I don’t normally give the Lakota school board credit, but they deserve some for the hard decision of reprimanding and suspending the famed band director Greg Snyder. Snyder shortly after the disciplinary action took early retirement which takes place next February 20th 2015. At Lakota that is similar to punishing a star athlete who is a team’s bread and butter—it is difficult—but is something that must be done when impropriety is discovered. The band director who took Cincinnati to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the famous Macy’s Day Parade used his $81,733 per year position to make at least $6000 additional dollars more in private lessons, and free travel for his family members. Here are the details according to a good report from Channel 19 news in Cincinnati.
WEST CHESTER, OH (FOX19) –
Lakota West High School’s band director has been suspended for 17 days without pay after a district investigation found that he violated several policies and state laws, including using his official influence for personal gain.
A letter dated Monday to Greg Snyder, the district’s executive director of human resources outlines the conduct led to the suspension.
“Mr. Snyder, I must indicate to you that I am deeply concerned for your disregard for board of education policies, the Licensure of Professional Conduct, ethical considerations and other directives given by Lakota administration,” Diane Brunsman said. “This attitude and disregard is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Snyder has conducted a band clinic for seventh, eighth and ninth grade students for nearly 20 years that’s never been a district sponsored event. Before the past two years, Snyder received the student participation fee money directly for the band clinic.
Snyder advertised the band clinic by posting a flyer that sits next to programs at band concerts and he made the flyer on his district-provided computer. Snyder determines who receives money for the clinic.
The district said that conduct violated several policies and state laws, including the state’s prohibition against the use of official influence for personal gain.
Snyder also encouraged the hiring and payment of family members by the Upbeat Club band boosters for band camp. That violates state law that says public employees are not permitted to authorize or use their authority to secure a public contract for himself, relatives or business associates.
The district also said that Snyder hosted private lessons at his home for Lakota district students. Board policy required that he received permission for the lessons but the district found no records that he received the approval. The board found that Snyder gave students extra credit for taking private lessons.
Since at least 2004, Snyder received free school band-related trips from travel agencies. The district didn’t pay for the trips. Until a recent New York trip, Snyder arranged the traveling. He decided what vendors to use for travel services, Brunsman said.
The travel-related conduct violated several policies including the prohibition against the use of official influence for personal gain, the district said.
Brunsman found more alleged misconduct.
At last year’s band camp, a student was told by a college student to run laps while all staff and students went inside. The student passed out outside alone. The student’s father found the student and spoke to Snyder about the incident. But Snyder didn’t tell anyone at the district about the episode.
“You were the district employee in charge during this incident and failed to adequately supervise the students,” Brunsman wrote.
The district also said that a uniform vendor treats Snyder and his wife to a variety of places for dinner including Applebee’s, Skyline and an annual dinner at The Precinct or other Jeff Ruby restaurants. That too violates several policies or laws.
Snyder has agreed to retire/resign effective Feb. 20, 2015 or when he is eligible to retire through the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio with 35 years of service.
Snyder’s salary is $81,733.
Lakota West’s band has performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade.
The school board did the right thing, even though it was surely difficult. However, here is where attention needs to be directed. The story was very cleverly released on the Thursday before Good Friday immediately after the release of the new teacher contract with the union where that same board agreed to pay over $2 million dollars more in raises to over 900 teachers just like Snyder, who are highly paid already. The actions of Snyder who was an example at Lakota West of everything that was right about a teacher proved that the temptation to abuse power for personal gain is just too great, and even large wages cannot prevent the kind of greed that fueled his actions.
I can only use my own experiences for reference in judging Greg Snyder’s behavior which I’m sure levy apologists will attempt to declare is much to do about nothing. Professionally, I do pretty well—so much so that my wife doesn’t have to work. Just last weekend I spent some time with my friends at the The Whip Artistry Studio helping them do promotional work. CLICK HERE FOR REVIEW. At the conclusion of the event I was offered quite a lot of money for my services, which I turned down because I like the people involved and felt my pay-day had already come from other sources. It didn’t cross my mind to charge money—not even remotely until a few hundred bucks were stuffed in my face which I refused. A few days later some high level entertainers saw the work I was doing for WAAM radio at the Cincinnati Tea Party Tax Day and assumed I was highly paid talent producing a show. When they discovered that I was doing everything for free, they were shocked. I explained that it was passion that drove my actions, and I would never expect payment for doing what I enjoyed while helping friends. For me the value is in doing something I feel passion for. When I hear about Greg Snyder’s actions, if I had a nice position making a comfortable $81,000 dollar per year salary which is more than enough to live on—and I wanted to share that passion with students outside of school, I would never charge for extra classes or mentorship—and I’d pay for my own meals. What Greg Snyder did was so ridiculously cheap and low-class. He is just the latest example of a poor mind corrupted with terribly bad judgment at the Lakota school system.
The scary thing about Greg Snyder is that he is an example of what’s right in public schools, and not even he with a very comfortable wage can turn down the temptation to abuse power to enrich himself. One of the reasons the school board stated that they needed to give teachers $2 million dollars in pay raises is because they wanted to retain their quality of teachers—yet Snyder is one of their examples of a quality teacher—a real school asset who was very well paid. But the money wasn’t enough to keep him from abusing his power—so why would the school board think that throwing more money stolen from tax payer property values would alleviate future Greg Snyders from their poor conduct? The answer is that they fail to recognize good teachers from bad ones.
Greg Snyder’s behavior is typical of employees protected by a labor union. Even with all the media coverage, Snyder will still teach at the school until he is eligible for retirement, which is almost a year from now. So the punishment is pretty toothless—except for the embarrassment of the experience. Such labor unions like Lakota’s LEA is filled with these types of small-minded employees, who are so cheap mentally that their generous salary isn’t enough—they want more—and more—and more, levy after levy, after levy. They are never happy because they are mentally empty vessels inside perpetually seeking to be filled. There are not enough raises the school board could ever pass or taxes levied against the community that will stop the behavior of similar Greg Snyders. Because Greg Snyder isn’t so good—it is just that the rest of public education is that bad. A person capable of making the bad decisions of Lakota West’s band director is not a person who should be teaching children. So what if they get to go to New York on Thanksgiving Day to participate in the Macy’s Parade—if to get there they had to pad the pockets of Greg Snyder and his wife to become a bit better. It takes extra work to be better than the next competitor, and Snyder was charging students for that boost—so there is nothing special about Greg Snyder which is the heart of this story. What was assumed about Snyder was that his bands were good because he was just better than other band directors. The truth turns out to be that he was teaching in a rich district that had great benefits like being sent to The Precinct and other Jeff Ruby restaurants, accompanied with under the table cash from The Upbeat Club because the parents were willing to pay for their kids to get a bit of a boost in life. Snyder was too cheap to cover those events with his voluminous paycheck. Greg Snyder turned out to be just another typical example of a public employee—much more concerned with their payday than actually doing good work. And at Lakota he was considered one of the good ones.
Imagine what the bad ones are like—and out of the 900 teachers who just got a levy increase funded pay raise, you can bet there are employees in that mix who also make similar money as Snyder did under the LEA collective bargaining agreement who are so bad that they make Lakota’s band director look like a saint in comparison.
“Just as a note to Randy Oppenheimer, Lakota’s director of media and community relations who reads here quite often for obvious reasons—I put this story up after Easter was over, because you know how things are. You released your story during a holiday weekend so that people would have their minds on other things and it would be dead by Sunday morning. Clever move—so I waited until people were reengaged with reality before I commented on it. You didn’t think I’d forget did you? Surely not.” : ) This little chess game between us wouldn’t be any fun otherwise.