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. 

January 2011

After taking care of the routine matters of the annual organizational meeting, we moved directly into our regular meeting for January.  Our regular meeting schedule is the third Tuesday of each month - the organizational meeting of the year is required by the Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) to be held prior to the 15th of January.  We decided to use the same evening for our regular meeting, which is why it was a bit earlier than usual.

One matter of business covered that evening was to elect our new officers.  Rick Ueberroth was selected as the new president, with Kris Oberheim as vice president.  Our meeting schedule was determined to remain on the third Tuesday of each month at our usual time of 7 p.m. , with the exception of September's meeting.  That one will be one week early, on September 13th. 

After an executive session to discuss the dismissal of an employee, we returned to go over the reports of the Treasurer including the budgets for the high school musical and prom.  Reports of the Superintendent were also discussed and accepted.

Under "New Business", we first voted to enter into a contract with the Swanton Police to have a uniformed officer present at all of our regular board meetings.  The cost to do so is $25 per hour. 

We then heard from transportation director Tim Walborn about software to be used to determine bus routes.  This process has been done with pencil and paper until now.  After checking into several options, Mr. Walborn recommended Transfinder be purchased.  The Board agreed to do so.

The Board approved tournament site agreements with the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), membership in the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA) legal assistance fund, re-appointed Rheba Burtch to a 7-year term on the Swanton Public Library Board of Trustees, and approved contracts for High School Principal Steve Gfell and Steve Smith, High School Assistant Principal.  (these contracts are for 3 years with no salary increase)

Building reports from each principal had been submitted electronically to the Board, and were able to be reviewed by each of us prior to the meeting that night.  There were a few items discussed, and then we moved on.

Swanton Rec had submitted two sports budgets for our information, and the Superintendent reported on the current status of the Ohio Improvement Plan that our district has implemented. 

We had a final executive session at the end of the night.  Upon our return, the Board voted 3-2 to accept the resignation of Marianne Pearson.

We were adjourned shortly after nine o'clock.