Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Back on January 19th, the SCPR published a blog dealing with the Canton Professional Teachers Union (CPEA) being the primary reason that Canton City Schools (CCS) passed on applying for up to $3 million in federal grants (stimulus funds) through a U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top program funneled through state departments of education (ODE - in Ohio).

The SCPR was getting different accounts of the CPEA's refusal to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was required to be filed with the ODE about two weeks ago.

James Carman, who is a board member for the Canton City Schools, pointed the finger at the CPEA and its president Pam Jackson.

Jackson told The Report that Carman has it wrong.  She said the decision not to apply for the grant was a "joint" decision between her (as the representative of the CPEA) and Doctor Michele Evans, superintendent of the Canton City Schools.

CLICK HERE to get up to speed with the prior statements of Carman and Jackson.

Yesterday, the SCPR received a phone call from Dr. Evans giving her version.

Evans' statement in and of itself was no help on clearing up what doubt lingers as to whether or not "the failure to apply" was a "joint" decision or totally the doing of the CPEA.  One has to understand that superintendents MUST maintain good working relationships with their bargaining units in order get anything done in local school districts.  Accordingly, on its face, Evans' statement was as ambiguous as this highly intelligent school administrator could make it.

But yours truly is skilled in "reading between the lines."  So what follows is the SCPR's interpretation of what Dr. Evans was really saying.

In the opinion of yours truly, Superintendent Evans was "ready, willing and able" to sign the MOU as instructed by her board of education.  However, the point became "moot" when discussions with Jackson made it clear to Evans that CPEA president Jackson was not going to sign the MOU.

The tragedy of all this is that the CPEA could have had it both ways.  If the Canton City School system is awarded a grant, and the requirements to implement the standards of Race to the Top proved (when fully known) not compatible with the productive functioning of the CCS, then the collective (the board, the administration and the union) could have said "thanks, but no thanks."

A Ohio Department of Education official told Superintendent Evans and the unions such, but the ODE was not agreeable to having such language put in the required Memorandum of Understanding.

Now the CCS and the union are in the position of hoping that Ohio is not granted participation in the first round of the Race to the Top funding and that there is a second round to get in on come June, 2010.

Another wrinkle to this "tail wagging the dog" scenario cropped up in the Marlington and East Canton school systems.  In those districts, the local unions did sign on, but insisted on inserting the "opt out" right language in the MOU which is a violation of ODE grant submission rules and therefore it is very likely that their applications will be rejected.

Beyond Canton Local, Marlington and East Canton,  fourteen Stark County School districts have rejected altogether applying for the stimulus monies.  Among the fourteen is the Fairless school system which is in a major financial crisis.  Why would Fairless fail to apply?

As an aside:  It will be interesting to track new school board member Charles Snyder - of "Vote No for Increased Taxes" fame on the Stark County commissioner imposed 0.5 percent sales/use tax increase and his actions on the Fairless financial crisis.

Another interesting case is the Northwest Local School District.  If there is such a thing as school district twins - Northwest and Fairless fit the bill.

Northwest is a district that has not had new revenues approved by voters for 10 years.  Last night the Northwest Board of Education voted to put a 5 year, 1% income tax levy on the ballot in May's primary election.  And yet Northwest failed to apply for Race to the Top monies. 

Stetler, the superintendent at Northwest,  tells the SCPR that Northwest chose not to apply because the money the district stood to get was not worth the effort and that getting the funds would subject Northwest to undesirable federal controls.   Moreover, Stetler said that he/the board never got to the point of asking the local teachers union, but that he fully expected that the union would have been troublesome.

An interesting side to this whole discussion is that the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (both statewide union organizations) support applying for Race to the Top grants.

It does, in the final analysis, come down to the reality that changing how we do education in Stark County, Ohio and the nation is - to a large degree - in the hands of local teachers unions.

In the public mind, this kind of power in the hands of local teachers unions is not sustainable.

The SCPR believes that over time, the voting public will tighten and tighten the financial noose around the necks of school districts until local unions let go of their refusal to do meaningful change.

While the local teachers are warring against transformation; this is a battle they cannot win in a tough economy that is going not to rebound to its former glory anytime soon, if ever.  Because in the end the taxpaying public will have their way.

Local teachers unions think they are at war with school boards and superintendents, but they are not.  The general public is sick and tired of the poor results that are coming from public education and the public is fighting back.

This war is between local teachers unions and the tax paying public.

Right now, Stark County's teachers through their unions are choosing to be part of the problem.

If they want to survive long term; they had better get up and running on being a part of the solution!!!

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