To Gain Public Support For 4.9 Mills Of New Taxes, Kettering School Superintendent Should Explain How New Five Year Plan Cuts $19 Million

The following is an e-mail that I sent this morning to Dr. Jim Schoenlein, Superintendent of Kettering Schools.  In this e-mail I communicate three items:  1) I applaud Dr. Schoenlein for his bringing to public discussion the new book by Frederick Hess that calls for a transformation of public education  2) I request an explanation of the new five year plan, that shows $19 million in savings and is the basis for moving from a request of 6.9 mills of new property tax, rejected last May by Kettering voters, to a request of 4.9 mills to be voted on in November.  3) I make a public records request.

Dr. Schoenlein:  Three items:

First, I enjoyed reading your editorial in the KO Times, with the title, “Educators Becoming ‘Gardeners’,”  centered on a book written by Frederick Hess, “Education Unbound:  The Promise and Practice of Greenfield Schooling.” You report that this book was part of a discussion by Kettering school administrators at a recent “retreat.”  Your editorial inspired me to spend some time Googling Mr. Hess and I found a wide library of his speeches and articles. Here is a link, at ASCD, where Hess discusses the book.

Mr. Hess articulates a point of view similar to the view I arrived at during my 30 years of teaching.  Hess writes about the need for “dramatic change,” the need for “transformation” of public education.   And as you report, in your editorial, “Hess believes that the key problem facing education is systemic.”

The problem is, as everyone who has spent any time in public education knows, achieving systemic change in public education seems near impossible.  Hess states, “Why ‘Greenfield Schooling?’  Our conventional approaches to school reform have not delivered and after 40 years, I’m suggesting, it is not likely to deliver.”

The idea behind “Greenfield Schooling” is that to arrive at the needed reform of public education, we must use unconventional approaches. For Kettering public education to realize its potential, we need visionary and energetic leadership and an engaged community.  By bringing the Hess book to the attention of the community, via the KO Times editorial, and by beginning a discussion with your administrators about the idea of “Greenfield Schooling,” I applaud you.  I want to encourage you to keep making the effort.  I am hoping that if I can form a community group that would commit to read and discuss the Hess book, and use the book as a springboard to discuss the future of Kettering public education, that you would agree to participate in such a group, and would encourage others to do the same.

Second, I spoke with Kettering School Treasurer, Steve Clark, this morning and requested an explanation of the new five year plan. He indicated that I would need to talk with you.

The new five year plan, prepared by Mr. Clark, shows a big change in the five year plan used to justify a 6.9 mill request for new property tax, rejected by Kettering voters last May.  The new plan shows a scaled down budget and is now the basis for a 4.9 mill request for new property tax that will be on the November ballot. There is a $19 million difference between the two five year plans and I believe Kettering voters deserve a thorough explanation. The first five year plan called for total expenditures over the five years of $440 million and the new plan calls for total expenditures over the next five years of $421 million.

The first year of the new five year plan is identical with the first year of the discarded five year plan.  It appears that $500,000 is saved each year by closing the  Moraine Meadows Elementary School for a total of $2 million for the next four years of the plan.  It appears that $1.5 million is saved each year in personnel costs for four years, resulting in a total of $6 million for the last four years of the five year plan.  I am requesting that you send to me the exact changes in personnel that resulted in a $1.5 million savings in personnel expense each year, starting in the second year of this approved five year plan.

Much of the remaining $11 million in total saving appears to come from a change in the amount paid to personnel in salary and benefits.  In the previous five year plan, the inflation for personnel expenses was shown at 4.8% and the rate in the new plan is shown at 2.8%.  Is there a further attrition in staffing planned or does the reduced inflation rate in the new plan indicate that the board has established a policy of significantly reducing the inflation of salaries in new contracts for personnel?

Third, As you know, I have been receiving a copy of board material, at the time of each board meeting, and paying 5 cents per xeroxed copy.  I’m surprised that none of this xeroxed material contains answers to the questions I ask above.  Certainly, there must be a record of the Kettering Board members asking the same questions I ask above, and, in fact, much better questions than what I’ve thought to ask. And, I’m thinking, there must be a record of the answers to such questions.

By this e-mail, I am making a request for a copy of all reports, letters, memos and e-mails provided to Kettering School Board Members, and any communications shared with your administrative team, that are designated in Ohio law as public information, from the time period of May 1, 2010 through today’s date, August 8, 2010.

Thank you very much.  Here is wishing you a great year.


Mike Bock

Old Forecast — Predicting a need for 6.9 Mills

New Forecast — Predicting a need for 4.9 Mills

This entry was posted in Special Reports. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *