facilities

All posts tagged facilities

Revision in plans for school facilities – June 2017

Published June 14, 2017 by justicewg
May Facility meeting with options3

June 8 meeting looked a lot like this May meeting

Superintendent Culp presented a shorter list of facility options at a June 8 community meeting, The three choices now being presented by the board are:

Moderately renovation of all three buildings – $35 million.

Extensively renovate the schools – $55 million.

Renovate Stevenson school and the high school and build a new Middle school on the current Edison/Larson site – $50 million.

Stevenson will be saved

A top choice in the first facility meeting was to move all of the Stevenson classes to a renovated or new campus at the middle school location. The board implied with a survey question that there may be a deal in the works to turn Stevenson into a “community center”, but no council member had knowledge of any plans for the use of the building by the city.

The reason for moving schools into a smaller number of buildings is efficiency, a single large building is cheaper to heat and cool than many scattered buildings. This is of course making the efficiency into the prime factor, and ignores the historical considerations about the old buildings.

Stevenson is no longer on the chopping block in the latest plans.

Millions for sports renovation

The board also announced a 2 million plan for new locker rooms, renovations to the home bleachers and resurfacing for the track. If the board follows the same tactic it used to complete the renovation of the artificial football field last year, there will be no public meetings to discuss the options, the board will simply do what they want.

Financial advisory committee to be formed

A financial advisory committee is scheduled to begin work at the start of 2018. The group will be reviewing project funding, whether the project should be completed in phases, and what the cost of a bond issue or levy would be for taxpayers. They might shoot for a fall 2018 levy.

One obvious choice for new school funds has never been mention by the school board, placing an income tax for the school system on the ballot. I can’t quite understand if this is because the school board doesn’t like income taxes, has never discussed the matter, or has been told by residents that they didn’t want a new income tax.

Treasurer Collier said that the Financial committee will be looking at the income tax possibility (during the June8 meeting), but with no statement of support or public disparagement of an income tax from the school board, the committee will be left to take all the heat generated from proposing a new tax. This seems like a cowardly way for the board to deal with tax issues.

I’m also waiting to hear if the board will chose to make the new finance committee closed to all visitors, keeping the proceedings secret like the Facility Task Force. That was a dumb move by the board that gave them no advantage, but served to reinforce the idea that the board works in secret and refuses to let the community know what they are doing in closed meetings.

New survey is super duper push polling

I noted in another story that the school board was using push polling in the last survey, using the questions more as a way to influence public opinion, rather than to learn about those opinions.

The new survey is even worse – pushing the statement that $44 million are needed as a baseline, and implying that the least costly option – $35 million – is a bad choice.

One of the questions asks you to give your own idea for an option for the schools. I don’t want to “push” anyone. But you can leave a message for the board about what you think of their performance in running the facility process in the “fill in what you want” box.

A third community facility meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 3.

The push polling for building new schools has begun

Published May 7, 2017 by justicewg

I mentioned in the last post that I was told a PR firm was doing paid focus groups and polling on the schools here in Grandview, at which they are probably doing Push Polling, a standard method for political groups to influence public opinion. I don’t have proof this is happening with that PR firm.

I do have access to the online poll the school has created, and was a little surprised at the blatant push polling in that survey.

Out of all the options the board wants to build, the moving of the K to 3rd grade out of Stevenson and into a building on the present Middle school location seems to be mentioned the most. It is in the 3A, 3B, and 3C options. The master plan doesn’t say what will happen to the building. “Evaluate  future  use  of  Stevenson  Elementary” is what they say on the option list.

The online Poll that the school wants us to fill out has a very different thing to say about Stevenson school:

 “If Stevenson Elementary was converted to a community center for the city, would you favor or oppose moving the kindergarten through 3rd grade students into a new building on the high school/middle school campus?” – from the online poll.

Nobody from the city has said a word about using Stevenson as a “community center”. This is completely from the school board, used as a method of confusing the options on closing down Stevenson, a move that will be stridently opposed by all the parents on the east end of the city.

What kind of “community center” could even be built in that building? No way a Rec Center is going to fit into the many small classrooms. The auditorium is way too small for any adult ball courts or community swimming pool.

I’d like to hear one of the city council members comment on this – they have never said a word about it that I know, and I don’t think they would support closing down Stevenson (unless they are looking to get booted off the council by the voters).

(Edit – I confirmed with Council President Kearns, no one from the board has ever talked to them about a “community center” at Stevenson, no plans have been discussed by the council about any alternate use of the building.)

After some thought, I’m not sure if push polling is the correct label for what the board did. There was not even the slightest establishment of the possibility of the school building being turned into a community center. That makes it more a flat out lie from the school board, intentionally done to deceive the voters of Grandview

Keep an eye out for the push polling, I’m sure we will be exposed to all sorts of assertions in the polls that are just fantasy created by the board to manipulate public opinion on their plans. Read the rest of this entry →

School facilities options – first impressions

Published May 5, 2017 by justicewg

May Facility meeting with options3The school board has presented three major options for the school facilities (with seven sub-options). There is a lot of information to digest in the Master Plan Options but here are some quick first impressions.

Board doesn’t care about state borrowing limits

Six of the seven options are asking for more bonds that the state will allow by law.

How is it possible to borrow more than the state of Ohio allows? Some net research shows that it is possible to ask the state for a waiver of the rules, and if a general funds levy is set high enough (and passed by voters) to cover the difference in cost between the state bond limit and the construction cost, it is allowed.

Just like a homeowner might dig themselves into a deep hole by finagling a mortgage that he can’t really afford, and risks defaulting on the loan if the person is hit with a financial crisis, a district can dig itself into a hole that could cause catastrophic problems if a recession hits the economy. And what is the chances of that happening – who even remembers 2008?

Will the state allow Grandview to go over the legal bond limit? Remember, the state republican party, lead by Kasich, has singled out Grandview for the largest cuts in state funding. They want small schools to merge with larger ones, in order to be more efficient. What is stopping the state from saying “no, Grandview, you may not exceed the state limit”?

No mention of mills in report

The millions of dollars needed to build new schools (up to $70 million in the most expensive plan) has to be paid by the voters with increases in the property tax millage. There was no mention of mills – because the board knows that they would be calling the squad and wheeling homeowners out of the Glenn suffering from heart attacks.

The board didn’t make it easy to find information on mills needed to fund the facility plans, but there is some clues posted on the schools Facility FAQ page. According to this page, “a 5.52 mill levy today would generate enough to finance a project of approximately $33 million.” So if the board wants the $70 million to build a new “campus”, they would be asking for over 12 mills. Remember, the state is cutting their funding, and the number of administrators and their salaries continues to grow, so operating levies will be needed too. We might be looking at a 15+ mill request from the school board.

What is the history in Grandview for passing high millage levies? In May 2002, voters rejected a ridiculous 9.8 + 4 + 4 incremental school levy (the additional mills would be added in later years). It wasn’t even close, the voters rejected the high levy request with a 70% no vote.

Grandview Heights currently has the highest Total property tax rate (school plus city, etc.) in the county.

May 12 update – from a TVN story:

If the district were to pursue a project costing its current bond-borrowing capacity of $45.3 million, an 8.2-mill bond levy would be needed, Collier said.

There is no backup plan

Any serious, professional planner has an option ready for any contingency. The school board will be expected to push for one of the expensive, “no contact with reality” plans for massive new schools. It will fail to get the votes. They will then attempt one of the cheaper options (if you call $35 million cheap). Depending on the general economy, and the mood of the voters, that plan might also fail. What happens then?

I asked Culp if the board has a contingency plan ready if it can’t get the votes for the least expensive plan. I asked what the board would do about facility repair during the 2 or more years the school might ask for levies to pay for the expensive option. He replied with the usual bureaucratic non-answer.

The options in the master plan – ranging from a no contact with reality $70 million, to a near the limit allowed by law $35 million, are all of the plans the board has made. They are so sure they will charm us, and if needed threaten us, that they have no alternate to their expensive plans.

The board will “manifest” the money

I wrote a posts called What’s wrong with the School Board’s optimism?, I think it is the best explanation for what is happening on the board. Please read that post, and watch the Barbara Ehrenreich video.

The board has been in a self-reinforcing, protected from outside comments bunker mode for a long time. The carefully selected facility task force, segregated by board rules that prevented any visitor from attend their meetings, has reinforced the wall the board put up to keep reality out.

I think the board thinks that there is no reason that the expensive new campus options can’t be built. They are probably telling each other, “we can do it, we just need to say the right words, and we will manifest the money to build new buildings. It is just a matter of how much will power we have”.

We will have to endure multiple public meetings, at which the board will drone on endlessly about the numbers, then they will plead, then they will threaten. They will say that new building are the only moral choice, and those who oppose their plans are bad people who want to hurt children.

You didn’t vote for this

We haven’t gotten to the finger pointing section of the debate yet, so let me direct the first arrow.

Grandview didn’t vote to have buildings that need expensive maintenance. The only levy that has been rejected in the last 30 years was in 2002. All of the fault for the condition of the school buildings are on the school board. The priorities of the school board are clear in the spending they have done on a overloaded, high salary administration.

I’m sure that the present school board will claim they are heroic visionaries for proposing new school buildings. I think they are like the car dealer that notices a small patch of rust on your old car, and tries to convince you that the only solution that makes sense is to buy a $100K luxury car – because your kids deserve the best!

We do have an opportunity to vote for board members in the fall. Let’s send a clear message by rejecting all of the current members.

(Later) I should have added “spend a lot of money on experts in public relations” on my list of things the board is telling each other they need to do to get their new buildings. I have heard there is a PR firm that is paying Grandview residents to attend focus groups at which they are “asked about their opinions”. Push polling is a standard practice for PR firms, they slant the questions in ways that make doing what they want to be signaled as a virtuous act, and resistance is subtly associated with ignorance, close mindedness, and anti-social acts.

A message to the PR firm – Hi! I’m sure you are reading my blog, I have a offer for you. Want to get a look into the mind of a person who is going to be a vocal opponent of the construction of new schools? Pay me! Use the links in the About section to send me a message.  Lets make a deal!

Study projects little growth in schools

Published February 16, 2017 by justicewg

We all pretty much knew what the results of the study would be. A consultant group for the school delivered expected results – the only growth area in Grandview is the Yard, and the kind on people living in that area tend to be DINKs and young people with no kids.

Still, it needs to be noted for the future, the school board has gone public with the results, and they are not going to be able to use an increase in student numbers to push for new school buildings.

Culp is quoted in the TVN story saying that enrollment in Grandview has declined by 4 percent, or about 46 students, over the last decade. In truth, enrollment has been dropping since the 1960’s. The current student-teacher ratio, 16 to 1, is one of the better ratios in this county. The school expects to be able to absorb any increase in students without hiring new staff.

Truett Falsified Meeting Notes on HPG Break

Published February 10, 2017 by justicewg

truett-at-visioningThe early morning board meeting at which the school board announced the break with Harrison Planning Group (a facilitates consultant) was the most important meeting of the year. The data that was produced by Harrison will be the base numbers that will be used for all future planning of the facilities at the school, they will also be used in future attempts by the board to push for high tax increases to build at the schools. It is vital that the community understand the relationship between HPG and the board, in order to know where those numbers came from.

The 10/18/16 morning meeting (Pdf link), one of the special meetings normally attended by no parents, was quickly noticed and alerts sent out, motivating 13 community members to show up. The meeting was video recorded by me. You would expect the board would be very careful to set down the full record of the meeting in the notes that are the official record. But new president Truett didn’t look good at all in the video of the meeting, as I pointed out in a past post. Truett’s solution? Falsify the meeting notes to removed important sections of the meeting, cuts that completely altered the record of the most important words spoken at that meeting.

Truett’s hack job on HPG

There was obviously some very bad conflicts between Truett and Harrison. Truett said HPG “took request for change personally, attacked members of the board and the task force in an unprofessional way, and said he didn’t want to continue working with us”. We don’t know if that is true, but it was the words of the member of the school board who was on the facility committee who worked closely with Harrison, and his report on what caused the break is the official explanation given to the rest of the board members, and the community. We are not going to hear HPG’s side of the story, he has no reason to re-litigate a bad ending. If what Truett said is true, it casts a shadow over all of the work produced by HPG – if he really is “unprofessional”, how can we trust anything produced by his company?

The way Harrison was attacked also throws Truett in a bad light, he comes off as petty and vindictive. He could have given the facts of why they disagreed, and left the personal attack out of his report.

Truett’s solution to a bad appearance in the meeting notes? Delete any mention of his attack on Harrison from the official meeting record. As president of the board, he has complete control over how the meeting is recorded.

The written record of the meeting gives some reasons for the break, but as Truett said at the board meeting, “we worked though those issues, and got to where we wanted to be”. Looking at the video of the meeting, it is obvious that the conflict with Harrison was the most important fact that lead to a break with HPG. By deleting it from the record, Truett has falsified the official record, and is deceiving the community.

https://youtu.be/PIPeDsfHNLU?t=2m51s

(the above video should bring you directly to the section where the conflict with Harrison is talked about, if it doesn’t skip to 2m 51s. Note, this YouTube video is a re-upload to a new account made for this blog, the original video had over 181 views.)

Any criticism of the board is bad decorum

Two different parents spoke up at the 10/18/16 morning meeting, and without personally insulting a board member, pointed out the poor choice in holding a special meeting on the same day as a regular board meeting, in what (correctly) looks like an attempt to hide information from the community. The words of those parents were recorded in the meeting notes, in a short but fair summary.

Truett sat in an uncomfortable 10 seconds of silence after hearing the criticism, and said the following: (Starts at 12m 32s)

You know at this point, I want to be cautious in the decorum of our meetings, I an certainly happy, and any board member will have those discussions off-line. I don’t wana … I don’t think a debate at the board meeting is the proper setting. I do feel that ah … I don’t want to enter that debate, I don’t want to get defensive on that … Jessie Truett

The official record of the meeting deleted those words – carefully chosen by Truett, after a 10 second silence. That was the official position of Truett as board president – criticism of the board is bad decorum, any critic should speak to the board members “offline” (where it can be ignored and swept under the rug).

Good luck finding full truthful info in board meeting notes

I have mentioned it often in the past, the board does a terrible job of recording meeting notes for these special meetings, often summarizing hours on discussion in a few short paragraphs, with no record of which member said the recorded words. Under Truett, if it is possible, it will get worse – we can’t be sure that he will delete anything that might show him in any bad light, not matter how much the facts of the meeting are distorted by his deletions.

Truett has a role model who has a similar disdain for the facts, it’s pretty discouraging to see public officials act this way. There is a difference though, this isn’t Washington DC, it is little Grandview. You can make your voice heard, and it might be possible for the words to register. If you don’t want to see more of this deception going on at the board meetings, call, email the board members, let them know you are watching, let them know you care.

Postscript – The board holds special planning meetings near the start of every year, spending hours in planning the long term future of the schools. Like other special meetings, the notes to these meetings are short and lack the names of the members who are proposing big changes for the schools. I asked Truett to make an audio recording of the meeting, the same way the board make audio recordings of monthly meetings. His response?

“Today’s meeting was not recorded and as in the past, we do not intend to record future work sessions. “ Jessie Truett

What a surprise. If you can’t get off work to spend a weekday attending a special meeting, you will be denied a recording, and they will never make a recording of their special meetings, because … they can get away with it. They will tell you to get lost, and the fact that they are ignoring open meeting laws will not stop them from telling you to take a hike.

Grandview board selects controversial Truett for President

Published January 14, 2017 by justicewg

truett-at-visioningThe Grandview school board voted to place Jessie Truett into the president position at the January 2017 organizational meeting. This is a completely nonsensical move from a board that should be avoiding controversy while they gear up for requesting the community to build new schools.

Truett is the most controversial member of the board, due to his resignation from his job as the high school principal back in 2011. The short version – Truett suddenly resigned with a weak explanation about personal and health reasons, later it came out that he started an affair with an 18 year old student while he was a 23 year old teacher at Westerville. State law says that sexual conduct with a student, regardless of the student’s age, is considered sexual battery, and could lead to jail time. Truett voluntarily surrendered his teaching license to the state board of education.

Mr Truett now works for OAPCS, promoting charter schools. Ohio had many scandals involving charter schools, some observers think that the top reason that Kasich failed his run for president was the constant news of fraud and failure from Ohio charter schools. Truett’s job is to push for more charter schools, and weaken public schools.

Watch Truett in action at a board meeting

What will it be like with Jessie Truett in charge of the school board? We have a video that allows us to see direct evidence of how he will conduct the business of the school, and how he will respond to comments from the community, All of the links in the following take you directly to the section of the video being discussed.

Read the rest of this entry →

School board spends another $67K on consultant to provide “Educational Visioning”

Published December 22, 2016 by justicewg
Stevenson dedication plaque

Maybe this consultant will get the board member’s names on a  plaque at a new school.

When the Grandview school board split with HPG (the major consultant for the facility process), it was looking bad for the board. They ended the relationship with strident claims of Harrison acting “unprofessionally” and required the immediate end to all work on the facility process*. Never fear, when a big paycheck is waved, the board was assured of finding a replacement. The same fee that was spent on Harrison Planning Group has been offered to Frank Locker Educational Planning, for a total of at least $134K on consultants so far. Remember, the fee that was spent on HPG was supposed to cover most of the process, so now the school has manged to double the cost of the facility process (so far – we don’t know all the costs to come).

Two Saturdays in a row scheduled for one meeting

I like it when local government schedules meetings to get community feedback. The city council has done a great job during the process of street improvements for the Yard, and before the remodeling of the city pool. I have been writing on this blog and the previous incarnation of the blog about how useful those meetings have been (here is a review of a meeting for recreation facilities back in 2007).

The city holds those meetings often, and they know how to run the meetings – they don’t have to hire special meeting facilitators. They do spend money on consultants, but the documents consultants create are used to help inform the meetings and give options to the council.

Our first view of the new FLEP consultant will be at two meetings scheduled for January 14 and 21, 2017, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The meeting are being promoted with the title “Educational Visioning”, in case you didn’t have your allotment of meaningless buzz words. You are being strongly asked (required?) to attend both meetings. Oh sorry, did you have something scheduled for those dates? Didn’t find anything on the school website that hinted that you might need to keep those days free? Well, if you don’t have two Saturdays free for this “Educational Visioning” meeting, I guess you don’t care about the schools, and your voice in the process should be marked as “didn’t attend meetings, uninformed slacker.”

The differences are stark

Again, I have to contrast the difference between the school board and the city council – everything the council does is expected to be up for public comment, and any slightly expensive spending will trigger a community meeting. The council doesn’t hire a facilitator for meetings.

Because the school board almost never holds public meetings before launching expensive projects, they have no clue how to do it. The school board has stumbled throughout the facility upgrade process, holding special morning meetings in which they declared “The board built buildings 90 years ago, It is our turn now”. Going on field trips, creating a special task force that meets in secret and doesn’t allow the public to attend. Coming to what sounded like near blows with the consultant they hired, and doubling the costs of the process. Now the board is spending a ridiculous amount of money on a consultant who will lead long and technical meetings – apparently it takes 12 hours to go through his process.

I don’t know who Frank Locker is,or what his experience is with incompetent school boards. I think he may regret taking this job.

* The school sent out an email announcing the hire of FLEP this week, and it was funny to read how desperate they are to somehow push the hype that HPG had both totally rock solid good facilities numbers, and was so incompetent that he needed to leave immediately, in the middle of a contract. This is what they said:

“District leaders also acknowledge that the facilities assessment previously conducted by HPG has been informative, thorough, and accurate and will assist in the facilities planning work moving forward.

LOL. Right. That sentence smells like something a lawyer wrote to keep the school board from being sued by HPG. District leaders don’t want to admit they screwed up, and are now sending the story about the debacle with HPG  down the memory hole.

Also – that email was sent out by Culp, but is written from the viewpoint of the third person, as if by a reporter. Does Culp now have a writer to do his email for him? Here is a slightly different version of the email posted on the school website, but again, who wrote this post?

(Later) I read some of the stuff on the school website that was posted so we can get an idea where Frank Locker is coming from. I suggest you try to read the document titled CEFPI_ST&DM_Locker.pdf . I challenge anyone to read that first page without developing a headache. Quite often specialists in esoteric fields retreat into jargon that is difficult to understand, this guy is so lost in the weeds he might never come home. A perfect match for our self-absorbed school board!