limit the number of kids inside the buildings, half the attendance allows more distancing between students.

The third option will be to throw all of the kids into regular classes, as before the pandemic, but with many rules to prevent transmission of the virus. I didn’t get the feeling this would happen unless the “magic end” to the C-19 happens through a mythical early vaccine.

Option two and three will require mandatory, all day wearing of masks, at all ages. Good luck keeping a class filled with fidgety first graders in their masks all day.

You needed to watch the meetings which are happening now, but you can’t because they don’t want you to

The video conference board meetings are allowed because of HB 197. All of the video conferencing services allow the user who starts the meeting to hit a record button, which can then be posted online. The board paid a camera person to record some regular meetings last year, but since the pandemic it has become simple to record and post all meetings by a few clicks.

But since the board doesn’t have to record special meetings, with video or audio, they feel free to toss the opportunity to post videos away.

They are required to allow attendance at special meetings, which means that they must post a link that allows you to attend the video conference as it happens in real time. A handful of parents were in the conference – less than 6. I would guess that 99% of all the parents didn’t even know the meetings allowed attendance.

Further proof – if the Grandview school board has an opportunity to close down accountability, restrict parent voices, and dive deeper into the bunker, they will make the wrong choice every time.

Review of the full Grandview school board meeting, 4-8-20

Published April 20, 2020 by justicewg

Truett making a phone call

In the top right feed, Truett stepped away from the meeting, while the Treasurer report was under way, so he could make a phone call. While he was supposed to be chairing the meeting.

My first quick scan of the video of the online conference the board held instead of a regular April meeting gave me the impression that they were novices at this video conferencing. On deeper scan, I saw a lot of shocking behavior – like wandering off during the meeting, zoning out, playing with a dog. The worst was Truett walking away from the meeting – while a report on finance was under way – so he could make a phone call. While he was supposed to be chairing the meeting.

Pretty sad first video meeting for the board, let’s hope they shape up.

Technical considerations

This was the first video conference for the school board, so they are still getting up to speed on the technical issues needed to hold professional online meetings. Still, it has been weeks since most of us have been using zoom, and the board is making rookie mistakes, that can be corrected with minimal effort.

Bode background

Mr Bode used a background substitution app to throw a Brutus Buckeye photo behind him during the board meeting. Although the rights to use that photo were probably open, since it came from this OSU webpage, doing this wrong can get your video booted off YouTube. Photos come from photographers, who want paid for their work.

YouTube has surprising skill in analyzing videos for copyrighted material, and a nearly impenetrable process for deleting videos (and whole channels for repeat violations). Ask the city of Grandview how that works – they had multiple strikes, then lost a YT channel.If Mr Bode’s background is not an open copyright, like CC, it is in violation of the rules. It might seem minor, but the wrong background photos can get your video, and channel, deleted.

Light is the key to good video

A number of board members have issues with lighting. Mr Guse is the worst, his face is completely dark, his camera is overexposed by the light from the windows behind him. Truett and Wassmouth have similar light issues. There should be no bright lights behind you during a video conference, or directly to your side. A wide light source should be in front of you, like a window.

Bringing your dog into the video was cute the first week of zoom conferences. We have long past that time. Wassmuth brings nothing but distraction to the board meeting by allowing her dog in the room. Yes, Ms Gephart, we all know you have long hair, playing with it and swinging it around every few minutes is as distracting as the dog.

Like the city council meeting, if you made a drinking game out of counting the number of times they touched their faces during the video, you would be passed out well before the end.

The right to speak before the board

Technically, Mr Truett was correct when he said that the board is not required by law to allow the pubic to speak at any part of the Grandview Hts regular board meetings. As he said – maybe in an effort to push the board into taking this action in the future – the board could just delete the page of the rules the board has set for itself, and hold all future meetings with no “Comments from Visitors” section of the regular meetings. That would be legal – and in violation of the spirit of the Open Meeting laws. It would also end a traditional practice that has been in place for a hundred years or more.

Mr Truett pointed out that the regular board meetings are not “hearings”, although there might be budgetary hearings that take place before the regular meetings. Those hearings ARE mentioned in SB197, the new law requires the ability “to converse with witnesses”. This requires a live presence in the same medium that the meeting is conducted. If the board is required to allow people into the online conference for hearings, it can simply extend the same option to any parent that wishes to speak before the board during the regular meetings.

The board did allow a representative from the construction company to join in the 4-8-20 video conference, he spoke live and we could see him on the video. The board can allow parents to join in and speak during meetings, they showed us they have the technical expertise to make it happen. The board simply doesn’t want to hear live comments from visitors.

Construction update from “Jay”

The board allowed someone called “Jay” to enter the video conference, with live video. He was never identified , other than “he has a construction update”, so we can guess he was from the company that is building the new middle school. I think this is a case of a video conference being too informal, the board would have at least stated his full name and title before a meeting in person.

A quick detour back to the issue of allowing parents to enter the video conference during the “Comments from visitors” section of the meetings. This “Jay” had no problems entering the video, then leaving after he was done. There is no technical reason why the board can’t also allow parents to speak – the board just doesn’t want to hear and see parents. Any time the board has the option to cut public input out of board meetings, they do it.

Jay said the construction workers would be maintaining six feet distance rules, per social distancing guidelines. Good luck with that – I have worked in construction, and know it will be nearly impossible.

The most laughable new policy for protecting the workers from Covid-19 is the “survey” the construction super takes each morning. The worker must attest they have not traveled, not been in contact with someone who is sick, and that they don’t have an elevated temperature.

Anyone who thinks a construction worker is going to honestly answer “yes” to any of these questions – when being honest will probably lead to a quick firing – doesn’t know how these workers operate. They have families to feed, and will try to hide any sickness they have right up to the point they can’t stop coughing long enough to do the work.

Constructions workers are treated as disposable cogs by the bosses, but the truth is, really skilled workers who know what they are doing, and don’t stand around BS’in with each other all day, are rare. We will not find a replacement supply from workers who lost their jobs while working in an unrelated field. This was acknowledged by Jay, he said the Corona emergency will likely cause shortages of workers, and materials, as the supply chain is disrupted.

This was the first time in the meeting at which they briefly discussed the effects of the pandemic on the construction and finances of the school. They should have done much more.

(Edit) The construction report was from Jay Tadena, Senior project manager for the new school construction.

Finance Report from the Treasurer

At 17:40, President Truett stands up and leaves the meeting in progress, at 20:17 in the video, Wasmuth leaves the conference to wander off and do – something? Bathroom breaks? This was highly insulting to the treasurer, and just would not have been allowed during a normal meeting. The video conference is not being respected by the board, and if they can’t keep their seats because they are too bored or fidgety, the president needs to use the gavel and bring some order to the meeting. Which Truett couldn’t do. Because he was one of the wandering off members.

Board chairman was on the phone during meeting

On further review – at 21:48, you can see a quick glimpse of Truett – he was on his cell phone, talking to someone. While he was supposed to be chairing a school board meeting. He doesn’t return to the meeting until 22:50. Not that it matters whether he was answering or making the call, I never heard a ring, so making this call was all Truett’s choice.

Pandemic finances

At 20:50, the treasurer finally gets around to mentioning the possible effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the finances of the school. This should have been a major part of the meeting – or even a new, special meeting. The economic effects of the corona recession will hit the school hard – but it is being nearly ignored.

Treasure Collier said she had been talking to other school treasurers, and thought the school would have little short term downturn in property taxes. The three year re-valuation is based on the first of the year numbers, so it will take three more years before property value dipping from recession will bring those property taxes down. What the board doesn’t discuss is the property re-valuation that can be done at any time, by special request with the Board of Revision . If the housing market crashes, homeowners in Grandview will be cutting their taxes well before three years.

Collier said there might be cuts in state funding, but said “it is all speculation at this point”. This was some ostrich level minimization of financial cuts that are for sure on the way.

 

A hint about my next board meeting email

I’m guessing the board will stop reading emails into the record for the next board meeting, but in case it continues, here is what I’m thinking about.

Pandemic isolation measures will continue. In My Evil Hour, I feel like we are headed into One Hundred Years of Solitude. The school board thinks it has the love of the parents for building a new school, but they will find the end Of Love and Other Demons will crop up – such as supply disruptions, and skilled labor shortages. When they must end the construction of the new school, it will be a Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

Review of the 4-8-20 Grandview Hts. School Board meeting

Published April 9, 2020 by justicewg

Credit where it is due

Board meeting 4-8-20The Grandview Hts. School board held an online video conference on 4-8-20, in replacement for the normal meetings at the school library. The State of Ohio passed SB 197 as an emergency change to all governmental bodies rules in the state, video conferences where all members stay at home and meet in a virtual room are now suggested in order to comply with Covid-19 social distancing orders.

Like the Grandview city council, which had a video conference on Monday, the board asked all residents who would have normally come to meetings and spoken live before the meetings, to now send an email, which was to be added to the official record of the meeting. The council just read the Subject line of the emails, then said they would be part of an attachment to the meeting notes.

The Grandview school board read all of my email, live, during the first section of the meeting. Superintendent Culp’s assistant, Ms Head, did a fine job reading the full text of the email, with no revisions or censoring.

As much as it hurts my fingers to type these words – Thanks to the Grandview Hts board for being more open in allowing public comment than the city council.

I know that the board will never respond to my email – they state at the start of each “Comments from Visitors” section of board meetings that they will allow 5 minutes of comments per speaker, but will never answer or discuss policy during board meetings. The city council will always answer questions, I see them engage in 10 minutes of back and forth with visitors on a regular basis.

The board will probably cut out the live reading of emails during the board meeting next month. But for one day, the board did the right thing.

More review of the board meeting later.

Edit – The full review of the board meeting is now up. Not good. The worst was Truett walking away from the meeting – while a report on finance was under way – so he could make a phone call. While he was supposed to be chairing the meeting.

Grandview School board should be shutting down construction immediately

Published March 21, 2020 by justicewg

School constructionThe construction of a new middle school and renovation of the HS was sold to the Grandview community on the assumption that the economy would continue on the path  of expansion we assumed pre-Corona-19. The full effect of the Pandemic is now clear – we are headed into a recession that might be as bad as 2008. It might be WORSE than 2008. The school board is standing on the edge, ready to commit the city on a projected $55 million dollar construction project – but is working on the assumption that tax revenue will continue on the pace it was running in the past.

The school board needs to hold emergency planning meetings immediately. If the projections of tax revenue during a full, deep recession will not support the construction as planned, the school board needs to hit the stop button.

There may be penalties that the board will need to pay for contracts that are canceled with short warning. It depends on how smart our lawyers were before the signing of the documents, did they contain provisions to allow cancel or delay of the work during unexpected economic conditions?

No matter what the penalties may be, the continuation of the construction of unneeded new buildings as we head into a recession will be financial malfeasance by the school board.

Please contact the board members, and tell them that we need to STOP, and hold off on all construction until we know the extent of the economic effect of the pandemic on our community. We should know where we are headed before we plunge into the most expensive school building project in the history of Grandview Heights.

(March 25) A board member replied to my questions about continuing the school construction during the beginning of a pandemic, because they have the money in hand to continue construction, they have no intention to slow or stop.

School construction workers

School construction workers2

Construction workers during the afternoon of March 25, working while all nonessential businesses are supposed to be closed (by order of the Governor) . All of them were working in close quarters with no masks to protect from Covid-19 transmission.

Message to the school board – if the workers get sick, they can’t build your school. If the supervisors and architects get sick because they were on site with sick workers, they will bring the virus into meetings with board members.

 

Grandview Hts. Coronavirus info from the city and schools

Published March 17, 2020 by justicewg

city websiteThe city of Grandview Hts. has posted a single page on their website that will keep us informed as the virus emergency continues.

http://www.grandviewheights.org/COVID-19

City closings and changes

As the last post here informed, the city is trying to keep people away from the entrance lobby of the police department. I’m not sure why this is needed, the lobby is small and it wouldn’t take more than a single person with a spray bottle a short time to sanitize the lobby, but for now the police department is a drive-in service. Call (614) 488-7901 and a police officer will come outside and speak to you in your car.

Almost all the rest of the city departments are closed or locked. One odd change is the recycling pickup has been suspended, while normal trash collection continues. I’m not sure why this service has stopped, just guessing the people who run the recycling plant have decided to close down.

The city parks are open, but all rec programming has ended. No Easter egg hunt this year. All restrooms in the parks are closed. (Edit – playground equipment is now closed)

The mayor’s court has suspended, all cases re-scheduled. The online payment options for tickets will be open, can’t delay the important stuff!

The city council info is not posted on the city website yet, but in an email they encouraged citizens to stay away from council meetings, and send any statements that they might have addressed to the council in meetings to the “all council email” address (council@grandviewheights.org). The problem with this email box is that it reflects the emails into all of the council members individual boxes, with no indication that it came from the “all members” address. I  had emails that got ignored in the past because everyone assumes that somebody else will answer the email. My suggestion for contacting the council is to address the member you want to answer your questions, and begin with “Dear Mr or Ms council member” at the top, so they know you expect an answer from them.

The city council has been posting videos of their meetings online for years. The YouTube channel they were using was closed last year, they changed to the Internet Archive hosting the videos back in the Fall of 2019.

http://www.grandviewheights.org/AgendaCenter/City-Council-2

(Click the TV icon for videos)

Later – The city is live streaming some meetings on YouTube. Still waiting on more info on rules for public participation.

(March 27) According to the email sent today with a BOH meeting announcement, the residents of Grandview Hts are banned from attending meetings. The Mayor feels the YT videos are sufficient (watch this meeting and tell me if you can make out the words being spoken).

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzR6z47-hYUc4kvJV3P0GUA

Grandview Hts. School Corona info

The schools have been closed, per state mandate. Currently April 6 is the target date to re-open the school buildings.

The school has a landing page for Covid-19 info at

https://www.ghschools.org/apps/pages/covid19

The school board has made no announcements addressing the precautions they will be taking during board meetings. I see no updates on the board page of the school website.

The board has video recorded meetings since august of last year, they made it clear in the January meeting that they have no mandate to continue video recordings, and they might stop the recordings if they decide they want to end the program. The board has not uploaded a new video recording of the board meetings since December 2019.

School board videos are like security cams

Published February 7, 2020 by justicewg

Aug board 1At the January 2020 meeting the school board reviewed the analytics of the video recorded Board of Education meetings from August, 2019 to December, 2019. They showed an average of about 45 views for each meeting, with a total view time of less that 5 minutes per video. The board needs to spice things up if they want to achieve that “cats doing cute stuff” viral video magic.

The board said it paid less than $400 per video to have a camera man take footage and caption the audio. The board is now questioning whether they should continue to spend the money on a video that doesn’t have much of an audience.

The board does next to nothing to announce to the public that the videos are being produced and posted on YouTube. There has never been an announcement in any board publication, or featured link on the school website. If you drill down a number of levels in the board web section, you might find the board video links.

The cost of making the videos is being inflated by the method used by the board – a professional cameraman who follows the conversations is well worth the money, but it isn’t required. A student from the AV club could do the same thing for a fraction of the cost.

You don’t watch security cameras when nothing goes wrong

The board is not taking the correct view of the practice of recording videos of their meetings. We don’t want them recorded so that we can view the thrilling episodes of “as the school board turns”. The reason we want video is to have a well documented record of the actions that lead to controversial decisions by the board.

When the board booted the volunteer mentors for the FIRST robotics team, and replaced them with paid teachers with no experience, we needed to see the parents attending the board meeting and explain their opposition to that change. We also needed to see the board sit in silence and not even say a word of explanation for their radical change.

The board is now in the process of spending millions of dollars on the construction projects at all three schools. We need to keep record of who suggests spending that money with contractors, in order to check for ethics violations.

Click on those videos

The board doesn’t care about being held accountable when things go wrong – they are probably looking for a way to end the video recording of meetings. That will allow them to go back to audio only recordings, the same recordings that mysteriously went missing back in 2018.

If you want the board to be accountable, and keep up the video recordings, go to the school YouTube channel and click on some board videos. You don’t have to watch them – they can play in the background while you do something else. Let’s get those numbers up.

And email the board members, tell them you want to see those videos continue.

This is why we record board meetings

As part of the answer to the questions about “what went wrong”, school boards can hear the teachers state their view about where the board went off the tracks. The following video from the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education meeting is the best example I can find.

Board votes new Anti-Discrimination policy – doing the right thing the wrong way

Published November 24, 2019 by justicewg

(Watch at 59:30 in the Nov 2019 board meeting video)

The Grandview Heights school board changed the non-discrimination policy of the school at the November 2019 board meeting. Although adding protection for gender and sexual expression was the right thing to do, they did nothing to ask the parents of the school how they felt about these changes – no questionnaires sent out, no meetings held. This was a subject that would have sparked debate in the community, and no matter which side of the gender expression controversy you stand on, the correct way to change board policy is to allow the debate to happen.

Now that the board has passed the levy for new school construction, the board’s concern for listening to parents has disappeared. In the past (many years ago now), a new policy that was controversial – like changes to the alcohol rules, or new valedictorian policy – was accompanied by special meetings. After the board heard hours of arguments and explanation on how the new rules might cause issues in the community, then the members read through stacks of email, the board could take action knowing they had a good handle on the outcome of changed policy. All the discussion might not have changed any minds on the board – they have always kept their personal views closed off, unless they are supporting the outcome that they know will receive the standard unanimous vote. But at least the parents of the community knew that they had a meeting to attend at which their voice could be heard. We are back to the status quo – and your voice is unimportant.

No notice given to parents

Like all new policy the board considers, there was no notice that changes will be up for a vote. There was no “action item for the board” listed on the school website. There was no notices in emails to the community. This is, unfortunately, standard for the board.

Did you watch all the way though the last posted video of the board monthly meeting in October? If you did, and listened carefully all the way to the 2:14:24 mark, there was a submission in the “other items for discussion” section of the meeting. Ms Palmisciano asked the board to consider the changes in non-discrimination policy that would add protection for gender and sexual expression. She said this was a “first reading”.

There was no announcement that the policy would be up for a vote in the November meeting, just that is was “presented for discussion”. There was no discussion at the October meeting, other than a question from Mr Bode on the wording of the policy. Present Truett said “this change can be discussed at the November meeting”, and gave no hint that the policy would be voted at the next meeting.

There was no discussion at the November meeting – the new policy was read, then immediately voted, five yes. If there was discussion going on, it was happening outside board meetings, in private conversations between board members. These private discussions are not supposed to happen, according to the open meting laws of the state of Ohio.

The answer for “why did Palmisciano ask for changes in the board non-discrimination policy?” can only be guessed, she didn’t answer my email sent after I saw the video of the October board meeting. I bet it had to do with the embarrassing failure of the board during the May 2019 meeting, during which not a single member had the courage to second a motion of support for Pride Month. Since Palmisciano will be leaving the board at the end of the year, she had one last chance to show she was not a bigot.

I guess you are not a bigot, Ms Palmisciano. Is being an anti-democratic Technocrat any better?

Unanimous vote in favor of a nondiscrimination policy

At 59:30 in the Nov 2019 board meeting video, Ms Palmisciano read out the new policy the board will be required to follow. She said the rules will now include protection for “race, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, age, disability, military status”.

The addition to the policy is three categories – sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Given the controversy sparked in the community by the addition of gender neutral restrooms in the new construction at the schools, the addition of new gender protections was sure to be a move from the board that would have created some intense debate.

But debate isn’t wanted by Grandview’s school board. They just want you to be good constituents, and keep your mouths closed, because they already know what is good for the community.

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.

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.

TVN story on the raise.