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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Propaganda from CCS at the last minute before the bond election

Here is the propaganda sent out from the Clarkston Community School district through the ClarkstonCalendar.org website.  That website is a tool to communicate a "calendar of community events".  Do you believe that this qualifies?  I don't.  

They timed it for the night before the $20 million bond election...  How convenient. 

It was followed up with a "robo call" from Dr. Rock urging parents of students to vote on May 8th.  He used the district's emergency call system (snow day notices).  I believe that was an inappropriate use of the emergency call system - and possibly a violation of the Campaign Finance Act... 

I am not the writer of any email being forwarded to anyone in the district...  However, I have an opinion on what the district said in this document.

Here is the district's email as it went out and my comments are in bold and red

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  
From: info@clarkstoncalendar.org
To: me
Sent: Monday, May 7, 2012 3:08:08 PM
Subject: CCS : Important Information Regarding May 8th Bond

CCS-Clarkston Community Schools

I received a forwarded message containing misinformation regarding tomorrow's election. Listed below are the facts.  Please make an informed decision on May 8th and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Here are some important facts:
1. With the passage of the May 8th bond proposal, our millage rate will start off at 1 mill and it is projected to only remain at 1 mill for 4 years and then it starts to DECREASE for an average of .79 mills over the 17 years of the bond. (The official ballot language states .82 for the life of the bond, but information from the county assessor's office suggests it will be even better.)  From years 5 through 17, the m illage rate decreases each year and still generates enough to cover the three bond series we are proposing ($10M, $5M, and $5M). FACT: By law, if the tax proceeds from the non-state qualified bond were to fall short of the payment that must be made, the district would have to either make up the difference out of the general fund or bill taxpayers the difference by increasing the bond millage.  That would be decided by the board in place at that time.  

2.
Oakland County and the district's bond counsel make expert projections on taxable values. These are the same projections used by every district and municipality in Oakland County.  FACT: The district's 2003 bond used all of the same supposedly "expert projections on taxable values" that has resulted in the district having to borrow millions from the state's School Bond Loan Fund and extending the term of the bond for years...  

3. The
Ann Arbor Public Schools will put a three-series, non-state qualified, $45 million technology bond before voters on May 8 (http://www.a2schools.org/aaps/tech_bond). They've received similar counsel that this is a safe, sound, and sustainable way to address technology in their schools. FACT: The May 8th Ann Arbor bond has the same lack of public support as the Clarkston bond and it DID NOT include iPads (or "1:Global" wireless devices) for all of the students.
4. Excellent teachers raise test scores, not computers. Anyone who promises that a computer program, textbook, or gimmick will raise test scores is ill informed.  Those willing to look at the research know that only excellent t eachers, who know how to effectively use tools and engage students, raise test scores. However, for those who wish to see evidence from other school districts that technology does positively affect test scores, the district's technology report cites several examples of school districts around the country that have seen an increase in student test scores as they've increased students' access to technology.  There is much more empirical evidence of technology infusions lowering test scores or not making any difference in test scores, than there is of increasing test scores.  

5. The district cannot arbitrarily raise tax rates. Official ballot language indicates the tax rate needed over the life of the bond.  FACT: By law, if the tax proceeds from the non-state qualified bond were to fall short of the payment that must be made, the district would have to either make up the difference out of the general fund or bill taxpayers the difference by increasing the bond millage.  That would be decided by the board in place at that time.
   
6. When a district does a state qualified bond, as we have done in the past, the state requires us to participate in the School Bond Loan Fund (SBLF).  The SBLF allows districts to keep the millage rate at an even level throughout the life of the bond payoff.  In our current case, this is 7 mills.  FACT:  By law, if the tax proceeds from a state qualified bond were to fall short of the payment that must be made, the district would have to borrow against the SBLF or make up the difference out of the general fund.  The district has chosen to borrow against the SBLF.  Because of that, the taxpayers of the CCS district will be billed the 7 mills for several additional years from when the bond was supposed to have been paid off to pay off the interest.  
 
Because we are not doing a state qualified bond this time around (due to the fact that a state qualified bond would require us to levy 5 mills instead of the proposed 1 mill for the same amount of bond revenue), we will NOT participate in the SBLF for this bond.  These projections came to us from our bond counsel, Stauder, Barch, & Associates, who have been in business since 1968, consult the majority of school districts and municipalities in Michigan, rate as one of the top ten financial advisory firms in the country, and have consulted on over $32 billion in projects for more than 3,000 entities, including Clarkston Community Schoo ls. FACT:  The state put rules in place to penalize districts that were choosing to live beyond their means and take out bonds beyond 7 mills.  That is why they put the higher mills cost in place.  The state was trying to instill fiscal responsibility into the districts. 

7. The law prohibits using bond dollars to pay for any item purchased with bond dollars beyond its useful life. The law states that bond money can pay for technology for five years only. The bond series will pay for two replacements of technology, or three cycles, over 15 years--once in 2012, once in 2016, and once in 2020--- all equal to or under one mill. This is the sustainability of technology that is so vital to the district. FACT: Simple math would be helpful here.  According to the 1:Global Initiative document (available here) the district published, the technology refreshes are supposed to begin in the fall of 2017 and the fall of 2022 - 5 years apart, not 4 years apart as noted above.  

8. Each bond series is paid in full in nine years.  Those items, including technology, with useful lives below nine years are paid off in full within their useful life. That's the law!  We have and will continue to abide by all laws governing school bonds.  

9.  Debt alone is an incomplete picture. To figure net worth, you must subtract debt from the value of assets. The district has assets of $224 million and owes $155 million as of June 30, 2012 (which is principal and interest and was elsewhere misrepresented as $200 million).  Our $69 million in net worth increases as we pay down this debt each year. Most of the $155 million debt was incurred to expand building capacity for our rapidly increasing pupil population (+3,000 students in 15 years). This debt was voter approved and completely transparent in how it was spent. So in actuality, the district has $8,625 in assets per student (which will increase upon passage of the bond), we have excellent facilities because the community has approved the construction and improvement of facilities as the district has grown, and the care and investment in our facilities has resulted in an outstanding asset portfolio for the entire community.  FACT: Check the District's audit from the fall of 2011 for information for a full understanding of debt to equity. 

10. A state-qualified bond of one mill would require an increase of 5 mills to raise $20 million dollars. The district's administration carefully considered a state-qualified bond structure and wisely determined that a five-mill increase is neither affordable nor rational.  Really?  How long did that take to figure out? 

11. The district's current budget cannot afford to pay for essential technology or capital updates. The district has over the past three years cut its spending by more than $11 million and has balanced its budget. The district does not have the money in its budget to pay for $10 million in technology updates and $10 million in capital upd ates. If it did, it would not ask taxpayers for a millage increase to cover these needs.  FACT: The bond is NOT going to be distributed in one $20 million lump sum, the district doesn't "NEED" $11.7 million in technology, and most of the non-tech needs are not needed now or they would have been included in the last payout of the 2003 bond distribution that was spent less than a year ago. 

12. The district has balanced its budget in each of the last two years.  Prior to that, it made a conscious decision to spend down fund equity (school district's savings account). FACT: The district made a "conscious decision to spend down fund equity"?  Give me a break!  The district spent more than they received and all of their savings too and now they are living "paycheck to paycheck" like a great percentage of residents in this area.  Then the district balanced the budget in FY11 on the backs of the custodians and bus drivers who took significant pay cuts.  The district balanced the budget in FY12 on the backs of the custodians and bus drivers who took significant pay cuts for FY11 and secondarily the teachers, who took no pay cuts, but they did not get raises or step increases in FY 12. 

13. The Clarkston Education Association (the teacher's union) voted unanimously to support this bond.  

14. The district's technology director does not make $170,000, as falsely reported elsewhere.  Base salary (as listed on the district's transparency report) is $119,699.  
The technology director is the second highest paid employee of the district.  The higher number represents the total compensation package, including pay, TSA allowance, FICA taxes, retirement, and health, dental, life, and disability insurance.  

There was no # 15...

16. Yes, the May 8 election will cost $35,000, and the bond will pay for this.
  Excuse me, but if the bond passes, the public will be paying for this in the payback of the bond...  How would the "bond" pay $35,000?  If the bond does not pass, $35k comes out of the 2011/12 fiscal year operating budget.   The 33 other districts and municipalities that will hold elections on May 8 will also pay for them. This is one of the four dates (February, Ma y, August, and November) the state allows school districts and municipalities to put issues before voters.  An August election would generate $300,000 less in revenue than a May election because of the timing of tax collections and repayments.  The district's theory on this is laughable. 

As the superintendent of schools, it is my responsibility to make informed recommendations to the Board of Education and community. It is also my responsibility to improve the educational experience of each student in accordance with research and best practices. This bond is well informed, protects the districts' assets and enhances the educational experiences of each child we serve.
It would be a tremendous injustice if people made their voting decisions on misinformation.  Like some of the misinformation the district supplied?
See you on election day!  Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

17 comments:

  1. Wow. Just when you thought Al Roberts had no shame.

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  2. Sad. I wish that I had stumbled on this site awhile ago. Not as though saying anything will help when you're up against anything that local government has "organized" .

    Somehow everyone thinks that toy tech (What I call iPads and other devices that are not very usable in a real world business environment), will make a student ready for the outside world. I've worked in various Computer Technologies since 1977 (not a typo), I work in a local "tech engineering" building along with 13,000 people and the majority of them use their "tech" skills on PC's and laptops to do... EMAIL! Apple laptops and iPads are nearly useless as educational devices. I smell a profitable liaison between CCS and Apple business group. Gosh, I sure wish that I could get a list of WHAT WE'RE BUYING and the PIECE PRICES.

    What I've learned from consulting on PC tech in the past, is that schools tend to overbuy technology, based mostly on their own excitement, and HYPE generated by other schools. Schools need to use logic in spending. Tech is NOT for a WOW or COOL factor. It MUST have educational/professional purpose and be heavily used to validate it's cost. Also, if a PC device can't be used for dozens of tasks, it's just an expensive one purpose toy. One finger paint, one math and one grammar program do not, a useful PC make. :-O

    I believe that the CCS tech admin should be canned because it's obvious from data and lack of data (WHAT exactly are WE BUYING?) that this person don't know jack squat about tech in any field. But they certainly KNOW their useless TOYS.

    Anyone reading this had probably heard this before, so I don’t want to bore anyone with jargon about WiFi frequencies and wattage output, but commercial 2-5 Watt transceivers are up to 200X more powerful than your home unit which most likely tops out at 60 milliwatts or less. I personally don't want my children ANYWHERE NEAR A COMMERCIAL WiFi UNIT until their brains have fully developed. Trust the biased reports if you wish, but at least do your own research (OK, some have).

    You know (well, you didn't, but now you do),I’ve spent 34 years in Computing Technologies, and have owned 60+ PC’s, Laptops and Tablets since 1977 (my first Heath Kit HEX readout box - UGH). I understand their limitations and their LIMITED usage in the real business world (email - ahem). When you hand children PC technology, most really perceive it as an expensive toy or social device. They don't need a social device. I can repeat that dozens of times, but some parents just don't get it.

    BTW, my 3 children despise reading books on a Kindle, iPad or Windows Tablet. After a short time of trying them between 1 and 2 years ago, my kids said that they preferred "real books". They do use PC's though, and I do tech support on all 3 of their PC's and 3 personal systems. No fun. I can't imagine any teacher having to maintain non-auto updates on 30 OR MORE Tablets/Laptops or troubleshooting issues with them.

    We're going to waste a lot of money on what is going to become a huge joke on us and OUR children. SOME tech money should have only went to a 2 year High School program. I never known of any sane, sensible school system that believes that they can somehow prep their students 10 years ahead of time for anything, especially tech. Maybe it's just about Free WiFi. I don't know. I can't understand CCS's wacky, zany, illogical minds.

    Hmm. I wonder how much they spent on those hundreds of "VOTE YES" signs in front of the schools? Thanks CCS. I know we got our $38K worth out of the election process ($38K - REALLY?). :-(

    Sorry to have ranted. I just get wordy AND pissed when I see morons making decisions about things that they CLAIM they know about. Maybe
    SOMETHING IS IN THE WATER ON THAT SIDE OF TOWN. :-O

    BTW, I voted NO!

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    Replies
    1. John Pfeiffer,

      Great comments and thanks for voting no.

      I agree with you 100%! I too have been in the IT industry for many years. I go back to 1982.

      There were several of us that advised the district that they were grossly under calculating the infrastructure and support needed to manage a project like this.

      Thank you so much for acknowledging the dangers of the commercial Wi-Fi masts, especially for kids. Few will listen or do the research.

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    2. Did you both ride your dinosaurs to work today, too?

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    3. And did you wear your blinders to work today?

      Clarkston voters historically have approved bond issues. So when two-thirds come out against one, perhaps it's because they sense something is not quite right. That doesn't make them anti-technology or anti-kids, that makes them good stewards of their money ... better stewards, it seems, than Clarkston Schools' highly compensated administrators.

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  3. I wonder if Mr. Rock has shares in Steve Hyer's IT company?

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    Replies
    1. Steve Hyer's company is called IGD Solutions. According to its website, the clarkstoncalendar.org is a client of IGD.

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  4. Item 16..it may have cost more than $35,000...who paid for the 3 page mailer Dr. Rock sent to each home a few weeks back? Who paid for all the "Kid's First" signs and buttons the teachers were wearing? Who paid for the 1 page Kid's First flyer stuffed in my childs school folder? But whay would Dr. Rock care. He does not live here, does not spend his salary supporting the local business here, does not pay any taxes here.

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  5. May 8 Anon, If you read this, please send me an email so I can get a copy of the flyer that was stuffed in your child's backpack and backup info on it like the school, the day it was sent, etc.

    That is probably a violation of the Campaign Finance Act. We are going after as many violations as we find. We already have many.

    Thanks!

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  6. To let you know When Dr Rock had introduced this proposal he had meetings with the employees of CCS and basically said that this was going to happen weather the bond was passed or not. So the way I took that statment was ether the tax payers pick up the bill or ill cut it out of the schools budget and or your paychecks. Now this info comes second hand and I wasn't sure but after seeing the memo that Dr. Rock sent out telling people not to talk negitivly about this proposal and that he was to be notified if a board member showed up at any Clarkston school or facility. That board members were to make an appointment with him and he was to be present ....I truly think that this fight has just begun

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    1. That is interesting... Sounds like the actions of a tyrant.

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  7. So it appears you delete the posts & replies that you don't like? That's fair. Makes your website look like you've got many more supporters than you probably do, and keeps you in control of what gets put out there.

    I hope you feel accomplished this morning.

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    1. 5/9/12 Anonymous,

      If you don't have the guts to put your name on a nasty inflammatory comment, I don't feel the obligation to keep your nasty comment on my blog. If you include your name with a comment that is something other than your negative opinion of me, I may let it stay... It's up to you.

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  8. Ok, so I have to post as anonymous because I work for CCS & everyone I talk to about giving my "named" opinion says that I'd better not or I'll be fired. It doesn't matter that I live in Clarkston & have children that attend Clarkston schools, I'm not allowed to voice my thoughts publicly because I'm threatened with losing my job. The schools now say that they have to cut another $1 million for next school year. $35,000 + went to the recent ill planned election, how many other thousands of dollars are spent hap-hazardly to Starbucks & the like, how many administrative positions are really necessary because that could save some serious cash, why does the Board allow Dr. Rock a car allowance when he makes 10 times that of other district employees who live paycheck to paycheck & can barely keep their vehicles on the road, & if Dr. Rock was really concerned about putting "Kids First" why doesn't he make a donation to Blessings in a Backpack (food sent home with children on the weekends whose families have difficulty in providing an essential need)?! I also think that it is deplorable that any e-mail blast that I get from Rod Rock has typos in it, & being the leader of a SCHOOL district, it doesn't make him look very good & he shouldn't boast that CCS is above charters because of academic achievments when he can't even corresponde to the public without misspelling words. Oh, did I mention that he is the absolute poorest speaker I have ever seen. He keeps his hands in his pockets, looks at the floor & unless you are sitting directly in front of him, you cannot hear a word he says. The other interviewees must have been 100x worse than Rock, for Rock to have gotten the job! Was anyone at the board meeting in November 2011 when Rod's tech specialist promoted this $20 million technology so teachers could pre-record their lessons as to not strain their voices by teaching the same lesson to multiple classes day after day? I about fell out of my chair! Teachers 20 yrs. ago didn't have a voice problem. Well, I would like to say something positive about our leader, but I don't know about anything positive that he's yet done. I don't think that he truly cares about our kids, he cares about leaving a legacy & putting his name on something. I am also tired of school employees saying that there is too much mis-information put out against the recently lost bond & such. It's sad when I can't trust the company I work for.

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    1. May 11 Anon,

      I don't have a problem with anonymous posts as long as the post is not just someone ripping on me personally using the anonymous posting feature.

      I know what you are talking about in regard to having to keep your opinion to yourself if you are a CCS employee. That's about all I can say about that.

      You are 100% right all all of your comments.

      I was at all of the superintendent search meetings and Dr. Rock was not even chosen to be part of the initial group. He got in because one of the finalists dropped out. Dr. Gary Richards was head and shoulders above Dr. Rock. Dr. Rock was elected due to being voted in by Steve Hyer, Barry Bomier, Cheryl McGinnis, and Elizabeth Egan.

      I met with Dr. Richards after his final interview with the board. I told him that I hoped he would be chosen by the board because I thought he was, by far, the best candidate. I also thought he could bring financial control, stability, accountability, and peace to the district. Right after I spoke to him, the PTA Council President joined our conversation. She told him how she thought Dr. Richards was, by far, the best candidate for the position, she hoped he was offered the job, and also said she was looking forward to working with him closely since she was the PTA Council president... It's funny how Dr. Rock got the job and she said the same thing about Dr. Rock... A "true politician" (in the negative sense of the term).

      If you have Netflix, check out the three seasons of the TV show, "Lie to Me". In the show, they show you the facial expressions and behaviors of people who are being deceptive, lying, and in various moods. With knowledge gleaned from the show, watch Dr. Rock for a while and you will understand much more about him.

      All I can say is that the info posted by CRISIS (Vote NO group) was accurate and it had sources posted also. I can't say the same about the information put out by the district.

      Please feel free to post anonymously here or email me directly. I will keep your identity confidential.

      Thanks for posting.

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    2. Thank you for all the information you share Dawn. I appreciate the offer to e-mail you directly, however, I do not feel as that would be to the best of my advantage right now. One last thing I forgot to mention in my last post was about the 3 page "memo" which was sent to all the CCS buildings outlining what the Board Members can & cannot do. I understand that the great Dr. was, for all intense purposes, throwing a fit over some of the Board Members' conflicting opinions. Whether or not all of the many criteria which were bulleted in his memo are true, it doesn't make Rod look much like a team player. On the contrary, as I stated before, I don't feel as though he is about the kids, he's about himself & I believe that his actions indicate that his name is Rod Ego Rock.

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    3. Thanks. When you are ready, please feel free to contact me.

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