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Culp’s G4G video response, and why it is unimportant

Published March 9, 2018 by justicewg
culp-leads-laughter

Andy Culp promotes laughing at community comments at the first public facility meeting.

There is an email circulating in Granview that is supposed to be a response from superintendent Culp to the G4G video. I’ll get back to the email, but first some straight talk about the way things work in the Grandview Heights school board, why they don’t respond to any criticism – and why they should be the ones responding to G4G.

A long history of Policy Governance

I have written often in this blog about the way the school board believes in Policy Governance. If you want a the long form story on that theory of governance, you can read the Wiki article. Here is the short version:

“The board will focus on strategic leadership rather than administrative detail; observe clear distinction between Board and CEO roles; make collective rather than individual decisions; …”

That quote was from the Columbus school board website, back when they were firmly entrenched in Policy Governance. It is as good a summary as any I have found for how the Grandview board operates.

The board treats the superintendent like a CEO of a private company. They don’t want to be bothered with hearing complaints about the daily operation of the school, they are only “big picture” focused. So you get board meetings where the super lists his recommendations, and the board complies, five votes yes. You never read challenges to the ideas the super promotes in any school board meeting.

The board is big on using ideas from business, like using a committee composed of people from private companies. This is part of the “run the government like a business” that is a mantra of the republicans.

The board almost always votes unanimously. Years pass between split votes. The theory from Policy Governance is that the board should be letting the CEO run the school, so there should be no opposition from the board. In a practical, real world application, the people who want to change school policy go to board members in private, then the board communicates with each other outside of meetings to form policy.

Another big reason the board is always unanimous – members who stake out positions in public that are not immediately accepted and become unanimous policy would be venerable to challenge in the next election. You can’t pick out individuals when the board is always a faceless collective.

The present board has another favorite method of forming school policy outside of meetings, the facility Task force and Finance committee are run by board members, and greatly control school policy, but they are closed to public attendance and meeting notes are not allowed out of the room. Culp tries to claim these meetings are not being run by the board, therefore are not part of the Open Meeting laws. He is wrong.

The board should be responding to G4G

Read the rest of this entry →

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New school facility FAQ vs the G4G video

Published March 2, 2018 by justicewg

The school administration has updated the facility FAQ on the school website with new information about the facility numbers and process. Although the board and the administration still refuse to acknowledge the Good for Grandview group, they obviously are responding to some of the points the G4G has made on their website. The G4G group meanwhile has produced a new video that summarized the facts about the facilities in a short, easy to watch video. Lets look at what each of them are saying.

New FAQ on the school website

Faq is a scamThe new FAQ on the school website has the current spin from the school board on the facility process. By the way, that link in the preceding sentence goes directly to the web page on the school website. If you got a email from the superintendent this week that listed a link to the FAQ, you probably got a warning from your email service that said “The link might be a scam”. The problem is that the link in Culp’s email doesn’t link directly to the school website, it first sends you to a tracking service used by the school’s messenger newsletter software. So the school will know which IP addresses clicked on the link (not unusual, but I had to note that the school’s links are listed as scams by some email clients).

Leading with $44.5 million dollars in deferred maintenance

The school board is not going to back off the deceptive $44.5 million number, they jump right on it in the first paragraph, and defend it with a full section of the FAQ. Even though the G4G did a good take down that showed why that is an inappropriate number, the board is refusing to budge an inch.

Quick review of the debate – HPG came up with this number as a full cost to make all of the schools meet current building codes. The problem is that only new construction is required to meet these codes, there is nothing unsafe about the old codes. If you had to make your 90 year old Grandview home meet all of the current new construction codes, you might also figure it is cheaper to build new. But almost nobody does that, because it isn’t needed, and it destroys a historic building for no good reason (unless you like new construction, in which case you can buy a new house in Hilliard).

The board also fails to answer questions about how they parted on bad terms with HPG, and the unanswered questions throw a shadow over the HPG report. In fact, Harrison himself said that the $44 million number was not an appropriate number for this debate.

In the FAQ the board insists that “it would take $44.5 million to simply address our building maintenance needs.” , then they discount the K-12 Consulting report that gave the board a much lower number. The board disparages the K-12 consultants as being unqualified to give an accurate number (but then that raises the question, why did the board hire a consultant that isn’t qualified?).

They then list the replacement of a boiler and a roof as “unplanned expenditures”, in an attempt to show that the K-12 report didn’t have the full, accurate numbers. However, a careful reading of that report shows that boiler and roof replacement was accounted for as a part of the needed maintenance over the next ten years. The board blatantly lied about the contents of the K-12 report.

The FAQ continues to use the effective tax rate, and doesn’t mention the real, total voted millage (where Grandview has the highest number in all the school districts). They also try to insist that residents received “only 5.6 increase in property tax” after the 2017 revaluation. I wouldn’t call that number “ONLY 5.6%”, as though it requires a simple effortless budget shift to find that extra money. And that number was an average – many people now pay even more.

(Edit –  Apparently that 5.6% was more accurately the increase attributed to the  revaluation, when you add the increases cause by other taxes it adds up to 9.3%, and the board is still calling it ONLY 9.3%. Funny, when the board was dealing with cuts from the state, it wasn’t a “ONLY 5%”. When the school gets cut, it becomes “a pretty significant dropoff”.)

The FAQ ends with asking how much the school spends per student , and how that compares to other districts – and fails to answer its own question.

One big change in the school FAQ is the deletion of a section that listed the outside consultants who have done work on the facilities process, and an accounting of the money spent on these companies. Last year the total they admitted to was at least $200 thousand. I have heard that the number is now well over $250K, and that number will spike well above that if the board hires more public relations people to push a doomed levy in the fall.

Good for Grandview video

Go watch the video produced by G4G. It’s only 4 minutes long, and is a lot more fun to watch than this sucky blog.

High points – the property tax vs median household income is the chart that is most important. Taxes have gone up, but the average income has not matched that increase. The 2008 great recession hit hard, and while the economy is back, incomes have not recovered much. More importantly, household wealth – the total assets (land, property, money saved, etc.) took a big hit in the recession and many have not recovered. Retirement money was used, and many of those scraping by have not put the money back. People are still hurting. They simply don’t have the income to vote for new taxes.

The G4G video makes a point of this, Grandview is not composed of just doctors and lawyers, we still have some people with lower incomes, and retired folks with fixed income. New taxes will drive these people out. You will never hear the school board say a word about the impact new taxes will have on the people who can least afford them.

That reminds me of a story I heard about back when the board was pushing the 2002 tax increase, when voters rejected a ridiculous 9.8 + 4 + 4 incremental school levy. Board members were calling up residents, and told them that “people who can’t pay for new taxes should shut up and move out”. I’m guessing some variant of that message will be used for the next levy campaign.

No comparison

So who wins in the school FAQ vs the G4G video? Let’s see – the school board stubbornly repeats useless numbers and refuses to concede that they made any errors in the HPG scandal, or the anti-democratic hiding of school policy creation in the closed task force and finance committees. Their tactic seems to be “fingers in ears, yell the same lies louder”.

The G4G has created a video that has a perfect balance of good information about the past, and points to the way we can get to a better outcome for the schools and the community without tearing the school into warring factions. Is there any question about who wins?

Finance committee failing to make their schedule

Just today we learned from Culp that the closed to the community Finance committee, scheduled to make a report before the community on March 12, will not be ready by that date. No new date has been set. Culp is claiming that they are “still in the process of doing research”.

Given the history of deception from the board, you have to wonder – is this some rebellion that has to be quashed? Maybe – but I have been burned in the past hoping that some group will stand up to the board and tell them that they are a bunch of idiots. We will see. Finance committee members – anyone want to be a good guy and let the community know what is really happening? Use my “about” section to send an anonymous message.

Plenty of work ahead for “Good for Grandview” group

Published December 19, 2017 by justicewg
Culp and Douglass

Andy Culp and the man who pulls his strings

Reading the cryptic messages from the politburo at the Grandview school board has never been easy, they are normally stuffed with jargon and deflection of direct questions. I have a new email from Culp that contained more of the same, but if I’m reading it right, it doesn’t bode well for the G4G.

Three weeks have passed since the “Good for Grandview” facility review group made a public plea for the school administration to rethink plans for a $50 million new build at the middle school, along with renovations to the other buildings. A short article in the TVN contained some quotes from superintendent Culp in reaction to the group, but didn’t address any of the issues the GfG brought up on their website. Culp stuck to boilerplate phrases like “we are transparent” and “community-driven”, and said nothing about the issues of faults in the facility process, or answers to the questions of how this small community could support an unprecedented new tax burden for the new schools.

This was similar to the reaction from the board when they were asked about the break with consultant Harrison Planning Group, the board refused to answer questions from the press, and relied on meaningless jargon – as though they were too stunned to process or comment on what had happened.

Three weeks have now passed, I’m sure many phone calls between board members and administration staff have occurred, possibly even work done by outside consultants to formulate strategy for dealing with the G4G group. I have been sending multiple emails to all of the board members, asking them to respond with their own reaction to the statements that G4G made about the facility process, and the opposition the group has to the $50 million plan.

This is the reply I received: Read the rest of this entry →

New school group critical of Facility process named “Good for Grandview”

Published December 1, 2017 by justicewg
GfG website

Home page of the Good for Grandview group (at http://www.goodforgrandview.org)

A group that calls themselves “Good for Grandview” has announced they will oppose the current school plan to spend $50 million on a new middle school, as well as extensive remodeling of the other buildings. Via a new website, they list a number of complaints with the facility review process, and state that they believe there is no way that voters will pass an unprecedentedly large levy. They say they are not just a “No” group, they are in favor of a right sized facility upgrade.

The founders of this group are an impressive list of parents and former school board members. This is not a bunch of anti-tax zealots or a sore losers club, they are the people who were sitting in the front rows during the many meetings of the facility review and educational process.

The group speaks well for themselves on their website – go read it! The reasons for their creating the group can be summarized as the following:

If the school board tries to pass an unprecedentedly high levy to pay for $50 million in construction at the schools, the group feels that there is no way it can pass. There is simply not that much money that can be raised in this small town. There has not been formal organized opposition to levies in the past, and almost all were approved by the voters. Tension between the pro-levy boosters, and opponents, will tear apart the community. The schools will remain in the current condition. They call it a lose-lose-lose proposition.

The group points out that the “$44 million in deferred maintenance” that has been repeated at every opportunity by the administration is a figure that is not applicable to the reality of the buildings – that number assumes that complete tear out and replacement of all systems in order to meet current codes and standards as though they were built today. An older report by a company called “K-12 Consulting” concluded that around $500K per year would be needed to keep the schools running for the next ten years (that included major new systems like boiler replacement).

The G4G saw a number of problems with the way the facility review process was run by the school board. They mentioned the closed to the public Task Force meetings, and the way the surveys and exit tickets were designed to minimize open-ended discussion and steer the process toward a narrow range of possible outcomes. Although the word “transparency” was a favorite of the administration and the board, the reality was that they failed to act in any way that would earn that name.

My suggestions

This is a big deal, there has never been organized opposition to the school board like this before. The board was probably going to go with the full $50 million plan, that option is now dead as a doornail.

The question is, what now? I sure don’t have any pull on the board, but if I thought they might listen, I would tell them this. 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!

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.

No truth for newspaper reporters either

The reaction by Truett when asked about HPG by the reporter at the TVN was also notable, he refused to say a word. Truett has no respect for the parents of Granview or the newspaper that is the official record that many people use to be informed about the school.

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.

What’s wrong with the School Board’s optimism?

Published August 16, 2016 by justicewg
Happy faces

CC Lynn Friedman Flickr

The Grandview Heights school board is about to start a big PR campaign to build new school buildings. August 24, 2016 will be the kickoff of a sustained effort to convince voters to pass high levies in order to replace some or all of our present school buildings. The board will probably be pushing this line – “We are optimistic about the future of the city, and think the children deserve modern buildings” Knowing the way the board works, I think that anyone who brings up complaints about the costs and loss of historic buildings are going to be labeled gloomy downers who should not be listened to.

What’s wrong with optimistic thinking? The problem is that sometimes positive thoughts are used to reject pragmatic thoughts. There should be careful consideration of all negative points that might bring a future Grandview resident to say, “We made a mistake, the school board had a bad idea, they left us with high taxes and we lost the buildings that made us unique, now we have another education factory”. Going on the experience in the past with the board, I think those pragmatic thought which might have prevented the bad decisions will be stripped from the record, and ignored.

Please, if you have ten minutes, please watch this YouTube video that gives Barbara Ehrenreich ‘s take on the down side of optimistic thinking.

https://youtu.be/u5um8QWWRvo

The video is too important to allow a “Too Long; Didn’t watch” summary. Please watch it!

When happy think pushed out realistic thoughts

The Grandview School board has been operating as a group-think, no complaints allowed board for a long time. The professional education community calls this “Policy Governance” it is an intentional policy of “let the experts run the schools”, and ignoring the wishes and complaints from the anyone who has different perceptions. In order to reinforce the message that complaints will not be heard, the board “acts as a collective rather than making individual decisions”. The Columbus school board became a Policy Governance board, and suffered disastrous results.

There was no sudden change in Grandview’s board becoming a PG board, but I have to point out the meeting of October 2014 as a major turning point. In the past, parents would come before the board during the “Hearing of the Public“ part of the meeting and voice concerns, and ask for answers from the board. At this meeting, for the first time, the board president said “we don’t answer questions during this part of the meeting.” The board refused to answer then, and later refused via email follow up. This is exactly how the Columbus school board operates.

A long history of working on facilities policy without parents attending meetings.

How can a school board become an over-optimistic body, and start out on a path that attempts to bring the community on a disastrously expensive mistake? A major error is for the board to hold too many meetings with no parents in attendance. Closing their ears to criticism makes a board insular and over-optimistic.

The present board has a long history of special board meetings, at odd hours of the morning and evening. Almost no parents attend these meetings, and they are often held in inconvenient locations. The one that bears the closest scrutiny is the special meeting of May 13, 2015. The record shows that no parents or reporters attended the 8:40 AM meeting.

It’s Our Turn Now

An over-optimistic board will grab actions that past boards have taken in order to support the present wishes of the board, even when those past actions have little to do with the present.

The board began this meeting with a statement “80-­‐90 years ago the people of Grandview invested in school buildings and infrastructure; it’s our turn now.”

The big difference between now and 90 years ago? The school district was exploding with new residential housing construction in the 1920’s, most of the present housing in Grandview was built during those years. The new students required new buildings.

There is new housing being built in Grandview, but the great majority of the new residents are apartment dwellers with no kids. There are some single family housing on the way, but past experience has shown that retired couples and DINKs will be the new residents.

(Edit – The board ran a study that found there will be little increase in student numbers.)

A MORAL IMPERATIVE to do something

If you are convinced that you are doing the right thing, might as well assert that you are taking the only moral action. That makes those who oppose you immoral. Groupthink and over-optimistic thinking makes this a good idea (the MORAL IMPERATIVE line, in all caps, was taken verbatim from the meeting notes).

Consensus minded” task force

The Facilities Task force that the board created at this May 2015 meeting was given a list of attributes that were wanted. “Professional and smart” were good things. “Consensus minded” was also a pre-selection criteria. They wanted people who would not dig too deep, that would not voice concerns, that would reflect the over-optimistic ideas that the board wanted to propose. Pretty much exactly what Ehrenreich warned about in the video.

The school board insured the isolation of the task force, they declared it a private group, and denied my request to sit in as an observer. Working in secret, unaccountable – no chance this group would do anything except praise and re-enforce the board’s unrealistic ideas.

(One important observation about that May 13, 2015 board meeting, note that there is no record of who said what. It is obvious from reading the minutes that there are people with very different ideas about how the process of facilities upgrade should be done, but it is all recorded in the “we” voice, in keeping with the consensus  rule. It also allows each member to shuck off responsibility onto the “we”, so nothing they say can be pined on them at the next election.)

Why complain about the over-optimistic board?

Some might think, “well, the board will try their best to build new buildings, and probably fail. So what? Isn’t that what boards do?”

School boards are supposed to be acting at the request of the community. The record of this push to build at the schools shows that it all comes from the board members themselves, not any community group.

The board has already wasted many hours in meetings and site visits in anticipation of building new schools. The board empaneled a task force, which might have spent large amounts of money on preparation for the new buildings (we don’t know, so far the task force actions are being kept secret). We do know the school hired an expensive planning firm to give the board a report on the school facilities.

(Update – the board couldn’t work with the first planning firm (HPG), and hired a second firm for the same job, doubling the cost)

We are still waiting to see what the board pulls out at the meeting August 24th, 2016. I’m guessing at the minimum fat stacks of paper, and possibly a slick video presentation. There will be a website created by the school to promote the building of new facilities. All this stuff is expensive and we taxpayers are footing the bill.

(Edit – As of January 2018, the best guess is that the school has spent more than $225 thousand on facility consultants, survey work, etc.)

What can we expect from Grandview Voters?

I have reason to believe Grandview voters can make some bad decisions. I try to remain hopeful that they will make better decisions in the future.

Those who are like me and see the school board as over-optimistic and out of touch have some history to back up our hope the voters will reject the grandiose plans for new school buildings. During the end of the 90’s and into the 2000’s, the city council wanted to tear down the historic city administration building, and put up a shiny new office. The voters twice told the council, on two separate votes, “no way”.

The school board will be throwing everything they have into an effort to get you to vote some high taxes for building unnecessary new buildings. I’m cautiously optimistic that Grandview voters will recognize over-optimistic folly and vote the construction levies down.

While we are at it, can we bring some realism to the board, and vote these board members out of office too?