Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trials and Tribulations

I know a lot of you have been waiting for me to post. I’ve had a lot going on ;) and haven’t had much spare time. I know you’ve read the papers and are scanning ahead already trying to see what I have to say about it. Well sorry to disappoint...

I’m not blogging about that. But I do want to talk about another hot topic going on in our district. The uniform/dress code committee. Many people and students have been waiting to hear what the verdict is. I was happy to get an E-mail from the committee chair about a week ago saying that the committee was going to make its recommendation to the board at its December meeting. I thought that would be nice that a committee I volunteered for would wrap up at my last board meeting.

I had suggested looking into this a few years ago so I was pretty excited to see another member show interest. There was some early disappointment when many community members were excluded from the committee, but in the long run I thought we ended up with a nice group. But as with most committees each meeting saw one or two fewer people attend.

I did my homework and submitted it to the committee. Basically what it came down to was this; Uniforms and/or uniform like dress codes had no lasting effect on academic performance, attendance rates, or behavioral issues. I made packets of information available for each member of the committee. Some of the studies cited dated to the 90’s. Some.

So what was to be the last committee meeting was had last week. Imagine my surprise when what I thought would be a meeting to draft a final presentation, became a discussion of maybe we didn’t do enough. WHAT? The high school, one middle school and one elementary took a dress code violation survey near the beginning of the year, the superintendent informed us that there has been one “serious” dress code violation in all the elementary schools in the last six years, the middle and high school tallied less than ½ percent of students cited for violations, and the committee came to what seemed uniform consensus (pardon the pun) that inappropriate dress really isn’t a problem here. Not to mention the two sets of clothes thing. I could blog forever about that.

Now we must back up and take a closer look. One member commented that some of the uniform data regarding academics, attendance and behavior dated from the 90’s and implied that things could be different now. I suppose they could have sprinkled some magic academic dust on the uniforms of today to make kids more apt to learn if they wear them. And maybe the uniforms of today are made of a higher standard of cloth that makes kids want to come to school just so they can wear the uniform. Do I hear Somewhere Over the Rainbow playing in the background?

This is why I hate committees. If there was some information out there contrary to what was found that made a profound difference somewhere, why wasn’t it already presented and so convincing that the committee was swayed?

My last talking point on uniforms is this- Why on Gods green earth would you make 5000 kids buy khakis and polos when inappropriate dress is a non-issue in our district and no lasting benefit has been proven? And the real kicker- We are a public school district so apparently you can opt your child out of wearing the uniform anyway.

PS: This blog will soon be moving to

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Fat Lady Sings

Thanks to all my supporters and especially those that helped me drop literature this year. It's been a rollercoaster 4 years and it is bittersweet that it has come to an end.

Best wishes to Dale Petty and the school district on keeping that "Excellent" rating!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wow. The superintendent and treasurer will not be getting raises this year. The board president’s quote on The Falls News “Knowing that many in the community are losing jobs or losing hours, taking pay cuts or furloughs...”- is a culmination of what I’ve been saying for the last four years. In fact I’ve never heard anyone on the board speak of furloughs until I mentioned how difficult a week long furlough had been on my family. I’ve been saying these things for four years but funny how an election year will bring people around.

Most regular people have been facing layoffs, mandatory furloughs, losing jobs and hours for the last few years. How politically savvy of the board to notice now. Two years ago, raises were announced shortly after the election. See THIS POST for a walk down memory lane. Last year raises were approved a month before the board suddenly realized drastic cuts needed to be made. Goodbye gifted, goodbye welding, goodbye field trips, goodbye professional development. Timing is everything.

So for once I was in the majority on the issue of raises. I’m still in shock.

The uniform committee had its first meeting last week. It was an interesting couple of hours. We listed some common held beliefs regarding uniforms. For example: Uniforms level the playing field for the economically disadvantaged. This was listed as a fact. But is it? I thought we would take the approach of gathering data and using it to decide if a uniform is advantageous to the district. Kind of a- Do the pros outweigh the cons? kind of thing. I seemed to be the only person questioning whether there was any basis to these types of statements.

Another “fact” that was listed: Less hassle in the morning. I don’t have any hassle now. If a kid is causing clothing hassle in the morning, I feel it’s more of a parenting issue than a uniform one. In fact a uniform policy would actually cause me hassle in the morning. I currently do not have to iron jeans and T-shirts. In fact I am breaking out in a sweat at the thought of daily ironing.

We are getting together again the 23rd of September at 7 PM in the board offices. The public is welcome.

Lastly, there is an article I would like you to check out and give me some feedback on.

Ohio School Sports Costly Even With Student Fees

I have always said when cuts are needed we should sacrifice the athletics first. I am frequently told sports are necessary and cost very little. Hmmmm...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vacation is Over

I guess when my E-mail gets this full of requests to blog, I’d better blog. I’ve been on hiatus for many reasons I won’t bore you with. But I am going to make a concerted effort to blog at least once weekly.

A quick note about the superintendent and treasurer’s evaluations... The Falls News Press was a little off. I gave the evaluations directly to the employees. It was not a different evaluation from the rest of the board. It was the same form. Why did I give them separately from the board? Because the last two years of evaluations have turned into a fiasco. Two years ago, Barb Gunter gave the lowest scores possible (all “1”s) and infuriated fellow board members. In turn the board majority chose to break protocol and give the individual evaluations rather than a compiled form. This action caused distrust, embarrassment and community outrage. Last year it was agreed that a compiled score would be given but Barb Gunter, as board president, decreed that she was changing the rules and releasing individual scores. This caused another member to go ballistic. And sorry to disappoint my detractors, it wasn’t me.

This year it was known from the start that individual scores would be given. I saw no reason to revisit the controversy of the last two years. If the individual scores are given, why do they need to be averaged for a man with a PhD and a district treasurer? The simple answer is, they don’t. In fact, I would say it’s safe to say that they probably look at individual scores along with member comments, and ignore the average score entirely. The board agreed to give individual evaluation scores, and I gave mine. Perhaps they’re just ticked they didn’t get to preview it first.
Next on the agenda...The renewal levy. I’ve had quite a few people ask me to explain my statement comparing the school district to a drug addict. Actually I compared supporting the renewal levy to supporting a drug addict. You see, years ago one of my best friends became a drug addict. So I have experience with the processes people and families go through. The biggest mistake people make when a drug addict is in their lives is bailing the addict out of tough situations they’ve got themselves into and supporting the addict through thick and thin.

When there is no incentive to change, bad habits continue or get worse. Why stop using drugs when mom will pay your mortgage, dad will make your car payment because he’s the co-signer, your sister will buy groceries because she can’t stand to see the kids go without, your friends will give you gas money so the kids will get to school.

With me so far? So, in the case of the school district, the taxpayers are the friends and family support. Taxpayers don’t necessarily like how their money is spent, and are having a hard time paying their own bills, but they aren’t willing to let the children suffer.

In the case of the drug addict, the monetary support had to stop before she was willing to make changes in her lifestyle. And yes, she had to watch her children suffer before she took steps to change. The same can be said of the school district.

There is never any forward thinking. I have numerous times voted against pay raises, increased benefits, and expensive projects in an attempt to avoid new levy requests. Yes, I know this is a renewal but supporting bad spending is supporting bad spending. Giving 3 years of guaranteed raises to administrators, rather than reviewing yearly what the budget can handle is one example of what I’m talking about. We all know how volatile a school budget is. It’s no secret how often the State giveth and the State taketh away. By supporting a levy, you are supporting this type of thinking. Lock in raises regardless of what our financial status may be in the future.

Meanwhile the rest of the working world is taking pay cuts or layoffs, or the new craze- unpaid furloughs.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Part Two

...Continued from yesterday

While the sub-committee of the sub-committee of the Plan for Excellence committee was busy looking into district configurations, the rabble-rousers were looking into school district business as well. And eureka! A discovery was made. The problem wasn’t the evil troll misappropriating district funds. It was the holiest of all objects in the districts possession. Silver Lake Elementary. It seems that the school district I trust my children to, lied to me. Actually they lied to all of Cuyahoga Falls. To justify building closures, the district presented a cost benefit type report to the people. In fact to a packed auditorium. They showed us building enrollment numbers. You can’t argue with cold, hard numbers.

Problem is, when the school district reported those same enrollment numbers to the state of Ohio for funding purposes, they weren’t the same numbers. Want to guess where the anomalies were? Save your breath, I’ll tell you. Newberry, Sill, and Silver Lake. I am going forward from here assuming that the enrollment numbers reported to the state are the accurate enrollment numbers. That means that the community presentation was not accurate. I had to ask myself why the school district would lead Cuyahoga Falls to believe that Newberry had fewer students than it actually did and Silver Lake had more.

So the rabble-rousers dug deeper. Administrators said the extra money spent at Silver Lake was because salaries were so much higher there. The rabble-rousers had two arguments for this response. Number one that would mean it had most if not all highly qualified experienced teachers. Not true and shame on them if it were. Number two- according to the Ohio Department of Education the real reason for spending disparities most years was in supplies and materials. You know-stuff. Not salaries, not benefits, not maintenance. Stuff. But they will tell you that any of the cool stuff in that building, is courtesy of the PTO. No I did not have a typo. I said PTO. You see if they were a part of the PTA, like the rest of Cuyahoga Falls City Schools, they would have to share stuff.

Anyway, the Ohio Department of Education numbers don’t lie. Money was being spent on supplies and materials. They are also high cost in the purchased services department. For all normal people out there, think utilities. For some reason government cannot call things what they actually are. All accountants, please shut up. You are a very small portion of the population.

Rabble-rousers started getting a little public about this apparent protection that was going on. The school district wasn’t making decisions with responsible financial impact. It was implementing “recovery plans” and “curtailment plans” and proposing levies. It was closing schools in Cuyahoga Falls and telling me my kids were resilient and could handle a change fine. They don’t even know my kids.

OK Sherman, one more time in the Wayback Machine, except this time we’re only going back to February 20, 2007.

The sub-committee of the sub-committee of the Plan for Excellence committee has come to a board meeting to make their recommendations. Drum roll please....

“Reaffirm and celebrate the district’s commitment to its neighborhood schools in the existing configuration ofK-5, 6-8, and 9-12.”

Wow. What a let down. Two years of work so we can do nothing. Typical. Just like the bus committee. Oh, you didn’t know we had a bus committee? That’s because they did nothing either. See that’s how we work in this district.

Run out of money, get the community riled, form a committee, have committee decide that nothing should change, ask for a levy.

Repeat cycle for 40 years. BTW- Got the levy renewal schedule from the treasurer today. Good timing.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Déjà vu

It looks as if the district boundary lines will stay the same. For now. Everyone seems to be happy about it.

What is that old saying? Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it?

We have been down this path before. We have a problem, form a committee, and do nothing.

The bus committee touted the other night is a perfect example. Last year the board president put together a committee to study bussing. They pulled employees from their regular duties for hours on end to study and supposedly revamp district bussing. Make it more efficient, you know. In the end, they did nothing.

But we have also traveled this same redistricting road too. So today, I dug through the garage and found the Wayback Machine. Mr. Peabody is on his way over.

To understand what is going on, you need to understand the dynamics of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District. We used to be teeming with children. The neighborhood school I attended was K-6 with 4 classrooms per grade. That same school today is K-5, 3 classrooms per grade and encompasses 2 additional school building districts. That’s a huge decrease in enrollment over 25 years.

Ah, Mr. Peabody has arrived. Let’s go. We’ll set the dials for 1982.

I was mere babe. I heard some talk of lower enrollment than in years past and the next thing you knew, three Cuyahoga Falls schools were closed. My dad said kids were consolidated. I felt like a product. Little did I know it then, but I was. And just like in private industry, the cost of the product had to be kept down. But for different reasons. Dad said the same thing was happening at GM. They might close his plant and consolidate too. Times were gettin’ tough.

Shortly after this, Stow faced a similar crisis. But they had some forward thinking people on their school board. They knew that this declining enrollment thing wasn’t a fad. It was a steady measurable thing. So they tore down buildings, built some new buildings, and reconfigured their entire district. They set up grade leveled buildings. They rightly assumed that as enrollment fluctuated across the city, it could be easily adjusted for by adding or eliminating classrooms per grade level. Since then Stow has seen a boom in new housing. But I haven’t seen any major school realignments in Stow.

In fact if you notice the two districts that seem to be constantly moving students, realigning boundaries and closing buildings are two of the three that are still in neighbor school configurations in Summit County. Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. Barberton is the other. The rest of Summit County school districts are grade level configured, or a close hybrid. Coincidently, they are also the three out of five districts in Summit County that are in the “needs improvement” status academically.

4 years ago we were told that there was a financial crisis. The students of Newberry and Sill paid the price. There are some that will tell you that everyone paid a price, but I’m here to tell you that no one suffered like the kids that went to these schools did. It was a smack in the face to everyone that paid taxes in this neighborhood; I mean once again we were being asked to close our school. But the emotional toll on the kids’ that were fed the “love your school” propaganda for years was immeasurable. These were their schools, their teachers, their principal.

That’s why I find this quote in today’s Akron Beacon Journal so insulting. “Board Vice President Therese Dunphy acknowledged that Falls residents have an affection for their neighborhood schools. ''There's a sense of community with the building they're in,'' she said.” Really? This from a woman that has had 3 years to offer a solution to the spending and class size disparities and has offered nothing but lip service.

9 months ago the administration indicated a need to make cuts and make drastic changes due to the possible mandate of all day kindergarten. They asked the board to decide what was important, what should be looked at to cut, to save, basically what were our priorities and focus. I offered my idea. No one else did.

Then they asked the same of the community a month later. 5 forums were held and suggestions were offered. The administration took what they had to work with and presented the findings. Now the board, that sat back and did nothing, wants to do something. They don’t like what was offered from the people they pay to do this work. Now they want to form a committee. I’m disgusted.

Why? Because we just had this proposed redistricting committee.

Get back in the Wayback Machine, Sherman. Set the dial for 2004. Remember the 2nd set of building closings I mentioned above? Well it started here in 2004. We are all tip toeing through the daisies until one day we are told an evil troll has destroyed our finances. It is dire. Much will have to be sacrificed to the Holy document known as “The Five-Year Forecast”. And of course, the district will form a committee. It shall be called- “The Plan for Excellence Committee”. Of course there are always those that can’t conform to the status quo. They are commonly called rabble-rousers by administrators. The rabble-rousers formed their own committee and did some home work.

This is getting long, so I’ll leave you with this ‘til tomorrow. While the rabble-rousers were toiling over our cauldrons, the school district was busy forming committees, sub-committees and focus groups. All of which I’ve come to despise but I accept them as it is all these people know. One of the sub-committees formed was the reconfiguration committee. Oddly enough it was co-chaired by two Silver Lake residents. The rabble-rousers raised a fuss and the district reluctantly allowed one Cuyahoga Falls resident to join. I couldn’t wait to see what he outcome of redistricting would be....

Tomorrow... The Recommendations from the Reconfiguration Committee.