Sunday, April 24, 2011


Yours truly began community involvement back in the early 1980s by attending board of education meetings in the Lake Local School District.

One of the problems then which apparently continues to be a problem today (especially in North Canton) is that board members get into their own little world and lose touch with their constituents.

Flush from a victory in November on a 4.5-mill additional levy, The Report hears that the North Canton Board of Education (BOE or Board) has ired many consumers of kindergarten education in the district with its Elementary Service Plan that has been created (by school administrators and their "hand-picked" parent-supporters; according to critics) whereby the district will transition to an "all day, everyday kindergarten" beginning with the 2012/2013 school year.

In passing the levy, North Cantonians averted a projected $2 million shortfall this fiscal year.

Accordingly, going to all day kindergarten is an interest phenomenon in and of itself given that Ohio is (as a result of Republican Governor John Kasich trashing defeated Democratic Governor Ted Strickland's Evidence-based education model) eliminating the mandate for local school districts to adopt "all day, everyday kindergarten programs" effective July 1, 2011.

And North Canton's parents seemed to be pleased that the North Canton BOE is going ahead with the program totally paid for out of local resources.  However, many are very upset with the implementation of the Elementary Service Plan (ESP) in terms of how the five buildings which currently house North Canton's early childhood and elementary education are being reconfigured to accommodate "all day, everyday kindergarten" at only two of the facilities.

A major criticism, which the Stark County Political Report buys into, is the degree to which the BOE is structuring the exchange of viewpoints on the kindergarten implementation issue in such of fashion so as to stifle the objections that many parents have with the way the ESP is likely being forced by the administration and is fully supported by the BOE (except perhaps member Thomas).

One of the beefs that dissenting parents have with the BOE is the way the Building Review Committee was put together.  They say that the ESP was a done deal from the beginning and then the Gallina administration (North Canton Superintendent Michael Gallina) set out to orchestrate a committee to dutifully follow along with the administration's template in putting the ESP together.

A second objection is how the BOE refuses to spontaneously interact with the disagreeing parents.  While the parents can address the Board during a "public speaks" portion of the regular board meetings, they get no response at the meeting itself:  only stares from the five members.  The North Canton Board of Education, they say, refuse to engage them face-to-face.

Readers of the SCPR should see a video that is near the bottom of the home page of the North Canton City Schools website ( "Community Meeting Video (2/9/11)."  It is a classic "how not to approach the public" presentation.  Simply, unbelievable!

The whole presentation is done in a very patronizing and therefore insulting - to the public - manner.  Board president Jordan Greenwald talks about appreciating the input from North Cantonians (and does a public relations piece for Gallina - as if he were his PR agent -  only to be followed by Superintendent Gallina who after an feeble attempt at comedy launches into an apology for not effectively interacting with those affected by ESP in terms of getting ESP information out to them.

But the crown jewel of the presentation is the entreaty to interact with the BOE/administration via an "exit ticket."  A what?  Yes, an "exit ticket!"

The Report looked up "exit ticket" on the Internet and it appears they are used to debrief students at the end of a course of study.  Another BOE patronizing, ill-informed, unresponsive and therefore unwise tactic.

Get this.  The meeting is billed as a "community meeting."  But there is no live interaction (just like the regular Board meetings).  Such has the appearance of a Board and administration that is hunkered down and avoiding any spontaneity whatsoever in meeting with their constituents.  After all, the decision is made:  what is there to talk about?

Much more of this kind of stuff and the levy that North Cantonians voted for in November, 2010 will be the last in a long, long time for the North Canton schools.  All North Canton's board members need to do is to talk to the members of the Northwest BOE.  Northwest went ten or so years enduring levy failure after levy failure because the Northwest voting population did not trust the Northwest BOE.

Is that where the North Canton BOE wants to be in five years?  Trying to rebuild trust in local government like Northwest has had to do and the Stark County commissioners are in the process of doing.

On Wednesday evening the BOE will be making its decision on the matter.  It is pretty much a foregone conclusion of the disaffected parents that the Board will vote (unanimously - after some internal behind closed doors dissent -  President Greenwald?) to do the Elementary Service Plan. All without any face-to-face dialogue with the North Canton public.

There is one more interesting aspect to all of the goings on in this matter.  It has to do with member Christopher Goldthorpe.  A SCPR source is suggesting that he may have a conflict in interest in all of this due to the arrangement whereby his wife Debbie (Associate Director of the North Canton YMCA) conducts a Y-Care daycare (North Canton YMCA Preschool & Child Care Center) at North Canton's unused Charlotte Street school.  As part of the ESP approach to implementing "all day, everyday kindergarten," the Charlotte building is to be torn down and the programs in place there (including the Y-Care one) will be moved to the Early Childhood Center.

The significance of the tear down of Charlotte?  One of the alternatives that the BOE has supposedly been  considering was to place the "all day, everyday kindergarten" at the Early Childhood Center.  Hmm?

The question The Report's source has is this:  With Director Goldthorpe facing the prospect of losing the Charlotte facility for the YMCA's program, did that factor have anything to do with the "quick" abandonment of the Early Childhood Center site as a potential site for the entire "all day, everyday kindergarten?"  For The  Report's source says that had the Board opted for the Early Childhood Center as the site, there would not have been any room for the YMCA program.

Perhaps BOE member Goldthorpe will see the source's concern and abstain on Wednesday evening?  But that really wouldn't solve the question would it?  Why is that?  Because, beyond the vote, what part, if any, did member Goldthorpe play in pre-vote deliberations that resulted in the Board deciding in favor of the ESP over the Early Childhood Center?

It appears that the Board never seriously considered the option that parents of affected children ("affected" by the relocation of their neighborhood school for most - not all, of course - students) really wanted.  They preferred to have kindergarten added to the school that is in their child's neighborhood as a K-5 facility.

But what do parents know anyway!

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