Friday, January 29, 2010

Gentle Reminder

I continue to be surprised that anyone finds this blog, let alone READS it. But for those of you who do, and who wish to leave a comment, please feel free to do so.

Just remember that no comment will be published unless the writer has been mature enough to include his/her full name. No anonymous posts are allowed, and a first name alone is just as obtuse as no name at all.

Thanks for your understanding!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Early Observations

Just a few thoughts, as we begin a new calendar year . . .

It is obvious which of the new board members does their homework - and also who doesn't. This is an important job, and it does take work - no doubt about it.

Also, some comments have been made about the Recreation Program that bother me. Here's the thing: the changes that were made to the rec program were not done lightly, nor arbitrarily. Countless hours of research and meetings and study were done by at least 3 members of the former board (and probably more), along with more hours by the Treasurer and Superintendent. The decisions that were made were not made without a thorough look at both sides of the issue.

I understand that those not privy to all of the information we had at our disposal during the time of restructuring might not fully appreciate what was done or why. I am certain that either Cheryl or Paulette would be willing to more fully explain it to anyone who would ask.

It is true that Swanton's original Park & Rec program had morphed from its original core values into something unrecognizable, and that an entitlement mentality had overshadowed the purpose of the programs. But that doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands and say, "oh well - that's the way it's been done for years and so we can't change it, because that's just what people expect - if we try to change it, we won't get any cooperation".


Here's a simple analogy: when Mrs. Smith first enters the classroom of Mrs. Jones who has left to have a baby, and the kids say, "but we ALWAYS did it like THIS", what will Mrs. Smith say? If she's a teacher worth her salt, she will keep the things that are appropriate and jettison those that aren't, regardless of the desires of the students. Right?

At the risk of repeating myself, let me state it again. NO other recreation program in the state of Ohio pays their coaches or directors like we used to do, with a school district tax levy. None. Nowhere. Nada. The programs are self-sufficient, running off of gate receipts, concessions and fees. The person in charge of the entire rec program, the Head Honcho, if you will, is likely to have a salary - but that's the ONLY person who does. Each particular sports director (Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Cheerleading, etc) is a volunteer, and usually a parent of a participating child, as are the coaches. Parents are expected to help out in their child's chosen sport.

Why did that become such a foreign concept here?? I don't know. But now that we have finally turned things around and are beginning to see positive results - the last thing we should consider is a return to the former, inappropriate policies, no matter who liked it that way.

I realize that being a director or a coach takes time and work. I did it for my own kids, when they were involved in rec program sports. That is what a parent DOES for their kids! It is a sacrifice of time and money, but that's part of what parenting is all about.

And I'm just enough of a hard-nose to say that, if we don't have any parents willing to step up to the plate without being paid, then that particular sport can be eliminated from our program until we get some parents who will gladly volunteer their time.

January 2010

Well! It's a new calendar year, and our three newly elected board members participated in their first regular school board meeting. I wonder what they thought?!

During the public comment portion of the meeting, school secretary Betse Schmitz thanked the Methodist Church for having donated so many coats to the elementary schools, along with matching hats and gloves for the children. It is amazing to me that parents let their kids leave home without a proper coat! It's one thing if you honestly can't afford one, but what about those whose children do have coats but don't wear them? I don't get it.

We then had an executive session with our attorney, to discuss employee employment and negotiations. We returned from that around 8:55 p.m.

The reports of the Treasurer were all discussed and passed, including the 2011 budget (per O.R.C. 5705.30) and the 2010/2011 tax budget (per O.R.C. 5705.28). These all need to be submitted by January 15th.

During the Superintendent's part of the meeting, we reappointed Kevin Young to a 7 year term on the Swanton Public Library Board, and allowed a continuance of our membership in the OSBA Legal Assistance Fund. Superintendent Paulette Baz then gave a quick update on the "Race to the Top" grant, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

The Board was asked to consider naming the Middle School Gym in honor of Bob Fisher, a former head boys basketball coach as well as former track and football coach. We had been given a list of Mr. Fisher's accomplishments at Swanton, which were impressive. A short discussion about the process of determining who was worthy of consideration for this honor was held, and then we voted unanimously to accept this recommendation. A dedication ceremony will be scheduled.

The Board accepted two personnel retirements, to be effective at the end of this school year. George and Judi Teague will both be retiring.

We decided to keep our regular meeting dates as the third Tuesday of each month, but conflicts were discovered in March and April. We therefore moved our meetings back one week in those months, so that our March meeting will be on the 23rd and the April meeting on the 27th. All regular board meetings will begin at 7 o'clock.

During the time allotted for board members to speak, Mona spoke first and then Mr. Ueberroth. We then adjourned - and it wasn't quite ten o'clock yet! woo-hoo!!

2010 Organizational Meeting

The annual organizational meeting of the Swanton school board was held January 12th. All public entities are required by state law to hold an organizational meeting prior to January 15th, so that is why this meeting was 'off' of our normal schedule.

There are several housekeeping items that are a matter of routine at these things, such as authorizing the Treasurer and Superintendent to accept all donations to the school district on our behalf; secure bonds (O.R.C. 3313.25); authorize the Superintendent to employ temporary personnel as needed in emergency situations (O.R.C. 3319.10); etc. etc. It is the same list of items every year.

Another point of business regards Superintendent Committee appointments. For this year, I volunteered to be on the Audit Committee, the Insurance Committee, and will also be a liaison to other area public entities (such as the townships). The Negotiations Committee will include Mr. Ueberroth and Michelle Tyson, both new school board members. (I wanted to be on this one as well, but only two board members may do so at a time so as not to violate Sunshine Laws of the state, and those two spoke up before I could. . . . maybe I can be an alternate for one of them, should that become necessary.) The Recreation Committee will include Kris Oberheim and Michelle Tyson (new members), and Mona will continue in her capacity as OSBA liaison, with Mr. Ueberroth as her alternate. Mr. Ueberroth will be a liaison to the Village, and other board members will fill that capacity in the various district groups to which they belong.

We appointed our legal counsel for calendar year 2010 with Cooper-Walinski, Ennis, Roberts and Fisher, and Squire, Sanders and Dempsey LLC. We will primarily use the services of Cooper-Walinski. This is a quality firm located right here in Toledo, and our attorney there - Margaret Lockhart - is well qualified in school law (which is a different animal than other areas of law!). I am very glad to have her on our team. If you are interested in her credentials, please go to the Cooper-Walinski website for more information (

But the best thing that we accomplished at the organizational meeting was to incorporate a moment of silence into our regular meetings, right after the pledge of allegiance. I am so thankful to have this! It can only bring good to our meetings.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

District Website

If you get a minute, check out the new look of the official school district website. You can find it here:

Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Year - but with Old Problems

On January 5th, the school board met at Park School. We held elections, and Mona Dyke was elected as board president. I was elected to be vice president.

A presentation on Park School was given by its principal, Jane Myers, and we then trooped over to Crestwood for a presentation by principal Angie Lutz. Time was allotted for questions, etc. and both sessions were very informative.

From there, we headed over to the Middle School where principal Ben Ohlemacher held a presentation in the old library. We learned a lot!

Next we went to the high school, and Steve Gfell met with us, first in the Media Center and then finished his presentation in the science lab. Again, we were given a lot of good information on the plans in place for our students.

All of that was good stuff, and the three new board members were active participants.

While still at Park School, Paulette shared with us news about a federal grant called the "Race to the Top", or "RttT". States need to apply to be considered for this grant, and each school district within each state interested in participating needed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") by four o'clock on Friday the 8th.

There is a formula already outlined, which shows that if Ohio were to be awarded grant money under RttT, the Swanton School District could potentially receive $68,000 over a four year period. Wow!

Of course, there are parameters to be met, as with any grant - but the first step was to get our MOU signed and submitted by the deadline. The school board unanimously passed a motion to instruct Paulette sign this MOU on behalf of our district.

Every school district in the state had the opportunity to participate and therefore receive a portion of the “Race to the Top” grant for the 2010-2011 school year if it is awarded to Ohio. Districts that do not sign the MOU will not be eligible to receive any of the grant money, should Ohio be selected.

Each local teachers’ union must also sign the MOU before it is submitted, and unfortunately the Swanton Education Association (SEA) would not agree to sign without additional demands in a separate MOU between the SEA and the Swanton School Board. Paulette agreed to sign the SEA’s proposed MOU with a minor change in wording, but SEA President Judy Teague, refused on the advice of their Ohio Education Association’s representative. Mrs. Baz then asked to meet with SEA officers to discuss it and was informed there was nothing to talk about.

The Swanton School Board and administration had looked forward to establishing a committee consisting of equal numbers of teachers and administrators to work on the proposal if this grant was awarded, in a continuing effort to become an “Excellent” school district. Some teachers’ unions from neighboring school districts (such as Evergreen) did not require an additional MOU and willingly signed the ODE Memorandum of Understanding as written. Other local districts agreed to a compromise on the additional MOU language and signed together. Those districts will thus be able to receive funds from this Federal grant if it is awarded to Ohio, while Swanton will not.

It is especially disheartening when you realize that many of the components of the “Race to the Top” grant are already being done with full SEA participation at our High School and Middle School as part of the “High Schools that Work” program. It would have been extremely helpful to have had that extra $17,000 in each of four years of the “Race to the Top” grant timeframe.

December 2009

I had my parents up from Florida over the holidays, and I got behind on several things as a result. To keep you up to date, below is a summary of our December school board meeting that was prepared by Paulette Baz, Superintendent.

In an effort to inform the staff of board of education meetings, I am sending you this update from the December BOE meeting that took place Tuesday, December 17th at 7 PM at the board office.

During the public participation portion of the meeting, a community member spoke about Earth Day and the Citizens Action Network and another community member thanked the 3 board members who will complete their service on 12/31.

The board approved the minutes from the November 17 and 24, 2009 meetings, the financial reports and investments, transfers/advances, and the revised Budget and Objectives from the HS NHS. The BOE approved the appropriation resolution and amended certificate and the 5/3 depository agreement.

During the reports/recommendations of the Superintendent, the board approved the personnel recommendations of the superintendent.

Under new business, the board set the date for the organizational meeting and appointed Mona Dyke President Pro-tem for the organizational meeting. The board also approved the OSBA annual membership dues, and subscriptions. The board also set the pay for the new board members (1/2 of the state rate which is currently $125).

During the comments/statements from the board members section, Mona and Cindy thanked Dennis, Jeff and Mike for their service. Mona and Jeff also had additional comments.

Executive session was held for Employee Employment and Negotiations. No action was taken after executive session.

On 1/5/2010, a special board meeting will be held for the organizational meeting followed by a special meeting---tour/presentation at each building. The January regular board meeting will be on 1/12/10.