Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education meeting highlights

DECEMBER 20, 2016

  • Awards and recognitions
  • Field trips
  • Personnel items
  • Lease agreement, donations
  • High school renovation change orders
  • Middle school renovations
  • High school interior renovations
  • Finances, losses, voucher impact
  • Board president’s report
  • Application for share of mitigation funds

Present were board members Kal Zucker (president), Ron Register (vice president), James Posch and Eric Silverman. Beverly Wright was absent. Also present were Talisa Dixon, superintendent, and Scott Gainer, treasurer.

The public meeting began at 7 p.m., after a prior executive session regarding negotiations, and ended at 9:36 p.m.

Awards and recognitions

Superintendent Dixon acknowledged the following: Heights High junior Ben Shuster for initiating and moderating a City Club Youth Forum on the achievement gap; Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) students and advisors for an MSAN Conference presentation on the achievement gap and advanced placement courses; and Ina Keyes Harris, winner of a Youth Voice Award for production of the movie “East Cleveland – A Tale of Two Cities.”

Field trips

The board approved the following field trips: Heights High boys’ basketball team to Flyin’ to the Hoops Classic in Dayton, Jan. 14 and 15, and to the Play by Play Classic in Wilmington, Ohio, Jan. 27 and 28; Heights High Chorus to a Youth Chorus Festival in San Antonio, Jan. 19–22; Heights High Acapella Choir to an acapella competition in Dayton, Feb. 4 and 5; Heights High Symphony Orchestra to Detroit, Feb. 24–26; MSAN students to Washington, D.C., April 1–3; and the Robotics team to the Robotics National Competition in California, Pa., May 19 and 20.

Personnel items

The board approved resignations, termination, appointments, re-appointments, changes of status and name, and a resolution to suspend an employee without pay.

Lease agreement, donations

The board approved a December 2016 to June 2017 lease agreement with Coventry Village Children’s Center, and accepted the following donations: sensory room equipment for Canterbury Elementary School, with a value of $2,480; notebooks for Gearity Professional Development School, with a value of $20; $2,000 to Roxboro Elementary School; $4,871 to Delisle Options School; and $2,940 to Heights High.

High school renovation change orders

The board approved 14 change orders for the Heights High renovation, some of which entailed work done months ago. Among reasons given for the changes were unforeseen conditions, permitting and code issues, additions to the original plan, and design clarifications. Kal Zucker questioned why added expenses due to mistakes in the process always become the district’s responsibility. Patrick O’Brien of Project Management Consultants responded that liability often lies ultimately with the design professional, as determined through litigation. The purchase of new furniture from School Specialty Inc. was approved at a cost of $654,363.

Middle school renovations

An amendment for reduction of the contract with project designers Moody-Nolan was approved. The board awarded the Monticello and Roxboro Middle schools commissioning agent services to Scheeser Buckley Mayfield Consulting Engineers. Plans for the middle schools include new HVAC systems, updated technology, new paint, improved entrances, reconfiguration of some areas, and roof replacement where needed. The amount budgeted to cover renovations at both buildings is $30 million. Current plans would cost $33.2 million to execute, so the board will decide in January among options to reduce the cost. Jim Posch commented that he is pleased with Turner Construction’s projected goals.

High school interior renovations

Scott Bindle of Gilbane Building showed photos of interior progress at the high school. The project is on schedule for the August start of the 2017–18 school year. Ron Register urged public tours as soon as possible, and was assured that this would happen once the site was safe.

Finances, losses, voucher impact

Scott Gainer presented financial reports and an updated five-year forecast. A recent ruling making the Kaiser facility tax-exempt could cost the district as much as $1 million annually; litigation is pending challenging the ruling.

Now that all district students have been made eligible for free lunch, the amount of Disadvantaged Pupil Aid will increase, but this renders the district no longer eligible for the guarantee that is part of Ohio’s school funding formula.

In addition, in 2016 the district lost $2.8 million to charter and community schools. Education choice vouchers, some of which are used to send students to religious schools, resulted in a 2016–17 district loss of $7.6 million, up from $5.6 million in 2015–16. This loss is 7 percent of the district’s budget. Revenue loss to education choice vouchers is projected to increase at a rate of $1 million annually. Vouchers take more state money per student from the district than the state gives to the district per student, so this loss cannot be explained away as simply having fewer students to educate. All of the losses together account for about 60 percent of what the district will gain from the levy just passed.

Interest rates have held steady. District staff will not get a raise in 2017; a 1 percent increase is anticipated in 2018. Step increases will still occur.

The board approved the tax rate resolution, a resolution to void stale dated checks, and the transfer of auxiliary funds.

Ron Register suggested that the district join the Coalition for Adequacy and Equity, which continues to challenge the state on the unconstitutionality of the school funding system.

Board president’s report

Kal Zucker thanked everyone who worked on or voted for the school levy, and district staff for their dedication and acceptance of a one-year salary freeze. He congratulated Superintendent Dixon for her cover photo on December’s Phenomenal Women magazine—an acknowledgement of the district’s institution of the Equity Policy. Zucker also congratulated Ron Register on his appointment as the district’s legislative liaison. He announced that the Facilities Accountability Committee will report to the board in January.

Zucker reflected on the district’s accomplishments in 2016: passage of the levy, construction at Heights High, implementation of the strategic plan, institution of the Equity Policy, and an invoice to the state for the resources diverted from the district to charter and community schools and education choice vouchers.

Application for share of mitigation funds

Ron Register noted that Ohio is slated to receive $71 million in mitigation funds over the next 10 years, and that the district should apply for a share, which can be used to purchase or retrofit environmentally friendly school busses. The board endorsed the idea and Register will pursue it.

Upcoming meetings 

Upcoming meetings: Tuesday, Jan. 3, 7 p.m., organizational and regular meeting; Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., work session; Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., regular meeting; Tuesday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m., work session.

LWV Observer: Nancy Dietrich. 

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase.

These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

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Volume 10, Issue 2, Posted 11:52 AM, 01.14.2017