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Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Olive Branch to Dr. Eric Knost

Yesterday, we posted a piece critical of Mehlville Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost's blog on a local website.

Today, Dr. Knost visited with one of the MCTA's editors and made a strong case for harmony among the various interest groups in South County. We very impressed by Dr. Knost's sincerity and desire to work together for the improvement of the Mehlville School District.

The MCTA has only sought a spot at the table to propagate our commitment to small accountable government. We will again make our case to the voters in the next school board election. It was not our desire to make Dr. Knost our whipping boy. We support his efforts to cut the rancor and work together for a consensus in which all parties can be heard. We want to give Dr. Knost a chance.

That is the reason we have removed yesterday's post. The MCTA reciprocates Dr. Knost's bold effort to reach out and tone down the rhetoric. We would like to see him succeed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke Supports Occupy Wall Street Movement

By Erick Hamme October 27, 2011

( -- David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, has joined President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in expressing support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose protests have been marked by anti-Semitism.

In a video about the Occupy Wall Street protests, Duke said: “I cheer the men and women on the streets condemning the international banks that hold America financially hostage. These Wall Street banks are not the product of free enterprise; they are the product of crime.”

“Yes, occupy Wall Street,” Duke also said. “Finally, Americans are rising up and it feels great.” In the video, Duke repeatedly attacks what he refers to as “Zionist bankers” such as Ben “Shalom” Bernanke.

At one point Duke claims that while many Americans have lost up to 50 percent of their savings, the “Zionist owners of the predatory banks made more shekels.”

Besides Dukeʼs endorsement of the Occupy Wall Street protests, there have been numerous instances of anti-Semitic comments and signs at the demonstrations. Several videos now posted on YouTube show protesters holding anti-Semitic signs and making anti-Semitic statements.

Commentary magazineʼs Abe Greenwald wrote on Oct. 11, “The Jew-hatred among protesters and sympathizers is diverse and unapologetic. It is, in fact, atmospheric. Tune in randomly to live television coverage of the spectacle and youʼll see--as I did--placards scapegoating Israel, Zionism, or ʻHitlerʼs bankers.ʼ”

Greenwald goes on to say no one should be surprised that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) contains an anti- Semitic element because both OWS and hateful, anti-Jewish philosophies employ “the pointing finger” as their method.

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell has condemned the anti-Semitism evident at many of the Occupy Wall Street protests and has called upon the presidents of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, and NBC News to start reporting the racism clearly evident at the demonstrations. is a division of the Media Research Center.

In one video, cited by Bozell, an OWS protester says, "The Jews commit more white collar crime than any other ethnic group on earth, and they go unprosecuted because they can buy their way out of it. ... Whenever there's a billion dollar fraud, there's a Jew involved."

On Wednesday, Jewish leaders joined with Bozell in denouncing the anti-Semitism at many of the Occupy Wall Street events and also called upon the network news shows and CNN, all of which broadcast to more than 40 million Americans combined every day, to report on the racism at the demonstrations.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, with the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, said: "To paraphrase John Keats, all you need to know about the Occupy Wall Street crowd is that truth usually goes with beauty. Self-obsessed dilettantes who foist their feces and filth on a downtown park are probably not speaking the truth. Todayʼs cultural conflict is not between Jews and Christians, blacks and whites, or even rich and poor. It is between those who struggle to sustain civilization and those who wish to obliterate it. Anti-Semitism, excremental assault, abolition of commercial creativity and the glorification of depravity are all variations of the attack against civilization.”

Don Feder, head of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, said: “The Left has a long history of anti-Semitism going back to Karl Marx. In that context, the anti-Semitism of some OWS protestors and organizations isnʼt surprising. What also isnʼt surprising, but is disturbing, is the mainstream mediaʼs refusal to report this. Unsubstantiated allegations of racism on the part of certain Tea Party protestors which later proved to be unfounded was the subject of intense media scrutiny. Real palpable, verifiable anti-Semitism on the part of OWS protestors the media has no interest in covering.”

In a press release on Wednesday, Bozell said: “Neither Jews nor Christians, nor any person of faith should stand for the deliberate whitewash of anti-Semitism at these protests, especially not by the same newsrooms that were eager to link supposed racism to the Tea Party. We will not stop applying pressure to these networks until they stop concealing the hatred and report the reality of Occupy Wall Street.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teachers' Union Fat Cats

SPECIAL REPORT - The American Spectator
By RiShawn Biddle on 10.26.11 @ 6:10AM
They're in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, which actually should be camping out in front of their offices.
There's something about class warfare rhetoric that always seems to attract even the wealthiest limousine left-leaner -- even when they have no interest in handing over any of their own ducats. Consider the two-month-long Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread out from the shadowy canyons of New York City's financial district to areas as distant as St. Louis and Indianapolis. In the last month, the original crowd of underemployed college graduates have attracted such big names as 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin (who is as renowned for his lefty credentials as for his infamously abusive tirade against his own daughter), smarmy British comedian Russell Brand (whose lack of jokes makes him Europe's version of Dane Cook), and hip-hopper Kanye West (who came down to the occasion wearing a sparkly gold chain, a $355 Givenchy shirt, and a $23,000 Rolex).
But it's not just the celebrities who are joining in on the fun. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have spent the past month ginning up their own public relations machines so they can declare their solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street protesters and for all which they stand.
Earlier this month, AFT President Randi Weingarten (who took a few steps out of the union's plush offices on Broadway to join the protests) proclaimed that "we need to get serious as a nation about working together to create economic opportunities for all Americans." Twenty-four of the union's rank-and-file members in Boston decided to politicize their classrooms by holding what they call a "grade-in" in sympathy of their, umm, comrades. And Leo Casey, the union's mouthpiece for its New York City local who never misses an opportunity to use class warfare rhetoric to criticize school reformers, declared that "public education, teachers and unions have increasingly come under attack from the One Percent," including Big Apple Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has successfully weakened the union's influence.
Meanwhile the NEA's affiliates in states such as Kentucky and Missouri have joined in the protests. The union's California unit has gone even further by offering its members a "lesson plan" so they can teach their students something other than the three Rs. Declared Dean Vogel, the president of the NEA's Golden State unit: "It's time to put Main Street before Wall Street, and for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes."
As with the celebrities, there's something rather hilarious about the appearance of the nation's two largest teachers' unions at a protest against allegedly pampered fat cats. Few organizations have managed to become so influential -- and build such vast coffers -- at the expense of taxpayers and their children.
The AFT alone collected $211 million a year in dues during its 2010-2011 fiscal year (most of it by force from the very teachers whose interests they proclaim to represent), while the far-larger NEA pulled in $397 million during its 2009-2010 fiscal year period. Each union, on their own, collects more dues than the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Service Employees International Union, or the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. When one adds in the revenues collected by their affiliates, the two unions are billion-dollar organizations with budgets that match their corporate peers.
The leaders of both unions are as well paid as most midsized corporate chief executives and leaders in the nonprofit arena. AFT President Weingarten, for example, collected $493,895 in 2010-2011, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year; Weingarten's NEA counterpart, Dennis Van Roekel, collected $397,221 in the previous year. Their staffs are also well-compensated. Four hundred thirty-three of the NEA's staffers earned at least $100,000 in annual compensation; the 193 AFT staffers collecting six-figure checks include David Dorn, the union's director of international  affairs (who was paid $223,965 last year), and Hartina Flournoy, a longtime Democratic Party operative who earns $231,337 a year as Weingarten's assistant.
When you consider that teachers' union leaders at all levels collect lucrative sums from their unions and and additional salaries from the school districts that are servile to them, the wealth they acquire at the expense of taxpayers is astounding. New York City, for example, will shell out $9 million to 1,500 AFT officials even though they spend almost no time teaching. One of those double-dippers is Tom Dromgoole, an AFT representative who will collect $100,049 from the city (on top of his $50,461 paycheck from the union) even though he will only teach English classes for two days during the school year. And when they retire, they also collect sweet pension checks long after they left the classroom. Former NEA President Reginald Weaver, for example, collects an "annual annuity of $242,657" from Illinois' busted pension system, thanks to a state law that allows union bosses to base their final year's salary off their unionizing work; he's one of 119 union players who get the proverbial fat of the land.
The two unions also maintain cozy ties to the Wall Street firms they decry. Through one of its affiliates, the NEA works with insurance giant Prudential to peddle term life insurance to members as part of its "benefits" package; the AFT also sells insurance to its members with the help of MetLife. Both unions also manage voluntary employee benefit associations (or VEBAs) which provide healthcare to rank-and-file members (and charge states and school districts for the privilege). This hasn't always worked out for either the unions or its members. Two years ago, the NEA had to take control of its once-powerful Indiana affiliate after the unit (with help of investment advisers that included powerhouses Morgan Stanley and UBS) made a series of bad bets that led to its insolvency.
Few groups match the NEA and AFT in lobbying and campaign spending. The $297 million in campaign donations given by the unions between 2000 and 2011 makes them the biggest players in local, state, and national politics. The AFT alone spent $34 million in 2010-2011 on lobbying and contributions to like-minded nonprofits which, in theory, help the union build a coalition on behalf of its goals. This includes $150,000 to Build a Stronger Ohio, which unsuccessfully worked last year to keep John Kasich from winning the Buckeye State's governorship, and $350,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank cofounded by former Clinton administration economic honcho Robert Reich, whose studies on education always seemingly dovetail nicely with the union's agenda.
Until recently, such spending has helped the unions maintain its influence over the nation's traditional public education systems. And this, in turn, has helped the NEA and AFT fulfill their goal of making teaching the most-lucrative profession in the public sector. This has especially paid off well for Baby Boomers. Thanks to the array of degree- and seniority-based privileges, near-lifetime employment, free health insurance, and defined-benefit pensions, the average 35-year teacher with a bachelor's degree earns $61,100 a year (or more than the median household income of $51,425), and can retire at age 55 (or 10 years earlier than private-sector counterparts) with a pension of as much as $2 million (depending on when she retires).
The NEA and AFT, along with its allies among the institutions who have long dominated education, have pampered themselves quite nicely -- at the expense of taxpayers and their children. And that should anger the Occupy Wall Streeters. After all, they will bear those burdens once they stop protesting and become gainfully employed in the private sector.
The costs start with $1.4 trillion in defined-benefit pension deficits and unfunded teacher retirement healthcare costs, a legacy of the decades of dealmaking between NEA and AFT affiliates, state governments, and school districts. NEA and AFT bosses have helped exacerbate the insolvency of pensions by sitting on their boards -- and approving an array of inflated growth rates, unrealized losses, overly optimistic methods of valuing assets, and risky hedge fund deals that should have never been made in the first place.
Then there are the even greater costs facing taxpayers in the form of welfare payments for high-school dropouts, who lack the strong literacy, math, and science skills needed for even high-paying blue collar work. In September, 14 percent of American high school dropouts age 25 and older were unemployed on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a slight decline from the same period last year; one-third of dropouts age 16-to-24 are out of work on a not seasonally adjusted basis.
Thanks in part to the NEA and AFT, the nation's traditional public schools have become a $594 billion drain on taxpayers. The two unions have defended practices that have kept laggard teachers on the payroll. This has perpetuated the low quality of instruction in the nation's schools, an underlying reason why 33 percent of American third-graders read "Below Basic Proficiency" on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, while 27 percent of eighth-graders are mathematically illiterate. The NEA and AFT have also stridently opposed efforts to expand school choice options that allow for families to opt out of failing urban schools and mediocre offering in suburbia -- and fought efforts to let families reform the schools in their neighborhoods. All in all, the two unions have proven to be the very fat cats they decry.
Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street gang would be better off moving their protests down to D.C. in front of the NEA's and AFT's ritzy headquarters. Or do what a group of college grads -- including Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp and her acolyte, Michelle Rhee -- did a decade ago: become school reformers and help weaken teachers' union influence.
About the Author
RiShawn Biddle the editor of Dropout Nation , is co-author of A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era. He can be followed at

Nurse Making $269,810 Demonstrates California’s Overtime Binge

By Michael B. Marois - Oct 26, 2011

Jean Keller earned $269,810 last year working as a nurse at a men’s prison on California’s central coast by tripling her regular pay with overtime hours.
Keller got more overtime in 2010 than any other state employee. In all, California’s public workers collected $1.7 billion of extra pay last year, more than half of it in overtime, state payroll data show. The rest was for unused vacation and union-negotiated benefits such as uniform allowances, physical-fitness incentives and special compensation in recognition of a “complex work load.”
“It’s outrageous,” said 29-year-old Gilbert Ramirez, one of about 30,000 teachers fired in California since 2007 because of budget cuts. “It boils my blood that I’m out of work and they claim they don’t have enough money to pay me.”
California paid the additional wages -- enough to fund the average salaries of about 25,000 teachers -- as it faced a $19 billion deficit and cut school spending and services for poor children and the elderly. The state may have to trim the academic year by seven days and eliminate some student busing if revenue shortfalls persist.
The extra compensation underscores a broader trend in California, where government workers are paid more than in other states for similar duties. Among them: city managers whose pay is higher than the governor’s, prison doctors who make more than counterparts in other states and Los Angeles firefighters who collect twice the national mean.
Pay Differentials
Union-negotiated “pay differentials,” requirements that workers take monthly furloughs and staff cuts that heaped extra work onto remaining employees combined to inflate overtime and other non-salaried pay, the data show. So did inefficiencies in management of state departments, said Dan Pellissier, a deputy cabinet secretary under former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“It’s just a mess,” said Pellissier, now head of a group pushing for changes in public employee pensions. “The way the state establishes its pay classifications is very complex and often obscure. What we need is transparency and disclosure and a fair accounting of what those costs are so we know if we are paying the right amount for labor.”
Among those who got large payouts are a prison doctor who cashed out more than $590,000 of vacation time when he retired, a computer specialist in the Legislature’s legal office who got $61,905 in overtime on top of his $71,560 salary, a psychiatrist for the Developmental Services Department who received $97,700 in extra-duty pay and the head of the state gambling commission, who banked $169,623 in unused holiday pay.
Collective Bargaining
Collective-bargaining rights granted to state workers by Governor Jerry Brown, a 73-year-old Democrat, when he first held the office three decades ago made it more difficult to pursue cost-cutting measures such as eliminating extra pay allowances or privatizing prisons.
Union-backed provisions, among other things, allow employees to collect as much as $1,200 in “arduous duty” pay for projects requiring long hours and, in the case of prison guards, receive a $130-a-month fitness bonus for getting annual physical exams, even if they aren’t fit.
“I’m so angry as a taxpayer,” said Marilyn Cohen, chief executive officer of Envision Capital Management in Los Angeles, who manages $250 million of fixed-income assets, including California debt. “This makes me sick. I don’t know what it is going to take for this state to come to its Jesus moment.”
Unpaid Days Off
State rules allow employees to cash out unused vacation at their highest salary levels regardless of when the time was accrued. Cash-strapped departments have held off hiring new staff, pushing existing workers to put in extra hours to get the jobs done.
Three unpaid days off each month, instituted by Schwarzenegger, helped depress regular wages paid last year and forced overtime compensation for employees, such as prison guards, who had to work through them. The first six months of the furloughs, for instance, cost California $52 million in accrued vacation time for prison guards alone, according to findings by the state Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes.
New York also paid its employees more than their normal pay in 2010 -- though less than in California. New York state workers took in about $1.5 billion above regular pay, or about $9,348 per employee on average, compared with $10,643 in California, a comparison of the states’ pay databases shows.
In California, the amount of extra compensation grew from $1.67 billion in 2008 to $1.7 billion last year. In 2007, the year the state budget reached its record high, employees got $1.9 billion in additional pay, according to the California controller’s office.
Payroll Costs
The government has tried to curb its payroll costs, including a hiring freeze ordered by Brown in February. California now has the fourth leanest state workforce in the U.S., behind Florida, Arizona and Illinois, at about 11 state employees for every 1,000 residents, according to 2009 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The state paid $906 million in overtime last year, nearly three-quarters of it in agencies where staffing is required around the clock, such as prisons, mental- health hospitals and the highway patrol.
“The hiring freeze put in place by the governor has prevented the state from hiring as many employees as it could have, which has reduced the overall state employment level,” Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an e- mail. “This has saved the state millions and millions of dollars.”
Largest Union
Service Employees International Union Local 1000, the largest union of state employees in California with about 95,000 members, agreed to concessions last year aimed at reducing overtime, spokesman Jim Zamora said.
State workers, for example, used to be able to collect overtime anytime they worked certain holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, Cesar Chavez Day or the day after Thanksgiving. Now they can only collect the extra pay if the holiday is in addition to a full week of work. State workers also must pay more toward their own pensions, Zamora said.
“We entered the collective bargaining process with an open mind and a desire to help the state work though its financial problems and to make things work,” Zamora said.
In addition to the overtime, state workers in California collected $472 million last year in bonuses and extra compensation for additional duties and qualifications such as speaking more than one language, obtaining a commercial driver’s license or having to make a presentation to the governor, the payroll data show.
Additional Wages
California unions have secured almost 400 pay differentials granting additional wages to state employees.
Certain workers at the Department of General Services, for example, are eligible for a $10,000 annual bonus for “exceptional performance.” Some accountants working at San Quentin prison outside San Francisco get $200 a month as a retention bonus on top of their $3,209 maximum monthly salary. Hydroelectric plant workers get an extra $1.10 an hour to work rotating shifts, in addition to the $32 to $38 an hour a senior operator typically makes.
Workers tasked with fielding phone calls from the public at the Consumer Affairs Department earn an extra $100 a month “in recognition of the complex work load and level and knowledge required to receive and respond to consumer calls.”
Besides overtime, extra-duty pay and bonuses, state workers got payments totaling $293 million, mostly for unused vacation and accrued leave. The state also paid out $25 million more to 74,000 workers for fringe benefits such as uniform allowances and mileage.
New York Pay
California will spend 8 percent of its $86 billion general- fund budget this fiscal year on wages. In New York, by comparison, payroll expenses will account for 9.8 percent of the $56.9 billion budget.
The average state worker in California made $58,340 in total pay last year, according to data provided by the controller’s office. Per-capita income for all employees in California, public and private, was $42,578, the U.S. Commerce Department said.
The state pays employees time-and-a-half for overtime. That’s still cheaper than hiring an additional worker full time to cover the overtime hours, because the state would also have to pay the new worker benefits that can equal one-third of salary, says Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for the Personnel Administration Department.
“When you look at individual employees, some of them rake in a lot of money, but from the employer’s perspective you have to ask is that cheaper than paying to have someone else on the payroll,” she said.
Prisons, Mental Health
More than half of the overtime was accrued by just two state agencies: prisons and mental health, both of which must operate around the clock with required staffing levels.
Keller, the nurse at a prison near San Luis Obispo who tripled her pay with overtime, worked 2,450 extra hours in 2010, or 102 full days. Some of that was required overtime, though she volunteered as well, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the federal court-appointed receiver that runs California’s prison health-care system.
Keller wasn’t alone. Nurses working in California’s crowded prison system earned $54 million in overtime in 2010, an average of $13,600 each, in addition to their regular pay. Nurses working in mental health hospitals got $41 million more in overtime. Through her supervisor, Keller declined to comment.
‘Meet That Minimum’
“When you run a 24-7 health-care facility, you are required in order to have your license to have a certain number of staff,” Kincaid said. “You have to meet that minimum. So if you don’t have enough staff to cover for vacations or when someone is sick, then you have to go to registry or someone has to work overtime.” Registry refers to hiring temporary nurses.
California state employees can cash out unused vacation when they resign or retire. The practice of banking such pay for retirement is so prevalent that the Personnel Administration Department keeps a Lump Sum Separation Pay Calculator on its web page.
State policy says workers shouldn’t accumulate more than 640 hours of vacation time, yet many do. When workers breach the cap, managers are supposed to develop a plan to draw down the time. But the law doesn’t forbid employees from banking the hours, and state data show that many take more than 640 hours worth of pay when they leave.
Terri Ciau retired last year as the executive director of the California Gambling Control Commission and cashed out $169,623 in vacation time she had banked during her career. She declined to comment.
‘Within the Rules’
“It was strictly within the rules,” said 65-year-old Jay Wickizer, a retired section chief for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said of his own $294,440 vacation payout when he left last year at a salary of $83,100. “Sometimes you just don’t have the time to take vacation.”
Fong Lai, the retired prison doctor who got $590,000 in vacation pay, couldn’t be located for comment. Matt Hazel, the computer specialist who received $61,905 in overtime, and Daisy Demaranville, the psychiatrist who collected $97,700 in extra- duty pay, weren’t unavailable to comment, their supervisors said.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican who often battled with unions over contracts, won concessions last year with 150,000 state workers that require them to contribute between 2 percent and 5 percent more toward their own pension benefits and increased years of service to qualify for full benefits.
Brown struck similar deals with 51,000 more employees earlier this year.
Unlimited Accumulation
Those compacts allow guards to accumulate an unlimited amount of unused vacation and sick leave. The guards had faced an 80-day cap on how much they could bank, though in practice the cap was ignored to maintain minimum staffing levels amid mandated furloughs.
Brown’s deals also cut state worker pay by about 4.6 percent in the current fiscal year through an unpaid day of leave once a month. Yet employees already in the top range of their salaries would get a pay increase equal to their higher pension contributions beginning next year.
“It’s fiscal insanity,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Hesperia, criticizing “this notion of spending money and paying people more than we need at a time when every department is broke, when we are starving our local schools and we are cutting public safety.”
Hiring Freeze
The governor has taken other steps to curb payroll costs. In February he imposed a statewide hiring freeze, one part of an effort he said could trim $363 million in operational costs this year. He also said he will propose a package of reforms to state and local government pensions. Brown ordered state workers to hand in half of the 96,000 government-paid mobile phones and reduce the fleet of 13,600 vehicles by half.
The state’s $1.7 billion in 2010 non-salaried pay “includes all the various forms of disability pay as well as hundreds of different kinds of add-ons to pay that range from recruitment incentives for hard-to-recruit areas, education differentials, night-shift differentials, bilingual pay, hazardous duty pay, etc.,” Ashford, Brown’s spokeswoman, said by e-mail.
Ramirez, the Los Angeles teacher who lost his job in 2009, lived off unemployment benefits until they ran out. He postponed his wedding and said he almost became homeless before his brother agreed to let him sleep in a spare room.
“Outrage would be the word,” Ramirez said. “They confiscated my career.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet

Franz had more more to say than online report contained


October 19, 2011 - Why is Rich Franz serving on the Mehlville Board of Education if he believes that it's not about the kids?

Many of the roughly 25 speakers hammered home that point during last week's Board of Education meeting that drew more than 200 people who showed their support for the board's recent decision to roll up the district's tax rate.

The tax-rate roll-up is a revenue-neutral action, meaning the district is projected to collect the same amount of tax revenue this year as last year under the provisions of the Hancock Amendment. However, some residents will pay the school district more in taxes and some will pay less based on the assessed valuation of their home.

So where did this notion come from that Franz doesn't believe it's about the kids? An online publication reported Franz's comments at the board's Sept. 27 meeting as follows:

"(Board member) Tom (Diehl), I want to compliment you on reading your speech, you did that really well, obviously it came from the heart," Franz said. "What you folks don't understand ... this isn't about the kids, this is about those folks sitting in those seats not trusting us as a board. Folks, they don't trust you."

When a question was raised about Franz's comments, the online publication published more of Franz's remarks from that meeting:

"What you folks don't understand and these folks sitting out here do is — and by the way, I'm tired of the NEA trotting out that lame thing about 'oh it's for the kids' — you know what? This isn't about the kids, this is about those folks sitting in those seats not trusting us as a board. And if you're not hearing that, you're not paying attention. Folks, they don't trust you. I'll say it again, they don't trust you."

Wow! What a cad this man must be if he truly believes that it's not about the kids. The problem is Franz had a lot more to say that wasn't reported by the online publication. Here's exactly what Franz said at the Sept. 27 board meeting:

"... Tom, I want to compliment you on reading your speech. You did that really well ... Obviously, it came from the heart. Where to start? First of all, our teachers have received 15-percent pay raises in the last five years. The fact that your board froze their pay is disingenuous. And (board Vice President) Larry (Felton), I don't appreciate your inference that people who wouldn't be in favor of this tax increase don't appreciate the kids.

"Fact of the matter is, every one of us on this board is here because we care about the kids.

"What you folks don't understand and these folks sitting out here do is — and by the way, I'm tired of the NEA trotting out that lame thing about oh, it's for the kids. You know what, this isn't about the kids. This is about those folks sitting in those seats not trusting us as a board. And if you're not hearing that, you're not paying attention. Folks, they don't trust you. I'll say it again, they don't trust you. You have an obligation to earn their trust. You are not credible in their eyes and you have an obligation to do that.

"Whether you choose to do it with this issue is up to you, but I for one realize that we have an obligation to the students and to those people out there in the seats. You don't owe the NEA and the teachers and the administrators and the classified employees anything. You owe the owners of the school district and at this point you all and me included, 'cause I'm on this board, we have failed to earn the trust of these folks and it's about time we start doing that.''

This column is not a defense of Franz.

Quite frankly, he's more than capable of defending himself. People have every right to rail against him, but they should be armed with all the facts.

Our guess is not many of those speakers last week attended the previous board meeting and only knew about Franz's comments from a Facebook page started by the Mehlville Community Taxpayers for Mehlville. (Webmaster: This page is the creation of failed former BOE member Karl Frank, Jr.) The group's initial post states:

"At a September 27th, 2011 Mehlville School Board meeting, minority elected Rich Franz stated, "This is not about the kids." We beg to differ! Join the Mehlville Community Taxpayers for Mehlville Face-book page today as we combine forces, as well as whatever differences we may have, to tell Rich Franz and others like him that this is most definitely about the kids. It has been about the kids for generations, and it will be about the kids for generations to come.''

Consider the phrase "minority-elected.''

We'd be hard pressed to recall any school board candidate who has received a majority — more than 50 percent — of votes in any election. For example, consider the 2008 election in which Drew Frauenhoffer, Erin Weber and Karl Frank Jr. were elected to the Mehlville school board. With a voter turnout of 10.75 percent, Frauenhoffer was the top vote-getter, garnering 3,592 votes.

In April's election with a voter turnout of 18.89 percent, Franz received 3,969 votes while the top vote-getter, Elaine Powers, received 5,686 votes.

Folks, don't believe everything you read on the Internet. (Webmaster: Or by reading ANYTHING written by Karl Frank, Jr. or the Mehlville-Oakville Patch) Get the facts for yourself instead of going off half-cocked.

The United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the earth and our system of government is the best.

Like it or not, Franz was duly elected to the Mehlville Board of Education.

To paraphrase one of the speakers at last week's meeting: If you don't like it, move.

More Than 200 Show Support for Mehlville's Tax-Rate Roll-Up

Mehlville residents tell Franz he does not speak for them

Executive Editor

October 19, 2011 - More than 200 people filled the Mehlville Senior High School Library last week to show their support for the Board of Education's recent decision to roll up the district's tax rate.

Originally set for the boardroom in the Administration Building, the Oct. 12 meeting was moved to the high school library to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Roughly 25 speakers addressed the Board of Education to voice their support for the tax-rate roll-up and take board member Rich Franz to task for his opposition to the roll-up. Many of the speakers also criticized Franz for a remark he made at the Sept. 27 board meeting that "... this isn't about the kids ...''

One speaker called for Franz to resign from the school board, but Franz told the Call he has no intention of doing so.

At the Sept. 27 meeting, the board voted 4-3 to set the district's 2011 tax rates, with Franz, Secretary Elaine Powers and board member Mark Stoner opposed. Mehlville's overall "blended" rate, which is not levied but used for state calculations, is $3.6748, an increase of roughly 10 cents over the 2010 "blended" rate of $3.5763.

The tax-rate roll-up is a revenue-neutral action, meaning the district is projected to collect the same amount of tax revenue this year as last year under the provisions of the Hancock Amendment. However, some residents will pay the school district more in taxes and some will pay less based on the assessed valuation of their home.

Among the speakers last week were current and retired district teachers, parents and both co-chairs of the Committee to Restore the Pride, the organization that advocated passage of Proposition C, an 88-cent tax-rate increase that voters defeated last November.

Franz, along with Greg Frigerio and Ken Meyer, founded the Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association, which opposed Prop C.

Jim Schibig, who served as co-chair of the Committee to Restore the Pride and co-chair of COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools — said, "... Mr. Franz, you may represent the voices of some taxpayers in the district, but you certainly don't speak for me. Mr. Franz, this is a school district and it is about the kids. People need to realize that an effective school requires money. Effective schools enhance the community.

"Mr. Stoner, please don't tell me that money doesn't make a difference in (the) operation of the school district. Please don't compare the Mehlville School District to St. Louis Public Schools. That's like comparing apples and oranges. If you're going to make a comparison, make it relative. Compare us to Webster, Fox, Lindbergh and you can see what those districts have compared to us. Those numbers will tell you a totally different story.

"Board members come and go, but one constant in all this is kids ...,'' he added.

Jeff Clobes, who also co-chaired the Committee to Restore the Pride, thanked the four board members who voted to roll up the tax rate. (Webmaster: The Committee to Restore the Pride of which Mr. Clobes served as deputy treasurer, was fined $2000 for failing to disclose campaign contributions by the Missouri Ethics Commission. Click HERE for more)

"Miss Powers, I was very disappointed that you chose to side with Mr. Stoner and Mr. Franz on voting 'no' on the tax roll-up. I voted for you because you were — I expected you to be my voice. That did not represent my voice. I was very disappointed in it ...,'' he said.

He noted that had the tax rate not been rolled up, the district would have lost roughly $1.2 million — "1.2 million, Mr. Franz. Ten cents a day. Ten cents a day is what you're fighting for, sir. Asking the Mehlville school board to opt out of the PSRS (Public School Retirement System) is an insult to every teacher that's in this room tonight,'' he said to applause.

"The NEA does not own me. They did not pay me to say that. I am a parent of three kids that attend this school (district) and I fight for every one of these teachers because they fight for my kids. Threatening to take dental and vision insurance away from these people, from this district — what's next on your agenda, sir, asking them to bring toilet paper to the workplace?''

Clobes also praised Schibig for his comments, saying, "... I wish I could just once be able to speak as eloquently as he does about how passionate he is about the kids. Jim and I were fortunate enough — or unfortunate enough, I guess — to co-chair Prop C. We were asked to co-chair Prop C for one reason: Because we both believe in kids. We are 100 percent about the kids of this district ... It's about the children. It's not about you ...''

Clobes later said, "... In my opinion, the district promotes an anti-bullying policy. Mr. Franz, you are bullying this board ...''

In a news release emailed to the Call, Clobes was identified as a co-chair of the Mehlville Community Taxpayers for Mehlville, but during his comments he did not mention the group nor his affiliation with it. (Webmaster: The reason that no speaker mentioned the "Mehlville Community Taxpayers for Mehlville was that the Board would only recognize ONE speaker from any citizens group. It is amazing how lies are empowered by more lies)

Lemay resident Gary "Brit'' Rose, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2009, said, "Mr. Franz, my wife and I are outraged when you made the comment ... and I quote: 'It's not about the kids.' Well sir, you're wrong. While you're sitting on the board, you're supposed to make good decisions for the best interests for our students.

"Since you took oath, I have not seen any accomplishments on your part on making good decisions. Mr. Franz, it would be nice to see you start coming to the board meetings prepared. Now I believe you have not done your homework. Let's start making good decisions, sir, and let's turn that F to an A-plus. Mr. Franz, you do not represent my voice in this district and it is about our kids ...''

Oakville resident Donna Seidel called for Franz to resign.

"... I am a taxpayer in the Mehlville School District, a parent and a community activist,'' she said. "Mr. Franz, you most certainly do not represent me or my family. It is most certainly about the kids. They are the owners of this school district. We're the taxpayers. We are the trustees. It's every taxpayer's responsibility to afford them the best education possible because they are the future.

"Your comments suggest that you view public education as a privilege instead of a right guaranteed by the state. Your comments suggest that the children of this community are overprivileged in respect to education. Nothing could be further from the truth. You don't need to look any further than neighboring districts to see that's an absolute fact. You personally have an even greater statutory responsibility as a member of this board and if you refuse to put kids first, then I suggest you resign your position immediately,'' Seidel said to applause.

"I'd like to suggest that to any board member who cannot and will not support the students, the teachers and the staff, resign now. (Webmaster: You forgot to mention support of the teachers union) Your failure to act in their best interest is counterproductive and unwelcome. We needed to roll up the tax rate to maintain our academic programs. We need to pass an operating tax increase. We absolutely cannot absorb any further cuts that will impact the classroom ...''

Oakville resident Jeff Heveroh said, "... There's approximately 20,000 registered voters in the Mehlville district, including me, and you don't speak for me. Hypocrisy, that's what this is going to be about. A man who's made a living on the back of taxpayers, working for different police districts. Now he's a consultant. Now he wants to do a self-serving job of lowering this rate even more than it already is.

"Who's the boss? I'll tell you who the boss is. You're not going to like this. It's the state of Missouri. You know why? Because they're the ones who dictate the rules that you seven have to live by and you seven push down on the 10,000 students every day — huge responsibility for a volunteer position ...

Heveroh later said, "... Do the right thing, which is first and foremost every decision should be made for the benefit of those kids. Period. End of story. Elaine and Mark, again my name is Jeff Heveroh. (I) live in the district. I encourage you to stand up to that man. He doesn't — he's lived here for a couple of years. He's never sent his kids to our school. You two do. Stand up to him. Venki, Tom, Larry and Ron, keep up the good fight and stay strong.

"One last thing. Rich, it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt,'' Heveroh added.

Regarding Seidel's call for his resignation, Franz told the Call, "... Everyone's entitled to their opinion and I would be the last person to say that someone isn't allowed to think I should resign or suggest it, but I certainly have no intention of doing that.

"My mandate from the voters back in April, which was a limited one I think, was to do what I could to restore credibility to the board — and not just me, but Mr. Stoner, too — to restore credibility to the board and to be a fiscal watchdog. And I think that in as much as we're able to, we are accomplishing that, and if that's why people feel I need to resign, they're certainly entitled to think that, but that's not going to happen.''

As for speakers' comments at last week's meeting, Franz said, "I thought they were reflective of the attitude that is shared by the majority of the people who supported Prop C, who supported the implied mandate of COMPASS I and COMPASS II and who believe that spending more money on education and specifically teachers' salaries automatically leads to a better education for our kids.

"I think that's a faulty thesis and I think those are the folks who spoke against me,'' he continued. "And there's another component there, too. So for a number of years, what I refer to as the educational bureaucracy has, I believe, influenced to a great degree the decision making of the school board, the Mehlville school board, and when Mark and I were first elected, I think that educational bureaucracy in the form of those folks I've already mentioned to the community — the teachers' union, the administrators who feel forced or compelled to deal with us elected officials — I think they considered Mark and I an aberration.

"They considered us more of a distraction or annoyance than anything. But over the last few months, I think they're a little agitated that we've had some success in bringing our mandated agenda to light and the comments we heard Wednesday night were a sign of their frustration.''

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hilmer's Courage to Speak Out is 'For The Kids,' Letter Writer Contends

October 19, 2011 - To the editor:

When Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer last brought up the issue of public pensions at the fire district, there was an outcry from those who claimed it was a matter of life and death.

The defined-benefit plan was replaced with the defined-contribution plan and the district and taxpayers were much better off for it.

Hilmer's latest column about teachers' pensions has drawn a similar response from our educators who claim they deserve such a generous pension because their job is so important and difficult.

Teaching our children is definitely a noble profession, but does it deserve special benefits that the rest of us do not receive?

What would our quality of life be without the other skills?

If your sewer line breaks or your toilet backs up, you call a plumber. Life would be pretty "crappy" without those skills.

Without an electrician you couldn't enjoy television, computers, lights and refrigeration.

Have you ever seen an auto mechanic after a day of working on a 150-degree engine on a hot summer day — hands cut up and covered from head to toe in greasy dirt, but without your car how would you get to work, the doctor or the grocery store?

I could go on but I think you get the point. All professions and skilled labor are equally important in our society, so why do teachers claim that their job is more important and that they work harder than the rest of us?

Our teachers work in an air-conditioned classroom and never get their hands dirty.

They don't have to work nights or weekends. They are paid for every major holiday and enjoy a spring break, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break and can enjoy three months of summer off.

Does that sound like a more difficult work schedule than you have?

I've read their complaints that they paid for their own schooling and that they have taken additional night courses to further their careers. Well guess what, so have the rest of us — nothing unique there.

And what about the results of our teachers' efforts? Sadly, the United States has fallen behind the rest of the developed world in the education basics. When our kids graduate after 12 years of school, they are qualified to do what — go on to college? While I'm not opposed to higher education, you'd think that our kids would be qualified for something more than just more school.

Every taxpayer should watch the documentary "Waiting for Superman" to learn more about our education system and how the teachers' unions have affected our children's future.

I'm sure there will be more teachers who will respond to this letter, but the conclusions as I see it are pretty clear. Teachers do not work harder than the rest of us and their job is not more important. Our teachers have a great work environment and they enjoy a schedule that the rest of us envy. We pay our teachers a salary and benefit package that is more generous than what is available in the private sector.

What really bothers me is when they use our kids as pawns to justify demands of increasing salary and benefits for themselves — and that needs to change.

I appreciate Aaron Hilmer for having the courage to discuss this issue with the taxpayers. He's not asking for anything for himself and doesn't personally benefit from reforming these out-of-date pension packages, so he must be doing it "for the kids" and "for their futures" and for that I thank him.

Jim Smoot

south county

Webmaster: Right on Jim!!