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Friday, May 16, 2008

If CPS spends money and no one notices...

At last night's Cincinnati school board public hearing called to discuss Superintendent Rosa Blackwell's proposed $445 million budget for next year, just two people who aren't on the CPS payroll or the board came.

One of them was me, a reporter who routinely attends as part of my job. The other was Jim Berry, an Over-the-Rhine resident who's a frequent schools volunteer and member of the joint CPS-community budget commission. So depending on your definition, there's between two and zero bona fide members of the "public" at the public meeting.

This very poorly attended meeting came 72 days after voters approved a 7.89-mill property tax hike for CPS, which will raise annual taxes by $233 per $100,000 of property value, beginning next January. Last night specifically, board members and Blackwell were making plans to spend about $18.7 million worth of those new taxes.

The next public hearing on the budget is June 12, and they'll probably vote on the budget June 23. Maybe better weather then will bring out a crowd.

UPDATE: Board member Melanie Bates called today, claiming the real problem isn't lack of interest, but a flawed method for soliciting input. For whatever reason, the old-fashioned hearing process just doesn't work for people, and the district hasn't bothered to adapt.

Her ideas? Giving principals finance training to host school-level hearings, more Web-based public surveys and off-site board meetings.

"We're paying someone $82,000 a year to manage community engagement," she said, referring to Dawn Grady, CPS coordinator of community engagement. "We ought to have the capacity to figure this out." (Grady, who actually makes $84,924, didn't immediately return a call for comment.)

Of course, Bates and her six colleagues earn a $125 per-meeting stipend, too. Hardly big money, but that doesn't exactly discourage calling meetings no one cares about.


at 10:55 AM, May 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're screwed. There goes my stimulus check

at 11:03 AM, May 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Total lack of parental support. What a joke. I'm expected to pay for education that's really a day care center for irresponsible parents.
Parents aren't concerned enough about the CPS to attend Board meetings. No wonder their students graduate without a clue.
The dumbing down of America due to political correctness is succeeding.

at 3:18 PM, May 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why attend a board meeting on a rainy night when you can catch it on local cable?

And I don't get where not attending a mind-numbing budget presentation = lack of parental support. Whenever I'm at my daughter's school there are volunteers checking in and out, working hard at the grass roots level.

Why the constant over-generalizations? "day care center," "irresponsible parents," "graduate without a clue"? Where's the dumbing down for political correctness?

Knee jerk criticisms from actual jerks is all this sounds like. If you spent any time in the schools you would see something completely opposed to your preconceived notions. But we wouldn't want to upset those, would we, because old ideas are so comforting and new ideas so distressing.

at 5:35 PM, May 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:18 You can't provide important feedback to the Board through your television. It's so easy to take the path of least resistence for you when it's your children's education at stake? If you don't care, why should I?

at 5:48 PM, May 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Melanie, you are wrong. Members of the public don't attend Board meetings because they are boring, silly, and last too long. Yes, Melanie, it IS lack of interest. Consider the fact the superintendent sits at the meetings with her back to the public.

at 11:44 PM, May 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appoint some of the attendees to be parent/citizen liasons. Then you'll get the involvement which they say is desired. There are many topics such as reading programs that need vetting in order to get the latest, most effective ones in play. I read of the meeting in the paper after I came home from work, the day of the meeting. It was within 15 minutes before starting when I learned of it.

Quick question I'd ask. How are the monies for school improvements being incorporated with city recreation facility plans. Seems like a good way to save money. Hartwell school could be incorporated into the city rec facility's plan and even if the same money is spent, more bang for the buck could be had. Combine the bids for let's say...concrete to get a better deal as an example.

at 8:33 PM, May 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bates is being critical of the community engagement woman because she is trying to push her out so she can bring in her council campaign manager, Scott Gehring, and pay him twice as much as he is making in his current sex-offender-rehab gig.

at 2:41 PM, May 19, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's Scott Gehring?

Wasn't he almost somebody once?

at 4:07 PM, May 19, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cincinnati public schools and Silverton city council are negotiating a land swap in which the only public park in Silverton, all 12 acres, would go for a new Padiea (SP?) school. Silverton residents would get a 1/2 acre pocket park and retail development on the site of the old school. And the residents of Silverton don't get a say. And you think YOU'RE screwed??!!!

at 6:35 PM, May 23, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 4:07,

Why can't the Silverton area people enjoy the school facilities? As was mentioned before, why are schools and public use considered separate? Won't there be playground equipment? Can't kids enjoy this? Are there that many people who need that particular park to call 'adult only' type areas? Perhaps this requires red tape cutting. I'd be in favor of slashing that mindset if necessary. Separation edicts area costly, non-green, and wasteful.

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