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Monday, October 13, 2014

Support for Rosalie Lieblang and Dr. Donald Deering for Clarkston School Board



I would like to publicly support current school board president, Rosalie Lieblang, and candidate, Dr. Donald Deering, for the Clarkston school board election in November.   

During Rosalie Lieblang’s leadership, the school board has been able, not only remain solvent during the drop in school funding from the state, but to rebuild the district’s cash reserves.  This has prevented the district’s credit rating from being lowered and kept the district from being considered ‘distressed’ by the state.   

All of the remaining candidates, Steve Hyer, Elizabeth Egan, and Kelli Horst, were the ringleaders for the failed school bond request in 2012.  I believe that if the 2012 bond had passed, it would have bankrupted the school district with the extra expenses related to the bond that would not have been covered by the bond. 

Please show the district that you support fiscal responsibility by voting for Rosalie Lieblang and Dr. Donald Deering for the Clarkston Community School Board.  There will be three openings, but please ONLY vote for Rosalie Lieblang and Dr. Donald Deering to show your support for intelligent, fiscally responsible school management.

Thanks!

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Stealth" Community Hearing 4/22/13 at 6 PM at CJHS - Clarkston Schools



The district finally sent out the following notice on Thursday, 4/18/13, via the "e-blast" system, but I am not sure under which notice system because I am signed up for all of the CCS e-blasts and I only received one copy of it (normally, if it were dispatched under each e-blast forum, I would receive each copy). I will guess that few people received this.  The district also did not post it as an event that will occur on Monday on the Clarkstoncalendar.org website.  As I suspected, the district doesn’t want people to see this notice nor show up to this meeting…  Please attend to express your opinion.

Clarkston Community Schools
Friends of CCS:
On Monday, April 22 at 6:00 p.m. at the Clarkston Junior High's Performing Arts Center, the Board of Education will host a community hearing on next year's budget. As you are likely aware, the School District faces a $3.8 million deficit due to a number of factors, including decreasing state and federal revenues, decreased enrollment, and increased costs. As we develop the budget, our focus is on achieving our district’s vision, mission, and learner profile for every child we serve.
The Administration has recommended to the Board a number of budget reductions and revenue enhancements designed to meet the budget parameters established by the Board. In response, the Board has asked the Administration to consider additional items. Here is a partial list of potential revenue enhancements and budget reductions:
Limited open enrollment in grades K-2 (Administrative Recommendation, no transportation provided, limited by space available) (Open school of choice)
Operating a charter school offsite (Administrative Recommendation)
Increased sharing of staff with private schools (Administrative Recommendation)
Privatizing some services (Board inquiry)
Cutting or reducing transportation (Board inquiry)
At Monday’s hearing, the Administration will provide a brief overview of the budget and suggested changes. Following this, community members are invited to share with the Board and Administration their thoughts on the Budget. Board members and administrators will not respond at the meeting to comments from community members. Each community member will have two minutes to speak.
Community members are also welcome to send questions or suggestions via email directly to me (rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us).
As the superintendent of schools and as an advocate for public education, local control, our children, and our community, I encourage you to contact lawmakers in Lansing and ask them to carefully reconsider the cuts they have recommended in next year’s budget for public schools. Your opinions matter.
Thanks for your time,

Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us
248-623-5400
http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us"

Cheryl McGinnis "spin" of concerns about her behavior at the 4/8/13 board meeting

See below for an email exchange between Cheryl McGinnis, president of the Clarkston Community School Board, and me (Dawn Schaller).  Please read it completely.  As of Monday, 4/22/13 at 3:30 AM, she has not yet responded to the email from Friday.

From: Dawn Schaller
To: "Cheryl McGinnis" <cmcginnis@clarkston.k12.mi.us>
Cc: hyers@clarkston.k12.mi.us, eganee@clarkston.k12.mi.us, chamilton@clarkston.k12.mi.us, pattersonj@clarkston.k12.mi.us, boatmans@clarkston.k12.mi.us, lieblangr@clarkston.k12.mi.us,  "Dr. Rod Rock" <rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us>, "Heidi McClain" <mcclaihs@clarkston.k12.mi.us>
Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 6:28 PM
Subject: April 8, 2013 CCS School Board Meeting

Mrs. McGinnis,

I watched the 4/8/13 CCS School Board Meeting on UStream and was shocked to see the kind of behavior I saw at that meeting.

I found Mrs. Egan's comments to Phil Custodio, the Editor of the Clarkston News, to be totally out of line.  I think that she insinuated that the editor of the local newspaper must have needed an invitation from the board or administration to attend a board meeting...  Really?

I also feel that Mrs. Egan's comments directed to Craig Hamilton were accusations/insinuations that Craig Hamilton had conspired with other board members and Phil Custodio in regard to his request for information on the security badging system.

However, I found your comments about Craig Hamilton's legitimate request for information extremely unflattering and unprofessional.  He is a brand new board member.  Although his knowledge about board procedures may have been lacking in regard to proper protocol, I felt that your responses were of an "attack" nature and did not "fit the crime" of a simple lack of knowledge of protocol to be expected in a new board member, and certainly unprofessional.  Craig did not air dirty laundry about why he wanted the information he asked for, he just asked for it.  It was obvious from your comments that Craig had a security badge that was suddenly shut off.  I am not aware of why Craig would have had a security badge in the first place, but when he was given the responses he was given (as discussed in the meeting) from both Dr. Rod Rock and you, I can see why he would be wondering what was going on...  I feel that both you and Elizabeth aired a great deal of very dirty laundry and I believe that was very unprofessional as well.  

Then, when you invited the public to report Craig's request being put forward as an action item as a violation of the Open Meetings Act because it had not been announced at least 18 hours before the meeting, right after you had announced that others had told you about their requests right before the meetings and you had accommodated THEIR requests, it makes me feel that you were inviting significant fines and/or legal trouble to the district/board.  Besides, I believe that you have allowed Dr. Rock to add action items and discussion items to the board agenda (as posted to the district website and the outside door of the district Administration Building) with less than 18 hours notice in the past also.  You know the saying, "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?  You should really live by that.             

I would like to know if you believe that what you and Elizabeth Egan said at the 4/8/13 board meeting was appropriate.  I would also like to know what will be done about it.

Thank you.

Dawn Schaller


From: "Cheryl McGinnis" 
To: "Dawn Schaller"
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 12:36:39 PM
Subject: Re: April 8, 2013 CCS School Board Meeting


Thank you for contacting the Board of Education,
All board members have access to Board Operating Procedures and Bylaws 24/7 along with professional development training from Michigan School Board Association.  Additionally, in my tenure as President, new board members have been provided a board member mentor to assist in their learning curve of becoming an effective board member.
Board Bylaws and Operating Procedures have been approved by the board and provide a clear process so that we can operate as an efficient board of education.  Additionally, any member may request an item be put on the agenda for discussion with prior knowledge to the board president that follows our Board Bylaws and Operating Procedures.  Therefore, it is unclear as to why a board member would need to spring a “surprise” Action Item on the board.  As President, I have worked very hard to establish meeting norms so that all board members can anticipate how we commence the business of the district.
As always, this board values the input of our citizens.  The board’s number one objective is our students and any waver from this objective naturally takes away from our effectiveness.   To that end, I will continue to encourage board members to become knowledgeable of these norms so that we can continue to provide excellent policy governance for our district.
--
Cheryl McGinnis
President, Clarkston Community School Board of Education
Home of Inaugural National Green Ribbon School 2012, Clarkston High School
“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” – Win Borden
______________________________________________________________________________
From: Dawn Schaller
To: "Cheryl McGinnis" <cmcginnis@clarkston.k12.mi.us>
Cc: hyers@clarkston.k12.mi.us, eganee@clarkston.k12.mi.us, chamilton@clarkston.k12.mi.us, pattersonj@clarkston.k12.mi.us, boatmans@clarkston.k12.mi.us, lieblangr@clarkston.k12.mi.us,  "Dr. Rod Rock" <rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us>, "Heidi McClain" <mcclaihs@clarkston.k12.mi.us>
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 3:44:17 PM
Subject: Re: April 8, 2013 CCS School Board Meeting

Mrs. McGinnis,

You did not even remotely answer ANY of my questions/concerns.

Also, there was only one e-blast notice sent out to the public, although there are 31 separate CCS Groups that each should have received the notice.  That does not exude "transparency". 

The district's website has no reference to the 6 PM meeting start except on the agenda. 

The scheduled meeting information on the Board's web page says the meeting starts at 7 PM. 

The agenda for the 4/22/13 meeting is on the website, but the board packet is suspiciously absent.  Please ensure that Dr. Rock has Heidi load the board packet today.

I am tremendously disappointed in the district's poor communication to the public.   

I still invite your response to my comments below.

Thank you.

Dawn Schaller

__
I will say that sometime after my last email to Mrs. McGinnis at 3:44 PM on Friday, 4/19/13, and before Saturday evening, the district FINALLY loaded the board packet and corrected the board meeting time of 6 PM on the district website.  However, there were to be no further notifications to the public about the meeting.  So much for the "transparency" Dr. Rock claimed he would have on this subject.  Shame on Dr. Rock.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lack of transparency for 4/22/13 CCS board meeting from Dr. Rod Rock

 Dr. Rod Rock, Superintendent of the Clarkston Community School District, is back to his old tricks of trying to keep the public from finding out about massive possible negative changes to the district.  Read his email to school board members on 4/16/13 in red below and then see my comments below that.
"Board Members:

I have confirmed the CJHS PAC at 6:00 for our community hearing on Monday. As we discussed yesterday, this will begin with a presentation from administration regarding the areas of focus, our recommendation, and the effects on education followed by input from community members.

As we progress toward this meeting, I respectfully request that you refrain from inviting your friends and neighbors to attend the meeting. We will e-blast a note, I have notified the newspaper, and we will use other means to inform our community. An authentic audience will emerge and let us know how they feel about these important issues. I think that we can all agree on the need for us to hear the true concerns of our community and, given the importance of these issues, those who truly have a stance will come forward.

I thank you for considering my request.

Rod"

The school board discussed the following proposals at the 4/15/13 school board meeting and they will have a public discourse on them at 6 PM (before the regular meeting at 7 PM) on Monday, 4/22/13 at the Clarkston Junior High School. 

 Proposals include:
• Limited open enrollment in grades K-2; (Schools of Choice)

• Chartering a school at an off-district location – an administration recommendation;

• Privatizing custodial, maintenance, or transportation services – not a recommendation of the administration; and

• Elimination of transportation, also not a recommendation of the administration.

As of 48 hours after the meeting and more than 24 hours after the email was sent to board members:
  • The 6 PM meeting notice is not on the district website,
  • there is no reference on the district website ANYWHERE letting the public know that the district is considering these extreme measures,  
  • there have been no "e-blasts" sent out about the meeting, and
  • the Clarkston News goes to press on Monday evenings (after the meeting) and is published on Wednesdays, delivered on Thursdays, allowing very little notice to the public for the Monday meeting.
  • I have no idea what Dr. Rock plans to use in order to "use other means to inform our community".  We have seen his patented rantings in his "Superintendent's Column" that have been broadcasted in the Clarkston News, via "e-blasts", and posted on the district website, but that communication device is surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) absent.    
This is wrong!  Let your neighbors know about this and be at the meeting.

Public hearing on school budget and School of Choice in Clarkston Schools

Available here: http://www.clarkstonnews.com/Articles-News-i-2013-04-17-251102.113121-sub14473.113121-Public-hearing-on-school-budget.html

"Public hearing on school budget"

 By Phil Custodio
"April 17, 2013 - The public will have a chance to address proposals to close a $3.8 million school budget deficit, 6 p.m., April 22.

The meeting was scheduled for Clarkston Junior High School off Waldon Road, starting with a presentation of the administration's budget recommendations.

"It was the consensus of the board to provide full public transparency to our community regarding the administration's recommendation as we look to take action on these cuts," said board President Cheryl McGinnis.

Proposals include:

• Limited open enrollment in grades K-2;

• Chartering a school at an off-district location – an administration recommendation;

• Privatizing custodial, maintenance, or transportation services – not a recommendation of the administration; and

• Elimination of transportation, also not a recommendation of the administration.

"It is important our community know all options to the board whether recommended by administration or not," McGinnis said. "Board members felt it was important that the community had the full picture before the board not just a snap shot therefore, additional items not currently recommended by administration will be discussed."

Open enrollment would offset losses in enrollment and allow the housing market to expand locally, bringing more students in to the district, said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock. Administration's recommendation is for one year, followed by reevaluation;

Administration is also looking at other alternatives at the request of the board, Rock said.

Administration's plan to eliminate the $3.8 million deficit includes up to 13 teacher layoff from the budget and through attrition, a $750,000 cut. Layoffs are scheduled for discussion and approval at the April 22 school board meeting, following the public hearing; $200,000 transferred from the Early Childhood Center budget fund equity; $250,000 in At Risk funding from the state; $60,000 cut from facilities and transportation; $1.25-$1.5 million cut from human resources; and $73,000 in non-personnel cuts.

New revenue in the plan includes $100,000 from Community Education; $300,000-$800,000 in partnerships with private schools; $141,000-$708,000 from open enrollment; and $100,000-$250,000 from possible partnership with a local charter academy.

Administration's proposals for open enrollment and partnerships with private and charter academies is expected to bring in from $541,000-$1.76 million, total. If the school board rejects those proposals, layoffs and other cuts would have to be deeper, Ryan said.

For more information, call 248-623-5408."
It is key that as many people as possible attend the meeting on Monday, April 22, 2013.  The CCS School Board will be discussing critical potential changes due to the financial crisis the school district is in.  

They will be considering opening up the Clarkston school district to open schools of choice (SOC) for all of the elementary schools in grades K - 2.  Students allowed into the district through this program would have to be Oakland County residents.  Once allowed in, they would be allowed to remain in the district until they graduate, even if SOC only runs one year (those students would be grandfathered in).

There are other financial options being looked at that may/will affect education and/or the safety of the children in the district, so it is critical that as many people as possible attend the meeting and hopefully express their opinion of these potential changes.

Although School Board President, Cheryl McGinnis, said, "It was the consensus of the board to provide full public transparency to our community regarding the administration's recommendation as we look to take action on these cuts,", "it is important our community know all options to the board whether recommended by administration or not," and "board members felt it was important that the community had the full picture before the board not just a snap shot therefore, additional items not currently recommended by administration will be discussed," The 4/15/13 Board meeting video has not been posted to the district website, I have yet to see a "public notice" of the 4/22/13 meeting, no mention at all on the district's website, and there have been no ClarkstonCalendar.org "e blasts" sent out by the district either.  How is THAT "full public transparency to our community"?  It is NO TRANSPARENCY TO OUR COMMUNITY. 
 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CCS HR Director resigns...




 CCS HR Director resigns...
The current “Executive” HR Director did not qualify for the job as it was posted initially for “HR Director”.  I have the job posting for the "Director of Human Resources" position when it was initially posted after the previous HR Director announced she would retire.  Once she decided to put her hat in the ring for the job however, the job posting was changed to lower the requirements and it looks to me like it was worded to ensure that she got the job, which she did (surprise, surprise!).  I have copies of both job postings, her resume, and the rest of the applicants resumes from my FOIA requests, so I know…  In my opinion, all of the other candidates' qualifications surpassed her qualifications.  Her hiring/promotion was “sold” to the school board by then superintendent, Dr. Al Roberts, as a way to “retain a valued employee (she had been the public relations director) whose job was being eliminated” and to give her “an opportunity to grow into the job”.  Is that what a large school system should be doing with a position as important as the Human Resources Director? 

This happened under Dr. Robert's administration and it was his choice to decide who got the job.  She did not have a Master's degree in HR as the original job posting required.  She didn’t even have a Bachelor's degree in HR (her Bachelors was in Public Relations).  For HR education, all she had was a couple of classes...  At one Board meeting she advised that she successfully handled HR for one or more of her husband’s companies - Aaron Banach Enterprises, Polestar Construction of Michigan, Polestar Construction of Florida, Polestar Marine Energy, Inc., and/or Polestar Energy.  I don't deny that she probably DID do some HR work and get involved with some contracts while working with her husband’s companies.  I don’t know a lot about those companies, but I know they are not school systems and doubt they dealt with complex, high dollar union contracts.  At CCS School Board meetings, she brought “contracts” forward to the board for approval that consisted of just the alterations to previous or current contracts (not the whole contracts with updates) and she did not provide the existing contracts to the board.  When the board members asked for the entire contract with the changes noted on them because they had no way to check the contracts, I remember her telling the board that this was the way she handled contracts for her husband’s company and besides, there wasn't time for that - they could look them up…  Yikes!  I also recall that when the board requested that she have the district’s attorneys check over and approve contracts before they were presented to them for approval, she argued that it was not necessary.  REALLY!?!?  

Dr. Rock advised me that he promoted her to the “Executive” HR Director” (from HR Director) last year.  I never saw any announcement, but I noticed the change on the district's organization chart.  Dr. Rock apparently wanted to give her a hefty raise with the promotion while the rest of the employees had no raises for several years or huge pay cuts with no raises for several years.  This action was politically charged and did nothing good for Dr. Rod Rock, nor the “Executive” HR Director (who lobbied very hard to the board for her raise during one highly charged board meeting).  At school board meetings where the proposed “Master Agreement for Directors and Supervisors” contract was being discussed, Rod Rock danced around the subject of how much the “Executive” HR Director would be paid.  He never answered the questions.  Then certain Rod Rock Rubber stamp board members attacked the board members who were asking the questions by saying they were “not supporting the Directors and Administrators in the district” and addressed their questions and concerns as “micromanaging”. 

According to the board packet from the 3/25/13 school board meeting (available here) in which the HR Director’s resignation was on the personnel changes part of the agenda, her salary was referenced as $91,150.00 (as it should have been under her employment contract as "HR Director"), but the “Master Agreement for Directors and Supervisors” contract reflected that her position, identified as “CO Exec Dir” had the following base salary levels:
  • “level 1 (first year) - $105,901 (16.1% increase),
  • level 2 (second year) - $108,924, (19.5% increase),
  • level 3 (third year) - $112,300 (23.2% increase),
  • level 4 (fourth year) -  $116,009 (27.3% increase), 
  • and level 5 (fifth year or higher) - $118,699” (30.2% increase).   
The board members could not get a confirmation as to what salary level she would fall under...  Would it based on the year she became the HR director, the year she "earned" her promotion to "Executive HR Director", or once the contract was approved in 2013?  The contract was approved by the board at the 02/04/13 meeting and is available here on the 02/04/13 board packet (pages 38 to 63).

The board discussion from the meetings regarding the contract was captured by Dr. Rock's secretary on the minutes of the 1/21/13 and 2/4/13 board meetings.  Those comments are available on pages 6 and 12 of the minutes from the 1/21/13 and 2/4/13 board meetings that are on the 02/25/13 school board meeting board packet available here.  

Anita Banach is leaving the district to be the Director of Personnel Services for Macomb Community College (approved by the MCCC board on 3/19/13).  She will be working much closer to home and it appears to be a nice job improvement for her.

Her apparent last act as the HR director in CCS was pushed through the school board on 3/25/13.  Time will tell how much of a good or bad thing it was. However, it may end up costing the district more than the $2 million dollar OOPS! that she had on the medical benefits miscalculation this year.  It is on pages 114 to 119 of the 3/25/13 school board packet (available here) and consists of an Agency Fee Agreement for each of the following employee contract groups: 

Clarkston Education Association
Clarkston Office Personnel Association
Clarkston Transportation Association
Clarkston Custodial Association
Clarkston Paraeducators Association

My understanding is that the Agency Fee Agreement was put in place to keep the "Agency Shop" (read: union shop) resulting in the employees having to pay dues to the union through June 30, 2016.  Because Michigan officially became a "right to work state" on 3/28/13, no employment contracts signed 3/28/13 or later can no longer have a mandate that workers belong to a union in order to work for the employer.  However, what Mrs. Banach brought forward for the board to approve was just the "Agency Fee Agreements" for each of the union contracts and not the whole labor agreements because they have not yet been negotiated.  There was discussion at the meeting that this was a deliberate "bypass" of the right-to-work law and that the district may end up forfeiting operating funds for signing these "contracts" (that are not the whole contract) two days before the RTW law went into effect.  Wow...  Just wow!

Monday, March 25, 2013

$2 million mistake - self-insuring medical benefits for Clarkston Schools

I was advised by an anonymous commenter about the impact of the Clarkston Community Schools switching from an insurance carrier for medical benefits to being self-insured.  Here is the comment received on 2/20/13:
"Rumor has it the Ex Dr of HR for the 2nd year in a row has under estimated the cost of self insuring. If that's true , think she deserves a raise or a pay cut? I'm sure she would tell you it's somehow the employees fault!"
I decided to look into the claim and researched it using the district's previously posted school board board packets.

The Executive Director of Human Resources, Anita Banach, underestimated the cost of health insurance for the CCS district employees to the tune of $2 million for the 2012/13 school year by talking the school board into "self-insuring" their medical insurance.  The district will be carrying forward a $2.4 million deficit into the 2013/14 school year as a result.

Recently she had been lobbying for (and apparently received) a huge pay increase based on Dr. Rod Rock giving her a promotion from Director of Human Resources to Executive Director of Human Resources.  This appears to be rather poor performance for an "Executive Director of Human Resources".