Education News for 03-29-2013

State Education News

  • Board of directors’ votes to shut down Akron Digital Academy (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • With just more than half of its nine-member roster present, the board of directors for the Akron Digital Academy voted 4-1 Wednesday night to shut down the online school…Read more...

  • Bethel works to meet reading guarantee requirements (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • School board members March 21 approved a resolution stating the district would not be compliant with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee requirements for the 2013-2014 school year…Read more...

  • Students sharing successes (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • From designing bridges and 3D projects to exploring their creative side, area high school students also are getting a head start on their college degrees…Read more...

  • Tests point to improved designation for Youngstown schools (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Based on preliminary data, city school and state officials expect the Youngstown district to move to the equivalent of “continuous improvement” on the 2012-13 state report card…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Small crowds attended Conneaut school shooter meetings (Ashtabula Star-Beacon)
  • A subject dear to parents, the safety of their children, didn’t help put people into seats at a series of recent meetings outlining Conneaut’s school defense plans…Read more...

  • Striking Strongsville teachers obtain documents (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Strongsville schools spent more than $1.1 million through the first two weeks of a teachers strike, according to figures the Strongsville Education Association…Read more...

  • ‘Still Frontier kids’ (Marietta Times)
  • Becoming a charter school would not sever Lawrence Elementary's ties with the Frontier Local school district…Read more...

  • Springboro school board posts contract proposals (Middletown Journal)
  • The Springboro school board has published contract proposals submitted by the board and the union representing district’s teachers and certified staff during their first negotiating session…Read more...

  • New school projects deficit in first 4 years (Springfield News-Sun)
  • Financial projections for the agricultural science school show that the academy would operate at a deficit for the first four years…Read more...

  • Documents detail cost of Strongsville teachers strike for district (Sun Newspapers)
  • According to recently released documents, the school district spent more than $1.1 million in preparation and execution through the first two weeks…Read more...

Stan Heffner involved in major ethics violantions

The head of ODE and State Superintendent Stan Heffner, has been found in violation of state ethic laws according to an Inspector General report issued today. This investigation was prompted by Plunderbund reporting.

CONCLUSION TO THE INITIAL ALLEGATION At the time of his testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, Heffner had already interviewed and secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS). Heffner negotiated the conditions of his employment with ETS, signed an offer, and began the process of transitioning from Ohio to San Antonio, Texas. He had met with ETS officials out of state and allowed them to pay for his travel; he took time from attending an out-of-state conference on behalf of ODE to meet with ETS officials. Heffner’s testimony supported legislation which would result in an increase of testing for Ohio’s school teachers. Based on the prior relationship between ODE and ETS, it was inappropriate for Heffner to give testimony in support of this bill given the strong likelihood that ETS could stand to profit.

Ohio Revised Code Section 121.41 defines at division (G): “Wrongful act or omission” means an act or omission, committed in the course of office holding or employment, that is not in accordance with the requirements of law or such standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and thereby subverts, or tends to subvert, the process of government.

By providing testimony to the legislature as the state’s principal employee for leadership in education, in support of a bill that could and ultimately did benefit a corporation with which he had entered into an agreement of employment, Heffner failed to meet the standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and subverts the process of government.

Accordingly, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General finds reasonable cause to believe wrongful acts or omissions occurred in these instances.

The report further details other violations uncovered during their investigation, including the misuse of state time and resources.

While investigating the initial allegations, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General found during the course of negotiating the employment agreement between Heffner and ETS, Heffner advised associates at ETS to use both his state-issued cell phone and his state email account as the preferred method of contact to conduct non-state business arrangements.

Further evidence has Heffner directing state employees to make personal arrangement for him, as he was looking for a new job. Here's just one of many examples uncovered

In addition, Heffner’s former executive secretary also provided documentation of email instructions addressed to her by Heffner for preparing an envelope to send an employment application to USD. (Exhibit 13) She also stated that Heffner instructed her to coordinate a flight to Washington, D.C., for a meeting between Heffner and ETS. She stated that though ETS scheduled the flight, she was instructed to convey the details of the flight to ETS’s executive search company, JRS.

He directed his assistant to prepare and coordinate his move to Texas and the subsequent mortgage arrangements

Heffner’s executive assistant recalled on one particular day, Heffner brought in a brief case full of personal documents which were related to the potential purchase of a home in San Antonio, and for the sale of his home in Westerville. The new executive assistant explained Heffner instructed her to organize the documents and assist in getting the process “finalized” for the mortgage company. She described the documents as Heffner’s personal records such as tax returns, bank statements, letters of financial debt, and anything you would need for a mortgage company. She stated that from the personal documents given to her by Heffner, as mortgage companies would contact her, she would provide whatever documentation they were seeking and would utilize whatever state equipment was necessary to send or transmit them. Occasionally, she stated, Heffner would inquire as to how the process of his home purchase was proceeding and would want to know about “timelines.”
When asked if she believed that she had an option to refuse to perform this work she replied, “. . . and keep my job? Probably not.” She stated she was in “disbelief” that Heffner was instructing her to perform these personal tasks. She said, “My only option was to do what he needed and try to do it well so he, you know, so he would, so he would keep me.”

The Office of the Ohio Inspector General asks the State Board of Education of Ohio to consider whether administrative action is warranted and respond within 60 days detailing its decision.

The full IG report can be read here.
Exhibits from the investigation can be found here.


According to a Dispatch Report, the Superintendent is appologizing but refusing to resign

Ohio schools Superintendent Stan Heffner quickly apologized for ethics allegations outlined in a state watchdog investigation released today but stopped short of stepping down from the post he has held for a year.

“I accept the findings of the Inspector General’s report. I was wrong and I’m sorry for my lack of judgment,” Heffner said in a statement released by the Ohio Department of Education.

“I’ve apologized to my staff, my friends and colleagues at the department, and the board. I have learned from my mistakes, and I will work with the board to take whatever steps they feel are necessary to resolve this matter and move forward.”

Shady group secretly plots against voters

According to Gongwer, a "by-invitation-only" meeting of lobbyists and political insiders was held Tuesday morning at a private club in Columbus by a group seeking to oppose the Voters First Amendment.

The meeting was sponsored by Protect Your Vote Ohio. Voters First responded to this new revelation

"Today's backroom meeting at a private club is yet another example of the broken political system where politicians, lobbyists and insiders rig districts for their own benefit-and exactly why we need this reform," Ms. Turcer. "The hosts of this meeting are the same people who spent months in a hotel room they called 'the bunker,' drawing political boundaries to benefit themselves. It's no surprise that they'll say or do anything to protect their own power."

The Dayton Daily News gets the scoop on who some of the people are who are forming this shady group

Protect Your Vote solicited the help of state lobbyists Tuesday during a private event at the Capital Club in Columbus, according to an invitation obtained by the Dayton Daily News. The campaign organizers listed on the invitation include fundraisers and others with ties to the Republican elected officials who had a hand in drafting the new boundaries.

Campaign Manager Brandon Lynaugh declined Tuesday to comment on the fundraiser and other Protect Your Vote activities.

One of the finance consultants listed on the invitations, Ray DiRossi, was paid $105,000 to assist elected officials in drawing the boundaries last year. Another consultant, Pamela Hashem, is a major fundraiser for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp.

Secrecy is no stranger to these people and the politicians they serve to keep the political system working for everyone but voters.

According to the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report released this afternoon, Republican lawmakers at the state house implemented a strategy of deliberate secrecy to withhold information from the public about redistricting efforts. The documents paint a picture of lawmakers who purposely operated in a legal gray area to prevent their actions from ever being made public.

For months, Republican lawmakers and staff meet in secret to work on redistricting efforts in possible violation of Ohio’s open meetings law. The documents show a Republican party that are so obsessed with privacy that they used taxpayer dollars to rent a secret hotel room in Columbus that was used as a location to meet on redistricting issues.

You can read the report and all the shady secret dealings that went into drawing Ohio's new political boundaries, here.

Ohio's teacher evaluation - Flawed from the start?

The Capacity Committee of the state Board of Education yesterday to further discuss development of teacher evlauations, which as the Dispatch reports “should be a tool to inform employment and dismissal decisions (and) opportunities for advancement” and must complete the recommendations by the end of the year.

Education First has been brought in to help develop the evaluation system, but their comments at the meeting are a little troubling

Katie Cour, another consultant from Education First, stressed that the pilot program put together by the state can’t be expected to work flawlessly from the time it is put into place.

“You’ll never have a perfect system at the beginning of implementation,” she said. Cour told the committee members to think of the plan in the same way software developers thought about their products — there would be an OTES 2.0 and 3.0, which might not look anything like the first plan.

The state plan has a basic four-part system for evaluating teachers: goal setting, teacher performance, professionalism and student growth.

In keeping with the focus on student achievement — and a new state law — student growth will be half of a teacher’s evaluation.

We are apparently in such a rush that we're having to make it up as we go along, openly admitting that we are develpoing a flawed system that will be used in part to determine dismissals and RIF's.

We have obtained the documents used and presented at this meeting, you can read them below (we combined 5 documents into one for simplicity of reading, seperated by a blank page)

Combined Teacher Evaluation Docs

DAS misled about having SB5 documents

We posted an article a few weeks ago, concerned that the administration was hiding key facts from the public. We were also concerned that the SB5 analysis generated by the Department of Administrative Services was compromised and error ridden. We wrote to the DAS chief legal counsel

Can you provide me with a list of employees who provided the analysis and generated this report, a copy of all emails, spreadsheets, memos, and documents from said employees regarding this report.

We received the following response

I do not believe there is a list responsive to your request. The report came from the Office of Collective Bargaining.

Your request for emails, spreadsheets, memos, documents from "said" employees is vague and overbroad. Therefore, it is denied.
However, you are welcome to amend your request so that it is more specific.
Thank you,

Lisa Iannotta
Chief Legal Counsel
Department of Administrative Services
30 E. Broad Street, 40th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 728-3475 Direct Dial

Well it turns out that was a lie. Not only is the Office of Collective Bargaining part of DAS, but Plunderbund now has in its possession the proof. What they have more than explains the reluctance of the administration to turn over documents relating to their flawed SB5 analysis

From: Duco, Michael
To: Blair, Robert; Menedis, Nicholas; Wykoff, Pieter
Cc: Trackler, Julie; Colson, Harry
Subject: Columbus
Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:20:31 AM

I left a message for Jan Campbell for the same information that I asked Toledo for. I am not sure that they will cooperate. I am walking over to SERB to see what kind of data they may have. I know that you want an aggregate number but there may be no way to give you it with any amount of precision.

Maybe what they should do is show what the savings to the State, a city (Toledo) and a school district and a county. If you all provide me with a school district that would work with us and a county we can work on these snapshots. While an aggregate number is big I am worried that it will be challenged and we will not be able to defend. My only solution is to use the savings garnered in Toledo and the state divided by the number of employees to come up with an average savings multiple that by the number of public employees and use a factor of 5% either way. I chose 5% because the elimination of five sick days is approximately 2% savings which Toledo and State workforce would not capture and say 3% for potential pick up coverage. Let me know your ideas or whether you think this formula is defensible.

A number of the people cc'ed in this single email work for DAS and were involved in some manner in the creation of the SB5 analysis that we know some had reservations about. The administration is getting dangerously close to serious lawsuits with their constant disregard for public records law.

What's John Kasich hiding?

It's being widely reported that Governor Kasich and his legal team are refusing to fulfill a public information request made by legislators.

State Reps. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, and Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said yesterday that they are considering legal action after being rebuffed in a public-records request, filed April 6, for 17 items of information related to education funding.

Kimberly Kutschbach, Kasich's assistant chief legal counsel, said Monday in a letter responding to the Democrats' query that the governor's office "does not have any public records responsive to your requests" for 16 of the 17 items.

This is becoming a commonplace response from the Governor. We have heard from many sources that their requests receive the same response. We too received a similar response recently

Your request for emails, spreadsheets, memos, documents from "said" employees is vague and overbroad. Therefore, it is denied.
However, you are welcome to amend your request so that it is more specific.
Thank you,

Lisa Iannotta
Chief Legal Counsel
Department of Administrative Services
30 E. Broad Street, 40th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 728-3475 Direct Dial

We had simply asked for "a list of employees who provided the analysis and generated this report, a copy of all emails, spreadsheets, memos, and documents from said employees regarding this report. Thanks" in reference to the DAS SB5 savings report.

What information is the Kasich administration now saying it doesn't have?

Among the items Kasich's lawyer said the administration didn't have: research that shows Kasich's new school-funding formula will improve student achievement; a copy of the formula itself; a list of charter schools in academic emergency or watch; and projections of cost-savings from eliminating the "last-in, first-out" rules for educators.

A request for communications to and from the Fordham Foundation, a pro-school choice think tank, was deemed too broad to fulfil.

What is more troubling? That they claim not to have this information in order to obfuscate legitimate requests, or that it genuinely doesn't exist?

If it is indeed the latter, it's an admission that they intend to blow up public education in Ohio and have done no research or analysis as to the effects, nor what they are planning to replace it with.

Has there ever been a more reckless budget?