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

Published August 12, 2019 by justicewg

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

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

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

Torn up contracts for new pay boosts

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

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

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

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

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

Read the small print

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

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

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

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

The Board votes Aug14

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

Asking for documents from the school Treasurer, Ms Collier

Published April 16, 2019 by justicewg

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

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

Some points to begin

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

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

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

I’m not a lawyer

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

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

My request for school documents

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

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

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

Published January 19, 2019 by justicewg

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

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

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

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

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

Why the board video opposition list is lame

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

Westerville City Schools Board YouTube channel – 114 videos.

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

ADA compliance

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

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

Bexley City Schools YouTube channel

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

Read the rest of this entry →

After the school levy, money is not the issue – but construction zone issues will cause conflict

Published December 7, 2018 by justicewg

The board passed the levy on Nov 6, 2018, they have the $55 million bond they wanted to update the facilities in the schools. The issue that is important now is completing the work on the schools with the minimum possible disruption of the education of the kids who are going to be in schools just a few feet away from major construction zones, and may be required to waste time on long walks to the HS for the cafeteria and gym. That means getting the parents to agree with the construction plans, when they know their children will be negatively impacted.

I’m not seeing a lot of effort put out by the board to work with these parents. If the board takes the position that “disruption is something your will just have to deal with” and doesn’t work with parents to make the best plans for the minimum disruption, there will be some very angry parents – for good reasons.

No consensus

If the board had overwhelmingly passed the levy, they would have (poor) backing for saying “we have a mandate, now stop complaining and let us figure construction out by ourselves”. That mandate is missing.

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’s school board a letter “A”, Grandview’s board deserves a “D”. Not only is there no consensus, the formation of three separate groups that opposed the $55 million bond were a first in Grandview, and indicate the board did a poor job in the facility planning process. Many parents felt the facility process was not fair or open enough.

Not enough board acknowledgment of community divide

No matter which side you were on, you probably had strong feelings about the issue #6 vote. The results of the election settled the question of how much money the board will have to improve the schools, what it didn’t do was heal the rift in the community.

I sent an email to all the board members, and the administration, asking them what actions the board will be taking to help mend a divided community. Except for one board member, the answer was silence.

I asked the board and administration if they understood the objections the anti-levy groups had to the facility process, because the first step in healing is understanding what the problem is. I got this answer from Mr Culp:

“You would need to reach out to the opposition groups to garner their perspectives …” – Andy Culp

This from the person who repeats the “3600 varying touchpoints” line over and over. If you have no idea what the opposition to #6 groups thought, then maybe the problem is that all those touchpoints were just you expressing your opinion Mr Culp, and you were ignoring the replies.

What happens now

We are now a month after the vote, and I’m not finding much info from the board or administration on what happens now. I read a number of “patting ourselves on the back” stories in the news, and on the school website, but the specifics are lacking. I see nothing about groups or meetings being planed to present specific actions in working on the schools, and gain feedback from the parents who will have their kid’s education disrupted by the construction. The board had months to make plans after the FAC recommendations were presented to the board, but they seemed to be focused only on the vote, not on anything they needed to do afterward.

I copied this from the school website:

Here is the general timeline for the overall project:
Phase I – The Edison Commons will be demolished, and the new 4-8 school will be built between GHHS and EI/LMS. (18-24 months)
Phase II – High School students will be moved into the newly built 4-8 and GHHS will be comprehensively renovated. (15-18 months)
Phase III – High School students will be moved back into the renovated high school. EI/LMS students will be moved into the new 4-8 building.

The annex and the existing EI/LMS will be demolished at the conclusion of Phase III.
RLS improvements (safety/security and ADA accessibility) will be completed during the summer of 2021 and 2022.

Missing from any school plans on the website – listening to parents, and working with them to build a plan that minimizes educational disruption.

The Commons destruction was not presented in any public facility meeting

There was a lot of objection to the plan to demolish the middle school commons and gym expressed by the no on #6 groups. That part on the school was the last major build, completed in 1996, and the bond is just now being paid off. If there was any part of the school facilities that deserved to be kept and integrated into the new building, that section deserved being saved. There will be millions of dollars wasted by tearing it down.

Even worse is the plans the board has presented to replace the facilities in the commons – the middle school children will be required to walk past a dangerous construction site, and use the HS facilities. This back and forth might need to happen multiple times per day – for two or more years.

When the new middle school is completed, the HS students move in to the new building while construction is happening at the HS. So the new cafeteria and gym will still be shared with the middle school for another two years.

This plan to demolish the commons was never presented in any of the plans that were presented to the facility meetings that were open to the public. It is entirely an idea that was brought up by the hand picked, closed Finance committee. And yet everything I read on the school website makes this seem like it was a result of open meetings.

We didn’t vote to destroy the commons

I checked carefully through the wording of the levy we voted for – nothing in there about tearing down the middle school commons. I looked in the material the “Yes on #6” committee sent to every home in Grandview – nothing in there about plans for work on the schools. In fact, the pamphlet that was sent out said this:

“NOTHING IS FINALIZED. There are still many steps to the process, but we do know is that the members of the FAC and the Grandview Heiths schools are working to explore every opportunity to reduce costs while while providing the needed updates …” – from the Yes on #6 committee

Given the history of the board and school administration, I think we are about to hear the words “the plan to tear down the middle school commons is a done deal, because we voted for it” – even though there is not a word about the commons in the voting language or pre-vote publicity.

This is what Culp said at facility meeting #7

We have to go back to community facility meeting #7 to hear what Mr Culp though should be done after the levy passes.

 

“Even after the bond is passed, there needs to be iterative collaborative community engagement that is transparent about the process, and community members will need a voice in and say in what ‘s being done, even then, it needs to be exceedingly transparent.” – Andy Culp, from the school video, community meeting #7.

As we know, the first part of the video, where Culp promised that the Finance committee would be open, with meeting notes, he was either lying, or was overruled by the school board. He has never explained why the FAC was closed, even when the public asked 8 times during the FAC results meeting.

We have no reason to believe the second part of this video, where Culp promised open meetings after the levy passed. When a person’s integrity has been shown to have failed, you don’t easily believe them again.

We are waiting for the board to offer the community engagement that was promised.

A request for your experiences after the school vote

Have you experienced negative comments from school administrators or staff because you were vocal in your opposition to the school levy? Were there actions taken that you feel were retaliatory because you had a no on #6 sign on your lawn? Please send me your experiences, there is a comment form in the “About” section (tab at the top of the home page header).

Email from Culp 12-21-18

We will be scheduling a community meeting in the coming weeks once we have confirmed a date.  Our goals for the meeting will be to provide attendees with an overview of the facility project and design process; the projected timeline for the construction and renovation of our schools; and to share how residents will have an opportunity to be involved in the process.

If there were any real process in motion to ask parents for their opinion and only take action after they approved, the school would not be sending an email like this. I’m not seeing the “opportunity to be involved” becoming more than an after the fact explanation of the board’s actions.

Vote no on issue #6, part 2 – the NRI deal

Published October 19, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6The school is trying to complete a negotiation with NRI that could accelerate the tax payments from the Yard, to the point where the boost in tax money may becomes as much as 50% of the cost of the bond the board needs to build a new middle school. Why should voters pass the present levy, when we could have a significantly smaller one via waiting until the negotiations are finished?

The deal

Early in 2018, the school board started negotiation with NRI over increasing the rate of tax money coming from the Grandview Yard development. The board had almost completed the facility meetings, and had set themselves a goal of building a new middle school – the only uncompleted work was the finance committee recommendation to increase the already high $50 million plan from Culp up to a $55 million plan with the extra connector between the schools.

The board was also fully aware of the objections to the new school plan by the G4G group. That unprecedented group spelled levy doom for board members who were not living in a fantasy world. Normal, uncontroversial levies have only passed with 60% yes votes in the past, an opposition group insured failure of the levy (and the two additional NO on #6 groups are the nails in the levy coffin).

I’m of two minds over the board’s attempt to cut a new deal with NRI. Was it just an amateurish mistake to attempt to renegotiate taxes with NRI. and pass the bond at the same time? Even the slowest members on the board must have known they were shooting themselves in the feet with the uncertainty added by the NRI deal. I also think it might have been a desperation move by the board, they knew they would fail in the levy attempt, so they wanted to have some way to win – even if it was by completing a deal that would be bad for both the the school and the city. As long as they got some money, they could claim victory, as long as THEY were the ones who got some money out of NRI..

Whatever the motivation, we now have a deal in progress that might bring substantial money from Grandview Yard, well ahead of past deals. Lets look at what the Mayor said about the deal.

The Mayor and the council

Before the quotes from the Mayor, to be clear – he supports the school levy, So do all the council members who have been asked. They support it because:

It is a normal thing for the board and the council to support each other when they have a levy on the ballot. This is standard mutual support – it is what good politicians do *.

And the council will be asking for new tax money for a new city hall next May. They want the school levy issue completed so they are not both asking for new taxes at the same time.

The mayor speaks

How much additional money will (the NRI deal) mean to the school?
There are some initial estimates using various assumptions, but I do not want to speculate until we have an agreement. I believe we are close. It should be recognized that until recently the City and School have estimated only the dollars coming to the school of what is actually built. We both are fiscally conservative. Those figures indicated that the school would receive about $60 million over the next 20 years. For a long time, this was the figured used. We now have more information on what is being proposed in the current project, which would bring an estimated additional $18 million, or $78 million total to the school. Add to this the development to the south of Goodale and modified school compensation agreement and that figure could almost double. – Mayor DeGraw

Re-read that last sentence for the most important news. The school might be getting $78 million, through modifying the TIF agreement. But the additional taxes that might come from the construction of new buildings south of Goodale could be another boost, up to $156 million total.

This is the most important question – why are we being asked to pass a high levy by the board, when they are on the verge of receiving news that could completely change the financial position of the school?

Committee for Grandview Heights Schools pamphlet

The Pro-levy committee sent a brochure out to every home in the city, answering questions about the levy. What do they say about the NRI deal, in a bullet point section?

The need is now, and at this point no agreement has been reached with NRI.

OK, most taxpayers want to know what they are getting into, and can wait a year for a deal to be completed. What is the rush? Are their bulldozers sitting near the middle school, ready to start the demolition?

The NRI deal could reduced costs to residents by 50% , but could never cover the entire costs

So what? If my income might go up by 50%, I sure would want to wait until I know for sure, before I buy a house. Who cares what percentage the NRI deal covers? If it is significant, we should wait.

Delaying the project would result in added costs.

The committee doesn’t have a crystal ball that allows them foolproof projections on cost, but they do have this thing called “history”. The cost of construction went down in 2008, due to recession. “Costs always rise” is not true. Also, income to the school will be rising, because of the additional tax money from the Yard (tax money that was negotiated in the past, not the current deal). Everyone with any financial skills at all should be shouting “STOP, do not sign contracts for construction when your income is in flux”.

Waiting until the NRI deal is reached would not change the ballot millage, however, it would reduce the taxes the school could collect from residents.

I think the brain power of this committee just completely gave out at this point in the brochure. That talking point is one that belongs to the anti-levy groups, the important issue is the tax rates we are going to pay. If the need for operation millage is going down, we should wait until the financial position of the school is clear.

Implied in the statement “no change in the ballot millage” (I think they mean to say bond millage) is a threat – pass this levy, or we will come back, over and over, asking for the same amount. We will never listen to critics and cut the size of the school facility plan. That threat supports the need to vote the current board out of office.

Part three of my “reasons to vote no on issue #6” will be covering the effects of high taxes on the community, and how the board has failed to make obvious moves that could have protected fixed income and lower income residents.

The YT information session

In past years, the school used to hold public meetings before levies, and would answer questions from the community. I just read the following from the school:

Superintendent Culp and Treasurer Collier are holding an online Community Conversation on Monday, October 22 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. They will be at the YouTube feed at  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvM52He47uyzfX0bnjSsz-w.

The superintendent is so deep in the bunker, he can only answer pre-screened questions on YT? For one hour?

(Later) The YT session had “technical issues” and started late, and probably lost all the viewers. They only answered questions that were the softest of the softballs – for 26 minutes. There was one answer that was important, to a question about what the board will do when the levy fails. Will the board do some self examination, and rethink the $55 million plan? Or ignore all the critics, and start plans to cut programs at the schools? Spoiler – Culp only talks about the latter. More on this later.

Previously – Reasons to vote no on the levy, part 1 – The Grandview Heights school board is not trustworthy

Read the rest of this entry →

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

Published July 9, 2018 by justicewg

The process for updating to school buildings has been ongoing for years, and from the start, the board declared they wanted to build expensive new buildings. They are following through on that declaration, and more – the board has proposed a ridiculous highball number ($55 million) and tacked on an operating levy of one mill, just to remind parents that they can hold the school children hostage. If you are voting for this $55 million plan, you are also voting for a replacement (probably another $25 million) of the Stevenson building, because the plan under funds upgrades to the building.

The board also now has no defense from the charge that the finance committee was a policy deciding group that should have been open under the Ohio Open Meeting laws.

How highballs work in negotiations

The school board has known since the G4G group went public with opposition to the superintendent’s request for a $50 million facility plan last year that the first try at a levy would fail. There has been unprecedented opposition to the school’s attempt to manipulate the facility process, even the most optimistic on the board must have known that the $50 million plan was not going to pass. Given that fact, the board decided that a highball bid was the way to set expectations for the future.

Negotiation is all about setting the expectation for a “good number”, a price that seems normal to pay. Some ruthless negotiators find no worth in starting mid range, a high number sets the top of the range, and brings up the bottom. If the school board carefully cut into the plan as presented by Culp last year, they might have come up with a plan that cost $45 million. But the board saw that as leaving money on the table, they said, “if you are going to lose the first bid anyway, go for the big money”.

Make no mistake – this sort of hard negotiation is not normal for a Grandview Heights board. Most levies in the recent past have been in the normal range of past operating levies. Most levies pass with 60% in favor. There was one ridiculous levy attempt back in 2002 that was a big lesson for the board, and which will be used as a template for the present.

The fantasy levy of 2002

The school board of May 2002 used a similar tactic for highballing the voters, with a twist. The “incremental operating” levy asked for 9.8 mills, already a high number. They then added an additional 4 mills, to take effect the next year, and 4 more the next year. Only 35% of the voters were in favor, the biggest loser of all levies.

Nobody expected that levy to pass – but it set the expectation for the “right number” higher. That fall, the voters approved 10.7 mills, the highest millage issue in the history of the school.

The board that approved the original highball levy should have been immediately recall voted out of office, the fantasy incremental levy was an insult to the community that should have been punished. But in the minds of those board members, they saw it as a needed hardball tactic. And the approval of the fall levy was a submission by the community. We got played, and we didn’t fight it.

Stevenson replacement in the future is part of the $55 million bid

When Culp presented his initial plan for the school upgrades in September 2017, he included $6 million in refurbish work on the Stevenson building. That money was nearly zeroed out by the finance committee, they said “we are only looking at doing security and ADA upgrades at Stevenson”. If the school board under funds the maintenance of Stevenson – and nothing will stop them – that will place the closing of the building at the top of the board’s list. Shortly after the new middle school is completed, the board will come back to the voters with irrefutable evidence (because they created the problems) that Stevenson MUST be replaced. Add another $25 million to the construction costs, in the near future.

Two “no on the levy” votes will be needed

The highball bid of $55 million will not pass. But it will set the expectation high, and allow the board to come back to the voters with a $50 million plan in 2019. Cutting a few frills will be presented as painful cuts (funny how all the real pain will be suffered by the taxpayers).

There will need to be two consecutive no votes on the school’s levies before the board can be convinced to come down to a real number that will get the support of the community. This will be hard, because another, higher operation levy will be sure to be tacked onto the second bond levy. The board will threaten major cuts in after school programs, and cuts to classes that are offered. The re-implementation of activity fees will be on the table for the second vote for sure.

Unfortunately the best solution for a school board that is extorting the community – voting out the present board – will not be up for a regular vote until November 2019, when Palmisciano and Brannan can be replaced. If Truett and the other two board members elected in 2017 want to cause maximum damage to the community before they are voted out, the three of them can run the board until 2021.

The board broke the laws on open meetings Read the rest of this entry →

Video of the May 29, 2018 finance committee report

Published June 3, 2018 by justicewg

Finance comm video stillHighlights of the Video of the May 29, 2018 finance committee meeting at the high school auditorium.

Update – as of 6/7/18, the video of the finance committee report has been deleted from the Google Drive where it was located.  (later) As of 1:30 PM, the video has been returned, but the URL has changed (updated in the link above). The time stamps were slightly changed because of the re-upload, but are close.

The numbers seen below are the time stamps for the sections of the meeting video, which is posted on the school website. You can drag the progress mark of the video up to any section that are mentioned below (on a desktop, not sure if you can step ahead in a phone video). Warning – the video is almost two hours long. This post is long too. Both are important to understand what is happening at the school.

Highlights of the Finance committee video

:10 Superintendent Culp gives an opening speech.

4:00 Someone asks if the minutes of the finance committee meetings will be posted on the website, along with other material. Superintendent Culp tries to deflect the question by answering that there will be agendas and “outcomes” posted, and tries to slide past the fact that the real meeting notes are not going to be given to the community.

5:10 A questioner asks again about the meeting minutes, and tries to get Culp to admit that the meeting notes will not be shared. Someone off camera tries to shut down the questioner by shouting at them to hold their questions until the end.

5:35 Culp says “we have outcomes, we have meeting notes, we have all kinds of documentation that was shared at the meeting, but most importantly, the document you have in your hands”. He again avoids saying that the meeting notes are not going to be posted. Listen carefully here, he said the meeting notes exist, he just doesn’t want to talk about them.

6:00 Culp turns the meeting over to Jack Kukura, who is speaking for the finance committee. At this point they inserted a video with high production, complete with dramatic music. It is about the finance committee, and it tries to dazzle you with public relation buzz words, praise for the board and superintendent because they want to build a new school, and more. There could be another post covering just the contents of this slick video, but I’ll just summarize it with one observation and a question.

They make a big point in the video about how the information for updating the facilities is complex, with engineering data, with lots of state and federal standards that must be considered. If that information is so important, why didn’t the board allow community members to attend the finance committee meetings? Why didn’t they video the finance meetings? Why is the board refusing to release meeting notes from the finance committee?

10:20 Kukira speaks for the committee. He tells us that he lives in Marble Cliff, but that he used to live on Wyandotte in Grandview. I think he was trying to say “I’m just one of you middle class people”, but by bringing it up, he suggests a question – just what is the average income level of the finance committee? Do they know what it is like for a normal middle class resident who struggles to keep up with high taxes?

11:05 Katie Matney asks, “Out of curiosity, can I have a show of hand of those who graduated from Grandview Heights? Who had children in the school, but not now? Who has children in the school now?”

Why use the show of hands to get this information, they can always use the “tickets” that people are supposed to fill out to get that info. Maybe the reason there needed to be raised hands was to make clear to people in the auditorium which of their neighbors in the seats are natives, because born residents tend to discount the views of new residents? Maybe they want the current parents to know who are the older people who no longer have kids in the schools, so that they can discount the opinions of those who will not have to use the school buildings (but will have to pay the taxes).

My suggestion for the next community meeting at the school – have a show of hands for the people who have a total household income of more than $100K. Then ask who has more an $200K income. If those other questions were valid, the income of the guy sitting near you also should be known.

12:00 “Grandview buildings are 90 years old, and are past their lives”. The finance committee is starting from the assumption that the school buildings are dead, and as they imply throughout the meeting, they don’t want us to fix these “Dead” buildings, they want new ones.

12:40 Matney says her kids are not being sent to private schools, and they are happy to send them to Grandview schools. Why is that important to say? Maybe some of the committee members didn’t send their kids to Grandview schools?

16:00 Kukuria returns to talk about the scope of the committee meetings. He says that the group was only looking at the “tear down the middle school” option, and didn’t look at other cheaper paths. He tries to say that the committee was somehow independent enough to reject some of the recommendations from Culp, but when you look at the final documents, you see that their “independence” was limited to asking for more expensive total numbers. The only cuts they suggested – and according to Kukuria the only split in opinions for the committee – was for renovation of Stevenson.

I listened carefully to that section where he talked about issues that could not be brought to consensus on the committee. He said “there were concerns about safety and security in the buildings, which cost more, and therefore we were not able to come up with all the renovation needs at Stevenson”. He later says “we are only looking at doing security and ADA upgrades at Stevenson”.

And yet the committee had no problem spending more on the cost of the new middle school, like the connector section to the HS. Kukuria didn’t make it clear what the disagreement was about on Stevenson, but I think I can figure it out by reading between the lines.

There has always been a segment of the community who wants to see Stevenson and the High School building torn down, and a large campus built on the middle school location. Energy efficiency is best with one large building, and those with a fetish for new modern buildings hate the old fashioned look of the schools.

I think the disagreement on the committee was about spending funds on Stevenson, the “old building haters” don’t want to spend a dollar on a place that they assume will be torn down soon anyway. Even though 75% of the responses on the surveys said that Stevenson should be saved, that 25% who want it gone were in control of the finance committee. So the recommendation is “do the least possible at Stevenson,” (and hope that the board will get more money from the community to tear it down later). I would bet the board will also will do inadequate maintenance at Stevenson, so the building gets progressively worse. And then they will say “look at this old falling apart building, we MUST replace it”.

More after the jump.

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