Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Public Information

There are all kinds of information that - once written - become a matter of "public record" and, thus, available to anyone and everyone who asks for a copy.   Sometimes a public record deserves to be shared even when individuals haven't actually asked for it yet, just so that the information is shared with as many as possible.  The following text was prepared by interim Superintendent Russ Griggs and emailed to SEA (teachers' union) spokesman Steve Brehmer.  It contains a lot of information in a concise manner that you may find interesting.  Take a look - see what you think.  (emphasis added)

"Swanton teachers deserve a fair contract"
Such a statement immediately implies that Swanton Teachers have been treated unfairly. Let us take a look at the circumstances surrounding recent and current conditions related to Swanton Teachers.

Swanton Teachers currently are and will continue to have the second highest starting pay for teachers in Fulton County.

Top teacher pay for Swanton Teachers in Fulton County is and will remain the third highest.

In recent contracts, past three years, Swanton Teachers received the highest base pay increases in Fulton County. They are among the highest raises in the state of Ohio. In 2008-09 base pay increased 3.7%, in 2009-10 base pay increased 4%, in 2010-2011 base pay increased 3 %.

No Swanton Teacher will receive a decrease in gross pay. As a result of what the board implemented:

Twelve (12) teachers will receive a 37% increase in gross salary from 2009-2012

Twenty nine (29) teachers will receive a 14-36% increase in gross pay from 2009-2012

Twenty six (26) teachers will receive a 7-10% increase in pay from 2009-2012

The average pay increase for teachers over three years is 18%

With the base freeze for 2011-2012 the average increase for Swanton Teachers is 3%

Forty seven (47) Swanton Teachers will receive 3-5% increases for this year 2011-2012

Twenty Eight (28) Swanton Teachers will not receive a raise out of 88 teachers for this year (2011-2012)

Swanton Teachers currently pay the lowest share of health insurance premiums for the best health insurance plan in Fulton County. The board has implemented a 10 % share of premium from the teachers beginning in February 2012

The single plan has a deductible of $100.00, the family plan has a $300.00 deductible.

Out of pocket health plan expenses for Swanton Teachers are the lowest in the county.

In a recent story on TV, the spokesperson for the Swanton Teacher Association reported that the Board of Education was unwilling to talk to the teachers.

In the five months I have been interim superintendent, four negotiating sessions took place, three with federal mediators. During those five months the SEA has refused to give a counter proposal to the board, refused to accept the board proposals and refused to take the board offer to the teachers. The SEA uses the same negotiator who has also failed to settle contracts in Delta and Springfield Local Schools. All the other local districts in Fulton and Lucas County have settled their contracts. The Swanton board has not required teachers to do anything that all the other teachers in the county, except Delta, have already agreed to in recent contracts.

Everyone deserves a fair contract. The SEA demands for base increase would make Swanton teachers the highest beginning paid teachers in the county. The same OEA representative will represent Wauseon in negotiations later this year. His goal then will be to make Wauseon teachers number one once again with a fair contract there.

I also learned from a TV news report that the SEA voted to authorize a strike. The SEA decided to release this information to the media, not the school board, and blast the board for not talking to the teachers at the same opportunity. Regardless of the outcome of the threat of strike, the Swanton taxpayers will need to renew the Emergency levy in 2012, at a higher millage rate due to declining tax values, pass a sizable increase in taxes either property or income, and possibly face a bond issue for a new building. In addition, cuts in expenditures and programs will need to take place. All of these things may be necessary in the next three to five years.

The threat of a strike has a negative impact on a school district. An actual strike tears the community apart as witnessed by the long term damage done in district where strikes have occurred.


This document is not empty rhetoric - it clearly lays out the facts.  I'm not sure why the SEA believes that these facts will miraculously change once the new board takes office in January, but their spokesman Mr. Brehmer has stated to the media that they are waiting for that to happen. 

Here's what I think:  The children of Swanton Local School District deserve an excellent education and the Taxpayers of the same district deserve to have their tax dollars spent wisely to accomplish that educational goal.  Going bankrupt by refusing to contain costs/expenditures never improves a family's home budget - why would it be any different for a school district??  Answer:  It is no different at all. 

At least now you know the "rest of the story" and not only what has been stated by the SEA negotiating team to the media.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December News

Our December meeting included board recognition of several students and student groups and their great achievements - but I'm sure all of that has now been overshadowed by the very last thing we addressed on our agenda that night, which was for the board to implement our last best offer of a contract to our teachers.

Our two negotiating teams have held various meetings to discuss the contract since April 2011.  A federal mediator was eventually agreed to by both sides, and yet an agreement was not reached.  I read on Facebook today the following posting by the Swanton Enterprise:

The Swanton teachers’ union approved authorization yesterday to send the board of education a 10-day strike notice after 10 months of negotiations proved unsuccessful.The Swanton Education Association voted unanimously at a general membership meeting to allow its bargaining team to set a strike date should the BOE continue to decline further contract talks. More in Tuesday's Enterprise

Interesting that we learn of these things on Facebook!  Such is modern life these days.

A press release was prepared by our interim superintendent, Russ Griggs, as follows:

The Board of Education of Swanton Local Schools and the Swanton Education Association have been negotiating since April 2011 for a successor collective bargaining agreement. The Board’s contract with the SEA expired August 31, 2011. The parties were unable to reach agreement even with the assistance of a federal mediator. Because the parties were at impasse, the Board voted on December 13, 2011 to implement its last best offer to the SEA.

The Board understands that the SEA took a vote on December 15, 2011 to authorize a strike. The Board has not received official notice of the vote and has not received any ten day strike notice from the SEA.

The Swanton Board of Education is committed to maintaining quality education in the district, and providing fair wages and benefits to the district’s teachers and other employees. Like many other area school districts, however, the district’s expenditures exceed and are projected to continue to exceed its revenues and it must act within the limits of fiscal responsibility.

Questions may be directed to the district’s Interim Superintendent, Russ Griggs, who will be available Monday, December 19, 2011 in the Board of Education office.

Anyone interested in knowing the terms of the contract implemented and the financial pieces related to it are welcome to ask Mr. Griggs for a copy of a notice he sent to all teachers on Wednesday afternoon.  As it is public record, anyone may ask for a copy.
I can only express my great disappointment in this latest action by the union. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November News

Our regular meeting for November followed the standard format of opening, financial reports and minutes being approved, etc.  A slightly unusual donation was made by my cousin, Norm Bratton (Jr.) - when his mom passed away recently, he discovered a small bank balance for the Class of 1942 in a savings account that she had managed as treasurer.  This amount ($28.36) he had issued to the district on a bank check.  Board member Mona Dyke suggested that it go toward the Swanton Foundation as other similar donations had done before, and the rest of us agreed.

One of the important decisions made that evening was to hire Joyce Kinsman as our new CFO/Treasurer.  Mrs. Kinsman has been the treasurer for the Pike-Delta-York district for the past 9 years and brings a lot of applicable experience to the position in Swanton.  She may not be as tall as our former treasurer, but she has every bit of the spunk - and expertise.  We are glad to have her aboard!  She will officially begin her duties here in mid-December.

The next "big" thing on our agenda was a PowerPoint presentation by two seniors who participate in the recently formed "Interact" group at the high school.  First, let me give some information on this organization.  "Interact" is Rotary International's service club for young people (age 12 -18).  Interact clubs are sponsored by local Rotary clubs, which provide support and guidance, but the clubs are self-governing and self-supporting.  Each year, Interact clubs complete as least 2 community service projects, one of which fosters international understanding and goodwill.  Our new Swanton Rotary Interact club meets once a week in the high school media center.  Rotarians help facilitate their weekly meetings.  Our group has been broken into 3 committees:  Community Service, School Spirit, and Community Relations.

Right now, our high school Interact club has three short term projects they are working on: 
  • Selling granite tiles to SHS seniors and SHS alumni.  Tiles are laser engraved, and will be on permanent display in the high school.
  • Students plan to clean up the creek bank on the East side of the football stadium, and also plan to work with the Village to stem erosion there.
  • A fundraiser to obtain an English bulldog as a school mascot.
It was this last project that the PowerPoint presentation addressed at our board meeting.  The boys did a nice job pleading their case, and we really admire and appreciate their willingness to bring this presentation to the Board.  Of course, we are talking about a living creature here, and so there are other concerns that should be addressed.  Board member Kris Oberheim owns 2 of this type of dog, and can speak from experience on their care, temperament, etc.  She had several pertinent comments and questions for the guys and suggested that they do some more research as the Board would do as well, before a decision is made. 

I'm not sure why the club didn't consider finding a current owner among our residents (Ted Haselman also owns one - who else out there does??) and possibly work with that owner to have that pet be a mascot at the games, etc.  But perhaps they DID consider that and decided they preferred to try this route instead.  I don't know.  Having been a dog owner my entire life, I had a lot of questions on their proposal - but Mrs. Oberheim's comments were sufficient that night.

We next approved a 3 year agreement to have Rose Photography continue as our official district photographer. 

Another important action taken that night was to agree to place a renewal of the Emergency Levy on the ballot this coming Spring.  It would NOT be a "new" tax levy - it is a renewal of an existing levy.  This levy collects around $825,000 annually, and given the state of our 5 yr. forecast it is clear to see that its renewal is important for our district.

Our December meeting was set for Tuesday the 13th, and we approved a revision of board policy 9270.

A quick discussion was held on the Swanton Rec program.  There is some interest in doing a new joint venture with the Village on this program, which would include using the school district as a taxing agent to obtain money for Swanton Rec in a fashion similar to that of the Swanton Public Library.  The former board's goal was for Swanton Rec to become its own entity . . . but that plan has apparently derailed.  If the school district is used as its taxing agent, I'm not sure how the taxes collected will be spent:  programs?  handed over to the Village for park maintenance?  It might be a bit too early for these kinds of questions, but they will eventually need to be addressed.

Michelle Tyson had attended the OSBA conference in Columbus recently, and said a few words about that.  I don't know what seminars or sessions she attended during her stay.

We had one executive session that night, to discuss employee employment and negotiations.  A new meeting date was scheduled with the SEA bargaining team for Dec. 8th.  Depending on its outcome, we will take action at our Dec. 13th board meeting.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Second Round

Our first set of interviews for the open Treasurer's position in the district went really well, and our second round was held this past week.  As a side note, only two of the five candidates had the presence of mind to send a "thank you" note after the first interview . . . it was noticed by all of us, and a good reminder to everyone out there looking for a job:  Send A "Thank You" Note after the interview!!

Newly elected board member Shannon Crow was able to attend the second round of interviews, which was admirable.  Mr. McClure was still on vacation, and unable to come.  Michelle Tyson did not participate. 

Each of our 3 finalists had plusses and minuses for us to consider.  We should be able to have a strong candidate in the treasurer's slot before January 1st. 

Our next regular board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, November 22nd. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Treasurer Interviews

The Board has conducted the first round of interviews for our district treasurer's position.  Our hope is to have a top candidate in place by the first of next year, 2012. 

Last week we spoke with five individuals on two separate evenings.  Also invited to sit in were newly elected board members, Shannon Crow and Mike McClure.  Ms. Crow came, but Mr. McClure was out of town.  Michelle Tyson also did not attend - I do not know the reason.

Second interviews will now be scheduled.  We have several good candidates, and we are confident that a top-notch person will soon be added to our district family in Swanton.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election Results

Okay!  Unless you happen to live under a rock, you know by now that our two newly elected school board members are Mike McClure and Shannon Crow.  They will be invited to participate in the interview process for the open treasurer position in our district.  Once that position is filled, the next major hiring decision of the board will be to seek a new superintendent after the first of the year.

In addition, Issue 2 has been decided - so now the teachers' union (SEA) and their OEA leader will cease their delaying tactics and let our district get back to business of contract negotiations. 

On a sad note, the Swanton library tax did not pass in Lucas County . . . probably because it is a new tax, although I have seen other jurisdictions where renewals did not pass, either.  With our economy in such a sorry state, I wonder how the school district emergency levy renewal will do this coming Spring . . . 

Fortunately, the total vote on the library was "YES"!  So that's the good news!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hoopla, Indeed

So - were your children among those whose bags of goodies included candy with a sticker on the back that mentioned the teachers' contract??

If not, you don't know what I'm talking about . . .

During the Swanton "Halloween Hoopla" uptown this past Saturday, some people were dropping candy into kids' bags that had a sticker.  I don't have one in front of me right now, so I can't quote it verbatim - but it was something like:  "Did you know our teachers have been working without a contract since September 1?"  

In our children's candy bags. 

I am not making this up.

Here's the kicker:  the statement on the sticker is TRUE.  That's right - the statement is true . . . as far as it goes, anyway.

The fact is that our local teachers' union (SEA) leadership is working very closely with their state union (OEA) rep who is holding off on settling several of his clients' contracts while he waits for November 8th.  He is waiting to see if Issue 2 will pass or fail.

There were contract offers made by the district through our representatives before school began and after (right up until late October), but they were all rejected.  Nope - it was more important to the OEA rep to wait to see what happens with Issue 2, and unfortunately our SEA leaders have chosen to follow his lead.

If Your child received one of these candy bars (Kit Kat, I think . . . ) with a sticker, please share your opinion of that with a teacher or two.  They are only human, and you can't expect them to be mind-readers.  Let them know what you thought of their actions, instead of only sharing it with school board members.  Your message will carry much more weight coming directly from You.

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 2011

I really need to get more clever in my post titles . . . *sigh*

The Swanton Board of Education had 2 meetings in October.  The first was a special meeting held on the 11th to discuss negotiations.  Our interim superintendent hadn't been warned  informed about how things happen in our district, and had no idea that anyone at all - let alone a sizable group of teachers - would bother to attend a special meeting that would consist only of an executive session.  Thus he had set out only enough chairs for those participating in the meeting itself, and as the teachers began streaming into the building, chairs had to be quickly brought out.  He apologized to those in the audience.  We retired to the back room, held our executive session, came out about an hour later and adjourned.  Not a whole lot of excitement there.  (Ms. Tyson did not attend)

Our regular board meeting was held on October 18th, and all board members were present.  After our standard opening procedures, a special commendation was presented to retiring Park School secretary, Carol Arvin, in recognition of her many years of service.  Walking into Park School just won't be the same without her smiling face to greet you!  Mrs. Arvin will be greatly missed, and we wish her well on her retirement.

During our Hearing of the Public, a parent addressed the Board about our policy on cell phone discipline, specifically the confiscation portion. 

In attendance that evening was our acting treasurer, Arlene Wilson, who then presented the treasurer's reports.  Under "old business", minutes of our two prior meetings were approved as presented, as were the budgets for the class of 2015, Middle School student council, and Crestwood.  Financial reports were also approved as presented, but I have to say that some of those reports routinely give me more questions than answers - such as, why are we buying so much pizza (among other things) ? 

Under "new business" for the treasurer, we approved two payments in lieu for students' transportation to private schools.  That is required by law . . . when I think of all the gas money I shelled out for hauling my 3 kids to private school, and then did the same for my grandson, it makes my eyes water.  C'est la vie

We then were presented the contract for our audit.  We discussed the merits of the cash accounting approach vs. GAAP before approving the contract as presented.

Our 5 year forecast was next on the agenda.  This is required to be filed with the state twice each year, with the Oct. 31st deadline rapidly approaching.  You can see it here.  Also important with the raw numbers is to read over the explanatory notes - you can see them here.   You might notice that even with Personnel Services holding steady (meaning: no increase in salaries) in fiscal years 2013-2016, our carryover keeps disappearing.  In 2012 we show a $1.3 million deficit spending.  In 2013 that jumps to $2 million - and in 2014 it's up to $2.8 million in deficit spending.  The carryover monies by 2014 are down from $6.2 million in 2012 to $1.3 million - with no salary increases

Now, a forecast is just that: a forecast.  It is our best guess, given what we know today.  If more people get back to work, our income tax revenue will go up.  If the economy picks up overall, our property tax revenue will also increase.  Will either of those two things happen to a significant degree to offset these negative numbers in our forecast?  I'm not a betting man, but if I were - I would not bet on it.

Under the superintendent's section of our meeting, we approved personnel as presented.  We decided to change our November meeting date to accomodate the state conference, so our next meeting will be Nov. 22nd.  We also approved our standard contract with the NWO ESC for those students who are assigned there for instructional services.

With the recent change in ballot timing, we have to place our request for renewal of the Emergency Levy on the March 2012 ballot.  We took the first step toward its placement on the ballot at our October meeting and will finalize the process in November.

Building reports had been submitted by each principal, and while I recognize that these reports are part of their job - I still really appreciate the time each one puts into telling us as a Board what things are happening in their respective buildings.  Instead of a cursory overview, we are given really good information - thanks to Mrs. Lutz, Mrs. Baz, Mr. Haselman and Mr. Gfell!

A discussion on the Swanton Rec program informed us that they are still working toward becoming an independent entity - which was our goal several years ago.  The money collected through a school district-based levy is dwindling, and the Rec Board is working to make sure the program will be self-sustainable.  I asked Kris Oberheim if she knew how many of our participating kids paid reduced fees or no fees at all, and learned that it is only 2 or 3 kids.  Soccer rules and coach code of conduct documents were presented to us for our approval, which we gave.

Under #8 - Comments from Board Members - Michelle Tyson had a small plaque indicating her (self-)nomination as "Outstanding Board Member" which she had received at a regional OSBA dinner recently.  She gave it to Chris Wood for display in the Board Office.

Kris Oberheim and Mona Dyke spoke about the "mix it up" lunch at the middle school, which went really well, with great participation from the students.

We had an executive session at the end, to discuss negotiations and employee employment.  We then came out and adjourned.

Soon we will be holding interviews for the open Treasurer's position in our district.  Our plan is to include the newly elected board members in the process after Nov. 8th.

Which reminds me:  please take your vote seriously!  Do not vote for someone or something because of relationships with friends - vote based on what is best for our district and our state. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September 2011

A special meeting of the school board was held at the end of August to discuss our treasurer search with Lucas Co. ESC assistance.  We talked about preparing a brochure of the position for potential candidates, timelines, etc.  Obviously this is an awkward time to search for a school district treasurer, but we need to get moving.  No time like the present!

Our September meeting began (after the usual preliminaries) with discussion and recognition of the district's new Excellent rating by the State of Ohio.  Interim Superintendent Russ Griggs mentioned that he was in contact with the State Board of Education to find a person able to present the Excellent banner to our students in an upcoming assembly program. 

Brooke Butler sat in for interim treasurer Arlene Wilson, and took our minutes that evening.  Minutes of previous meetings were approved as presented.  Financial reports and investments of the treasurer's office were presented and approved as well.  Various budgets were presented to the BOE, such as the High School building account, the Class of 2013 budget, student council budget, etc.  and these were all approved as presented.

Two additions to the "transportation in lieu" list were presented and approved.  (This is for families who send their children to a private school where our district does not offer transportation.  When this happens, the family may apply to the school district and request those transportation dollars be given to them, in accordance with state law. )

Several donations were gratefully accepted and applied to the costs of the high school Bulldog Blast event:
  • Swanton Rotary Club  $100
  • Kroger  $40 in gift cards
  • Swanton Athletic Boosters  $250
  • SACC  $250
  • Dental Health Associates  $250
  • Oak Valley Realtors  $250
  • SPORTS  Group  $250
A big "Thank You!" to these organizations!

For the Superintendent's section of our meeting, we first approved personnel changes as presented.  These included accepting the retirement of long-time school secretary, Carol Arvin, from Park Elementary.  The place won't seem the same without her!  A new Middle School secretary was hired - Shelly Fox.  Among other items, several student teachers from BGSU were assigned to the teaching staff at our buildings.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the board and the teachers' union (SEA) was approved as well, which will allow better utilization of teacher resources and matches with students' needs.

Our fire alarm system maintenance agreement was renewed at the same cost as last year. 

The Board approved a resolution with Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) to re-submit our letter of intent.  This cost us no money to apply - it only holds our place in line.  For a while, money from the large tobacco settlement was used to fund this program in Ohio.  That money has all been spoken for, and thus the number of schools approved for funding this year and going forward will be significantly less than before.

Building reports from each of our principals had been received and reviewed by board members prior to our meeting.  I have to say, our administrators do a great job of keeping us informed of what is happening in their respective buildings each month.  At Crestwood and Park, a bus safety program was held for the students, and we also learned of the great start for the Dawg Pound this year.  The security cameras were installed at those buildings in the hallways and outside playground area (no cameras in the classrooms/restrooms). 

The Middle School held its first ever Open House this year, prior to school beginning.  It was a great success with students and parents.  A new secretary was hired (mentioned above) and 6th grade camp was scheduled.  Plans were in the works for their after-school program, which will include an hour of academic work, a snack, and a club activity which will be different each night.  Last year the program was very well attended, and we hope to continue that success.

The High School had a great attendance at their Bulldog Blast - over 300 people!  A parent/student meeting on the new Drug Testing policy for extra-curriculars was held on Aug. 24th.  The policy is included in the handbook for this year, but feel free to contact any board member if you have questions.

After every home football game, the high school and SACC will host a "Fifth Quarter" event for our students.   These events are staffed by SHS and SACC staff members and provide a healthy and safe environment for students on a Friday night. Food is also provided. The money that is used to defray the cost comes from local businesses that donate money (PNC, Target), pay for advertising (Allstate), or pay commission (Coca-Cola, Rose Photography).  The last event had around 200 students, which is great!  

Aaron Hall from the Swanton Recreation was in attendance to give us an update on the programs and answer questions.

We were finished with all public board business early that evening, and then had one executive session on personnel matters and negotiations with the SEA before we adjourned.



Monday, August 29, 2011

August News

The BIG news in August is, of course, that our district was declared "Excellent" by the state of Ohio for the 2010-11 school year.  This was awesome news!  Thanks and kudos to the students and staff who made this possible!  In several areas, we just squeaked by - and in several other areas, we just barely missed the mark.  We will need to remain focused and work even harder to maintain this rating. 

But for all of those people who said that Swanton was not capable of becoming "Excellent" - I say, "Take THAT, you nattering nabobs of negativity!!"  HA !!

The regular August board meeting was held on a date when I was out of town on vacation and Kris Oberheim was out of town for work, leaving only 3 board members in attendance that evening.  Arlene Wilson was in attendance as well.  She is filling in as interim treasurer while the board pursues finding a replacement for Cheryl Swisher, who left to take a treasurer's job in another district.

This was the night scheduled to welcome new staff to our district, and I was sorry to miss it.  Michelle Tyson arrived just in time for the meeting to begin, but Mona Dyke and Rick Ueberroth were there early enough to chat with the newcomers.

After adoption of the agenda, the new staff was introduced to everyone in attendance.  During the Hearing of the Public, no one indicated a desire to address the board, so the meeting moved forward.

Mrs. Wilson handled the items on the treasurer's portion of the agenda, and all items were approved as presented.  While discussing the financial statements, Mrs. Wilson noted that our district is in a stable financial condition - which is more than a lot of other districts can say.  The budgets and objectives of the middle school yearbook and outdoor education program were also presented and approved. 

Interim Superintendent Russ Griggs spoke briefly about the preliminary findings from the state of Ohio showing our district as "Excellent".  (and - as we know - the final findings were the same!!  woo-hoo!)

Personnel changes were approved, as was a slight change to the high school handbook presented by principal Steve Gfell.

Sandy Frisch was there from the Lucas County ESC, and presented a contract for our district to use their services to assist in our search for a new treasurer.  She shared a bit of how the process works, and the contract was approved.  A special meeting will be held on Aug. 30th to begin our search in earnest.

The contract with Wood County Juvenile Detention Education program agreement for the 2011-12 school year was also presented and approved. 

Properly trained and certified staff are required by O.R.C. 3313.713 to administer/pass medication to students, and five people were approved for this task for long term field trips and outdoor education situations.

Building reports had been provided to the board prior to the meeting that night.  No further discussion was held on these reports.

A report on the Swanton Recreation program was given by Michelle Tyson.  She and another representative from Swanton Rec had met with Todd Frendt of the Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation, and had brought back some ideas.  Rules and regulations for the soccer program had been prepared and planned for distribution to all players, as well as a Coaches' Code of Commitment and Conduct for the entire rec program.  These items were to be presented to the Swanton Rec meeting scheduled for the following night, so that the directors could look things over and make suggestions.  Their final proposal would be brought back to the board for discussion at our next regular meeting.   Rick Ueberroth asked if Shelley was going to get something to the board to look at, and she said "yes - at the next meeting."  He said nothing more, but hopefully we'll actually get it beFORE the next meeting so that we have a chance to review it ahead of time. 

Next on the agenda was the time for board comments.  Mona took a minute to speak at this time, and shared her hope that the current board would continue to work together over the next few months (until she and I leave and are replaced by 2 new people).  She noted that we sometimes have differing opinions on things, which is part of the value for any board - to have those different perspectives shared.  She mentioned the workload in front of us, including negotiations and a treasurer search, and that it is important that we express our opinions and listen to each other as we make decisions, and that no one should take another's opinion personally. 

Well said, Mona.

The final item on the agenda was -  (drum roll, please): the nomination for the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA) Outstanding Board Member.  You may remember this one from our last meeting, and the front page article in the Swanton Enterprise . . .


So.  Rick Ueberroth moves to nominate Shelley.  Shelley seconds the motion.  Mona states that her position on the matter has already been made at our last meeting and to each of them individually, and no more needs to be said.  Roll was then called, and the motion passed with 2 votes to 1. 

Let's remember that the other two other board members were not able to attend that night . . .

But!  Onward and upward!!   The meeting was then adjourned.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hot Time in the Summer

As mentioned in an earlier post, we are currently in contract negotiations with the bus drivers' union (OAPSE) and the teachers' union (SEA). All hope to have things settled and in place before the beginning of the new school year.

Our regular July meeting began with the usual formalities, and we also included mention during our moment of silence for the family of senior student Justin Herzig who had been killed in a terrible accident.

We then moved on to Board Commendations, and thanked former-Park Elementary principal Jane Myers for her 15 years with our district. Mrs. Myers has taken a job with another district.

Next, Mr. Steve Pereus gave a short presentation on Enlit (pronounced: "enlight"). He was able to share a lot of information and also provided handouts to each board member.

Kathy LaSota from the Ohio School Board Assoc. then gave a presentation on the strategic plan process through OSBA. We were very interested in all that was involved through OSBA, as their pricing seemed high (in this tight economy). Ms. LaSota gave a thorough presentation and answered several questions from board members. In the end, we agreed to move forward with OSBA to prepare and implement a strategic plan for our district. If we fail to plan - we ultimately plan to fail, which is NOT what we want! This process will greatly assist the district in our move to Excellence.

During the Hearing of the Public, a statement in favor of the library tax was read aloud.

Reports and other items from the Treasurer were approved as presented. In addition, Treasurer Cheryl Swisher presented a proposed policy on student fees, fines and charges that would incorporate use of a collection agency for delinquent payments or bounced checks. The policy was approved as presented. No collection agency has been chosen yet as the treasurer is still in the process of checking references.

The Athletic Budget was presented, and it showed a reduction from last month of $30,000. This was accepted by the Board.

At our last meeting, the treasurer had been asked to check into the fees charged by other schools in our area to see where Swanton stood. She sent out a request for information to all districts in Ohio, and received 41 responses. Her report to the Board included graphs showing the fee level of each responding district in relation to our fees. We appear to be pretty much in the middle, with several other schools showing a lower fee schedule and some that are significantly higher. During our discussion on the subject, board president Rick Ueberroth questioned whether we should be charging anything. I said we could maybe look at an adjustment if we thought it was warranted - it didn't need to be all or nothing, necessarily. Further discussion ensued - at one point, board president Rick Ueberroth deliberately misquoted what I had just said . . . *sigh*  I did not comment. After considering all angles of the situation, the Board decided to keep fees where they are. We already have mechanisms in place to assist those who are in financial straits and that will continue as well.

A new draft of our 5 year forecast was prepared because of the new state funding formula information that was obtained recently. The draft was prepared for our information only, and did not require board approval.

The Swanton School District is the funding agent of the Swanton Library, and as such is required to place items on the ballot on behalf of the library - even though we don't "touch" any of the library money. At our meeting, the library asked for a five-year, 1.0 mill levy to be placed on the ballot for current expenses. The Board approved this request. You will see it on the ballot in November, but just remember that it is a levy for the Swanton Library only, and not for anything directly related to the school district.

We entered into executive session at that point to discuss employee employment and negotiations. Upon our return to open meeting, we moved into the Superintendent's portion.

All personnel recommendations were approved, including Dean of Students Doug Westrick at the middle school and a new Athletic Director, as Mr. Zieroff has taken a position with another district. Wade Haselman is our new AD. We're looking forward to a great start!

Other recommendations of the superintendent were also approved as presented.

We were given copies of building handbooks, and board president Rick Ueberroth expressed his concern that the dress codes were not the same in all of our buildings. There was a lengthy discussion on the matter. Frankly, having had kids of my own in schools where uniforms were a requirement, I would rather that we do that in Swanton as well: it is far less expensive to have uniforms! Been there - done that!! I have proven the theory with personal experience. Plus, it helps with student attitudes and other things to have all of them wear uniforms. But I've been told by several people that a number of vocal parents have always shot down any suggestion of going to uniforms. Oh well!

We were awarded a grant for $5,964.26 from the Ohio EPA to retrofit 7 buses with pollution control technology. Thanks to Jason Divoll, our bus mechanic, who applied for this grant!

We then discussed the upcoming OSBA Capital Conference which is held each November in Columbus.

Reports from various committees were given. The Drug Testing Policy has had some suggested revisions from our attorney, and we decided to hold a special meeting on Aug. 9th to finalize some things. We'd like to get the policy in place soon, but only after we have dotted all of our " i's " and crossed all of our " t's ". Plus, our new AD Wade Haselman

Next we had a lengthy discussion about the proposed security camera systems for the 2 elementary schools. The cameras at the high school have been extremely helpful, but as everyone in attendance that night stated: the cameras there and those on our buses do not prevent bullying of one student by another. The quote from Guardian Alarm was for a 16-channel DVR unit and 8 cameras, plus other related hardware at a cost of $3,995.00 for each school, plus an annual fee of $700 for maintenance (again, at each school).

We have experience with the cameras at the high school, and it was noted that a camera at the end of a hallway can't capture sufficient detail of action at the opposite end. The proposal was for cameras at Park and Crestwood with 1 at each front door, 1 at each playground, and the balance inside the hallways. Board member Michelle Tyson stated her opinion that the cameras would be for the safety and security of our students and that certainly the well being of even one child was worth the expense.

I should mention here for those who don't know that NO camera would be placed in any restroom areas, which happens to be the spot where a couple of kids have been hurt. In addition, none of the cameras would move - their field of view would be limited to one angle only. Anything outside of that view would not be captured, whether inside or outside of the building.

Anyway, after much discussion of the pros and cons of the proposed system, it was approved by a majority of the board. I voted "no", based on the statements of our principals and other staff.

We then talked about how best to use those gift cards obtained through points earned on our district Visa card. It was determined that each principal could best decide how to use the cards for staff or students within their own building - e.g., gas card for kids at the high school as an incentive or Subway cards for elementary kids, etc. A fair distribution would be made among the buildings of the gift cards, and each principal would determine how to reward teachers and students with their cards.

And THEN the meeting took a sad turn . . .

At the regular May meeting, board president Rick Ueberroth had passed out OSBA nomination forms to those present (not me - I wasn't there that night) and asked that board members consider serving on a state committee. That is what is on the recording for that night and what is recorded in the written minutes of the meeting.

So at our July meeting, we were presented with an OSBA committee nomination form prepared by Michelle Tyson which nominated herself. (this was done at the direction of the board president) I did not take part in the discussion. Others noted that parts of the form's completion were in error. We also learned that the form had already been submitted. (?!)  When it was time to vote, I voted "no" because I could not, in good conscience, approve a nomination form where the "nominee's areas of expertise" listed "public relations and law" from a person with no experience in either. The majority of the board approved the nomination.

Next the board was presented with an OSBA nomination form for Outstanding Board Member. Again at the direction of board president Rick Ueberroth, Michelle Tyson had completed a nomination form for herself. Again, others noted that some sections of the form were in error. This particular nomination was a sticky wicket in that board discussion was to take place prior to the nomination being made, and the board president had already signed the statement on the back that declared the Board had approved the nomination on June 28th - AND the form had already been submitted to the OSBA!!

Oh wait - it gets worse.

More discussion followed - again, I did not say anything. Personally I was angry with our board president for what appeared to be putting an inexperienced board member on the spot. We get publications from the OSBA that include paragraphs about others who have been nominated for Outstanding Board Member, and the things accomplished by these folks are truly outstanding. You read them and wonder how they had time to sleep and eat, for all that they do in their districts.

Anyway, several times it was mentioned that Michelle is a good board member but just hadn't done anything (yet) that would qualify as "outstanding". Board president Rick Ueberroth stated several times that this would be a positive mark for Swanton, yada yada. At no time did he or Michelle declare exactly "what" she had done that was "outstanding". Over and over it was stated that no disrespect was meant toward Shelley - that she was doing a good job - but that you really should have something "outstanding" under your belt to submit this nomination.

The nomination went nowhere.

Next on the agenda we voted 5-0 to go into executive session. As we gathered up our stuff, Michelle walked out the front door. The rest of us looked at each other - then Kris Oberheim went after her. She returned empty handed - Shelley had not responded to her calls, and had driven away. Kris, Mona and myself went back into the conference room to wait for our board president to wheel himself back to join us.

Time passed. Next thing we hear is that HE had left! So, here we were - our meeting was still in session - and two of our members had left the premises. Well, with 3 board members in attendance, we still had a quorum and so we continued the board meeting.

We also decided to call a special meeting for Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. to discuss employee employment (which was the purpose of the executive session that all 5 of us had just voted to enter), and kept our fingers crossed that all 5 members would attend. Our meeting adjourned that night at just before midnight.


Late the next day, email came from our board president that castigated us 3 for our actions, as though WE were the ones that had done something improper! You wanna talk about ticked?! I was hot, and I replied to his email with one of my own.  I tried to be polite.

At our Friday morning meeting, all 5 board members were in attendance for the entire meeting. Michelle Tyson read a prepared statement (it will be on the podcast, so you can hear it for yourself if you're so inclined) in which she said, among other things (including a charge that she had "been attacked" at the last meeting, which made me wonder what she heard that no one else heard), that she "deserved" this (Outstanding Board Member) nomination because she WAS an outstanding board member and she was an outstanding person, etc. etc.

At this point I still believed that her inexperience was the problem and that the man who should have been her mentor was not helping her at all. Later I learned that she was making a Public Record Request for emails between me and another board member with the idea that a Sunshine Law violation had maybe occurred. I said, "no problem - she can pull all she wants - no violation has ever taken place". And it hasn't. But she's more than welcome to read as much of my stuff as she likes. 

I have said it before: I think Michelle has good intentions, and she tries to be a good board member. Whoever our district elects to replace Mona and myself on this school board should be aware of what lies in store.

June 2011

I keep writing these blog entries about what happens at our school board meetings even though many people are using the podcast option to listen in for themselves.  For one thing, this blog includes my personal opinion and is not solely a reporting device - plus, not everyone is going to want to listen to an entire board meeting that runs several hours.   So I'll keep plugging away.

We started the June meeting earlier than usual as we held an executive session on the Superintendent's Evaluation right off the bat.  The balance of our regular meeting then began at 6:30 p.m. and it was a good thing we got an early start as we didn't get out of there until 11 p.m.

After handling routine treasurer business, like approving past meeting minutes and various financial reports etc., one item brought before us was a proposed contract with a company called "Enlit" - pronounced "enlight".  Their services are described on their website.  Here are a few descriptive sentences taken from the site:

   Enlit is a web-based district evaluation system that leverages the power of measurement, analysis, benchmarking and scorecards. 
  Enlit users do not require new hardware, data bases, or staff.   Within one hour of gaining access to your personal web site, you will see and  understand strengths, weaknesses, and a full range of improvement and cost saving opportunities.
 Enlit has helped discover cost savings in the range of $200 – $675/student in administration and operations and well over that in education. Our Lean based approach has helped districts find department savings in the range of 8% – 30%, unwind complex technology issues, and streamline operations.

The idea is to check all systems within the district to see where we may be able to work smarter instead of harder, and possibly save some money in the process.  The Board voted to accept a contract for their services and also included a request that a representative give a presentation at our next board meeting. 

The Athletic Budget was presented, but we asked that it be tabled until our next meeting to give the Athletic Director more time to see where we might cut some costs while not sacrificing quality in our sports programs.

We also discussed the fact that our district currently does not use a collection agency for past due payments - some of which are a couple of years old!  The treasurer was asked to investigate collection agencies to see how we might remedy the situation.

We went into executive session at 7:30 to discuss employee employment, and returned to open meeting at 7:58 - a quick one!  (although someone reading the minutes of that meeting might notice that board president Dick Ueberroth voted "no" to enter into executive session, he was just trying to be funny. . . )

Other agreements and contracts were also approved, as was a trip to Washington, D.C. for the 8th graders next year.  Fund-raising options will be made available to the students so that their out-of-pocket expense may be minimized.

Several reports were given: 
  • TimWalborn reported on the water issues at Crestwood
  • Rec baseball/softball had a Home Run Derby and McNeill Chevrolet/Buick presented a check to the Swanton Rec Program.
  • The need for a mission and vision statement was discussed.
  • The need for a district-wide strategic plan was discussed, and it was decided to invite Kathy LaSota from the Ohio School Board Assoc. to attend our next meeting to discuss their services.
  • The proposed drug testing policy was tabled to the next meeting.
We were given information on a security camera proposal for the 2 elementary schools to look over and be prepared to discuss at our next meeting.  Board member Michelle Tyson is pushing for security cameras for the purpose of preventing bullying on school property, which is a noble cause.

The district uses a Visa card which grants us "points" that may be redeemed for various types of gift cards.  Currently we have 40+ cards in various denominations for places like Subway, an office supply store, and a couple of gas stations.  We want to make the best use of this program for our staff and kids, and tabled discussion to our next meeting.

Another executive session was called at 8:45 p.m. (all 5 members voted "aye" this time . . . ) and we were out and adjourned our meeting at 10:54 p.m. 

Like I said before:  sure was glad we started early that evening! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 2011

This past Monday night and Tuesday (16th and 17th) were very bad for me, personally, this week, and I did not attend the regular Board meeting Tuesday night.  

Highlights of the meeting shared with me today included:
  • recognizing the Superior rating received by our high school band at state competition (woo-hoo!)
  • thanking Parents' Club for their generous support throughout the year and for the successful Carnival
  • Dawn Solarek nominated Park Elementary in a playground makeover sweepstakes, and the school will receive $15,000 in Sports Authority gift cards
  • thanking Mary Ann Fehlen, who was recognized for her 30 years of service and retirement
  • thanking Dee Meller, also recognized for her service and retirement
  • on non-union employee contracts, approved a freeze on salaries and steps increases for one year
  • renewed our contract with Chartwell's for food services
  • approved the 5 year forecast as presented, with Treasurer Cheryl Swisher giving an explanation of what it reflects
  • approved the Personnel recommendations of the Superintendent
  • approved a 1 year lease agreement with the Village for use of the parks for sporting events
  • approved an easement with the Village for drainage work to be done by Crestwood School
Those were most of the items covered at the meeting.  As I learn more of what was decided that evening, I will share the information here.

And remember:  we digitally record all school board meetings so that even if you aren't able to be there during the meeting itself, you can hear it all later at home!  The link to our meeting records is available here.  Be sure to scroll down the page to the bottom, under 'Podcasts'.


Monday, May 9, 2011

No Crystal Ball Required

An old Sept. 2008 posting of mine entitled "Econ 101" included mention of a spreadsheet prepared by our treasurer, Cheryl Swisher, that showed how our district would be deficit spending by 2011 if the teachers' contract proposed at that time would be implemented.  

"Deficit spending" refers to spending more money than is taken in.  It does not reflect on what might still be sitting in savings.  However, just as in a personal family budget, if you spend more than you bring home, you end up dipping into your savings to pay bills.  A school district does the same.  When the first income tax levy in our district ended up collecting more than anticipated, we had - and continue to have - a carryover of funds.  This carryover of several million dollars has placed Swanton Local School District in far better shape than most of our neighboring districts, as the economy at large has taken a beating and states cut school funds in order to balance state budgets.

It's a difficult time, but not something that happened overnight.  This situation has been building in our country for several decades.  Others before us managed to push the problem ever forward . . . but now we are reaping what they have sown.  If we refuse to tighten belts and continue to push the problems forward, we are only kidding ourselves - and this joke ain't funny. 

How will our district weather the financial storms before us?  Those interested are encouraged to join us at the Board Office Tuesday evening, May 10th at 7 o'clock for a special meeting, where we will discuss our 5 year forecast.  Information from the state of Ohio will be included, as their cuts to school funding affect all districts across the state.

No crystal ball is required.  Common sense tells you that refusal to rein in spending will quickly deplete our carryover funds.  The Board will review the facts, as known to-date, and will have to make difficult financial decisions in the months ahead.  Fortunately we have a bit of a life-line in those carryover funds, that most of our neighboring districts do not have.  But that won't "save us" if we neglect our due diligence. 

I hope members of the community will attend this special meeting tomorrow night to hear first-hand what our district has before us. 

The Board need to govern based on facts, not emotions, and this meeting will give you an opportunity to hear those facts for yourself.  Please come, and support your school district! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 2011 Regular Meeting

The Swanton Board of Education held its regular meeting on Tuesday evening, April 19th.  Two items from the agenda were moved from their original position to the end of the meeting and the agenda was thus approved as amended.  

We were notified of the annual Retirement Dinner to be held at the Swanton Sports Center, on May 25th.  Cocktail hour is at 4 p.m. with dinner to be served at 5 o'clock.

Treasurer Cheryl Swisher asked that we schedule a special meeting to discuss the revised 5 year forecast.  We set the date for May 10th at 7 p.m.  She gave us a one-page handout of information related to the state budget released March 15, 2011 - and the funding cuts are sobering.  Based on all of the information at her disposal to date, our district could lose over $2.2 million - not including homestead and rollback loss, transportation loss, or any offset from the funding model.  Cheryl will have more detailed information ready for us at the special meeting on May 10th, and I urge our district residents to attend to hear, first-hand, of what we will face.

A presentation was given on Power School, which would replace a couple of other data capturing systems (ESIS and Pinnacle) and thus would not cost the district additional money.  This electronic tool has already been implemented by the Evergreen district, and would make data input and retrieval easier on teachers, staff, and parents.  Student attendance and grades would be accessible by parents and students online.  It would be hosted on the NwOCA servers. 

A marketing presentation was also given that evening, which shared the results of a recent survey of staff, students, and others of the Swanton school district.  Many good points were made, as we look to incorporate ideas for bolstering our image in the community.  As an example, a community calendar that would include all scheduled events for the entire area (school district, SACC, Village of Swanton, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) could be a valuable tool for our residents.  This idea and several others deserve thoughtful attention as part of the #1 goal of our OIP plan.

The Board was asked by our Band Director to please contribute $3,800 toward replacing band raincoats.  The raincoats currently being used are around 25 years old!!  We've certainly gotten our money's worth out of them, I would say - it's time to replace those old, moldy things.  Pam Kaz had 2 of the coats with her to show everyone - yuck!!  The Board approved the expenditure of funds to replace them.

High School Principal Steve Gfell proposed an update to the grading policy in his building.  He explained its purpose and methodology.  We had a short discussion on the matter, and the Board approved the change.

During a discussion on the Swanton Recreation program, board member Michelle Tyson presented a list of physical items and estimated associated costs.  The items themselves appear to belong under the Village auspices, and not Swanton Rec.  The Rec Committee will do further research and give the Board more information at our next meeting.

The Village of Swanton has proposed to extend our lease with them for use of village parks' facilities for one year.  They also propose that we grant them an easement by Crestwood School for a drainage project.  Comments included the need to "drain Lake Crestwood" - where, apparently, several long-time residents used to ice skate as children!  Obviously the drainage problem has a long history.

We held one executive session at the end of the evening.  Upon our return, we approved Personnel recommendations by the Superintendent and tabled action on a proposed job description. 

We adjourned around 10:30. 

Remember:  you can listen in on any board meeting by going to the district website, here.  Scroll down the page to "Podcasts".   All of our meetings are digitally recorded in mp3 format, and placed online for use by our residents.  If you ever have a question, don't hesitate to contact any board member, our district Treasurer, Superintendent, or principal.  We are here to serve!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Pledge is Alive and Well in Swanton!

Recently I was asked by several folks whether or not Swanton schools still had students recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day.  Some were district residents - others were in areas outside of Swanton who had been learning of districts around the nation minimizing and even ignoring the Pledge in the ever-widening push toward global ideology. 

Given the level of concern, a quick email was sent to each building principal that asked the question. 

I am proud to report that ALL of our schools in the Swanton Local School District do, in fact, recite the Pledge of Allegiance each and every day that school is in session.

It's always great to share positive news!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

March 2011 Meeting

We actually had 2 meetings in March.  One was a special meeting, where we had to approve an amended certificate and appropriation resolution (which reflected a net decrease of funds in the amount of $25,729.41) along with a transfer of funds to athletics.  We also discussed the school calendar for 2011-12, and then held an executive session to discuss upcoming negotiations, as well as pieces of the superintendent's evaluation.

At our regular meeting on March 15, we made a minor adjustment to the agenda before proceeding with the evening's business. 

We had several people to recognize with commendations that night!  There were students who had placed in the Regional Accounting contest, and two band students who had participated in the Toledo Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.  Good job!!

We also made special mention of Jerry Smith and Jerry Bowser for their facelift of the high school cafeteria.  It looks great!

There were two significant items related to our wrestlers that were honored as well.  Of course, those young men who had gone to state were congratulated, and the whole district was still sharing in the glow of Mimmo Lytle winning the state championship in his weight category.  In addition, we took time to thank the two upstanding citizens of our community, Don and Derek Johnson, who had discovered a large amount of cash and turned it in - much to the relief of the happy owner.  Our extra-curricular programs have life lessons to teach that simply cannot be covered in a regular classroom - but the embracing by individuals of those lessons is the proof in the proverbial pudding.  We are all SO proud of these honest young men who did the right thing simply because it was the right thing.  What a simple concept - and yet, how rare in our world today.

We received a status report on the Middle School boiler heating system by Mr. Will Oswald, and were grateful to learn that the machine is operating at a high efficiency despite its age.  There remains tweaking to be done to all of our buildings' systems so that operating costs are kept to a minimum. 

In response to a recent federal mandate, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, our food service director gave a report on its impact on our school. 

Meeting minutes and financial items of the treasurer were approved.   The tax rate information from the counties had been received, which required us to approve it, per the Ohio Revised Code.  (We don't really have a "say" in where the rates are set, but we are required to approve it.)

Under new business from the superintendent, we approved personnel recommendations as presented.  In response to another mandate (this one under H.B.1), we adopted a formal resolution to teach something called "financial literacy and career readiness" to 7th and 8th grade students. The two-page document includes reference to teacher training and: "teaching students to become financially literate, including the ability to read, analyze, manage, and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being. . . "        I'm not kidding.  Most of you reading this are around my age - I'll bet you thought kids were already getting this stuff, just like we did all those years ago.  Surprise.  Surprise.  Between all of the other mandates handed down from The Government, the basics of how to establish and maintain a workable personal budget have been edged out and now require yet another mandate to be reinstituted.  If you had any doubts that allowing The Government to meddle in education might be a bad idea, this should give you an answer.

We also approved the 2011-12 school calendar.

Building reports from the respective administrators had been provided ahead of time, which is very much appreciated.  From these reports, the Board is able to see what each building has been working on over the past month, and any upcoming projects.

Next on the agenda was a discussion on the Swanton Recreation program.  Kris Oberheim, as a representative of the rec committee, asked if the Board would be willing to allow them to use Swanton Rec funds to pay for materials required to repair the stairs at the village park concession stand.  The Village would then provide the labor.  As our teams store equipment upstairs during their season, the rec committee believed it to be a valid request.  I disagreed, stating that the Village was responsible for the physical upkeep of their facilities - not us.  The tax money we had for Swanton Rec was for the programs themselves and equipment.  The dollar amount requested was not large - I disagreed on principle.  The vote on this item was thus 4-1.  The next day, a Village council member saw me and thanked me for the Board agreeing to pay for these materials.  I just grinned and said, "Don't thank me - I voted against it!"

Other committee reports were short, and we then went into executive session to discuss the superintendent's evaluation and employee employment.   When we came out from executive session, our meeting was adjourned.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thurber's Thoughts: Public unions' symbiotic relationship with government

Thurber's Thoughts: Public unions' symbiotic relationship with government

I am providing this link because of a specific part of Maggie Thurber's  post, namely:

The problem is the elected officials who too often forget that they're supposed to be doing the exact same thing: getting the best deal for the taxpayers they represent. It's too easy to view the taxpayers as a never-ending source of revenue rather than the employers they actually are.

But the rest of her post is very good, too.

I'm not aware of anyone who ran for a school board position here in recent history seeking union endorsement . . . well, maybe one guy comes to mind . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 2011

Our regular monthly board meeting this month was preceded by a special meeting to discuss preparations for negotiations with the Swanton Education Association (SEA, aka "teachers' union").  That's right!  This year we need to negotiate with the teachers' union on their contract!

The men of the F.A.C.T. group had reviewed our 5 yr. forecast and other financial documents (which are also available to the public), and our executive session that night included a presentation to the Board of their findings and recommendations as related to negotiations.  After they had finished, we continued our discussion and then came out to adjourn our special meeting.

There was a short break, and then our regular meeting was called to order by board president Rick Ueberroth. 

Colleen McQuade was presented with a certificate of appreciation and our signature purple marble apple to recognize her years of service to our district. 

Greg Gettum from TMACOG was present, and he had brought Ed Snyder along to present the district with our membership plaque.  Ed grew up here, and is now raising his family in the Swanton school district.  I know him better from his work in Swanton Township, where I live.  He gave a very nice presentation.

There was no one who indicated a desire to address the board during the time set aside for hearing the public, so we moved on.  At a prior meeting, we had decided to go back to a standard agenda instead of grouping related items into a "consent agenda", which means we now go over each item separately.

The minutes of our organizational meeting and regular meeting from January were both approved, as were the financial reports, transfers, and Class of 2014 budget.  The initial contract for the ESC was also approved for 2012, with an increase in cost of approximately 4%.  

The Personnel recommendations of the Superintendent were presented and approved.  The Board was introduced to our new Head Football Coach, Mr. Phil Witker.  Mr. Witker is a former resident and student of our district. 

The Treasurer had no new business, so we moved immediately into the new business of the Superintendent.  A list of the 2011 High School graduates was presented for our consideration, and we approved the graduates pending completion of all requirements for graduation. 

Mr. Greg Hallett then shared a proposal to build a campus wrestling room South of the new track.  He asked our permission to begin investigating potential donors of time, money and materials for this new building to be donated to our district.  If he is able to bring it all together, he would ask for the district to donate the land on which it may be built.  The Board gave its approval for Mr. Hallett to move forward with his investigation.

Building reports from each principal had been provided ahead of time to the Board, and it is great to read of the progress happening in our buildings. 

Swanton Recreation had no formal report to share.  A question of the expiring lease agreement with the Village was asked, and Kris Oberheim stated that she has been told by Jon Gochenour that he foresees no problem with it being extended when Village Council takes its vote.

A short discussion was held on the progress of the Ohio Improvement Plan, and of the tweaking that took place at the most recent meeting.  Having teachers and administration working so closely together on this plan for our kids is awesome!

Tim Zieroff had provided two examples of random drug testing policies for our consideration and comment, as we work to finalize our own.  He and Steve Smith have done a lot of work on this, and that is deeply appreciated.  

During the time set aside for Board comment, Mr. Ueberroth thought it important to remind us to be careful when speaking about district-related items to anyone in the public, or to the local newspaper(s) as only the Board President speaks officially for the entire board, and thus we must be careful to indicate that our opinions are only our own and not necessarily reflective of the Board itself.   (like I do on this blog - see above, right)

Some suggestions on board committees and members were given to us by Prez Ueberroth as well.

We were also reminded that the newer board members needed to designate a representative for Sunshine Law training once during their tenure.  Chris Woods was so designated, and will attend the required training.  Any Board member may also attend - I did so during my first year on the Board, and learned a lot. 

We then moved into executive session to discuss negotiations and the superintendent's evaluation.  As it turned out, we never got to the second half as President Ueberroth decided the hour was too late.  So we adjourned, with a plan to hold a special meeting for the superintendent's evaluation.  We have been trying for months to get this finalized, and some of us were a bit frustrated that we weren't able to git 'er done that night.  Oh well - I guess we will at our special meeting set for that purpose.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Error Correction and (Public) Apology

In an earlier post I wrote about the non-termination of Marianne Pearson. 

I have learned that one of my earlier statements was not accurate. 

One particular charge against Pearson fell under federal law and thus mandated the district to report it to the Ohio Department of Education.  However, a "Consent Agreement" was negotiated between Pearson and the ODE whereby Pearson agreed to accept a 30 day suspension of her teaching license without admission of any wrongdoing.  

Therefore, my earlier posting was not accurate with regard to her license suspension, and I hereby (publicly) apologize for that error. 

(I have also corrected the original posting.)  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lucas Co. Library Tax

School district residents who live in Lucas County have been paying in to the Lucas Co. library system for a very long time.  Few questioned it - but those who did discovered that library taxes were designed by law to be tied into the school district of the residents. 

Translation:  Lucas Co. residents of the Swanton Local School District have paid taxes for years into the Lucas Co. library system which was completely wrong.  

I did not realize how the law was written until the Swanton library decided they needed to place a levy on the ballot a couple of years ago.  That was when I learned that Lucas County residents would end up paying taxes on 2 separate library systems. 

Phone calls were made - discussions were held - attorneys were consulted.  Former school board member Jeff Michael broached the subject with a representative from the Lucas Co. auditor's office, but when he mentioned it a few more times he was told to "leave it alone".  Swanton Township fiscal officer Peggy Michael talked it over with Anita Lopez, Lucas Co. Auditor, who agreed to look into the matter.  My husband talked with Dan McQuade (a fellow attorney who is also on the Swanton Library board) and folks at the Lucas Co. auditor's office about what needed to be done to fix the situation. 

I won't bore you with details - there have been literally months of talks on the subject.  But the bottom line is that this past fall, the official decision was made by Lucas County and their library tax was REMOVED from the tax bills of residents of the Swanton Local School District!!

Matter of fact, the property tax bill from Lucas Co. that was due on December 31st already reflected the removal of the Toledo-Lucas Co. Library tax from our school district residents.


It is so great to be able to share good news!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

non-Termination of a Teacher

As most of the community is aware, high school science teacher Marianne Pearson had been on unpaid administrative leave for many months. In December 2009, the former Board of Education voted (4-1) to file an "Intent to Terminate" as per the Swanton Education Association (SEA) contract.  (Mike Wiederman voted "no")  This document included five separate points at issue on the matter.  Ms. Pearson was removed from the classroom as the investigation proceeded.  

One of the charges was required by Federal law to be reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).   The ODE ran an independent investigation of this one charge. Last Spring, Pearson "agreed to accept a thirty day suspension of her license without admission of any wrongdoing" as part of a legal settlement called a "Consent Agreement" between Pearson and the ODE.

During these many months, Ms. Pearson had ample opportunity to resign. Although she submitted more than one proposal for a resignation, they all contained demands for various types of compensation consideration - basically, requesting that she be "paid" to resign. All of these proposals were rejected by the Board; however, the Board did continue to carry her medical insurance throughout this process and for the duration of her unpaid leave.

Under Ohio law, Ms. Pearson had the option of a hearing before a third party referee agreed to by both parties.  She chose to use that option, and presented over a dozen witnesses (including Mr. Wiederman, former Superintendents, and fellow teachers, etc.) and submitted over 90 exhibits to the referee.  The Board also produced witnesses and exhibits.  Ms. Pearson's attorney cross-examined our witnesses as our attorney did with her witnesses. 

The referee was an impartial fact-finder, who granted great latitude to Ms. Pearson in the presentation of her side of the case.  There were many days of testimony, which was appropriate to make sure that Ms. Pearson was fairly heard. 

The referee heard and evaluated all testimony from both sides, reviewed all exhibits, and rendered his decision.  The bottom line was that he found each one  of the five charges to be independently worthy of termination of Ms. Pearson's contract with our school district.  He therefore recommended termination.  A resident of our district asked about the referee's report, and as it is a matter of public record you may read it here, in its entirety (student names have been redacted).

Under the statute in Ohio law, the Board was required to give deference to the findings of fact by the referee.  It could then either accept or reject the recommendation of the referee; however, if the Board chose to reject his decision it needed to provide other evidence of fact.

Instead, at the last minute - literally - Ms. Pearson tendered her resignation without a demand for any type of monetary consideration.  By a vote of 3 to 2, this resignation was accepted by the  Board, which nullified the requirement to respond to the findings of the referee as she was thus no longer an employee.

I was one of those "no" votes - why was that??  I voted "no" because Ms. Pearson had more than enough time to resign prior to putting this district through the time and expense of a hearing (which had cost her nothing, as her attorney fees were covered by the OEA).   She was certainly entitled to a hearing, and I am glad that she acted on that right - but it took a lot of nerve to THEN resign, in my opinion.  Part of what she had done was include students in her wrongful actions, which completely negates her insistence that she is a "nice person".  What she did was anything but "nice" to those kids, who love her.  (Comments shared with me included reference to her number of years at Swanton and that "other teachers" do the "same thing".  Try using that excuse for your next speeding ticket.)  At this point, with the referee's strong and objective recommendation on each of the 5 counts, she needed to be simply terminated.  Period.   

That is not what happened, however.  Now the district will move forward.

I only write about this situation here because there are many half-truths and innuendos in the community at large, and felt it appropriate to give the facts to those who are willing to recognize them as such.