In the direction of balance

Balance can be seen on scales, in sports and on spreadsheets. There are times when balance is easy to see and define. There are times when we have to work to achieve balance. For example, in our own homes we try to find a perfect balance between work and family. Although we can define the ideal, we rarely meet it.

With the Board of Education race in Springboro this fall, voters will look for balance. Some will argue balance means putting opposing sides together on the board. But the picture of balance needs to be bigger than that. Board of Education members are elected to represent the community in the school district.

The board is elected to balance the interests of students, parents, taxpayers, and employees.  Many school boards lack balance because they are comprised of people with more allegiance to maintaining a specific establishment than to the greater cause.

In Springboro, balance has been restored. With a new administrative team, the Springboro school district has adopted a mission to “accelerate student achievement and support qualified staff with a balanced budget.” These are not empty words: they summarize actions. Together, we have achieved a balanced budget. We are on the right course, but it has not been easy.

With Educate Springboro, we brought changes that forced many to rethink long-held beliefs. Anytime the status quo changes, there is resistance. Panicked petitions and hysterical headlines have made things feel” out of balance. So now, there is a slate of three candidates that want to return to the past – which “felt” balanced.

However, today we can see just how far out of balance we actually were under the previous leadership. Some of the imbalances of the past include:

  • Capping high school class sizes in the 20s, while other grades who most need teacher attention, had larger class sizes (often up to 30).
  • Teaching the majority to meet the proficient standard (proficient is a OAA test score in 8th grade >40), while our district receives a “D” in gifted education and a “C” for our more challenged, lowest 20%.
  • Ignoring the changing curriculum and testing standards for students.
  • Charging higher pay-to-play and school fees than were necessary.
  • Failing to plan for technology in our classrooms and then spending resources on wireless technology that was inadequate and required replacement.
  • Ignoring recommendations to improve the rigor of our high school academic programs by failing to promote college credit options for our students.
  • Reacting to circumstances and spending more than budgeted instead of planning to invest and keeping up our buildings, grounds and bus fleet.
  • Assuming the only solution was higher taxes and hoping for a new levy to pass.

These are symptoms of the status quo controlling a school district that lost its balance.

If there was any balance at all in the past, it was an eye for an eye. As this community said no” to five new money levies, district leaders failed to find levy alternatives.  The status quo threatened the community with cuts. Thankfully, many of those leaders have left, but some now would like to return to sit on our school board. 

This year’s record is easy to defend because it consistently demonstrates investing in Children First. From replacing the District’s aging computers, buses, to implementing new curriculum and raising expectations with new standards, testing – we have progressed!

Why would we give control back to those who slowed this district’s progress? Those who inflated budget forecasts? Those who ignored the capital needs of the District? Most importantly, why would we elect the same people who neglected to put Children First in our schools?

The Children First budget is navigating us away from the repeated failures of the past. Now, working in open, public meetings, asking tough questions, hearing all voices, using performance data and striving to find a balance that supports teachers, our community is achieving the goal to put Children First in every decision.

Balance is about consistent, sustainable, forward-looking leadership. Educate Springboro sees the bigger picture and leads in the direction of balance for our children, schools and community.  We’ll continue to be the voice that stands up for parents and the community, examining past practices, and making tough decisions – whether it is providing technology, more services for gifted students, raises for employees, or even a tax rollback – To maintain balance for the benefit of everyone.

We hope you will share this good news with your friends and neighbors.

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In the direction of restoring confidence

In the direction of restoring confidence

con·fi·dence

noun: 1. full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing. . . .

Synonyms 
1. faith, reliance, dependence. See trust. . .

 Antonyms 
1. mistrust.

The opposite of confidence is mistrust. The central goal of the concerned citizens in Educate Springboro is to rebuild eroding trust in our community and schools. With each new money levy defeat in Springboro, frustrated levy proponents have searched for blame rather than answers.

As Educate Springboro sought to add its voice to our district’s board of education, we campaigned for confidence. More than that, we campaigned for the confidence for all stakeholders—the newly married couple in a starter home and farmer in Clearcreek Township; the parents who would to give everything for their child and the grandparents who watched their savings evaporate in the stock market; the employed and the unemployed; the alumni and the new resident; and so many others.

The idea of confidence is so simple, it was one of three promises Jim Rigano and I pledged during our campaign for school board in 2011:

Children First:  Budget for educational and support services for children first.  No holding parents hostage over things like busing and classroom fees.  Reduced pay to participate fees so more families can afford to pursue extra curricular activities.

                  PROMISE KEPT!

Rebuild Confidence:  Worked to make sure the strife and waste caused by 5 unnecessary levy attempts does not have to occur again by doing our committee and board work in a public and transparent fashion.  We turned the TV cameras back on so you can hold us accountable and see for yourself the workings of the board.

                  PROMISE KEPT!

Control Spending: While our opponents were focusing on the unnecessary pursuit of new taxes, we analyzed the budget presenting 12 concrete budget saving steps worth over $30mm.  The result: a $6mm surplus, lower P2P fees, restored services for children, and raises for all the staff.  All done without the necessity of new tax revenues or the contentious levy campaigns that accompany those requests.

                  PROMISE KEPT!

“When change is not happening at the top, a revolution begins at the bottom.” (Quote cite below).  Two years ago the community sent its recommendation to the board for its future and direction.  Two new board members were elected against a wall of opposition, both overt and covert, began the task of transforming a purported financially troubled district into one that is the envy of others.  With an administration that was transformed from moribund to an innovative and outstanding central office staff, we are employing efficiency plans. These plans are allowing us to reallocate resources and meet district needs, including an unprecedented investment in technology and curriculum to create a 21st century learning environment for students and teachers. We call these strategies and plans, levy alternatives!

Zero-based budgets and efficiency plans are not controversial – its just good business for the benefit of our children, their teachers, and the taxpayers who fund our program.  Updated technology and curriculum are not controversial – they are just good for our children’s future, their teachers, and the taxpayers who fund our program.  Buses that run and roofs that don’t leak are not controversial – they are just good common sense.  Putting children first is reasonable, rational, and the responsible thing to do.  It is quite simply the right thing to do.

So, where’s the controversy?

Do you ever hear anyone arguing against a balanced budget?  Anyone come out and say improving our technologic base is a bad idea?  Has someone really made a case against transparency in school governance?  Is it really a choice between paying our teachers more and our children’s transportation safety? 

The manufactured cries of anguish create false frenzy, carried over from earlier malicious political school board campaigns.  Already, we stand on the cusp of the next political campaign. Our voters will decide on a renewal levy that asks for LESS money.  They also will vote in November on three places on our board of education.

While our local newspapers write stories about school districts continually fighting for more new money, emotionally blackmailing & bullying parents by threatening to cut services, raise pay to participate fees, as well as a host of other onerous threats, we in Springboro enjoy FINANCIAL STABILITY in our budgets, LOWER FEES for families, LOWER TAXES for our taxpayers, and an education platform PRIMED TO EXCEL.  

There will be a call to change direction. Our recent blog posts have looked at direction we have proposed. Here is a quick reminder of the direction we have traveled together since January 1, 2012.

From In the direction of common sense:

“For too long, the district appeared to work very well, but it lacked clear direction. With no plan for textbooks, technology, capital improvements, buses and more, there was no larger financial plan charted for our schools.  By ordering and categorizing our priorities we were able to support our common mission all while not having to ask the taxpayers for more new money.  This common sense approach does not strip the district of our collective traditions or diversity.  It does not ignore its accomplishments and honors.  It simply gives us a unifying direction that extends beyond any individual, building, or year.”

From In the direction of fair:

“A year ago, our district faced a sort of ‘perfect storm’ with needs for everything from buses and books to technology and staffing coming to the surface at the same time. Through good management and some good fortune, our once rudderless ship emerged from that storm with clear leadership and direction. We recognize that there are still challenges, some seen and some no one as yet even recognizes, but we are continually moving in the direction of putting Children First.”

From In the direction of unity:

“Even after plans to invest millions in technology, curriculum, buildings and buses, and even after providing every employee with raises, we are financially prepared to give something back to the taxpayer – to give back to those who give to us, by reducing their tax burden. The renewal levy on the ballot in November will be set at a lower mileage rate to reduce taxes generated by that levy by nearly 15 percent.”  UNPRECEDENTED IN PUBLIC EDUCATION!

From In the direction of sustainability:

“While we are meeting and exceeding state mandates, there remains much room for academic improvement across the board. In as much, we are building a technology backbone, investing in computers, curriculum, buses and buildings – we are putting children first to move them further along the academic path than they were yesterday.  Most important, we are being honest about what is needed through 2017. This is reform at the local level, and this is working together toward sustainability.”

In a relatively short time frame much has been accomplished, yet there is much more that remains to be done.  For the first time in years, our district has direction.

With the help of our community we can make the Springboro School District the one district that is much imitated, yet never quite duplicated.

Thank you for joining Educate Springboro and sharing our message with your friends and family as we enter this exciting, uncharted time in the history of Springboro Community City Schools.

Portions of definition of confidence from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confidence

Quote: “When change is not happening….” attributed to New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera in World Magazine, August 10, 2013, p. 47 while addressing the upcoming city elections.

In the direction of sustainability

In the direction of sustainability

Soon the long days of summer will evaporate into football games on Friday nights. In the stadium stands, we can see a basic truth: our schools and community are inextricably tied. In the sea of Panther blue and white, the preschooler and the alum from the 1970s, the cheerleader and the local business owner, the excited pee-wee player wearing his first jersey and the senior in the student section is almost indistinguishable. We are there for one purpose and we are all on the same side. 

Public schools serve the community. The community funds and supports public schools. The partnership between our schools and community can be described in many ways. It is a legislated relationship. It is a traditional bonding. It is symbiotic. It is real.

The Springboro school district stands in an almost unheard of position today. Even after plans to invest millions in technology, curriculum, buildings and buses, and even after providing every employee with raises, we are financially prepared to give something back to the taxpayer – to give back to our community by reducing their tax burden. The renewal levy on the ballot in November will be set at a lower millage rate to reduce taxes generated by that levy by nearly 15 percent.

With every step, we are proving that this district with its record of excellence is sustainable with an even lower tax burden. This is almost unheard of in school or local government today. The idea seems so foreign to some that there is even a call in our community to keep the renewal for the full amount.

There is an assumption that if we are cutting the taxes; we must be cutting back in our schools. This is simply FALSE.  The following needs are in the current budget through 2017:

         •        high school busing restored

•        over $2 million in text books and new adoptions

         •        over 2.1 million for new buses

         •        over $3.7 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance

•        over $1.5 million in technology (100% WiFi, 1,000 computers, 350 teacher laptops)

•        over $7.5 million for our staff in raises and benefit changes


These are met in the five-year forecast even with the lower renewal levy. This reduction of almost 15 percent millage is equal to $1,353,800 per year that we are giving back to our community.

How is this possible?

         •        The May 2013 five-year forecast included a surplus of    $7.55 million in 2017.

         •        After the approval of contracts with the teachers, classified and exempt staff, the five-year forecast still reveals a surplus of $7.2 million in 2017.

         •        Springboro Community City Schools will receive 6.5% more in 2013-2014 than in the previous year from the State of Ohio (approximately $828,000) as well as 10.5% more in 2014-2015 (approximately $1.2 million).

         •        Since 2012, 2013, the district has received $3.5 million per year as a result of a pipeline that has been completed.

         •        A second pipeline is possible; however, the district’s current forecast assumptions DO NOT include the additional funding it may bring to the district.

Not only have we proven that we can live within our means, but now every person in this district—our children and families, our staff and teachers, and the taxpayers–will benefit.

This is significant when placed in the context of five failed levies that sought to raise our taxes by up to $45,000,000. Our community sent a clear message again and again that there could be no new taxes. The board—elected by that same community—remembers that we are all on the same side in the pursuit of true educational attainment.  As it became clear through our due diligence into the finances of the district that we could meet our needs with less money, the board voted to request lower millage in the renewal levy in November.

If you budget $300 for a monthly car payment but you find the car you need with every option for $250, do you tell the dealer you’d still like to pay more? Of course not. We’re not selling a rundown clunker at the reduced price. We are meeting and exceeding state mandates as well as local expectations. We are building a technology backbone, investing in computers, curriculum, buses and buildings – we are putting children first.  Most important, we are being honest about what is needed through 2017. This is reform at the local level, and this is working together toward sustainability.