Board Candidate Survey, 2005: Challengers Evade Commitment to Public

Dear Neighbors,

Since 2001, I have published the responses of Beavercreek school board candidates to questions designed to ascertain their commitment to cost-effectiveness and ability to uphold their oath of office.

This year I am compelled to cancel the candidate survey due to the challengers' lack of cooperation, propensity for deceptive answers, and open contempt for the principles of democracy and ethics. I feel no constructive purpose can be served by placing the challengers on a level playing field with the incumbent school board members. However, I will provide challengers the opportunity to complete the survey which one member of their slate declined to complete in 2003.

For comparison, I am including the answers to the 2003 board survey given by Mike Verlingo, who now serves on the board. Mike's professional training is similar to that of several of the challenges, and he has openly committed to using that training for the benefit of our community. According to Mike, "I adhere to the highest standards of integrity. My Certified Public Accountant's license requires that I do so. I apply this same code to every activity in which I engage."

The oath of office for board candidates is as follows:

Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Ohio; and that you will faithfully and impartially discharge your duties as members of the Board of Education of the Beavercreek City School District, Greene County, Ohio, to the best of your ability, and in accordance with the laws now in effect and hereafter to be enacted, during your continuance in said office, and until your successor is elected and qualified.
I believe review of the challengers’ actions raises grave doubts regarding their intent to be faithful or impartial. In particular, the challengers appear reluctant to exercise routine professional judgement when it reflects poorly on the KBAPAC, as questions 5 and 6 from the 2003 Survey (below) demonstrate.

Sincerely,

Eric Price

STEPS 2003 School Board Candidate Survey

The following survey was made available to all candidates in October 2003 and was posted to the web October 27, 2003. Defeated candidate Deb Eisnaugle refused to respond. Mike Verlingo's answers from 2003 are given for reference. The current challengers are invited to reply. Mike's answers demonstrate why he believes the KBAPAC coordinates a campaign of "fear, uncertainty, and doubt."

1) Will your first strategic priority be to ensure that Beavercreek students have the opportunity to benefit from a "thorough and efficient system" of public schools? How?
Michael Verlingo (2003)

Beavercreek Schools are efficient. By most every financial and operational measure, Beavercreek outperforms surrounding and comparable districts. State data ranks Beavercreek 216th out of 613 districts in spending: below state average. Versus our comparable group, we rank 15th of 20 in per pupil spending, $260 above the bottom, $1,400 from the top. Per pupil spending is $800 below average or $5.6M less. Administrative, extracurricular, and transportation costs are lower. Beavercreek employs 71 fewer teachers and administrators. The district has the 7th highest student teacher ratio (of 53) in the Miami valley.

Despite our lower level of funding today, we have been able to provide a variety of courses and a curriculum that provides opportunity. My focus is to maintain the programs, support services and activities that allow our students to compete. We must be cost effective, but we must also insist that our children are not disadvantaged due to a lack of programs or services.

If we allow the decline to occur; scholarships, appointments to our military academies, and admission to our nation's best colleges and universities will cease. Dismantling the programs that provide Beavercreek students with opportunity is not what Beavercreek has ever stood for. We have developed a reputation for Quality. Our schools provide positive returns on the investment in our students, in our community, and in our homes.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


2)

Explain a school board member's obligation to secure funding for their school district.
Michael Verlingo (2003)

School Board members are required by oath to promote education and educational opportunity. They are chartered to be spokesmen and spokeswomen for the students. They must at all times act in the best interest of the children. Toward this end, they must help the community understand the benefits and costs associated with this mission.

The reality today is that school districts are primarily funded through local property taxes. In a state defined "wealthy" district such as Beavercreek, the local share of funding is disproportionately large. We only receive approximately 20% of the state funding formula amount.

I fully support efforts to lobby our legislators and local officials to increase the level of school funding. Use taxes on developers or a local sales tax could also be investigated as alternatives to increasing the property tax. Passage of these measures would alleviate a portion of the property tax burden we all share. These changes will take time and a groundswell of support from the community. I am willing to work toward changing current funding methods, but we must ensure that our schools are supported and our community maintains its reputation in the interim.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


3)

What is your plan to address the following funding obligations, which the state funding formula places disproportionately upon Beavercreek taxpayers:
  • Increases in district employees' salaries, wages, and benefits
  • Increases in liability insurance and energy costs
  • Increases in student enrollment
  • Increases in special ed (IDEA) costs
  • Unfunded Federal share of IDEA
  • Costs of compliance with DeRolph mandates ("thorough and efficient")
  • Costs of compliance with ESEA ("No Child Left Behind")
  • Costs of compliance with "value-added assessment" (HB-3)
Michael Verlingo (2003)

By law, the school district must comply with all state and federal mandates. Unless we can lobby our legislators to change current law, we will continue to bear a higher burden of cost by local taxpayers. We must provide education to every eligible child within Beavercreek's borders regardless of cost or capacity. As I stated in Question # 2, Beavercreek only receives 20% of the state funding formula amount. This is largely due to an above average median income that ranks us 65th out of the 613 districts in Ohio. Although the DeRolph decision requires the legislature to develop an alternative funding mechanism, I am concerned that this could negatively, not positively impact Beavercreek. Those who would look to the state to relieve the local taxpayer's burden could be disappointed.

Although legislators may have students best interests in mind when mandates are adopted, they are unfortunately driven by political rather than educational needs. Fro example, the "No Child Left Behind Act" may be very appropriate for a failing school district such as Dayton or Washington, D.C., but adds less value to high achieving districts like Beavercreek, Centerville or Oakwood. Yet we must comply, lose class instruction time, and return the assessments at our expense. I would argue that we should be allowed to select those sections, which are most beneficial to our district. Problem is that common sense is rarely incorporated into these measures.

We must continue to lobby our state legislature, Governor and congressmen and women. Write letters and emails to our representatives urging change. I will be meeting with Beavercreek's State representative to discuss areas where things just, "Don't make sense". One area where changes are required is the Post Secondary Education Option (PSEO) program. I support this program, but reasonable restrictions should be applied, as it increases our costs, yet provides no additional revenue.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


4)

What are your specific goals for the district, and their priority?
Michael Verlingo (2003)

If elected, I intend to provide the community with the following. Increased communication about the school district and its financial condition, a concise 2-page summary of metrics that will clearly reflect areas of spending compared to other districts, and a focus on maintaining a challenging curriculum and the programs that allow our students to compete. This definitely includes extra-curricular activities. More than 800 students at the high school alone utilize sports, clubs, and band today. Removing these would severely handicap our students when competing against others for scholarships, awards and admission to universities.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


5)

School funding has become a contentious issue in our community. Discuss whether "public communications" on this issue have been "full, fair, accurate, timely, and understandable." Give examples.
Michael Verlingo (2003)

School finance is a unique animal. Revenues and some cost items differ from for profit enterprises, therefore they can be extremely confusing. Due to this fact, many have attempted to confuse the issue. Misinformation, half-truths and miscalculations have been used in numerous articles to imply that the district is mismanaging funds or does not need a levy to operate.

Examples include a letter to the Dayton Daily news suggesting the district received an annual revenue increase of 12% due to reappraisal. The actual increase of 11.8% applies to property values, not school revenues. Only 75% of our revenue comes from local sources, therefore this increase is lowered to 8.85%. Of this, the district would only see appreciation on the 20-mil floor that is 60.6% of total mils. This lowers the increase to 5.36%. This 5.36% also relates to multiple years. The net result is an average annual increase in revenue attributable to property tax revenues of less that 2%. This is historical information. The auditor certified projected increases through 2008 are much lower. Additionally, the balance of our income from State and Federal sources is expected to decline in the future. The author also stated that the district does not need additional revenue since our costs are student driven and only increased by 3.3%. This statement completely ignores inflation. Costs rise for 3 fundamental reasons:

  1. Inflation and market value adjustments
  2. Increasing student population
  3. Additional programs or services
In so far as Beavercreek is not adding additional programs or services in the next four years, our cost increases are driven by Rate (inflation and market value adjustments) and Volume (student enrollment) factors. Does anyone in the community actually believe that costs will be lower in 5 years than they are today?

Another statement by the KBA PAC suggested that if Beavercreek receives the increased revenue to operate the district, its costs would then exceed Centerville's and Xenia's. Is the rest of the world exempt from inflation and cost increases? Are they standing still? Xenia has a levy on their ballot and Centerville will be following shortly. Beavercreek spends much less that our comparable group. The November levy will would only close the gap vs. the average of that group for the 2004 - 2005 school year.

Finally, another writer stated that the middle school team planning sessions were not eliminated therefore the district has not cut every possible dollar from the budget. Those who would suggest cost reductions without considering the benefits are intellectually dishonest. As any competent businessperson knows, planning is absolutely necessary. The lack of planning leads to inefficiency and waste. These sessions are an integral part of instruction. Eliminating them would not achieve the savings the writer indicated, as close to 75% of all classes at the middle schools have more than 25 students per class. These teachers would most likely be redeployed. I concur that the area should be evaluated, but withhold recommendation and reject action until a cost benefit analysis is completed.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


6)

Are community divisions exacerbated by "deterrents to effective communication, including semantics, noise, the grapevine, inadequate listening skills," informal channels of communication, or ineffective communication liaison roles?
Michael Verlingo (2003)

Certainly. The community needs to focus on the facts, not be influenced by a small group of individuals that are (in my opinion) myopic, misguided and illogical. I beseech all citizens to ask questions. This administration is receptive to inquiry and fostering a dialogue that effects positive change. Citizens should not take comments like: "Spending is out of control" at face value. Investigate. Contact the Financial Oversight Committee. This group of Beavercreek business leaders, accountants, and finance professionals are citizens with a vested interest in minimizing taxes. If I have one criticism: it is that the FOC can be more vocal in publishing information on the successes and cost reductions that the administration and school board have achieved in the last 3 fiscal years.

As a school board member, I plan to improve communication through informal quarterly community forums and discussion groups with one or two board members present. Concerns, ideas, suggestions, etc., can then be discussed freely since any one or two board members may not speak for, nor commit the entire board.

I also plan to develop a concise 2-page summary of metrics that will clearly reflect areas of spending compared to other districts. This will allow our citizens to keep current on our performance relative to those we are measured against.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


7)

Describe the quality and quantity of your service to our community. How do you stay "in touch" with the climate of Beavercreek schools?
Michael Verlingo (2003)

Despite my work and family commitments, I have always prioritized community service as a critical component of my life. My volunteer activities within the Beavercreek School system have included the Audit Review Committee, Levy committees, creation of a chess club at Fairbrook elementary where I donated chess sets, and delivery of an all day International trade and economics lecture at Ankeney middle school. You will see me at football games, basketball games, tennis matches, etc. For the last 3 years, I have participated in Junior Achievement's teaching program, have hosted international students for short home stays and currently volunteer as Treasurer for the Dayton Council on World Affairs.

I stay in touch with the pulse of the schools by talking to parents, students, and district personnel. For the previous 6 weeks, I have been visiting our schools, meeting with the principals and teachers and touring the facilities to obtain a better understanding of issues and concerns. I have been walking through neighborhoods distributing flyers, talking to voters.

I donate significant amounts of time by utilizing my personal vacation days, evenings and weekends. If you truly believe in education, you make time.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*


8)

How does your personal and/or professional code of ethics affect your civic and volunteer activities as well as your position on school levies?
Michael Verlingo (2003)

I adhere to the highest standards of integrity. My Certified Public Accountant's license requires that I do so. I apply this same code to every activity in which I engage. Therefore I will honestly and faithfully execute the duties of my office to the best of my ability. I will critically examine revenues, costs, contracts, and the need for any levies placed on a ballot. I do not support unlimited spending. I will look to achieve savings and implement sensible policy changes to minimize costs. I will look at the benefits as well as the costs. Cost benefit analysis demands that you consider both. Where the benefits outweigh the costs, I would create a case for increased investment.

Those who know me in the community understand that I do not rush to judgment. I listen, obtain facts, make inquiries, and then form opinions. I am willing to listen. I encourage you to ask questions. You may not like my position on a particular issue, but you will always receive honesty and integrity in my analysis.

Debra Eisnaugle (2003)
no response

Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, Tom Mangan (2005)
no response/ disqualified*

*I repeatedly asked Mary Collier, Debra Eisnaugle, and Tom Mangan to participate in the Secretary of State's "Candidate of Character" program. Due to their lack of response to this invitation to maintian high ethical standards, I have recorded "no response/disqualified" as their 2005 response.