Karen Mantia’s Failing Grades: Lakota’s declining report card from Cinci Magazine

After a few articles about Lakota and the Old Union School giveaway to Patti Alderson there were some who suggested that I was Lakota bashing again. The suggestion was that somehow the criticism was unwarranted and that at some point the “teabillies” who have lived in the Lakota district for generations should just be willing to cave into the neurotic whims of the new money that has recently moved into Lakota and expect progressive oriented government services and education practices to permeate. So the implied insult deserves a bit of analyses that I had actually be holding back on—a bit of fact-finding that isn’t all that hard to discover—yet few media outlets around Cincinnati have reported it—especially the Pulse Journal who have been eating out of Superintendent Mantia’s hand over the last couple of years to ill effect. The information of importance is the gradual slide in performance that Lakota is currently on in spite of a recent levy passage in 2013. Since Karen Mantia came to Lakota and the school board acquired Julie Shaffer Lakota has been slipping in the Cincy Magazine “Rating the Burbs” yearly report card dropping all the way down to #21 in the city after starting at #14 in 2012.imageimageimageimage

Now let’s consider the facts–in 2012 I was on WLW radio nearly every week exposing Lakota’s issues and spent quite a lot of time doing television and public speeches about the wasteful spending at Lakota. Karen Mantia was hired for an extraordinary quarter million dollar a year sum with all benefits included and immediately went to work at attacking parts of the community resistant to the management methods proposed by No Lakota Levy. It was within that environment that Lakota maintained a ranking of #14 within the city which many complained about and blamed on the bad press. After a plea for mercy from Lakota to me directly asking for a year-long ceasefire so they could repair their image I backed off and left Lakota alone for the most part. When they attempted another levy in 2013 No Lakota Levy got back together to challenge it. Safety after a couple of national school shootings was the issue behind the levy and the tax finally passed with just 1% of the vote after Sheriff Jones threw his support behind Lakota. After the passage Lakota immediately gave their employees the raises they promised and reinstated some of the programs that had been cut, but not all of them. The first priority was in paying the employees—the children were definitely of a secondary importance. For instance, it was just a month from this writing that Lakota teachers dressed in black to protest the school board over merit pay. So all has not been well, and it’s been getting worse without the marketing efforts of yours truly.imageimageimageimage

No Lakota Levy went about their business in different sectors of society and things have been mostly quite for the school board on the front of tax resistance. Well before Lakota asked for a cease-fire I declared that the situation was unworkable and needed to be dissolved. So any thoughts of being on the school board and fixing the situation from a management point of view I abandoned in February of 2012. It was obvious that Karen Mantia and several school board members were incompetent to deal with the teacher’s union and there was no way to fix the situation. It was at that time that I advocated breaking up public education in favor of new options so my personal strategy changed. But prior to that I had a pretty good relationship with Lynda O’Conner, and Ron Spurlock and we were really close to rational management of the Lakota district. It was at that time when Lakota was #14 in the city out of 35 area schools. For affluent Lakota, that wasn’t acceptable, so everyone agreed—including me—to give peace a chance. This is what Lakota did with that peace.

As shown on these charts starting with the summer of 2012 up to the present Lakota has gradually declined each year that Mantia has been superintendent even while maintaining some of the highest salaries for teachers within the entire city. Several Kentucky schools are higher such as Walton-Verona which only has an average salary of $49,774 and Fort Thomas at $57,399—which is a stone throw away from downtown Cincinnati. Lakota is outrageously high, and there is no plan to reduce those high wages. Under Mantia she lobbied hard to obtain a levy by dividing the community just so she could hand out raises to teachers in the spring of 2014. The levy was passed in the fall of 2013 so how did those raises improve Lakota schools? Not a bit—it only made the situation worse. Here are the facts.

In 2013 with the truce in full effect until the fourth quarter Lakota actually went up to #13 on the ranking. But immediately after the levy passage they slide to #17 the following year. I wrote a few articles and Mantia kept Jeffery Stec employed at $40K per year with the Community Conversation promotional campaign. But mostly things were quiet in Lakota. The local papers were eating out of the superintendent’s hand once again, the school board had peace as they practiced taking turns at being the president, and things were looking very non confrontational and promising—if you believe that money in public education equals success. But of course it doesn’t. Over the next two years Lakota slid in their rating to the 2015 number of #21, which is an obvious sign that the management of the district has been focused on all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons—and at the current rate will fall off the chart within a few years.

My old friend Kelly Kohls who was president of the Springboro school board operated her district at a $7,175 per pupil average and managed a #13 rating in nearly the same demographic numbers as it is just north of the Lakota district. Their average salary there is just $52,596 which seems reasonable. 70% of their students have Master’s degrees where it’s 78.6% at Lakota—which is statistically similar. Yet they have managed to drive their average cost down while maintaining a higher ranking. Isn’t that interesting?

It becomes quite clear while looking at these stats that throwing more money at Lakota, and leaving them alone like they begged—did not produce better results—like they promised. Now, to me that means termination of the people who caused the problem—Lakota had more success under Ron Spurlock than under the much more expensive radical Karen Mantia—and Lakota obviously made a management mistake by letting Ron drift off into the sunset and promoting Mantia—because she did nearly the same type of thing at Pickerington where she was a previous superintendent before coming to Lakota.

Mantia has focused more on things like building community consensus with socialites like Patti Alderson and their Old Union School giveaway than in actually managing the district—which is evident in her track record. It might be understood that she had a few bad years, but the trend at Lakota shows a slide downhill that is increasing immediately in the wake of a levy passage. She and her employees have mismanaged the district. It could easily be argued that Lakota was better off listening to those of us who know a thing or two about these issues, than in painting themselves into a corner for which there is no escape—like they have.

The Cincy Magazine “Rating the Burbs” report card is hardly a “gotcha” type of publication. They cheer for public schools to have success. They want Lakota to be successful, so if they wanted to be harder on the affluent public school, they could be. Even with all of that flexibility, Lakota still failed when left to their own devices. They failed under the leadership of Karen Mantia and have proven that they are overpaying their employees without expecting performance results. And that’s not the end of it. Currently the Lakota employees are still dressing in black and protesting merit pay going into the upcoming year, and they aren’t smart enough to see where they stand on the food chain—or their rankings within the city. Poor performers typically don’t get paid premium money—like Mantia has for doing a bad job. But the employees see that Mantia gets away with it, so they expect the same—and that is why Lakota continues to slide in performance reports related directly to their competition with other area schools.

Rich Hoffman


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I write, and write, and write. And when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. I have too many hobbies. I read too many books and I don't sleep. There's just too much life to be lived to waste it for even a second.

One thought on “Karen Mantia’s Failing Grades: Lakota’s declining report card from Cinci Magazine”

  1. Nicely done, my friend. Good to see the Springboro data and you make a good point about Cinci Magazine not being a “gotcha” type publication.



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