Following a third levy defeat of the 60-40% variety, West Clermont has much to ponder going forward. The community continues to be fractured along many lines, and it was on display at this month’s board meetings. The district will be borrowing from future revenues in order to maintain its current service levels, and will have to make cuts or concessions in 2013.
Two speakers at the meeting on Nov. 7th suggested to the board that the staff take pay cuts in order to make up some of the difference in revenue. The union contracts expire in summer of 2013, and negotiations will start early next year. The WCEA has only received a 1% increase over the last couple of contracts, and wages were frozen in 2011. Administrative wages were to be frozen as of this year, but that remains to be seen when the district will replace at least one administrator next year. Both Al Delgado and Mary Ellen Steele- Pierce will not return for the 2013-14 school year. Ms. Steele-Pierce will resign at the end of this calendar year, and Mr. Delgado’s contract was only renewed as part-time for the 2012-13 school year.
One of the speakers is currently a PTA parent at Willowville and he was cut off at the 3 minute time limit by President Doug Young. SCS finds this interesting, as parents with accolades for the school or in support of levy initiatives are given the floor for as long as they wish. I can understand if people are openly hostile or use explicatives, however, either there is a time limit or there is not a time limit for speakers. One speaker in an October meeting (before the levy) not only spoke for well over 10 minutes (timed by a SCS subscriber), and also dictated to the board before speaking that someone else had loaner her their time. Where was Doug Young with his stopwatch that night? These type of shenanigans are what alienate many people from the process, and is understandable why people will vote “no” regardless of the situation. SCS is still waiting for Mr. Young to comment, but that was weeks ago.
The interesting part was after the speaker, Denise Smith voiced her opinion that the speaker was just one person, as if he didn’t matter. Election night displayed that there was more than one person that agrees that large changes need to made. In the same vein, Ms. Smith also commented that the staff has already given up raises over the last few contracts, and the Treasurer confirmed the WCEA has received a 1% raise in three years. That may be true, however, the contract provides step raises and column raises for all staff with less than 15 years of service regardless of whether there is a raise. Those step and column raises are 4.6% each, so perhaps Ms. Smith doth protest a bit too much. This type of financial manipulation is right in line with our federal government’s unemployment numbers. Statistics are one thing, but transparency is another. Rick Santelli is correct in that video–SHAME ON THEM! If our elected officials wish to treat us like idiots, let them try to explain their actions when they are dead wrong. Again, all WC teaching staff receives a 4.6% or greater increase, year over year, until step 15 where it starts taking breaks. Perhaps that is why even when the district can claim it holds pending to inflation, it cannot afford to pay its staff. Inflation is much less than 4.6%, and that does not even include health care cost increases which have approached double digits in recent years.
That being said, there is a major reorganization happening for 2013 and beyond with administrative staff. There are many proposals regarding a new Director of HR, a technical services administrator, and a number of other changes at the top and middle of administration. One of those positions will belong to Laura Nazzarine, who is currently running Special Education. New responsibilities will come her way, but apparently no one had approached her about it. She was brought forward during the meeting to be asked of her willingness to assume these roles, which is a bit embarrassing for the district to not inform her ahead of time.
Also, the substitute services will be outsourced via a partnership with Hamilton county if the board approves the measure. The savings will be more on the staffing side, but they may be some monetary savings if the board reduces the daily pay of the substitute by a few dollars.
Another work session item unveiled was that there has been a large discrepancy in the number of staff between Amelia and Glen Este campuses. Apparently, the Superintendent has overloaded Glen Este with staff and administrators, while Amelia has been shorthanded. A number of these employees at Glen Este may be Rif’d come 2013 due to the deficit. Of course, the public has been told in meetings prior that the state has told them they needn’t make any changes to what they have been doing staff-wise. However, the question was asked by Tina Sanborn in regards to when was the last staff audit performed by the state. When Dr. Brooks could not answer, Ms. Sanborn referred the matter to Dr. Steele-Pierce. She responded that no audit had occurred since her employment in the central office. In this stunning rebuke, how can the district claim any credibility? Leadership openly misstates answers to simple questions, and obfuscates those responses that reflect poorly on their leadership.
The district is in a bind, that is clear to see. The way out isn’t playing the woe is me game. It’s about being honest and upfront with the public, otherwise there will continue to be a 60-40% failure to any levy on the horizon. Community members know this, and many are heading for the exits. Whether it is private school, home school, or enrolling children in other districts, the decision is getting easier to make. Many in the community thought it would only take a couple new members to shake up the board and free the community from the groupthink that permeates the education culture. Unlike Batavia, WC does not have a stellar football season to push public sentiment. Some other catalyst or event will have to occur to change the current path, as it doesn’t appear the leadership desires any other strategy.