Interview By: Randy Lewis
October, 07, 2009
Follows are short responses to the six questions I was asked from The Voice, by Randy. Included with these answers is a PDF document of detailed answers for each AND a series of detailed notes of support for those answers.
Why would you be a good school board member?
I go into details in the formal answers to these questions in the PDF document on pages 1 and 2.
In short, using bullet form, I –
• … understand my role as a Board Member
• … am fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money
• … work toward transparency in all the board does
• … am concerned with the welfare and success of every student
• … do my homework and come prepared to meetings to make informed decisions
• … am always available to answers your questions
• … focus on academic improvement for all students
• … am concerned with offering well-rounded programs for all students through extra-curricular activities, including sports and other programs.
• … remember “it is about ALL of our children and their education”
What's more important, academics or sports?
I go into details in the formal answers to these questions in the PDF document on pages 3 through 5.
The short answer is clearly academics; as mandated by law. With that said, sports, as well as all the other extra-curricular activities are important additions to the education process offered by any school district.
Extra-curricular activities offer students opportunities outside of the classroom that make our students well rounded. Often they offer an avenue of scholarships allowing our students to go to college.
They help identify the school and build camaraderie and school spirit within the school body and the community at large.
As beneficial as extra-curricular activities are, they are not required activities that are part of the public school curriculum and will not help a student graduate from high school. The law points out that 99.5% of all public funding for schools MUST go to public education and 1/2 of 1% (0.5%) can go to all extra-curricular activities.
So again, the short answer is the need to focus on the academic achievements and process of preparing every student to become successful citizens of society. Academics is clearly more important than sports.
What is your opinion of Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli's administration?
I go into details in the formal answers to these questions in the PDF document on pages 6 through 15. This question requires a lot of clarification and I would ask every person who reads this short answer read the detailed explanation. It will explain many of the changes that as occurred over the last year and a half under Superintendent Lolli’s leadership.
Short answer: Concerning this question, only the Superintendent and Treasurer are direct employees of the Collective Board of Education. As such, it is the board’s job to set goals and rate the performance of these two employees yearly. This has not been done by the collective, whole, board during the Superintendent’s time with the school district.
I believe the Superintendent’s performance needs to be based on three processes:
1. Meet the goals set by the Board of Education
2. Drive the academic improvement of the schools of Monroe Local School District
3. Implement, modify, improve, and review programs currently in place or create new programs that better the performance of the academic progress of all students of Monroe.
Based on these three processes, I believe the Superintendent is moving us in the direct direction – albeit it a slow process.
As for the administrative staff of the Superintendent, I believe that since they do not fall under the direction of the Board of Education, I can’t comment on the individual performance of any person. However, my questions concerning the administration should be focuses on issues like, “How is hiring this individual add to the vision and direction of the educational process of our students?”, “Is this within the budget?”, “Is the cost of this new position worth the benefits to the school?”, and so on.
So concerning the administrative staff, I don’t believe the Board should interact directly with them or comment on their abilities. That falls under the purview and direction of the Superintendent only.
How sound is the school district financially, in your opinion?
I go into details in the formal answers to these questions in the PDF document on pages 16 through 18. Again, this is a complex issue that needs to be answered in detail and I encourage each reader to review my opinions on this topic in the attached document. I have many notes related to this topic in that document as well.
The short answer is we are barely, “staying afloat in a sea of funding.” We live from month-to-month with NO reserve for emergencies or to keep us fiscally sound. We had to borrow over $1.1 million dollars two years ago to stay “above water”.
In addition to this, we have several expenses that are NOT in the General fund – day-to-day expenses. These include the $4.6 million US dollars still owed on a 24 year loan for the Football Stadium and complex, or the more recent $340,000, 5 year loan to repair the Primary building’s roof. We have no reserve set aside to pay these debts. These are not being paid through levy money that was approved by the public. These are not being paid by money being set aside through taxpayer approved money. These expenses are coming out the money’s raised through assorted avenues, including Open Enrollment money and the taxpayer approved taxes.
Although our schools continue to grow in population and we are running out of room to house them, we have no reserve set aside to prepare for this growth. We still need to purchase items like books, desks, and indirect costs – room to feed our students, more employees and all related expenses.
We typically collect $700,000 to over $1.0 million dollars in additional revenues each through property taxes; yet we tend to spend every dollar of it. None of this increase in revenues from permanent levies is being set aside for future needs. There is no money set aside, even for a simple issue like resurfacing the parking lot or shoring up the retention ponds. That money has to come from the general fund resources, or a loan.
What should the school district do about the proposed Coke making facility (Suncoke)?
I go into details in the formal answers to these questions in the PDF document on page19.
From the school perspective, the Board should be concerned with the health and welfare of our students and employees who spent their time at the school building.
The board addressed these concerns in a letter of non-support for the Coke plant that was sent to the Middletown city council during the hearings, last spring.
Overall, this is a community issue that needs to be handled by the Monroe City Council, Butler County, the State of Ohio, and the U.S. Federal government. These are the regulatory agencies that are empowered with enforcement and licenses.
I would state, that if the plant goes in, the school should always be vigilant in reporting problems experienced by the staff and students relative to the operation of the plant. One way is to have monitors placed around the school property that could be read by the school. In fact, this could become an excellent project for the school and incorporated into the science curriculum.
Do you believe in communicating to the community thru blogs, discussion threads or other internet based communication?
I go into details in the formal answers to these questions in the PDF document on pages 20 and 21.
Blogs, discussion threads and other electronic communication methods – email and others, are all viable methods of exchanging information. However, unless the blog is an ‘official’ method of communication under the direct control of the School, it can’t be used as the ‘official’ source of information.
As a citizen of Monroe, albeit a member of the board of education as well, I have actively participated in online communication. This includes answering people’s questions by email and here on the Voice. However, my answers do not, nor can they, represent the ‘official’ position of the board of education.
I try to make sure that my answers are accurate and detailed; stating references and sources. I will continue to do so as an elected official and citizen of Monroe.
However, it is important for people to validate the source of information that they receive. They should ask for supporting documentation that will support someone’s post (statement). This is especially true when asking a representative a question about some action taken by the body. They should always question when a person interjects personal opinions; when embellished with comments like … “I would have, could have …”
A powerful use of electronic medium is in obtaining other people’s opinions and questions that if read by a member of the board, should be passed on to the Superintendent or Treasurer for clarification. If the board member knows the answer, they should state facts only in answer to the question.
So, I clearly support and use communicating with the public through public electronic methods.
To view Mr. Irwin's complete answers to the interview questions see the links below
Michale Irwin's Interview With MainStreetMonroe.com
Michale Irwin's Answer To The Substitute Levy
Discuss in The Voice Q & A With Monroe School Board Candidate Michael Irwin