Monroe Superintendent is Stepping Down: Being between a rock and a hard place

Right on queue Monroe Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli has indicated that she will be resigning from her position after the levy failure in August ahead of a November attempt. She says that the levy failure has nothing to do with her decision to give up an annual salary of $116,000 so she can work as a consultant for Butler County Educational Services, but the pattern is all too reminiscent of the behavior of the school districts’ immediate neighbor Lakota.

Two months after the levy defeat at Lakota in November of 2010 Mike Taylor retired stepping out of the heat that was brewing as it was revealed that the cause of the tax increase was due to excessively high teacher salaries, and that the superintendent had not even made an effort to manage his costs. In a video Taylor filmed before the 2010 levy attempt Taylor declared that teachers did not make enough for their intense 7.5 hour day 9 months out of the year, and that he thought teachers should be paid more!

Well it is that type of mismanagement of tax payer resources that have caused school districts all over Ohio to effectively go bankrupt, including Monroe which is now in a state fiscal emergency. If a superintendent who makes six figures isn’t going to manage the costs of their employees, then they are failures. Mike was smart to jump off the ship at Lakota because the game had been exposed, and he knew it. So he did the smart thing and retired.

Lakota actually improved their performance over the next 6 months without a superintendent which proved that the superintendent positions are just token occupations designed to shield school boards from direct responsibility when things go wrong. The superintendent is simply a spokesman for the schools and are more comparable to a public relations consultant whose sole propose is to pass tax increases than a CEO who runs a major company. Lakota prior to another levy attempt in the fall of 2011 hired the quarter million dollar double dipping delegator, the former retiree from Sycamore Schools Karen Mantia. Since bringing her on to exclusively pass a school levy Lakota has spent well over $250,000 in compensation on Mantia, plus another $160,000 dollars on public relations in just over a year’s time. Nearly half a million dollars alone has been spent on creating a positive public image for a school that is supposed to be teaching children. But the obvious function of the education jobs are to create government jobs with tax payer dollars and the superintendent is the guardian of that creation, not the regulation of cost. Superintendents are sold to the community as CEO’s, but their actual function is simply public relations. Mantia did nothing after Lakota’s levy failures to present to the education union a 5% reduction in their inflated wages and benefits in order to balance their budget; instead she participated in cutting electives, increasing sports fees, and aggressive busing reductions. The purpose of these measures were not to cut costs, but to punish the public for not passing a levy. (How do I know that? Because I am personal friends with several former and current school board members who have given me their notes from Levy University taught at their yearly OSBA conference in Columbus. Bet you won’t read about that in your local newspaper.)

The same type of extortion is going on at Monroe. Voters just turned down a vote in August yet the school board put another attempt on the ballot for November. Their intention is to keep putting a tax increase on the ballot until the public gives up resisting it. This is radical politics in the extreme and is a popular union tactic that is responsible for how the wages through collective bargaining drove up the labor costs of Lakota, and Monroe in the first place to average salaries of over $60K per year. Collective bargaining is the villain, since it is the “collective” body of the school employees who make demands through threats of strike to get short work days, extremely low health insurance costs, and 2% to 3% increases for all their years of employment. Teachers all through the previous decade would threaten to strike at the slightest mention of health insurance increases sending a strong message to school boards to not even attempt to regulate the wages, so nobody did.

The result is out-of-control budgets in all of Ohio’s 614 school districts and the only way they have to balance their budget is to increase taxes. This is the fault of the unions, and they are hiding in the backgrounds leaving school superintendents to take the bullets for them, people like Elizabeth Lolli who was paid six figures to put up and shut up. Monroe hopes that they can get a levy passed by parting ways with Lolli and blaming all their financial problems on their previous treasurer whom they are currently suing. But the fault is actually on all of them who constantly yielded to the union demands avoiding conflict like truck drivers avoid driving on an icy road.

What nobody has figured out is that these levy failures are the public’s way of striking back at the unions for their constant terrorism invoked through fear of work stoppages over the years, driving up their labor costs. When the public votes down a levy, they are saying, “NO” to the cost increases imposed on a school district, which is their way of managing the costs. The school board has an obligation to act on that vote, not cheerlead on behalf of the union who caused the problem in the first place. A “NO” vote is looked upon by the radical tax grabbers as a greedy, child hating enterprise, but where were the cares for the children when the teachers threatened to walk off the job because their health care was going up by .5%, or they demanded at 3% increase in pay instead of a 2%. Teachers who participated in those strikes are hypocrites and they are the cause of the current financial instability. When the public says “NO” to a school levy, they mean it. And when a public official at the local school board, or the state decide they are going to be arrogant enough to put another levy on the ballot the day after the public voted the tax increase down, they are proclaiming to the world that they are too spineless, and arrogant to listen to the public mandate, and that they will ram the issue down the throat of the public until the “NO” votes becomes a “YES” vote. And every person who participates in that process should lose their job.

Elizabeth Lolli knows she’s caught between a rock and a hard place just as Lakota’s Mike Taylor knew it, and the best thing to do these days is to take the money and run, because the money tree isn’t shaking any more. Tax payers have realized that they are being scammed and they don’t like it. And the unions wouldn’t dare attempt to threaten a strike now that people are on to their game, so the “NO” votes are getting bolder—finally. People for the first time in over a decade are openly voicing their opinion about these money scams coming from public education and they resent having their children wrapped up in the ordeal. There is a real and growing anger at the entire public education funding process. I’m so fed up with it that I think all parents should home school their children, because I don’t like the product public schools are producing. It certainly isn’t worth the massive amounts of money we throw at it. For the $2000 to $3000 I spend per year on property taxes, I’d rather save the money and take my family to Disney World than provide a baby sitting service for the young busy parents who live in my school district and more people are beginning to feel as I do, which is very bad for the public school unions—who I don’t think have a legal right to even exist.

So it’s no mystery that Monroe’s Superintendent Lolli is stepping down, because the writing is on the wall. She knows it and the school board knows it, and the union knows the mud is on their hands. If I were a superintendent I wouldn’t want to be in the situation either, even for a six figure income to simply be a public relations mouthpiece. Because before too long, the guilt overtakes the comfort that the money brings, and the heat in the kitchen is just too great. And the heat is very hot in the kitchen right now, and it’s about to get a lot hotter. Believe me, I know first hand. The only adults in the room on this whole education issue are the people who vote “NO” and deep down inside all the school board members know it, and the superintendents do as well. Because logic is on the side of the people who are declaring that the spending increases on salaries and benefits in public education have to be pulled down to reality, but the unions won’t budge leaving the school superintendent to be squashed in the middle. Superintendents like Lakota’s Mantia puts herself in that difficult situation willingly accepting she couldn’t get a job anywhere else as easy as a school superintendent and make so much money. So the public pressure is worth the financial return for her. But for people like Lolli, and Taylor, who can see where this funding road is going, they have logically and wisely decided to remove themselves from the debate which will be a loss for them no matter which way a vote in November dictates.

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Rich Hoffman
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