Search This Blog

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New: Mehlville Fire Board Approves Chief's Resignation

June 22, 2011 - Staff Report

The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted unanimously today to accept the resignation of Chief Tim White.

Board members voted during a closed session this afternoon to accept White's resignation, according to Chairman Aaron Hilmer.

White was selected as former Chief Jim Silvernail's successor in April 2009 when he was named to the newly created post of administrative chief fire officer. White, a firefighter/emergency medical technician who had been employed by the district since June 1985, was named captain in December 2008.

Upon Silvernail's retirement in April 2010, White assumed the position of chief.

"The reality is, is we had a difference of opinion in the direction we wanted the district to go in the future,'' Hilmer told the Call. "Tim White wanted to take it in one way. The board wasn't comfortable with it. We wanted to go in a different direction.

"At that time, we decided to amicably part ways,'' he continued. "He received a severance package that's in line with other packages we have given for early retirements, et cetera. He's going to receive nine months' pay and benefits and a $15,000 education stipend.''

During today's closed session, the board also voted unanimously to name Assistant Chief Brian Hendricks as interim chief.

Hendricks, who previously served as deputy chief training officer, was named assistant chief last year. In May, Hendricks assumed control of operations of the district.

Also during today's closed session, the board voted 2-0 to name Deputy Chief Training Officer Dan LaFata as interim assistant chief. Hilmer was not present for the vote.

Regarding the board's future plans for the chief's position, Hilmer said, "Right now, we have made no decisions on it and certainly I can say there is no rush on it. There's a tremendous administrative staff in place there and the district's going to continue to run just fine. That's an issue we'll address down the road, what to do.''

Hilmer said White was leaving to pursue other professional opportunities and "we wish him well in his endeavors.''

Read more in next week's Call about this story.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rockwood Hires Got Head Start on Salaries in Strapped District


St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday, June 19, 2011

Two newly hired top administrators in the Rockwood School District will begin their new roles July 1, each with a six-figure salary. Their paychecks, however, won't be the first they've received from the financially stressed district.

In October and again in February, Rockwood hired the two - Randy Smasal and Nancy DuBois - as consultants to the district's first-year superintendent, Bruce Borchers.

All three had previously worked together in the same Minnesota school district. Borchers thought his two former associates would be perfect to help craft a reorganization of and institute changes in the Rockwood District, one of the largest and best regarded school systems in the state.

Over the past school year Smasal and DuBois were each paid $30,600 for 17 days of consulting work, according to their contracts.

For each, that amounts to $1,800 a day, or about $8,000 shy of the annual salary of a first-year Rockwood teacher.

In offering their advice to Rockwood, Smasal and DuBois did the bulk of their consulting from Minnesota, rarely visiting the district that serves more than 22,000 students from cities such as Ballwin, Chesterfield, Eureka, Fenton and Wildwood.

In fact, both were on contract with Rockwood while keeping their full-time jobs at Anoka-Hennepin School District in suburban Minneapolis, the district where they had worked with Borchers.

The two offered the new superintendent advice on "the development of processes and strategies to align curriculum, instruction and assessment to meet the strategic goals," according to their contracts.

Also on the table was restructuring the district's administration and staff, redefining some of the top positions.

Now, two of those posts will be filled by Smasal and DuBois.

They say the idea of taking permanent jobs at Rockwood wasn't in the picture when they started as consultants.

"That was never on the radar for either one of us," said Smasal, a 19-year veteran of the Minnesota school district. "The more that we talked to individuals down there, the more interesting that opportunity became later on."

Effective July 1, they will be among the district's highest-ranking and highest-paid administrators. Smasal, who made $97,200 as Anoka-Hennepin's director of secondary curriculum and instruction, will be paid $138,000 as Rockwood's associate superintendent of learning. DuBois, who made $79,958 as a secondary teaching and learning specialist for gifted and talented students in Minnesota, will make $125,000 as Rockwood's executive director of learning and support services.

Rockwood's relationship with the two came about thanks to a $250,000 fund the School Board quietly allocated to Borchers in September to pay for consultants and other needs while transitioning into his new role as a first-time superintendent.The money was approved at a meeting without discussion.


The board voted Sept. 2 to take the $250,000 from the district's operating fund "for superintendent contingency items," according to district records. But the $250,000 wasn't noted on the board's main meeting agenda. Rather, the topic was listed as a "consent agenda item" in another board document and voted on as a 2011 "budget adjustment."

Consent agenda items typically involve noncontroversial board business that requires no discussion before passage. If a board member wants to discuss an item, it can be pulled from the consent agenda and discussed at a board meeting.

The $250,000 allotment was not pulled from the consent agenda and was approved without discussion, district spokeswoman Kim Cranston said.

Rockwood does not have a dollar limit on items that can be approved by consent agenda, she said.
Borchers, in a phone interview, said he never asked for the money but that he took the board up on the offer, in large part because the departures of three administrators left him short-handed as he was beginning his new job (two were hired back part-time using other district funds).

Board president Steve Smith said the $250,000 "seemed like a good idea."

"I think, to all of us, that as he gets accustomed to Rockwood, gets accustomed to his position and begins to implement his vision for the district short-handed, (he) might want some help," he said. "We thought it prudent to set aside money for that purpose."

Borchers said he decided to hire consultants not only because of departing administrators but because he wanted to get to work on a "continuous-improvement system" focused on student achievement.

At the time, he didn't know how he would reorganize the district, so he was hesitant to hire for positions that might later change. He said he turned to consultants "to help me frame that new structure and reorganization."

In December 2010, about three months after setting aside the $250,000 for Borchers' use, the district announced it would have to cut $5.3 million to balance its 2011-12 budget, partly through staff reductions and salary freezes for administrators and support staff.

Six middle school teachers, 10 counselors, four drivers education teachers and three parking attendants at high schools lost their jobs. Rockwood also decided it would increase kindergarten tuition, high school parking fees and admission to sporting events to raise revenue.

The district's financial woes remain far from over. This coming fiscal year, Rockwood expects a deficit of $6 million to $16 million, according to Cranston.

"These are difficult economic times, and our schools are feeling the effects," Borchers said of the 2010-11 cuts in an explanation on the district's website.

Trimming millions "from an already lean budget is a challenge that is requiring some tough decisions," added the superintendent, who draws a salary of $230,000 and an $8,000 yearly car allowance.

Two months after the School Board decided to make the cuts, Smasal and DuBois signed a second round of consulting contracts with Rockwood, again with fees of $1,800 a day. (The two later were given an additional $2,201 for travel expenses accrued while interviewing for the positions they eventually accepted.)

Earlier this month and in May, Borchers turned again to the $250,000 allotment - not all of which has been spent - to pay for $97,500 in work from Solution Tree, an Indiana-based consulting firm that offers workshops and other services aimed at improving staff and student performance. Rockwood consistently ranks among the best districts in the state for measures such as standardized exams and graduation rates.

Borchers lauds Solution Tree and says the company allowed him to make changes more quickly.

Otherwise, he said, "that's a one-year delay on student achievement and it's a one-year delay on needed staff development for grade administrators and teacher leaders," he said. "This is an excellent district, but my charge from the board was, ‘How can we move to the next level?"


As for Smasal and DuBois, their total of four contracts - two signed Oct. 1 and two Feb. 4 - allow up to 20 days of consultation each from Sept. 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011.

Because the two consulted while working full time in Minnesota, they performed their work for Rockwood mostly at night or on weekends, Borchers said. At times, he met with them over Skype on the Internet.

All three said they didn't need to be in the district to achieve what Borchers wanted of them.

"I've worked with them before ... and their experiences around creating systemic structures, around continuous improvement, were incredibly beneficial," said Borchers. He said he ran ideas past them to help him determine if he was on the right track.

"That's why they gave me these dollars, so I could have access to folks like this to help me think through some of these things and stumbling blocks," he said. "That's the role that they played, because we didn't have the staff here that I could work with to do this reorganization."

Smasal and DuBois said in a phone interview that their consulting work involved preparing research, presentations and communications for Borchers, as well as sharing experiences from having worked with Solution Tree in Minnesota.

"What he was looking for was some feedback from some people who have been through this kind of work of trying to put continuous-improvement structures in place and to help move those strategic directions all the way down to the classroom level and back up," Smasal said. "We've both had those experiences."

Some district employees have chafed at the consulting arrangement and the reorganization, which reduced the number of administrators to nine from 17, and raised the number of "teacher leaders" to 17 from eight.

"There is a concern among staff members that we're not getting the full picture," said one district employee who asked not to be identified.

"People are not getting raises and yet the district has the money to hire consultants - and they do it in a way that is not transparent."

Borchers said he had heard few concerns about the money he was given for consultants.

"Let's just say we spent $180,000," he said, defending its use. "You could equate that to three teachers."

But, he said, using that money instead to hire Smasal, Dubois and Solution Tree could "help create this conceptual framework for continuous improvement that affects 22,000 students, 1,600 teachers and other support staff."

"That's the hat I have to wear," he said of his decision. "But what I'm charged with is making that strategic plan come to life and to achieve it. And I believe what we're doing with those dollars was spent ... professionally on things that will lead us to increased student achievement."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NEA Lawyer on Union's Far-Left Agenda

Anyone who doubts that the National Education Association is anything but a extreme left wing political organization should watch this short video!

Friday, June 10, 2011

MSD Board Eyes Settlement of Suit Mandating $4.7 Billion of Districtwide Improvements

District to blame if sewer bills double in cost, critic claims.

June 08, 2011 - The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Board of Trustees this week will consider an ordinance approving a consent decree that includes roughly $4.7 billion in sewer district infrastructure improvements and other mandates over the next 23 years.

The board is scheduled to consider the matter when it meets at 5 p.m. today — June 9 — at MSD headquarters, 2350 Market St., St. Louis.

The consent decree would settle a 2007 lawsuit against MSD by the federal government on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Missouri on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources.

Plaintiffs claimed in part that the district was discharging untreated sewage from its collection system through combined sewer overflows and constructed sanitary sewer overflows, a violation of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Representatives from MSD, the EPA and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, which intervened in the case, "have negotiated the terms and language of the consent decree which would resolve all allegations of the complaints," according to a narrative included in the board's agenda, which also notes that the state has decided it will not sign the decree after "extensive mediation" over nearly four years.

"This is still considered active mediation," said Lance LeComb, MSD's manager of public information. "There is no signed agreement yet. Not all parties have agreed yet. There's not a lot we can share about that consent decree as a whole ... Once we have a signed agreement with the federal government and the Coalition for the Environment, it's filed with a federal judge and at that point the full consent decree becomes a public document and then there's a comment period of either 30 or 60 days before it becomes finalized."

He added, "We wanted to make sure we got an agreement that worked for the ratepayer, their pocketbook, but also protects the environment and the public's health and safety."

Some highlights of the consent decree, as described in the agenda narrative, include:

• MSD must complete projects that will eliminate 50 specific constructed sanitary sewer overflow outfalls by Dec. 31, 2012. The district must also submit by the end of 2013 a plan to remove all constructed sanitary sewer outfalls, sewer bypasses and reduce recurring building backups by Dec. 31, 2033.

• The district must commit $100 million to implement a Green Infrastructure Program to reduce overflow into the Mississippi River and in areas of St. Louis city and county with combined sanitary sewer and stormwater removal.

• MSD must spend $1.6 million to implement a Supplemental Environmental Project in which the district will remove septic tanks and install, replace, rehabilitate or repair sewer lateral lines at homes of low-income residents.

• MSD must pay a $1.2 million civil penalty to the federal government within 30 days of the consent decree's effective date.

The decree comes as the MSD Rate Commission considers a proposal that would implement a series of wastewater rate increases over four years — from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2016 — to fund roughly $1 billion in capital improvements, $634 million in operating costs and $359 million in debt service costs.

District staff presented the proposal last month to the commission, which has up to 165 days to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees. It is expected to conduct public hearings over the next several months to gather public input on the proposal.

Given the amount of money MSD plans to spend on capital improvements, LeComb said the district has "made no bones about" the fact that rates likely will jump significantly over the next decade or so.

"As an organization, we've been going out talking about how rates will get above $80 a month in today's dollars within 10 to 15 years," he said. "It's going to cause some economic pain in our community. There's no question about that. But we also have to ask ourselves the question: what is the value of a 21st century sewer system? What is the value of getting sewage out of creeks and streams that run behind homes where families live? What is the value in stopping basement backups? What is the value of having sound, functioning infrastructure so you can attract and retain businesses?"

But University City resident Tom Sullivan, a longtime MSD critic, believes the high-dollar capital improvements are the result of the district "continually" violating clean-water standards for many years and neglecting to take action to fix the problem.

"If sewer bills double, there is no doubt MSD is to blame. The sewer district has had decades to stop polluting area rivers and streams, along with billions of dollars of revenue, but has failed to do so," Sullivan stated in a news release, citing media coverage of sewer overflow issues dating back to the mid-'80s.

Sullivan cautioned against providing MSD with additional revenue because, he contended, there is "little oversight" by the Board of Trustees.

LeComb said, "Anybody who would take an honest look at MSD over the last several years will see a fiscal discipline maybe not common in government. We keep our operating budget relatively flat. We always try to keep up with the rate of inflation. We didn't have raises last year. We cut staff in response to the economy. We try to squeeze each and every dollar we can ...''

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Superintendent Brings Home $500,000

Updated: Wednesday, 08 Jun 2011, 8:37 AM EDT

Published : Tuesday, 07 Jun 2011, 11:17 PM EDT

MYFOXNY.COM - Fox 5 News reports that Syosset schools superintendent Carole Hankin rakes in more than half million dollars a year.

She heads what is billed as one of the top school districts in the country, and people pay steep property taxes to fund the schools.

The district serves all of Woodbury and Syosset communities of Long Island, with approximately 7,000 students in 10 schools.

When you add in benefits, Hankin takes home $542,000 -- and this year she even got a raise.

She takes home $300,000 more than the leader of the giant New York City school system. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has blasted the salary and called it an example of wasteful school spending.

Political analyst Larry Levy says, "It's so far out of scale that it puts a bulls-eye on the backs of all superintendents and is a distraction from the really important issues."

But some parents disagree, because they believe she is doing a great job and the schools are doing well. The district reported spending more than $18,000 a year per pupil in 2009.

The superintendent is not the only one in the district bringing home a big pay check. A Long Island Schools Website reports that 37 employees in the district make more than $100,000 a year, including an administrative assistant.

The Syosset schools district issued a statement to Fox 5 News saying that Hankin's salary will not rise next year.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teacher Forces State Rep’s 8-Year-Old to Lobby Her Dad

Lee Co. assignment: Write legislature “in support” of education

RALEIGH — Freshman Republican lawmaker Mike Stone says his daughter was “used against” him when a public school teacher instructed her and her classmates to contact elected officials in opposition to budget cuts.

The result: a hand-written note imploring Stone to “put the buget (sic) higher dad” so that her school wouldn’t have to forgo field trips, be unprepared for end-of-grade tests, and lay off teachers.

“The truth of the matter is, they baited my daughter on what to write,” said Stone, who represents Lee County in the North Carolina House. “It was totally inappropriate for an 8-year old to be used as a lobbyist in Raleigh.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a $19.6-billion budget last week that restored some funding to public schools, including preserving teacher assistant jobs, but Democrats have blasted the spending plan for its cuts and implored Gov. Bev Perdue to veto it.

Lee County superintendent Jeffrey Moss said that the writing assignment at Tramway Elementary was appropriate and only directed students to write their state representative, senator, and the governor “in support of public education.”

“It was not budget-specific except to say that they support funding public education. That was the theme,” Moss said.

Moss added that the assignment was given prior to the budget being passed, and that each student sent a separate email or letter.

The exercise “encompasses a lot of skills that today’s graduates should be able to replicate in the workforce, according to the employers I’ve talked with,” Moss said.

Stone isn’t satisfied. He said he’s concerned that his daughter will get bullied because the school system already has handed out pink slips to some teacher assistants.

“I don’t care whether you like the budget or not,” he said. “I haven’t talked to one person who condones using an 8-year old, and especially a legislator’s 8-year old daughter.”

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vacant Mehlville school-board seat draws 10 applicants

June 01, 2011 - Former Mehlville Board of Education members and the chairman of the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors are among those interested in filling a vacant seat on the school board.

Ten district residents have submitted letters of interest for the seat, from which board member Micheal Ocello resigned in April. The period for applications closed today — June 3.

Following are the candidates in the order which they applied:

• Gary "Brit" Rose

Rose ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for one of two seats on the Board of Education. He was the fourth-highest vote-getter out of five candidates.

• Ken Leach

Leach served one term on the Board of Education, from 2005 until 2008, including one year as board president.

• David Wessel

Wessel vied unsuccessfully for one of three open seats on the Board of Education this year. He was fourth-highest vote-getter out of nine candidates in the April election.

• Michael Gindler

Gindler has served on the district's Finance Committee since its inception in 2008 and is the committee's vice president.

• Greg Frigerio

Frigerio is a founding member of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association, a group that formed last year to oppose the district's Proposition C, a proposed 88-cent tax-rate increase that was defeated in the November election.

• Timothy Champion

Champion has been the head women's soccer coach at St. Louis University for the past 15 years.

• Marea Kluth-Hoppe

Kluth-Hoppe served one term on the Board of Education, from 2002 until 2005, including one year as board secretary. She ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2005, 2008 and last April.

• Fred Padberg

Padberg is a military veteran and is the founder and president of Padberg Graphic Design Studio. He also is the president of Padberg Properties of St. Louis.

• Aaron Hilmer

Hilmer is the chairman of the MFPD Board of Directors. He was elected to the board in 2005 and was re-elected to a second six-year term in April.

• Ronald Fedorchak

Fedorchak recently served on a committee led by Assistant Superintendent-Curriculum Connie Hurst-Bayless on the future of the district's Strings program.

Whoever fills the board vacancy will serve until April 2012, when the seat will be up for election for a three-year term.

The school board is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 11, at the Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road, to discuss the applications.

Read more about the 10 board applicants in next week's Call.