Wow, I came home to a flood of email today from parents upset about the busing cuts, and even angrier at the school system for not dealing with the excessively high salaries before taking away busing to their children. It looks like many people are starting to see how this scam works, and that is good to see. I’ll deal with that in another article because I think the bigger story is the recent rating that Lakota received from the ODE. Remember the busing cuts are only around 3% of the total budget, and it is the labor costs that make up 80% of the school budget, so let’s keep that in context.
Before we get into the details have a look at the various interviews from me, and those of the Yes Lakota people prior to the election of 2010 from the clip above. Listen to what the Yes Lakota people say will happen if the levy isn’t passed, then compare that information to the results you will see below and decide for yourself what’s fact from fiction.
As Lakota received news that they received from the Ohio Department of Education an “excellent” rating for the 10th year in a row, I was actually surprised. I fully expected with all the cuts and controversy of the last year to see a lower rating, after all that’s what the pro levy people said would happen if we didn’t pass a levy last fall, and even the school board said as much. But the levy didn’t pass, the district made deep cuts, yet last year the rating was 104.9, but this year the rating went up to 105.9. How did that happen? Below is the article from the Pulse Journal by Steven Mathews. Have a look for yourself.
Lakota’s top state ranking puts district in elite group
Excellent with Distinction honor draws praise from community, school board members.
By Steven Matthews, Staff Writer 10:16 AM Wednesday, August 24, 2011
LIBERTY TWP. — The Lakota Local School District’s Board of Education met on Monday night, and much of the session was centered around the big news that was announced last week — the Excellent with Distinction honor awarded by the state for the 2010-11 year.
The meeting, which included a PowerPoint presentation from Assistant Superintendent Lon Stettler and praise from community members, lasted about 90 minutes at the Lakota Central Office.
“Despite the challenges that we had last year and we continue to go through, the focus is where it needs to be — in the classroom,” board member Lynda O’Connor said.
Stettler emphasized in his presentation that Lakota — the seventh-largest district in Ohio — was the largest district to receive the state’s highest honor.
It’s the 10th straight year that Lakota has earned the highest possible honor, and its 105.9 performance index is an all-time district high.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve experienced changing demographics,” President Joan Powell said.
“It demonstrates that our staff has risen to the occasion.”
• New Superintendent Karen Mantia said that she has met with several focus groups, which consisted of residents, business leaders, government officials and parents. She also plans to meet with students once the school year gets underway.
“Here’s what I learned,” Mantia said. “It’s absolutely imperative that if we do nothing else, we make sure we maximize our children’s performance, and maximize the staff’s performance and expertise. … Across the board, they all understand the expectation of our staff is high.”
• The board approved a policy to either provide a cell phone or a cell phone stipend of $60 per month for certain district positions. Chris Passarge, the executive director of business operations, said most eligible employees chose the stipend.
• The board also approved the acceptance of a $2,000 eTech Ohio grant that has been awarded to the Lakota East Freshman School.
Tamera Terndrup, a Spanish teacher at the school, will use the grant to purchase four wireless laptops with microphone headsets.
I think that’s excellent news about the rating, the rest of those issues I’ll cover in another article, but it proves what the No Lakota people have been saying all along, for the school to do more with less, and you’ll find better results when you’re lean and mean. Oddly enough, Lakota did not even have a superintendent during this rating increase, so what does that mean? Lakota made cuts to their deficit, eliminated positions, cut busing, sports programs and electives and they did all this without a superintendent, yet their rating went up, not down on the heels of a failed levy.
Even more baffling are the comments of Superintendent Mantia in that article where she says after her short time at Lakota, “Here’s what I learned, It’s absolutely imperative that if we do nothing else, we make sure we maximize our children’s performance, and maximize the staff’s performance and expertise…..across the board, they all understand the expectation of our staff is high.” WHAT??????????????????? What does any of that mean? Doesn’t Lakota always maximize its performance and understand that the expectations are high?
The answer is no. Until the No Lakota Levy group came along and started challenging everything that the school was doing in order to defeat the last two levies, the school district and its employees had been cruising along. Once the public in the form of No Lakota Levy came along, that anti-tax group had taken the role of “management” in the community, a role the school board had not been performing. It is because of No Lakota Levy breathing down the neck of all these officials that the costs of education at Lakota have come down, and the rating actually went up from this year compared with last year.
I’m not unnecessarily taking credit for the good work the administrators did in this endeavor. But they knew that they would be challenged so they have tip-toed around trying to be creative in their financing and still perform at a high level, which we all expect as a district. But it is the Lakota School Boards job to do what No Lakota Levy has been doing. I would personally prefer to do something else with my time, but since my elected officials have shown “no fight” in standing up to the organized labor forces that have embedded themselves in public education using tax increases to hide their terrible management of that labor, I am actually angered that myself along with a small army of businessman in the community have to actually do their job for them by showing them what kind of questions to ask, and understanding where that line is in our community of when too much is too much. The school board was supposed to be doing that all along, but they didn’t.
The reason for Mantia’s comments being what they are is now that she’s arrived here and got her feet wet, she is realizing that Lakota did really well without her, without a levy increase, and now she really can’t do anything but fail. She has come into a district at the top of its game and she really can’t expect to improve it. So here’s the question, and I’m sure this is bouncing around in her head also, why she should cost the district a quarter million dollars in costs just for her employment expenses? (To see a breakdown of what she costs the district CLICK HERE)
The school board hired Mantia because they are still stuck in an old formula of organized labor education philosophy which is based on the failed economic Keynesian economic models of Europe. But Lakota has proven that it can do more with less, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more savings to be gained if only the school board would “manage” its labor costs and if the community could free itself from the organized labor elements of the teaching profession. This can be done if the people in Ohio will simply vote YES to keep S.B.5 on Issue 2. That simple step would go a long way to allowing future school boards to drive down the cost of education even more than Lakota has, while still maintaining their excellence. (Click here to learn what S.B.5 does for you)
The rhetoric that schools utter when they proclaim that if they don’t get more money is the same old tired diatribes that all labor utters when they are asked to do more with less. The problem with organized labor is they threaten to strike if they don’t get what they want, and will walk off the job like infants who don’t get a pacifier and it is that element in this whole equation that has driven up these labor costs and dictated these levy requests, and that is the hidden message behind Mrs. Mantia’s comments. She has been hired to preserve that empire, not to drive down costs, because the real savings is in dismantling the empire of education so that the children of these schools actually see the money, and not political labor unions attempting to finance their enterprises with a straw into our wallets and purses as a lifeline of finance, as they empty us to only fill themselves.