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Grandview Watch: News from the small schools

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The President's Speech
News from the small schools Justice writes "

Apparently there was a news item on Channel 10 that said the Grandview schools would not be showing the the President's speech. This email was sent on the school's listserve.

Tomorrow at noon, the President of the United States will be addressing students throughout the country. As you are aware by now, this speech has caused a great deal of controversy throughout the United States. Grandview is no different. I have received phone calls and e-mails from parents on both sides of this issue. Unfortunately, Channel 10 aired a false report that stated we have chosen to not air the president’s speech. Because of the confusion created by the media, I wanted to clarify our stance on the president’s speech.

At noon on Tuesday, the majority of our students will be at lunch or recess. We do not plan to change our regular schedule. Teachers in classrooms at noon have the discretion to show the presentation as it occurs. All other teachers are aware that there will be access to the speech via the Internet after the speech and are welcome to show the speech as they see fit. As with all presentations that occur in classrooms, teachers need to ensure that the material presented is appropriate for their students and that material presented does not violate school board policy. All staff members have been reminded of the school board policy. Our board policy clearly forbids the distribution of political material, states that no employee shall engage in political activities on school property, and finally indicates that school time may not be used for political purposes.

The text of the speech will be posted at www.whitehouse.gov today. I will review the text, as I am sure many of our teachers will as well.

On a personal note, it is unfortunate that in this day and age we have become skeptical of the motives of our leaders. When we were growing up, it would have been considered a treat and an honor to have our president address students during the school day. Trust is a huge issue in this country. Hopefully, you and I will see a change in this as our children grow up.

You are welcome to e-mail me at eoreilly@grandviewschools.org if you have further questions. I do appreciate those of you that have already contacted me to hear directly from the district regarding this issue. Enjoy the holiday.
Ed O'Reilly, Superintendent
This is a good, non-political response by O'Reilly to the crapstorm the Republicans have made out of this issue. And since it is a unbiased and sane response, expect right-wingers to show up at the next board meeting and complain about it. "
Posted by Admin on Monday, September 07 @ 11:21:19 EDT (2899 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 0)

School board candidates in the running
News from the small schools Justice writes "

The three open seats on the Grandview school board will result in five candidates banging on your doors and asking for your vote. This list may change as signatures are verified.

John Kessler is a Deputy Chief at the Ohio DNR. He was appointed to the board in January 2009 and now must run to retain his seat.

Dan Headapohl was a former city council member and council president. He works as a Real Estate Asset Manager for the City of Columbus.

Mary-Kathleen Clifford is a lawyer with ten years experience, not much about her on the net.

Thomas F. Hayes is another lawyer, specializing in criminal defense. He defends all kinds of criminal charges, and is listed on the website sbsdefense.com as an experienced defender for those charged with the crime of "Shaken Baby Syndrome".

Grant Douglass is the President of Hanlin Rainaldi Construction. This was the firm that did the construction on the artificial turf for the high school. He is a former GH Touchdown Club president. In 2003 he was chairman of the Ohio Historical Society board. In 2008 when the school board was considering changes to the Code of Conduct Mr. Douglass spoke in opposition to the rule that penalizes students who attend (but don't drink) at parties where alcohol is used.

This will be the first school board election in decades without a long term incumbent. Gary Heydinger and Anita Keller chose not to run, Kessler was appointed to fill in for McLeod after her mid-term resignation.


"
Posted by Admin on Saturday, August 22 @ 15:48:49 EDT (6895 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 0)

O'Reilly on the NRI deal
News from the small schools Justice writes "

The story in the TWG had a lot of detail for the negotiations with NRI over the compensation the schools will get from the project. Read the story for the exact numbers, the school seems like they have worked out a sliding scale of increased compensation with steps in the number of housing units.

I sent an email asking O'Reilly about the quote where he seems to imply that accepting the deal from NRI on the number of units is not up for negotiation.

You are quoted saying about a possible cap on the number of housing units in G.Y., "If we put in a cap the 11% is gone and the other pieces are gone".
Can you explain what would be gone if a cap was put in place?
How do you know that those elements of the deal with NRI would be gone with a cap - has NRI said that it is nonnegotiable?

 This was his quick reply:

I am assuming you are expecting a complete answer from me and I wish to provide that to you.

I would prefer to wait until the negotiations are finalized and approved.  However, I can tell you it is my feeling that it was going to be extremely difficult to get agreement on any caps that would be meaningful.

In addition, we were able to negotiate receiving a higher percentage of compensation as the number of residential units increases.

In providing more information surrounding my quote, if we pressed for a hard cap and NRI would agree, we would have needed to renegotiate our compensation package (which includes 11% of the total increase taxable valuable of the improvements plus an additional percentage of any residential growth) with the city to lower levels than we are set to receive (if NRI would actually agree to a cap).

I will also share that in order for the finances of this to work out for NRI, they will need to self-impose residential limits.  Money to pay the bonds from the TIF will be generated at a much greater rate from the commercial side versus the residential side. Ed O'Reilly.

OK, the deal is still on the table. But the question is still present – why can't Grandview place a hard cap on the number of units? What is NRI going to do, walk away from the table? The school has a limited ability to accept new students without hitting the wall and becoming required to build a new school. When that happens, the money gets tight fast.

I understand NRI makes more money from retail, and Grandview gets more taxes. But what happens if the market for new retail is not there? What if NRI crunches the numbers and finds that 800 or more lower end units (under 200K) can be sold and turns G.Y. into a primarily residential project?

More to come – the negotiations with NRI are hot right now, and news will develop fast. Too bad so many of Grandview residents are out on vacation right now (or was this an NRI strategy?).

O'Reilly part two

I asked a few more questions about the G.Y. deal, noting that there is some overcapacity in the school facilities now, but asking what number would require a new school to be built.

(more after the jump)


"
Posted by Admin on Friday, July 24 @ 16:35:50 EDT (3254 reads)
(Read More... | 6366 bytes more | Score: 5)

Watch out for snails
News from the small schools Justice writes "

A graduation ceremony is supposed to be for the benefit of the seniors. Do HS kids think that wearing those funny hats and gowns, and spending a fine summer day cooped up inside listening to some old people give them advice is really a benefit? It is tradition, and a passage that can be fun for some graduates. I leave it for them to give the final word on the ceremony.

Parents of seniors have some right to give judgment also. We know that there is not a lot of expectation for creativity or excellence in the event. But this year the proceedings had some strange choices. It deserves to be blogged.

Slow and slimy

The main speaker for graduation was “Daddy Wags”, a radio talker with 30 years experience at a local station. He had the vocal presence that someone with his experience can be expected to project, and his Santa length beard gave him a distinguished demeanor. His choice of speaking material was - odd.

There are certain standard topics that a graduation speech can fall back on, this parody hits some of them. Here are a few of Mr. Wags' clichéd talking points.

Joking about how the speech you are giving should have been read once before the event, rather than scanned on the way into the building, check.

Giving some statistics that show the sad state of public engagement of the parents, and exhort the kids to do better. Unfortunately the low rate of voting Wags used to check off this item was not at all applicable to Grandview, where voting normally is 50% even on ballots that have no local issues, and passes 80% in some elections.

The parable of the hare and the tortoise is a standard graduation speech cliché, and the radio jock seemed to know this because he didn't fall back on it. Unfortunately, he just changed the animal used for the story to a snail. Slow and steady sometimes wins the race, and if a turtle has been over used, why not talk about an even slower beast?

Wags gave an example of how gardeners fear the snail as it slowly chomps through the vegetables. OK. The moral to be learned is that if you want to be really destructive, you should be like the lowly snail? There was something in his speech about leaving slime trails and not crossing back, but by this point the metaphor had broken so completely I was having trouble paying attention.

The real question is why the guy was selected as a speaker at all. His personal story about dropping out of college to work in radio, then turning it into a successful career, is a long odds gamble in an industry that eats through and spits out talent. The more normal outcome would have been minor success while shuttling across the country, getting booted, followed by regret that a degree had not been completed as a backup career option. Did the graduates really need to be told by inference that it is OK to drop out of school if you are chasing a long-shot?

Tag team val and sal

The Valedictorian and Salutatorian gave a speech in alternation, in the tradition of a comedy duo. Cute, not cliché, I had some trouble hearing because they had to share a mic, but it was the best part of the afternoon. This was the last time a val and sal will speak at a graduation in Grandview, the new policy of selecting a student speaker based on submitted speeches instead of grade point starts next year.

Just a mom

I don't know if there is any long tradition about how the diplomas are handed out, who gives the document, who shakes hands. I think I remember in the past it was the super, the principal, and the board president. This year there was an awkward addition of the board vice-pres., Anita Keller.

She stood next to the board president and gave selective congratulations to the seniors. Some got a big hug, which nobody else on the stage gave out. Some got a handshake. Some got no handshake, no recognition at all. It was as if a mom had been placed on the stage to give her opinion of the kids she liked better than others.

And she was a mom to her child, who graduated this year. I suspect her only reason to be in that line was just to be able to hand her kid the diploma herself.

I'm not a stickler for tradition. If the kids wanted to be selective in who they gave handshakes to, it would be OK. If they had a beef with the super, it would be OK if they snubbed his handshake. But for an official of the school board to be discriminative in how she treats kids in this ceremony – it reeks of selective treatment. That is the opposite of how a board member should act, they should always be non-discriminatory in unearned rewards.

I'm sure this board member will not even perceive she was doing anything wrong. She probably doesn't have any deep thought process about how she should act as a board member. After all, her participation in the activity of the board has been limited to keeping a chair occupied for many years. She really is just a mom, who stumbled onto a position on the board.

"
Posted by Admin on Tuesday, June 09 @ 12:32:18 EDT (4524 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 3.8)

When the levy's too heavy
News from the small schools Justice writes "

The TWG had an article about the levy scenarios for the school, focused on the upcoming teacher union negotiations. The projections were for a possible 3.66 mill operating levy that would have little chance, to a “no way in hell” 12.52 mills.

I'm pro union. I want more people to have the kind of good wage, good benefit jobs that have slipped away as the country has lost union memberships. Maybe this recession will introduce to more people to the benefits of voting for unions in their workplaces.

However, I'm also a taxpayer. I want the government bodies who negotiate with local unions to be smart and keep costs down in line with the general economic realities that the public faces.

The Grandview school board has a terrible history of keeping costs down at the school. We have the highest voted millage in the county. Two factors caused this problem.

1. The board under McLeod (and for all indications under Lithgow) had a philosophy of allowing the superintendent to run all functions of the school. That includes his ideas on cost control.

Unsurprisingly, a super with no motivation to keep costs down, and lots of motivations to spend, will do poorly.

Throughout the downturn of 2001 to 03 super Allen was insistent that the board give 5% annual raises to the administration (and even bigger perks for Allen). The fallout was predictable - the failed 2003 union negotiations lead to a budget busting 4% annual raises for the teachers. The 2006 deal for 3% annual raises was no win for the board.

2. Leadership is not a skill that you earn by being voted into a seat on the board. It is a lifelong talent that some people have, and you know if they have charisma within minutes of speaking to them. 

The school board leadership has been crippled by lackluster members. Their “follow the super” philosophy has made votes simple (just do whatever the boss asks), but it has been terrible for keeping restraint on spending. We need a board who can stand up and say “no”, while still showing respect and without being petulant.

Ms. McLeod was a weak leader who brought little to the presidency. I thought she was as poor as you could get, until the board selected her replacement. Ms. Lithgow is laughable as a leader.

Grandview needs a school leader who can inspire a sense of shared sacrifice between the teachers, the administrators and the taxpayers. Uplifting rhetoric reminding us that “we are all in this together, now is the time to work for the good of the community” - and the leadership to make those words be believed - is needed now.

Too bad the board made a mockery of those words when they gave the administrators new benefits last summer that amounted to 10 % raises. The problems with the economy were obvious at the time of that vote.

Bad economic news has hit us so long and so hard that there is a tendency to throw up your hands. You might say. “who cares what the teachers union settle for, the levies will never pass anyway”. It does matter, because small problems can be fixed with little effort. Big problems generate bad will that tears communities apart.

"
Posted by Admin on Wednesday, February 11 @ 11:35:00 EST (1416 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 0)

Kessler appointed to board
News from the small schools Justice writes "

The school board braved the icy weather Wednesday morning to appoint John Kessler to fill the empty board seat created by the resignation of Ms. McLeod.

This was the word sent by the board Pres, Ms. Lithgow.

Wednesday morning we elected John Kessler to serve the rest of Suzanne McLeod's term. He is the assistant chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and has experience with budgets, personnel, and public policy, among other things. He has a child who is attending Stevenson Elementary and another who will be entering school next year. Like all of the applicants, John expressed a strong interest in community service. John will be sworn in at the January 31 planning meeting.

A search of the net found a little about Mr. Kessler (his results are stomped on by another John Kessler, the guy who goes by the nic Jack Kessler, of New Albany fame). He is listed on the Ohio DNR website, with geeky stuff like his Powerpoint presentation on “Relating Efforts to Reduce Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico to the Ohio River Basin and States”.

Strangely, he doesn't show up much at school board meetings, I only found his name listed for Nov. and Dec. 2008 meetings.

County BOE records show that he voted unaffiliated in the last primary election. The majority of Grandview board members have no party affiliation, does this mean that they seriously worry about their membership in one of the major parties causing them to lose votes for the school board, and intentionally stay unaffiliated?

There is a Kessler listed on the roster of the Columbus Flyers Disc Golf Club. Maybe he can work with the school to set up an Ultimate and Frisbee Golf club.

"
Posted by Admin on Friday, January 30 @ 13:28:58 EST (3772 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 0)

Changes to the kindergarten all day program
News from the small schools Justice writes "

Super O'Reilly announced that there may be changes to the all day kindergarten program at the Jan. 13 09 board meeting. Supposedly he said that the program is operating at a loss, and he wants to make changes.

The word of this possible new action by O'Reilly immediately caused a number of emails to be circulated around the Grandview email lists, with content that may be accurate but could just as well have wrong info. Who knows? We have no first hand information from O'Reilly.

The all day kindergarten program is of vital importance to both parents who have kids in the program and parents who are preparing to use it in the future. O'Reilly should have known this was a hot topic that would spark immediate concern and requests for more information. No doubt he is spending large amounts of his time right now answering emails and phone calls.

Why didn't O'Reilly have a document with information about his concerns about the kindergarten and intended course of action ready to post up on the school website the minute he finished at the board meeting? He could have said at the meeting “For all of those parents who want to know about my plans, please go to the school website, and email any other parents who want info to let them know the school website has a statement up”.

Think of all the hours he will waste repeating a copy and paste message to the large number of parents who will be emailing, hours that could have been spent working on more important school business.

There are some people who just “don't get” the internet, and how to save time by using the web. I was hoping that since the school website was upgraded that we might have a super who understood.

O'Reilly has used the school website for some announcements, but the information design is poor. The “News” section contains short messages that quickly disappear. Why doesn't he have a blog type section under the “Office of the Super” level, with archived messages that can be searched?

O'Reilly has written in the newspaper in the past that he wants to have good communication with the parents at Grandview Hts. Unfortunately he is failing, and it doesn't look like he is trying to improve. As the school approaches the reckoning time for an economy in the dump, communication between the board, the super, and the community will be vital. Things will go bad, and the “moms email networks” in Grandview will be burning up with rumors. O'Reilly needs to learn how to use the school website, and fast.

 (Later) Finally, O'Reilly goes public with the story of his proposed changes to the kindergarten program in the Feb. 4th TWG. That makes it 19 days before O'Reilly put up a public statement.

Here is O'Reilly's webpage on the school website. Nothing.

O'Reilly acknowledged that a rumor that Grandview's full-day kindergarten program may be eliminated began to spread through the community after his mention of the issue before the school board. Who's fault it that? A large percentage has to be pinned on O'Reilly himself for not going public immediately on the school website with his concerns about the program.

When you start talking about cuts to save money before the school board, some parents will mishear it as cutting programs. That's human nature. There will be a lot of that going on as the school deals with the failed economy (and failed levies).

One of the reasons that levies fail is that parents think the school administration is unresponsive.

Shame on you, Mr. O'Reilly. Start using the school website to keep parents informed. That is your job, after all.

(Feb 19) The board did vote to keep the full day kindergarten program, with an increase in the monthly tuition cost from $290 to $330.

Notice in the TWG story linked above super O'Reilly is quoted saying about the elimination of the full day program, "That is not true,"  "I couldn't be an advocate of that position."

But in the TVN story, at the board meeting O'Reilly presented options to the board, the first of them was  - elimination of the full day program.

This is how credibility gets lost, Mr O'Reilly.

 

"
Posted by Admin on Friday, January 16 @ 12:09:18 EST (1305 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 0)

Lithgow elected school board president
News from the small schools Justice writes "

Kathy Lithgow was elected by her fellow board members to fill the vacancy left by the departing Ms McLeod. She was first voted by the community to a board seat in Jan 2000. I don't have records for board meetings before 2002, but she has held the vice presidency since then and possibly earlier. I know that Brian Cook was vice president in 1999, not sure when the post changed.

Lithgow never seemed to be an very assertive board member, if she chose to take the presidency just because she was waiting for more than six years and thinks it is her due, she may regret the choice. The board moves into 2009 with a recession that will both cut funding and make passing new levies nearly impossible. The likely outcome will be deep cuts in school programs and large board meetings with angry parents. Is she the best person to hold the gavel?

Ms. Keller was elected vice president. Again, I wonder – why? What leadership role has she ever taken in the past?

Vacant seat rumors

The board will be filling a vacant seat next month, and the rumors about the likely winner are disturbing.

Debbie Brannan is a parent who has worked with the Middle School PTO, and she has started a Yahoo group called “TalkAboutGifted” that has 16 posts in the past year. I can find nothing on the net that lists any professional experience.

She did make the news recently – she was part of the “moms groups” that were interviewed by a Dispatch reporter. Standing in Connie Anderson's kitchen, she is quoted saying she has a group called “Moms in Touch”, a small prayer group that meets weekly to pray for students, teachers and administrators.

What qualification for a board position does Debbie Brannan have besides being a BFF of Connie Anderson?

The church that both she and Ms. Anderson belong to – The Vineyard – has some fundamentalist beliefs listed on their website. It says;

WE BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors of Holy Scripture so that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts.”
Those who believe in an inerrant bible often believe in so called “intelligent design”.

 

The school board members owe it to the community to ask Ms. Brannan if she believes in evolution. Does she support intelligent design, and does she intended to promote the teaching of it in Grandview schools?

A special board meeting to appoint a new board member will be held Jan. 28 at 7:30 a.m

(Later) John Kessler was appointed to fill the last year of the McLeod seat. Not sure if the vote by the board was public, or executive session.

"
Posted by Admin on Thursday, January 15 @ 22:11:46 EST (1458 reads)
(Read More... | Score: 0)

McLeod leaves town
News from the small schools Justice writes "

School board president Suzanne McLeod announced her resignation on Dec. 9, to be effective in January. She has said that she is moving out of the district, and by stepping away she will allow the board to appoint a new member to complete her last year.

I don't normally have a file ready to create a post for a departing board or council member, but I have been working up a meta-post about the long term problems with the school board. McLeod was the central figure in those problems, so I am flush with stories about her time in office.

Let the flushing begin.

"
Posted by Admin on Tuesday, December 23 @ 01:06:04 EST (4542 reads)
(Read More... | 9569 bytes more | Score: 5)

Pickups for Admins
News from the small schools Justice writes "

(This is a continuation of the story of the July 14 2008 board meeting.)

After a couple of emails asking the school treasurer for the numbers on the “pickup on the pickup”, I did get some figures. I also got some reasoning from O'Reilly for the board's action.

The numbers are the usual boring stuff, I break out the cost after the jump.

As for the rationalizations – wow, isn't it weird that when the super looks at the “facts”, the best choice is always to give the administrators big raises and benefit boosts?

(more on the board and 7:30 AM meetings)

"
Posted by admin on Sunday, September 14 @ 22:05:04 EDT (1417 reads)
(Read More... | 3466 bytes more | Score: 0)

Old Articles
Friday, September 12
· More abatements
Thursday, September 11
· The board and the Cookie jar
Friday, September 05
· Cameron story in 12-13-07 TWG
Tuesday, August 26
· New principal Jesse Truett on the Activity Code
Tuesday, May 13
· Divided board passes AC changes, no levy
Sunday, May 11
· The AC debate continued
Wednesday, May 07
· Drug dogs return, more on new AC rules
Tuesday, May 06
· Omertà enforcement
Tuesday, April 22
· Activity Code Red
Wednesday, March 12
· Emailing Ms. Peters
Tuesday, February 26
· Grandview is number one!
Wednesday, January 30
· Party house
Monday, January 28
· School involved in the TIF negotiations
Sunday, December 16
· Cameron ends with a bang
Thursday, November 15
· Still erasing negative thoughts
· O'Reilly hits another jackpot
Thursday, November 01
· Making the best of sexual imposition
Thursday, October 25
· Will the Blueberries return?
Tuesday, October 23
· A continued paucity of democracy
· Solutions to drugs in the schools

Older Articles

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