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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Unanswered questions and lack of transparency in Clarkston, MI schools - email exchange with school board president, Cheryl McGinnis

Here is an email exchange I had in October 2012 with Cheryl McGinnis, the current CCS school board president who is running for re-election for the CCS School Board.  As of 10/28/12, I still have not received a response back from her on the remaining issues she failed to address on 10/22/12 after my original email to her on 10/13/12.  I believe that it reflects that: 
  • Cheryl McGinnis intends to make sure that the double, non-microphoned (so not heard on the video and not heard by the attending public unless they are right next to the tables), non-recorded for the minutes, and material usually not included in the board packet roundtable discussions will continue as is, ensuring that:
  1. The board members have no documentation of the discussions from a video or the minutes of the meetings to address what was presented to the board by administration.
  2. The public has no idea what was presented to the board due to no documentation of the discussions from a video or the minutes of the meetings to address what was presented to the board by administration.
  3. The board members may receive similar presentations, but the questions raised in the two different roundtables naturally results in different information/communication being given to the two groups (which also can include the public that chooses to attend the roundtable discussions).
  4. The public will be kept totally in the dark about the discussions.
  • Cheryl McGinnis must support the district removing the video recordings of the contentious board meetings in which there was discussion that Administration doesn't want the public to see because she has failed to address that.
  • Cheryl McGinnis must support Dr. Rock violating policy by dismissing me when I was speaking during the public comment portion of the board meeting because she has failed to address that.
  • Cheryl McGinnis must support the district's HR director, Anita Banach, being unprofessional and getting up after I spoke and saying I was "making stuff up" because she has failed to address that.  
  • Cheryl McGinnis must support the board illegally violating policy by refusing to allow any member of the public from addressing the board more than once during a meeting unless they are one of administration's shills (such as Kelli Horst and the other pro-$20 million bond PTA moms) because she allows it to happen and she failed to address that.
  • Cheryl McGinnis must support the public being given little to no ability to publicly address administration by limiting communication during regular board meetings and failing to address the fact that the district has no "public meetings" for the public to address administration.
  • Cheryl must support allowing the HR director getting a huge raise during the same time frame when all other employees have had either huge pay cuts and then multi-year pay freezes, or multi-year pay freezes as she is still failing to address the contract for the directors and administrators where it appears that administration intends to give the HR Director a raise of almost $15,000 a year (by giving her a promotion to "Executive" Director of HR / "CO Executive Director"), even though she used to be the public relations director, has only been doing HR for two years, does not have a Master's Degree, does not manage multiple departments, and her Bachelor's Degree is not in Business or Human Resources.      
Please DO NOT return Cheryl McGinnis to the school board on November 6, 2012.  Please also do not vote for Kelli Horst (puppet for Dr. Rod Rock), nor Theresa Adriaens (absentee candidate and Dr. Rock puppet wanna-be).

PLEASE DO VOTE FOR "BPR", SUSAN BOATMAN, JOAN PATTERSON, AND BETTY REILLY.

************************************************


HERE IS THE EMAIL EXCHANGE:

From: Dawn Schaller
To: Cheryl McGinnis
Cc: Steve Hyers, Barry Bomier, Elizabeth Egan, Rosalie Lieblang, Joan Patterson, Susan Boatman
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2012 1:59:09 PM
Subject: Re: CCS 10/08/12 Board meeting and unanswered questions/concerns

Mrs. McGinnis,

I am glad to see that the district has finally decided to post the board packets on the district website again.  However, I noticed that there are board meeting videos that have been removed from the district's Ustream account.  The district has taken down the following board videos (removed in the last few weeks):
  • 10/10/11 (2011 audit presentation with many questions from Lieblang, Boatman, and Patterson that were not answered),
  • 10/24/11 ("Mrs. Patterson asked for clarification on board approval and pilot projects. Mrs. McGinnis noted there may be various “pilot-type” projects that teachers try in their classrooms. She believes the superintendent has some flexibility in allowing these projects to happen, but that curriculum changes do come before the board for approval" (denial of the need for board approval for pilots), ugly "Board goals" discussion in which Cheryl McGinnis looked bad, many questions and requests for discussion rather than action on board goals, and my comments on missing FOIA documents and missing backup documentation from the board packets),
  • 11/28/11 (Review of Facility/Technology Planning with much discussion, Barry Bomier missing, approval of foreign language curriculum, bus purchase approval, discussions on replacement costs for student management system,  discussions on FRN conference, Betty Reilly and I spoke and Dr. Rock rebutted my comments by saying, "He stated there are no improprieties on the transparency report, and he will continue to make bold statements for the students we serve." *say what??*),
  • 12/12/11 (Dr. Rock's Capital Needs/Funding Discussion with the details of the non-qualified bond and many questions from Boatman, Lieblang, and Patterson, I commented about the missing data on the transparency report, Anita Banach got up and contradicted my statements), 
  • 2/13/12 (request from Lieblang that a discussion item be added for "District Information" be added to the agenda (3:4 - denied), reports on new format of Q2 budget with the Q2 budget, discussion on the fact that there was missing budget information and Lieblang asked for the information she had asked for several times, bond ballot language, Hyer claimed that the board does not have to approve pilots because they are not curricular changes, Mr. RJ Naughton from Stauder-Barch spoke to the board about the bond, discussion on the bond election dates, McGinnis shut Pattterson down from speaking after Hyer had a prepared speech and McGinnis called a recess, Joan then allowed to speak and she said that she was concerned about a lack of a well thought-out plan regarding technology costs, risk, and technology plan requirements. discussion on the May bond date, discussion on the meeting where the attorney for the district, Mr. George Butler, publicly ripped on certain members of the board regarding "board member conduct"),
  • 7/9/12 (board voting on new officers in which Hyer, Bomier, McGinnis, and Egan made sure they were each officers and Lieblang, Patterson, and Boatman were not elected to officer positions, discussion on new position for grant writer, cutting back on board meetings with discussion regarding fewer dates with the guise of "saving money for the district" after spending $35,000 on the failed bond, authorizaiotn of district board memberships, appointment of Board of Education Contracted Services Representatives, board self-evaluation discussion),    
  • 8/6/12 (never filmed because the video was filmed on 8/5/12 instead in error (question mark for over three hours on the videos), capital needs vote, Board/Administrator Workshop that could not be heard  - IF it had been recorded),
  • 8/27/12 (special meeting to approve personnel changes and ugly discussion regarding the purchase of wireless technology for Clarkston High School not being on the budget). 
You said, "As chair I will continue to work so that presentations at these workshops are audible and visible for the attending public."  What exactly does this mean?  Will you have the content of the board workshops recorded in the minutes of the meeting?  Will you have microphones so the discussion can be heard on the video?  Or are you saying that you are only going to be sure that "the attending public", those actually at the meeting, can hear what is being discussed? 

You failed to address the HR Director, Anita Banach, getting up after I spoke and saying I "was making stuff up".  If it is "unprofessional" (your words from a board meeting) for Board members to make any comments on what a public speaker has said at a meeting, how is it OK or "professional" for a district director (Anita Banach) to get up, rebut me, and basically say I was lying?  By the way, I wasn't lying.   

You failed to address my request regarding my concern about only allowing the public one two-minute speech when CCS Board Bylaw 0167.3, "Public Participation at Board Meetings", "Section F, clearly allows the public to speak more than once.  I said, "Can you ensure that the practice of allowing members of the public to speak at board meetings be changed to reflect the state of the Board Bylaw that allows members of the public to speak for up to two minutes on any and all subjects and allows the members of the public to speak more than once on the same subject as long as all others have had a chance to speak.  This would match the state of the posted Board Bylaw to reality." and you said nothing about this.

You failed to address my request about my concern about Dr. Rock interrupting and dismissing me when I spoke at the 10/8/12 meeting.  I said, "Can you ensure that the school board's only direct employee, Dr. Rock, is made aware of the bylaws that only give the Board President the right to dismiss members of the public in a school board meeting?", and you said nothing about that either.

You failed to address the fact that there are no "public community hearings" in the Clarkston School System.  Is it because the district doesn't want to know what the public wants and doesn't want to hear from the public?
Can you address these issues please?

Thank you.

Dawn Schaller

http://acrosstheboard-clarkston.blogspot.com/
 


From: Cheryl McGinnis
To: Dawn Schaller
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2012 12:13:14 PM
Subject: Re: CCS 10/08/12 Board meeting

Thank you for contacting the Board of Education. 

Much time has been spent by the Superintendent reviewing the district’s capabilities of providing additional transparency to our community.  Effective immediately, the board packet will be posted to the district web site.  At times, there will continue to be elements of the packet that will not be available until after the board meeting for many reasons, however, this will be minimized as best possible.

We appreciate your patience during this time of the packets not being posted directly to the web site and only emailed.  The board looks forward to continued evaluation of district information that can be posted for public view in addition to those that are required by law.

The board will continue to conduct it’s meetings in a format that adheres to all legal requirements while providing board members with access to information and dialogue that allows them to seek all necessary information to make decisions on behalf of the students of Clarkston.  As you know, these workshops are board meetings in public and are not a community hearing.  As chair I will continue to work so that presentations at these workshops are audible and visible for the attending public.

The Chair stands committed to accommodating all board members’ business and personal schedule when they communicate conflicts ahead of confirming their availability for their elected board work.  I can not behold myself to anyone board member over all the others.

Regarding the 10/8/12 board meeting, during the roundtable workshop sessions; as you know I specifically asked that presenters to speak up so that our citizens could hear and I heard a confirmed “thank you”.  I believe we all could work more productively for our students and community if we could stay working on what is right for kids. 

As always, your comments are appreciated. 

--
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
Cc: Steve Hyers, Barry Bomier, Elizabeth Egan, Rosalie Lieblang, Joan Patterson, Susan Boatman
Sent: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Subject: Re: CCS 10/08/12 Board meeting and unanswered questions/concerns


Mrs. McGinnis,

I wanted to cover a few things that happened at the 10/8/12 school board meeting with you. 

As you know, I spoke at the 10/8/12 board meeting during Action Item 5.2/5.3.  I discussed my opinion of the subjects of the inaudible roundtable workshop sessions (Discussion Item 6.2 of the meeting) and Action Item 5.2 (moved to 5.3), the "Supervisors and Administrators contract".  Starting at 35 minutes, 59 seconds of the first video (available on the district website) and continuing until 38 minutes, 28 seconds) I had advised:
  1. That the HR Director salary was set at around $86,000 when it was offered to the current HR Director in 2010. 
  2. That according to a FOIAed document I received last year from the district, that the HR Director's annual salary for the 2011/12 school year was $90,600. 
  3. That there was no category in either the existing or the new "Supervisors and Administrators contract" for "HR Director" or just "Central Office Director (minus the "Executive" level) at the $90,600 salary range.
  4. That the HR Director had been calling herself the "Executive Director of Human Resources" for the past year although the board had not been asked to approve a promotion or pay raise for her.
  5. That the only job category I could find on the contract that could have fit the HR Director was the "CO Exec. Dir" (Central Office Executive Director) job category that had a step 1 salary of $105,901, progressing to $118,699 at step 5 (year 5). 
  6. That would have meant that unless the "HR Director" job classification was just "missing" from the proposed new contract, that it appeared that the district was trying to change the job classification of the HR Director from "Director" to "Central Office Executive Director", resulting in a salary raise from $90,600 to $105,901 ($15,301 per year increase), or more if the district was going to grant second or thrird .  However, the board had not been asked to approve a pay raise for the HR Director.
  7. That the HR Director told me after a meeting in June of 2012 that she felt that she "deserved" the "CO Executive Director" salary and level. 
Dr Rock then interrupted me and dismissed me from continuing my comments saying I was "making specific statements about people and I don't think that's appropriate at this time", and then when I disagreed and said I thought it WAS appropriate, he interrupted me and said "I think probably your two minutes are up" and dismissed me. 

Shortly after I was dismissed by Dr. Rock and the board had discussed the issue some more, the HR Director, Anita Banach, got up to the podium at one hour, 7 minutes, 0 seconds to discuss the contract with the board.  This was recorded in the meeting.  She then basically said that she deserved the higher pay that the "Central Office Executive Director" position showed on the contract.  She got personal against me.  She specifically named me and said that I was "making stuff up".  I take offense to her personal attack as I was not "making stuff up" as she said and I also consider that unprofessional of her as a school district "director".  I had not attacked her personally, I had simply brought up issues regarding the salary schedule of the HR Director position on the contract that was in front of the board for approval and I stated history related to the HR Director position and pay.  As much as it may have been personal for her because her pay would be personal to her, it was not a personal attack. 

I have two concerns and a two requests regarding what happened when I spoke and was dismissed by Dr. Rock. 
  • Concern 1 - According to CCS Board Bylaw 0167.3, "Public Participation at Board Meetings", "Section F., No participant may speak more than once on the same topic unless all others who wish to speak on that topic have been heard."  Currently the board is refusing to allow any members of the public from speaking more than once at a meeting (unless that member of the public is Kelli Horst).  What the Board Bylaw means is that members of the public have the right to speak to the board more than once at the board meetings and they can even speak on the same subject more than once after all others wishing to be heard on that subject have been heard.  I was speaking on two subjects, but was limited to only one two minute speech, and there were no other members of the public who wanted to speak at the meeting, so I should have been allowed to speak twice on the two subjects and if I ran over on the time, I should have been given an opportunity to speak again to get my point across.   
    • Request 1 - Can you ensure that the practice of allowing members of the public to speak at board meetings be changed to reflect the state of the Board Bylaw that allows members of the public to speak for up to two minutes on any and all subjects and allows the members of the public to speak more than once on the same subject as long as all others have had a chance to speak.  This would match the state of the posted Board Bylaw to reality.   
  • Concern 2 - According to CCS Board Bylaw 0167.3, "Public Participation at Board Meetings", "Section I., The presiding officer may: 1) interrupt, warn, or terminate a participant's statement when the statement is too lengthy, personally directed, abusive, obscene, or irrelevant;".  I do not believe that my comments were "personally directed, abusive, obscene, or irrelevant" as they were regarding the pay scale for a particular job category for the HR Director from the proposed contract that was on the agenda and the Board members had not been able to get a clear answer on this same issue from Dr. Rock during their previous discussion.  The "presiding officer" of the Board meeting was you, Mrs. McGinnis, but Dr. Rock dismissed me from speaking and he had no right to dismiss me.  After watching the video of this exchange from the meeting, I found that I HAD spoken beyond the two minute limit, but Dr. Rock was not the person who had the right to stop me from speaking, ONLY YOU HAD THAT RIGHT, and you didn't do it. 
    • Request 2 - Can you ensure that the school board's only direct employee, Dr. Rock, is made aware of the bylaws that only give the Board President the right to dismiss members of the public in a school board meeting?
After Anita Banach sat down and right before the round table workshop session, Dr. Rock made a comment in which he commented about the "positive feedback regarding the roundtable discussions" (only partially true), said that several members of the board had asked for more opportunities for discussion before a vote (true), and that the round table workshop session was the way the district was allowing "discussion".  That is just just wrong on so many levels.  With the roundtable discussions split into two tables, the board members hear different questions and answers (resulting in incomplete interpretations) and they also result in a lack of transparency for the public and the board.

At the beginning of all of the board meetings, the president always makes the following statement:
 “This meeting is a meeting of the Board of Education in public for the purpose of conducting the School District’s business and is not to be considered a public community hearing. There is a time for public participation during the meeting as indicated in agenda items 3 and 8.” 

The above comments say that the board meeting is to conduct the school district's business rather than being a public community meeting/hearing.  Therefore, there is some public participation allowed, but it is not a public community hearing.  I get it and that makes sense.  However, one of the problems in the Clarkston school system is that THERE ARE NO PUBLIC COMMUNITY HEARINGS IN THIS DISTRICT...  This frustrates the public.  This community NEEDS public community meetings in order to get buy-in to changes the district is considering (if there are proposed changes), instead, the district is:
  • getting the rubber stamper board members to vote (usually with a 4/3 vote) to approve things the public neither knows about, nor would be interested in having implemented by not providing information to the public about it and limiting availability to the board packet information until the day of the meeting,  
  • not asking for public opinion (the public survey from last year does not count, because it was illegitimate - asking for public opinion on subjects with insufficient information and wording the questions in certain ways in order to get a particular results and because there were no where near as many actual phone responses as the survey results reported),
  • regarding Board Packets:
    • not providing the board packets on the Fridays before the Monday meetings any longer,
    • not putting the board packets on the district website for all to view on the Fridays before the Monday meetings,
    • not including all of the backup documentation in the Board Packets,
    • and only providing the board packets to those who specifically ask for them to be sent to them via email on the day of the meeting (preventing any real analysis of the document).
  • and providing less transparency to the public by addressing critical issues in the "roundtable workshop sessions" that are not recorded in any way.     
I believe that the CCS school board is dysfunctional and changes are needed.

Per the Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, (available here), they say:

"The local school board is a critical public link to public schools. Whether elected or appointed, school board members serve their communities in several important ways.


  • First and foremost school boards look out for students. Education is not a line item on the school board’s agenda—it is the only item.
  • When making decisions about school programs, school boards incorporate their community’s view of what students should know and be able to do.
  • School boards are accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools.
  • School boards are the education watchdog for their communities, ensuring that students get the best education for the tax dollars spent."

I wish that the Clarkston Community Schools School Board would actually become a group of seven professional adults representing the wants and needs of the public, focused on the direction and control of the school system in order to ensure that the students are educated safely and to the best possible degree given the funds the district has to spend on that endeavor.  That is what the school board is supposed to be doing.  I see Joan Patterson, Susan Boatman, and Rosalie Lieblang living up to those school board responsibilities.  On the other hand, I see you, Steve Hyer, Barry Bomier, and Elizabeth Egan ignoring the wants and needs of the public, not requesting the proper data from administration (financial and program data especially), and allowing your employee, Dr. Rock, to take over the board's responsibilities to direct and control the school system and the board, to ignore the public's comments and desires, to refuse to supply the board with data needed to make proper decisions, and to keep himself and the school board as inaccessible as possible from the public. 

I am very disappointed with the current dysfunction on the school board.  I hope that the public does the right thing on November 6th and votes in the board members that will redirect the board to perform the functions the board is supposed to be performing. 

Please respond to the questions and concerns I have above.

Thank you.

Dawn Schaller

2 comments:

  1. Obviously like anything else McGinnis & Co. will not do what they should. They do what they want, maybe the State Board of Ethics could help them find their way to openly serving the public who elected them. Doesn't the State Board of Ethics inforce rules in this area?

    ReplyDelete
  2. We need the public to rise up and speak publicly to the board to let them know we are not happy with what they are doing. If you would like to join up with me, email me at cleanupclarkstonschools at gmail.com (replace the " at " with the "@" sign. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete