A follower of this site (4Free) was kind enough to reply to a number of my posts and request that I give some type of manifesto in what I think should happen in the district. Perhaps because I do focus on lot on the negative on this particular district. Anyone who followed my campaign should note that I ran on some rather simple ideas, such as:
- Work with the public transparently
- Have a vision for where the district is going
- Don’t spend what you don’t have or can’t count on
- Having people on a board or committee with all the same views is neither a board or committee (It’s a districtatorship) and will not provide the best outcomes for the public.
The rest is open to what I will call the process, because in running an organization like a school board, the collection of people should debate the merits and vote according to what their head and their constituents tell them. I have witnessed a lot of the opposite in this district to date and will give you examples. The latest being the hiring of two new coaches in the district. I’m sure they are great people, and wish them the best in whatever they do. But they were announced as the coaches before ever getting brought before the school board. Cart, meet horse. How much egg would be applied to the collective face of the district if for some reason the board chooses otherwise? Not saying they will or should, but only they may approve the hiring of said individuals per the recommendation by the superintendent. It makes the board look weak or an afterthought, rather than the representation of the public.
In a similar display in the district a few years ago, a school PTO raised a boatload of money and had to vote on how to spend for the benefit of the school. A measure was brought before the parents in the form of a technology purchase in the $10,000 range. However, it was already explained that the technology was already purchased and our vote was moot even if the measure was voted down. Now the district was not involved, but it’s the mentality that is pervasive throughout. Give us your money and children, and you get what we give you in return, don’t question the Great and Powerful Oz or look behind the curtain!
I am serious about education, but I also understand my limitations in my knowledge of the district. I lean on many parents, life long residents, current and former teachers, staff and administrators to understand the history, successes and failures. I will be wrong from time to time, but without your feedback, there is no change here or in the district. I may push the envelope from time to time, but these issues need to be out in the public and discussed! Not just me spoon-feeding, but some give and take to arrive to a realistic conclusion.
To answer some of the questions posed directly, I’ll provide the following:
What should a teacher make? It takes good people to make any organization work, regardless of pay, education level or ethnicity, etc. Teachers can have their salaries at the current level, but the district cannot afford to pay it. The union and district chose those levels, supported by the board, and they are responsible for staffing the district and we’re watching the staff levels plummet accordingly. Other districts pay $10K more and others 10K less regardless of achievement level, so read into it what you will. I love reading the articles that come from the following site, but perhaps this will explain what I’m talking about through the eyes of another district.
Everyone thinks they are worth more money, but given the numbers by Mr. Wilson, he’s correct the average in WC is around $40-50 an hour, 7.5 hours a day, 183 days a year. Perhaps someone can tell me how the pay translates to performance though, because it’s not in the contract, nor are summer work hours. Whatever I think of the amount is meaningless, because it’s up to the parties involved to fit it into the budget, instead of making the budget fit the salaries. The article I linked above does a great job of explaining that, and how the cost grows so quickly when there are multiple components of salary: Years worked, Education levels, and Raises. When an employee gets multiple increases a year, it makes it difficult to manage the budget without layoffs, tax increases or both.
The benefits are extremely generous by any standard. Mr. Wilson says the average is $350 a month for the US. West Clermont is at most a fraction of that for the most expensive plans. I don’t think moving a greater portion of that (85/15 split) to the worker is asking much considering what the general public pays in comparison. Add the same to Dental as well. Again, budget, and it’s still far less than the average in the US.
The levy amount is moot until there is a distinct vision for the district. A working group from the general public, private business, the admin, staff and board should be working on this year round. Not some myopic levy committee. It doesn’t make sense, but then again, it’s up to the people to demand it and take part. As I stated last year, I think that revenue will be needed, but it should come from all sides. Whether it’s wage cuts/freezes, school consolidation, more technology/less staff, more aides/fewer teachers, shared services, a levy for a specified purpose (i.e. busing, specials, capital improvement) or what’s currently proposed . People want to see vision, and unless that vision has public support, I don’t see any amount passing.
How do you attract quality staff and community support? Don’t alienate them. Don’t play the victim. Don’t play games with the families and staff members. Be consistent in your hiring practices and also post openings outside the district walls. Open the work meetings to the public and promote innovation and reinvest savings with those that do the most to conserve. Invite staff and the public to attend board and PTO meetings and involve them besides just to receive some award or grant. Let teachers teach versus the top down heavy hand of the administration. If they fail, support them and mentor them, and if that doesn’t work, show them the door as it’s not fair to the other employees. Bring in outside work experience to connect life outside of the classroom and real world knowledge to what kids are learning. The job market is tight, so work environment/stability is just as important as wages.
What should the community do? The community’s responsibility is to act like responsible citizens, although that’s harder than it sounds. Parents should and must act like parents. Discipline your kids and admit to yourself that yes, your kid isn’t perfect and should be responsible for their actions on school grounds, as well as at home. Not every kid should get a trophy. We need to learn from failure in order to work on the weaknesses. Attend SB meetings and PTO meetings. Talk to the teachers, know the curriculum, be involved in some way as it’s your child’s education. People without kids, business owners and other community members should also stay involved. Either as a check on the district’s power, a booster for the district programs, voting in elections or by volunteering their time however they see fit, whether for the district or any other community organization.
Should the millage be repealed and then put up for a vote? The inside millage should not be repealed, but kept as an albatross around the district’s neck as a reminder. There were district needs for that money, because none (or not enough) was budgeted for those capital improvements. In my opinion, it should have been included in the prior levy, but perhaps conventional wisdom at the time thought passage may not have occurred. They got what they wanted, but the price paid has since cost the district much more than a few million bucks. The wound is still open , and will ultimately cause much more drastic measures in the future. I was one of those who stood against it for the simple reason that the district never said “Please.” However, all the items they requested did not get funded (less money came in the door as well), so I am concerned that it has not been as focused as presented.
Perhaps there would be no SCS had the board had a different response than that I hate children for thinking that way, and reached out to listen rather than lash out at those with criticism. It is a public relations issue that can be solved by a simple mea culpa, the community taking an active role, and both groups moving on with the premise that working together means accepting success and failure together. Saying the money was needed and taking it is not playing Robin Hood for our kids, it’s plain robbing.
Who should be the superintendent? I can’t answer that. What are my choices? I think the current super can be an engaging person to talk to. Many of my friends and neighbors know him and speak well of him personally. At times, he makes perfect sense and other times I am completely befuddled by him. I’m interested to see how he works with the new board, especially after the retire-rehire nonsense blew up in their face (In poker, they call that a tell). It’s not an easy job, especially given the size of the district. However, given our current situation, playing it straight is the only way to go because I’m not hearing much in the way of support these days.
What tools can he be given by the board? I don’t think he wants anything from them other than 5 votes on every motion, which is typically what has happened in the past. I think he’ll get more opposition going forward, especially when the real cutting begins later this year. Since the position is highly political, I would assume the whole lotta this in the coming months. I do think the board will take a more proactive role and I fully support that. In fact, I would almost turn the question around.
To be honest with you, I didn’t start this to pick a fight with anyone or to poke fun at public figures. I felt that not only was my intelligence being insulted, but that government in this area has a funny way of doing business at the expense of the common citizen. My background in international business and technology taught me how little I really understood about the world and interpersonal relationships. I traveled the country and the globe working with companies to find solutions for businesses, and expand the company’s reach across many diverse markets. The only way to learn was to ask, do, and repeat. A two-year old learns by asking why a thousand times over, until it really sinks in, WHY? All I’m asking for all of you is, why? Tell me why these things are happening, what am I missing, is anyone focused on improving what we have? More money helps, but how do we prevent setting it on fire for a few minutes warmth, when buying a heater and paying the electric bill can heat us all winter.
I am a self-described newbie in this district and rely on so many people inside and outside this area to fill in the blanks to how to improve on what we have. I don’t worry about my kids, because I am their teacher 365 days a year. How do we multiply that by 8500 kids, and a whole lot of parents, grandparents and neighbors?
We can consolidate schools, sell property, change contracts, hire people, fire people, spend money, raise money, whatever. It’s meaningless, unless the vast majority of us are on the same page and working towards common purpose. That doesn’t happen until enough people are willing to say, why? Then what about this? How does this work? Why does district A do this, but B do that, or why does B do the same thing for vastly less money? Why does District A show contempt for individuals for showing up to meetings (yes, this has occurred in our County many times), but District B want input and constant contact? Why are interest groups put ahead of kids and education, and districts fighting other districts for the same resources?
That’s all I’m asking for. The district will be asking for it too shortly, and I’m curious to see how it turns out. If it focuses on the levy only, it will fail. If the focus is on the community and collaboration then we’ll have a shot at turning it around. Keep asking questions and providing feedback. Otherwise, we’re just wasting our time.