Come visit our new site!

Thank you for visiting our site and for educating yourselves during the election regarding Issues 50 & 51. With the defeat of the levy, the intent of this site is complete, and our group is now moving on to the next phase: helping to shape the conversation regarding the real reforms we want to see in Columbus City Schools.

We hope you’ll join us at our brand new site, Real CCS Reform (realCCSreform.org) as we look at what the district is doing (or not doing) after the election results, and what we as parents, educators and community members can do to make sure the administration knows what we value in our children’s education and what we expect from those in charge of making the decisions about the direction of our school district.

We urge everyone to stay involved with education reform in Columbus City Schools and not fall into a sense of complacency without a ballot issue looming over our heads. Our kids continue to attend school, with each day one day closer to their graduation, meaning there is no time to sit by idly and let the district slide by with poor performance and cuts to essential programs.

Please visit us at RealCCSReform.org and get involved!

Press Release Regarding Election Results

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Columbus, Ohio (November 5, 2013)

The community has rejected The Columbus Plan. Now the real work begins.

Be Engaged!  Be Ethical!  Be Accountable!  Be the change you wish to see!

The campaign for the Columbus Plan and levy went through over 2million dollars in donations and expenses.

Community and parent activists defeated the Plan with less than $4,000.

Can a cost-effective, smart, determined team of activists come up with better reforms plans for Columbus City Schools?

Together, we can. It’s time for the community to create a plan for reform in Columbus City Schools. Parents for Real Education Reform in Columbus City Schools want to engage you to form the NEW Columbus Education Reform Plan. This plan will include input from teachers and parents that are involved in the day to day operations of our children’s education. The children depend on us to drive the changes we need to see.

We encourage and ask that the CCS administration collaborate with parents, teachers and the community to develop a comprehensive education plan that will truly benefit all children in Columbus City Schools!

Join us online, and we’ll launch a real community reform drive on December 1.

Together, we will mark a real New Day for Columbus City Schools!

To reach us for further comment or information please contact:
Maria Kozelek
ItsOKAYtoVoteNO@yahoo.com
or
Christina McMenemy
cmcmenemy@gmail.com

Remember, It’s OKAY to Vote NO on Issues 50 & 51!

Go Vote!It’s Election Day!

We genuinely hope you’ll all get out there to vote today! Don’t let anyone make you think that this levy issue is a sure thing or is even going our way at all. The only public poll taken showed both sides were tied, so we need everyone to make their voices heard today!

The pro-levy campaign has run an expensive race. We’ve been little David up against the Goliath pro-levy team and their $2+ million in corporate funding. Few individuals have contributed to their campaign. We can’t hire a team to push our message, and the only people working as canvassers for us aren’t paid to do so – they’re hard-working parents trying to fit it in between working the jobs they need to support their families, helping their kids with homework and making dinner.

We want the best for all of our children, and we’ve done our own homework on this levy.

The mayor and superintendent have used their positions of power to force their message onto everyone multiple times in the past few months, even stooping so low as to send home thinly-veiled pro-levy propaganda from the superintendent with our children, handed out in their school classrooms last week. Our children are not their pro-levy political pawns, and it’s insulting to parents to have them used as such.

Here are the basics to remember:

  • The Columbus Education Plan this levy would fund has no details on how it will accomplish its aspirational goals to directly improve our children’s education.
  • But it does provide plenty of details on additional administrative positions, committees, groups, and organizations it will fund.
  • This levy would raise property taxes 24%, or an additional $315 per $100,000 in property value. It will result in rent increases as well, making it harder for average Columbus families to provide for their children.
  • Some families, including seniors on fixed incomes, will lose their homes as a result of this tax hike. Others will struggle to meet basic needs for their kids.
  • Charter schools, which are public in name but controlled by privately appointed boards without public control, would receive $8.5 million in our taxpayer dollars if the levy passes, with no guidelines for accountability set yet.
  • Issue 51 would create an Independent Auditor that is anything BUT independent. Appointed by five politicians, this over-budgeted position would replace the district’s current internal auditor, Carolyn Smith, the very person who blew the whistle on the district’s data manipulation scandal. Let her continue her job by voting against this unneeded, and untruthful, independent auditor issue.
  • Mike Wiles is the only school board member to come out against the levy. He’s a tireless parent advocate and often serves as the voice of dissent on the current school board. We need him to stay in that position, working for all of the Columbus kids and not with an eye towards higher political office, like some candidates.

Don’t just say you’re against Issues 50 & 51 – make sure your voice counts by casting your vote! Please vote NO on Issues 50 & 51 – no plan, no accountability…no extra money! And consider casting your vote for Mike Wiles, the only school board member we wholeheartedly endorse.

Thank you, Columbus! Let’s make this happen, and then tomorrow we’ll begin the real brand-new day for Columbus City Schools!

(Yes, it’s true that we’re not going away after the final vote, cause no matter what, the job isn’t done. Look for more information from us soon!)

Meet Rachel, Homeschooling Mom, Asking You To Vote No On 50&51

Rachel & her daughterMy relationship with CCS began in kindergarten when I attended Clinton Elementary. I spent the next two years at Hamilton, then a science-emphasis lottery school, before my family moved out of the district.

While earning my bachelor’s degree at OSU, I taught weekly science lessons through a National Science Foundation grant at two CCS elementary schools. Later, I volunteered at CCS schools supporting the Local Matters Food Is Elementary program and as a reading tutor.

When it came time to choose a school for my own child three years ago, I requested a place at one of the very highly performing CCS lottery elementary schools, just a block down the street from our house. We weren’t offered a spot until five days before the school year was to begin, by which time we had chosen to try homeschooling instead. Homeschooling fits our lifestyle very well and our daughter is thriving without public school.

I recognize that homeschooling is a privilege not many can afford. Society cannot afford an uneducated public and therefore high quality educational options remain a priority for me. Yet I will vote NO on issues 50 & 51 because I fail to see how they will improve public education in CCS.

CCS is a district that already spends an amount per pupil that is on par or greater than many suburban districts. The suburban schools have vastly improved measures of school success including graduation rates and testing scores.

What’s the difference? I believe it is poverty. A whopping 74% of students qualify for free/reduced lunch in Columbus City Schools.

The schools are providing the basic needs (food, shelter, and even clothing) for many students. When children come to school hungry, have inconsistent parental support, and inappropriate outerwear, how can they possibly be expected to hunker down and meet educational standards? Teachers, whom CCS underpays compared to the same suburban schools above, are surrogate parents to children who desperately need basic care.

The levy calls for a significant increase in property taxes, one which will take money from already struggling homeowners. Issue 50 will exacerbate the level of poverty, and potentially lower performance, in CCS. More money for schools does not translate to better educational results.

The Columbus Education Plan does little to address poverty as a root cause of educational failings. All the whiteboards and digital devices in the world can’t teach hungry children. Teachers do deserve higher salaries, for sure. I would support a levy that primarily funds salary increases. But Issue 50 earmarks less than 50% of the amount for district operations, which I assume includes an unnamed percentage for teacher salaries.

As for the auditing issue, Issue 51, I applaud CCS for addressing their abominable past of cooking the student record books. But it was the district’s current internal auditor Carolyn Smith, who unveiled this problem. Why replace her record as a vicious pursuer of the facts with a different auditing system?

While I live in the district and do not chose to use CCS, I still want to see our city shine with an excellent school system. To do so, Mayor Coleman and the Columbus Education Plan needs not our support for issues 50 & 51 but a comprehensive jobs and services plan that can pull families out of poverty so children are ready to learn at school. Join me and vote NO on Issues 50 & 51.

-Rachel Tayse Baillieul
urban homesteader at Harmonious Homestead

ItsOKAYtoVoteNO Endorses Mike Wiles for School Board

Mike Wiles is an incumbent Columbus City School Board candidate that is not afraid to take a stance against Issues 50 & 51. He believes in questioning excess spending and enabling building principals and teachers to make decisions at the building level to impact student lives. He wants the kids put first and is not afraid to not only return parent phone calls and emails, but he will talk with parents and community members to answer questions or concerns.  ItsOKAYtoVoteNo fully supports and endorses the re-election of MIKE WILES!

Mike Wiles for School BoardMike Wiles is a bit of an odd duck. He comes to Council meetings dressed either in work clothes or a Hawaiian shirt with long hair. However, Mike will talk with you after the meetings. He is one of the few board members who actually asks questions about what it is that the person is saying. He isn’t afraid to ask a clarifying question to enhance understanding as the rest of the board looks at you and gives you generic thank yous when you are done speaking.

Mike Wiles may seem to be taking a typical Republican stance by being against the levy and talking about all the excess spending, but he’s not trying to imply that change isn’t needed. He is talking about getting empowerment back to the principals and teachers and enabling them to make adjustments that can make a difference in the children’s lives.  He has done all the things that people who want to get into politics are warned away from. His life path is different than most and that knowledge makes the difference in how he thinks about education.

With his life experiences and uncompromising values, he has been able to not only shock people with what he thinks, but he also has been able to win over various supporters such as Brad Sinnott (head of the GOP Committee in Columbus) and former board member Stephanie Groce. In addition, he has been able to get even critics such as Carol Perkins and Linda Henry to acknowledge that his passions are motivated by an interest of what is best.

Rather than continuing to bash on the records scandal, Wiles acknowledges that having a Central Registration addresses many of the concerns with transferring students; there are also whistle-blower policies in place to start to address the issue. Beyond that, he wants us to focus on bringing the school board back to serving as oversight to the superintendent rather than the rubber stamp it has been since that change was introduced so long ago.

Mike Wiles recommends things like Parent University, Parent Mentorship, establishing trade programs, getting parents involved in the focus of the schools, emphasis on the arts and foreign language at all levels, and having a Community Bridge with the parent consultants. We shouldn’t just have a third grade guarantee; we should have an every grade guarantee. Parents aren’t just here to make sure that kids eat breakfast before standardized tests or act as ATMs for the fundraisers. Mike Wiles believes that parents are the key to education, something that the school board and administration seem to have forgotten long ago.

Mike Wiles was a parent in Columbus City Schools and he has been working for the betterment of education for many years. He isn’t tied to any ideological belief system, and he makes up his own mind. He frequently plays the role of swing vote on the seven member council. As an independent thinker, he has been able to bring his thoughtfulness to his votes. His consideration is only heightened by the fact that he has no agenda to climb onto city council, as other members have previously done.

VOTE  YES  FOR  WILES!!

Note: We will not be endorsing any other school board candidates. We carefully considered all of the choices and felt that only Mike Wiles represented the values and ideas that we are looking for in a school board member who can bring real reform to our school district. We’d love to see more school board members like him.

Meet Heather, A CCS Mom, & Read Her Views On 50 & 51

Heather & her kidsMy name is Heather Roush, I have two children in CCS. We love our schools and we love our teachers. My children have had some wonderful opportunities and fabulous teachers while at CCS.

I am very active in our school and have been a member of the PTA since the beginning. I participate in fundraisers and activities, I pay music and art fees and try to donate as much as I can to our schools.

For the first time ever, I am not supporting a school levy. I can not support a levy that promises so much but give no details on how they plan to accomplish them. I can not support a levy that adds more layers of administration to an already bloated system. I can not support a levy that gives more tax dollars to a corrupt school system that is under state and federal investigation. I can not support a levy that will not benefit all children in the district.

I will not support a levy that will remove our Internal Auditor, who was the only one willing to investigate the criminal data scrubbing taking place within our district and report it while others looked the other way. I certainly can not support a levy whose backers continue to try to blame me and other parents as well as our amazing teachers for the messes that they have created.

Heather's childrenOur district is in bad shape, and they do need help, but throwing more money into an already corrupt system is not the way. CCS and the Board need to really change the way business has been done. Most changes require little to no additional funding.

These are hard economic times for many. I worry how my family will pay for this enormous tax increase when we have already cut so much.

For all these reasons and many more I will be voting NO on Issues 50/51 on Tuesday November 5th.

Your Thoughts On Reform, Part 3

Here’s part three of our community responses regarding their experiences with Columbus City Schools and their suggestions on what they’d like to see for real reform. If you haven’t had the chance, be sure to read part one and part two as well.

Thanks to those of you who were brave enough to share your thoughts!

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First I would take a long hard look at the leadership (building level, department level… etc). I would ask questions like “why there is an elementary principal that as NO elementary experience” or “would it be wise to move an administrator to another position if they were clearly unsuccessful at their current position?” Then I would ask where the accountability is for said leaders… showing up at the same time as the students and leaving before them?

Then I would create some sort of system where staff concerns could be heard and addressed, after all it is the teachers on the front lines. I have made phone calls, emails and messages that get no reply- from anyone.

Budget- spend less money busing kids accross town. There are children who ride the bus for hours a day, probably passing mutliple schools along the way that could provide the same service. Cut budget anywhere but the classrooms- after all we are in the business of children. Look hard at CEC, Shephard center, neil ave, hudson warehouse… it doesn’t take three people to touchup paint in the classroom or run the copier in H.R.

I heard that 80 percent of the budget is spent on personnel and of that 80 percent half of that are teachers or other certificated personnel (counselors, psych,etc). That seems all wrong. I realize it is a large district, but it seems if we shifted the personnel dollars to people who have actual educational contact with the students there would have to be some benefit. I am not talking about adding more teachers on special assignment to write curriculum or another person to guide schools through the ‘whatever’ process. I am talking boots on the ground. Education is about building relationships, not running reports. Educations is about sharing a love a learning, not filling out forms. We all know that leaderless armies would fail, but so would the ones with not enough soldiers on the front lines.
- Anonymous, undecided regarding levy

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I am fine with contributing additional funds to the schools, but I need to be confident that the money will be well spent. As far as I can tell, the administration and school board are just tone deaf. The new interim superintendent began his tenure by indicating that administrators and principals who had cheated would be given the opportunity to resign and then, if they refused, be terminated. Respectfully, with employees soon to be facing indictment the response is not to give them the opportunity to resign, you terminate them and make an example. This just seems indicative to me that he can’t comprehend that something really wrong happened here.

I don’t geel that I am being treated honestly when board members are talking about “high performing” and “non-profit” charter schools. They are “not-profit” like Riverside hospital is non-profit, no stockholders but huge sums to administrators and employees. And they are “high performing” because they can select the best children. My annoyance with charter schools conceptually is less than my concern that the backers of the levy are being dishonest about it.

I need a house cleaning on the board, and from what I see in the polls people are too out of the loop to tell who the incumbents are and who they are not. Honestly, I’ll have to research it election morning myself and bring notes, so I’m not throwing stones.

But most importantly, I think they need to articulate what they will use the money for. I think this will be a useful exercise both for them — it will be a helpful outline and a standard to hold people to — and a reason for me to give them money. Not some claim of a need for operating funds which turns out not to be true, something about building new schools and a vague plan to give all students computers.

Finally, I wonder who is funding the campaign for the levy? I have a suspicion it is contractors who stand to gain from school contracts. I really get the impression that there is some graft going on, perhaps from the strange disappearance of the funds intended for computers 5 years ago.
- Ed F, parent or guardian of CCS student, against the levy

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A 24% increase would be an extreme hardship on my family and on my elderly parents. What if a tax increase is needed in the future for fire and safety? If we have to pay 24%, we could never support any other increase. My husband, nor I have had a raise from our employers in over three years. This increase would have to come from our grocery money.

Please find low and no cost solutions to CCS problems. Have your corporate sponsors work with students. Have them donate to the actual schools instead of your campaign.
The kids need help in the schools, but they also need food and housing.
- Parent or guardian of CCS student, against the levy

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I want reform. For me, reform starts with having a system I trust. I got involved in the schools, because my children have principal who is neither honest nor ethical. From there I learned that her supervisor and the former superintendent shared those traits.

I was hopeful when Superintendent Good entered the scene, but I am no longer hopeful. In the campaign process, I have seen unethical use of district resources for the campaign and ongoing manipulation of data to misrepresent the needs and proposals.

I will not vote to support a system of liars. You can’t “reform” from a dishonest starting point.

*One more thing. If the system is really failing, it makes no sense to fill all the committees and panels with sycophants and cheerleaders. They don’t see problems; they can’t fix what they don’t see. CCS needs to embrace websites like this.
- Reader, parent or guardian of CCS student, against the levy

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Though I hate segregation, schools for children where English is taught as a second language. NO money for charter schools. If Catholic schools do a good job teaching at no extra cost to taxpayers then charter schools should do the same. Fail all students who don’t pass. No pushing them under the rug for the next teacher. If parents don’t care enough about their kids to take an interest in making sure they learn, then don’t have them.

As for teachers, there are new classes of graduating teachers every year (some of whom I suspect are excellent) who would love to have a job so fire the bad ones. Could the bad ones be any worse? Plus, who hired them in the first place? No more NOT flunking bad students and no more NOT firing bad teachers! More money isn’t going to help and will put families in an even more difficult position to take care of their children.
- Community member, against the levy

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A slate of four candidates committed to education for the Columbus Board of Education. If the Commission had been serious about reform, they could have identified and selected a slate of candidates who would care about the work of educating children, not advancing other interests first.

Until there are four Board members who care about children first, themselves second AND are willing to do the work to become knowledgeable on the issues, the district will flounder. Eric Fingerhut has said that the highest performing school districts have Boards that talk about academic achievement regularly. I agree. Sadly, the Commission did nothing to address this. The good news: we can do something about this in two years.
- Parent or guardian of CCS student, against the levy

Meet Christina, CCS Mom, Asking You To Vote No On 50 & 51

Hi friends -

I know, it sounds ludicrous for a mother to be against a school levy. I have always voted for school levies, even before I had children.

Christina and familySome of you know that I have two daughters in Columbus City Schools. Cordelia, my third grader, has been in CCS since she started in the special needs preschool at three years old for autism. Her teachers have been nothing short of incredible and helped her grow into the gifted student she currently is. Miranda, my first grader, is a bright, social little girl who is so excited to go to school each day and greets her teachers with a hug.

I believe public education to be one of the greatest achievements of our society – our nation’s public schools are designed to provide equal access to education for all children. Ideally, this universal education should be equal in quality from district to district, building to building, and free of political, corporate, religious, or other bias.

The Columbus Education Plan lacks any substantial details on how it will accomplish the goals being set forth, but it includes plenty of specifics on new administrative jobs, committees, boards, and working groups it plans to fund to come up with those missing details eventually. There’s no guarantee of how – or if – the additional funds will directly benefit our teachers and students, and there are no consequences in place for if the plan fails to meet the aspirational goals set forth.

I do not agree with the creation of an appointed (not elected) “public-private partnership” board above our elected school board that will allow local businesses to have a say in our district’s operations. We haven’t been told the private partners in this plan, or what they would be bringing to our schools in exchange for our money.

Our memories are not so short that we can’t remember being given some of the same lofty promises when we voted for the school levy in 2008. Our last increase in taxes gave us a failed technology implementation, buildings that were promised to be renovated taken off the list, a data-scrubbing scandal that the district is still under investigation for, and schools that continue to perform poorly. The cost to the community was millions of dollars lost, along with a tremendous loss of trust.

It has been proven that money cannot buy quality in education. Columbus City Schools has nearly the highest spending per pupil compared to other local school districts, and yet is one of the lowest performing. The district doesn’t need more money to solve its problems.

I believe in our teachers and principals. Think about your children – there’s probably at least one teacher that has made a difference for them. They are the people on the front lines, directly responsible for educating our children, and they’re often having their jobs complicated by unnecessary administrative control. Principals need to be given the ability to hire the right teachers for their schools, as well as the ability to remove bad teachers from the district.

Teachers need more autonomy in the classroom, allowed to implement the methods they know are best for their unique classrooms, and evaluated on more than standardized test scores. Our children are more than test scores, and their teachers should be as well.

The good news is that many of the reforms needed for our district don’t require an enormous increase in funding. Simple, innovative and intelligent solutions can be implemented immediately. Our school district has a $51 million surplus through June 2015. That surplus can already be applied to technology solutions using a building-level approach.

And there’s no need for Issue 51′s “Independent” Auditor. This is a wasteful use of money to fund a position that would be anything but independent. The district’s current internal auditor, Carolyn Smith, has done an impressive job at fighting the school board’s attempts to suppress her reports on the data scrubbing scandal. Replacing her with a more expensive office of Independent Auditor, a job that would be appointed by five politicians, is hardly independent at all.

Cordy and MiraAs a parent, I believe we need to go back to the basics: quality teaching and support for our teachers’ professional positions, smaller class sizes, principal autonomy, transparency in administrative decision-making, and a lean administrative division. This is real reform, and it’s reform that will directly benefit our children.

There is some good that has come from this levy attempt. With the lack of details, the lack of community input used in building this plan, and $2.2 million invested by businesses for the campaign (what are they being promised for such obscenely high campaign donations?), more parents and community members are no longer sitting by complacently.

We’re asking questions, we’re attending meetings, and we’re demanding better for our children. It’s time for our children to be more than numbers and funding goals.

I encourage parents to be the reform for the schools – go to meetings, speak your mind with force and resolve, and let the administration know that you’re not going away. These are your children – you have a right to provide input on their education.

I am voting against Issues 50 & 51, and I urge you to vote NO as well. This plan has no details, and it is bad for our children, bad for our teachers, and bad for our community.

- Christina McMenemy
CCS parent, blogger at A Mommy Story

Meet Gail, Former CCS Mom With Two Successful Sons

Gail & her sonMy name is Gail Burkholder. Both of my sons graduated from CCS and received such stellar educations that they were awarded huge academic scholarships to Boston and Case Western Universities. I coached chess all over our district, from Spanish Immersion to Old Orchard to Winterset to Reeb. I know that we have excellent teachers and administrators all over the city.

This is why I take umbrage at Mayor Coleman’s assertions that we have failed, that we need to hire good teachers and that parents need to step up. Not only are these assertions untrue, they are not addressed by his “education plan.”

Instead, the Columbus Education Plan offers us the opportunity to pay the largest property tax increase in CCS history. The proceeds would fund non-union charter schools, a whole new level of bureaucracy and more. This is to be entrusted to a school board currently under state and federal investigation and a mayor’s office with no educational expertise.

I have never, ever voted against a school levy but I will vote against Issues 50 & 51 on November 5th.

Meet Amy, A CCS Mom Against Issues 50 & 51

Meet AmyMy name is Amy Harkins and I’m proud to be the mom of a CCS 7th grader. I’m a Reading Buddies volunteer at Oakland Park Elementary and a Junior Achievement instructor at Wedgewood Middle School.

My son has had outstanding teachers and tremendous learning opportunities – both educational and real-world – thanks to the diversity of the district. He’s watched a brain scan at an OSU lab, dissected a sheep brain at Columbus State and performed a stand up comedy routine on his elementary stage. We purposefully choose the Columbus City Schools every year because we believe in the education he’s receiving.

For the first time ever, I am voting against a school levy. I simply cannot support giving our school board a blank check to come up with plans and accountabilities that should have already been formulated before putting a levy on the ballot.

I cannot support removing Carolyn Smith as internal auditor, the only person brave enough to speak out against the data manipulations happening in our district.

I believe in Columbus City Schools, our teachers, our children and our neighborhoods. I believe we deserve better.