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What has Liberty ‘Learn’ed?


Published: Sun, January 22, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.
Download as PDF:
Liberty LSD Auditor of State Letter

02-07-2011 letter to Liberty LSD from Dave Yost - Auditor of State

WITH A FAILED CONVERSION SCHOOL AND FINANCIAL RECORDS THAT ARE UNAUDITABLE,

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP school district MUST CUT $1 million from next year’s budget

By Robert Guttersohn

rguttersohn@vindy.com

It's no secret that the Liberty Local School District has been in

financial turmoil for the better part of a decade.

Voters have rejected five levies from 2001 to 2010.

Not even the board of education members knew just how bad the district’s finances were when the state began to probe its books in 2011.

Last February, the state announced the financial records were such a mess that an audit on the 2010 budget was impossible.

Last April, the district’s treasurer stopped coming to board meetings and stopped responding to board inquiries. She resigned days before the district was placed under fiscal emergency May 26, 2011.

Adding to the tumult, board members learned that its two 2009 conversion school projects — LEARN and LEAD — did not stop the financial bleeding as had been promised.

LEARN and LEAD are conversion- school programs that were pursued by a board desperate for both a fiscal quick fix and academic success. What exactly was supposed to have happened is still debated today.

The conversion program was touted to double the per-pupil state funding for the 260 Liberty students projected to attend the conversion schools — bringing in an anticipated $1 million.

Instead, the plan yielded no additional revenue at a time when the district might have focused on alternative plans to balance its budget.

As pressures mounted in 2011, the school board was slow to answer questions posed by Liberty taxpayers.

Emails obtained by The Vindicator shed new light on a board seeking damage control.

“There is no benefit in explaining that at this time to the public in response to the ‘what is going on’ question,” wrote former board member Jeff Grinstein on May 12 to other members in advance of a community event.

When others on the board sought an investigation into the conversion schools, a majority of the board saw it as a distraction to the district’s progress.

“It is promoting a NEGATIVE image of Liberty schools and creates anxiety!” wrote board member Christine Flanagan. “Who would want to send their child there with all of this craziness!!!!”

THE IDEA

In 2008, Liberty of- ficials attended a presentation by Atty. Adam C. Miller, then based out of the Columbus office of Ulmer & Berne. Miller spoke on the benefits of opening a conversion school in the district. Records from the district indicate Treasurer Tracey Obermiyer and Superintendent Mark Lucas met with Miller on Sept. 8, 2008.

After the presentation, the district retained Miller to set up Liberty’s conversion- school program.

Miller, who now works for the Benesch law firm in Columbus, would not comment for this article, citing attorney-client privilege.

“They’re good people” is how he described the board of education to a Vindicator correspondent in Columbus. “It’s a tough situation.”

The plan was to have the public school district’s board sponsor the conversion schools. Those schools would lease rooms within Liberty’s school buildings but function as separate entities from the school district while competing for students. The conversion schools would then pay for the leased space, staff salaries and benefits and educational equipment.

The district had been hemorrhaging money since 2005 when E.J. Blott Elementary fell into academic watch. This triggered the state’s costly voucher program — Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship. It allows students at low-performing public schools to attend private schools with tuition paid by the district. Officials said EdChoice has cost Liberty $700,000 a year.

That cost is in addition to the annual loss of funds due to open enrollment, which has been in place in Ohio since 1993. In 2009, that cost to Liberty was $2 million.

Board members told The Vindicator what they have repeatedly said in public: By creating conversion schools, Miller and Obermiyer led the board to believe the district could begin to chip away at the deficit. The belief was it would double its per-pupil state foundation money via students attending the conversion school.

Former board President Diana DeVito explained it this way: If 100 of Liberty’s 1,500 students attended the conversion school, the district would continue to receive state funding for the 100 students. Plus the conversion school also would receive the same funding for the same students, in effect doubling the revenue.

In addition, board members said $225,000 in federal grants given annually to Liberty’s conversion schools could allow for devices such as iPads to be shared between conversion and non-conversion students, thus enhancing education for all.

When the administration and board members were told the district would benefit financially and academically, the plan received broad support.

On Jan. 13, 2009, the board authorized LEARN — Liberty Early Academic Resource Nest — to operate within E.J. Blott. By its second year in the fall of 2010, it had eight teachers on staff and received $908,330 in state funding and a $225,000 federal grant.

THE HAVEs AND HAVE-NOTS

The community- school-within-a-public-school idea enticed families right away.

When current board President Joe Nohra and his wife, Ann-Marie, moved to Liberty, they sought a school for their two sons. Admittedly, they looked elsewhere first. After attending a meeting about LEARN in the summer of 2009, both were impressed by the curriculum and enrolled their oldest son in the program.

After becoming a board member in 2010, however, Nohra began to realize there was a flip side to the conversion schools.

“It became the haves and the have-nots,” Nohra said. “You could feel the tension just walking into [Blott].”

He said students of Blott and the students of LEARN walked side-by-side into the school building. But when classes started, LEARN students had iPads and iPod Touches while the Blott students in the room next door did not. LEARN students took a field trip to the Canfield Fair; Blott students watched their peers load onto buses.

“We didn’t go out of our way to explain the differences to our students,” said Charleen Lazzeri, fourth-grade teacher and president of Liberty Association of School Employees. “But that was hard to ignore.”

In May 2009, the board approved another conversion school for the middle school called Liberty Exemplary Academic Design — LEAD. When it opened in fall 2010, it essentially served as a third separate school on the Liberty campus.

LEAD received $275,000 in federal grants and $619,000 from the state.

Throughout that time, board members contend they knew of the growing tension in their district.

As for the money, they were continually reassured by Obermiyer that the district was receiving the additional $1 million that made the conversion school plan fruitful.

In reality, payments to fund students attending school outside of Liberty increased from $2 million in 2009 to $2.2 million in 2010 and $2.9 million in 2011, according to the Liberty schools deficit report released in October.

“Every meeting, two or three board members would question [Obermiyer] on the financial gains,” Nohra said. “[She] kept telling us we’re on a guarantee. And we thought, ‘Well it’s two for one, we’ve got to keep this.’”

“We were told there were no worries and to just keep doing what we were doing,” Gloria Lang, former board member, said of Obermiyer and Miller. Lang resigned without explanation last September.

Stan Watson, Liberty superintendent since August 2010, said Obermiyer also reassured him.

“When I came here, and I was given the explanation of the financial background, I was very skeptical of that,” Watson said.

In early 2011, Liberty received letters from the state auditors and Ohio Department of Education outlining the district’s financial mess. Watson asked Doris Pearce, an ODE fiscal consultant assigned to the district since 2010, if the extra funding was indeed coming in.

Watson recalled the puzzled look on Pearce’s face when he explained to her the double-funding system he thought was occurring.

“She kind of validated what my suspicions were, that there was this double-payment business that didn’t take place,” Watson said.

In reality, by the end of 2011, the district was losing more than $1 million a year in state funding because of the 260 students who attended LEAD and LEARN, according to the official deficit report. But it also saved about $976,000 in employee costs for the 12 teachers who taught in LEARN and LEAD, Watson said.

“It was not detrimental financially, but it wasn’t the financial benefit it was purported to be,” Watson said.

DeVito said both Miller and Obermiyer reassured the board of the double funding so many times that there was no way the board could have misunderstood the plan.

Obermiyer — the treasurer at the conception of Liberty’s conversion schools — denied the claims made by board members and Watson of a double-reimbursement system.

“The board knew at best it was a break-even situation with [the conversion schools],” Obermiyer told The Vindicator last fall. In June 2011, two years into LEARN and 51 days after Obermiyer resigned, Liberty suspended the conversion schools’ operations.

FOGGY COMMUNICATION

It’s fair to say LEARN and LEAD and the financial mess left in their wake were not the sole reason Liberty fell into fiscal emergency last year.

But it is also fair to conclude the financial mirage created by the conversion school program distracted board members from taking other actions to deal with the district’s financial plight.

This is evident in letters and emails provided to The Vindicator and interviews with school officials, which paint a picture of the foggy communication between the entities and the community divide created by the conversion schools.

The first signal of trouble came from a letter from the state auditor to the district. In a February 2011 letter, Chief Auditor Martin Kubic called the district’s financial records “unauditable.”

This was followed by a more-detailed letter in March from the ODE to then-board President DeVito that claimed Obermiyer was not forwarding monthly reports.

For a year, the ODE said, financial reports that Obermiyer presented to the board were not reconciled with the district’s bank. An initial audit revealed the district’s deficit was at $2.5 million, making the district in danger of falling into fiscal emergency.

The board demanded answers from Obermiyer.

By then, board members said, she had stopped coming to board meetings, did not answer phone calls and did not keep regular working hours. Obermiyer told The Vindicator she was dealing with “serious health problems” during this time.

DeVito confirmed that Obermiyer did discuss health issues with her just before her resignation.

The board confronted her in a letter April 17, 2011, on the “profound lack of communication from your office.” The board requested a written response to that letter by May 2.

On April 29, Obermiyer resigned.

A week later, she was hired as a business consultant by LEARN and LEAD, a position she still holds today.

“I resigned for a better professional opportunity at that time,” she said. “When I left [Liberty], the books were in order.”

After her resignation, Treasurer James Wilson took over Obermiyer’s role.

“The books were in complete disarray,” Wilson said.

THE disarray

The state audit of the district’s financial records began in May 2011 and continues today as three auditors work to ascertain how money was spent in fiscal year 2011.

It wasn’t until last October that state auditors confirmed the Liberty school district was $1.9 million in the hole.

Dating back to May, emails among administrators and board members provide a sample of the audit’s early findings.

A May 20 email from Wilson said that he and auditors found Obermiyer used $2.3 million borrowed from the state to bolster the district’s financial outlook without telling the board or the financial consultants. The money came from the use of House Bill 264, a state loan for school districts to make energy-efficient improvements to their buildings. The authorization requires no vote from the board of education and is paid back by the savings in energy.

“I can say that I am more than overwhelmed at this point,” Wilson wrote in the May 20 email to Watson.

In June, the board found out the district had paid $126,223 in health-insurance claims for LEARN and LEAD employees.

“Since they were ‘their teachers,’ equity dictates that they should pay,” board member Jeff Grinstein wrote in a June 15 email. “I want our $$$$!!!”

In another email, then-board member Gloria Lang sought a full investigation into LEARN and LEAD.

“I said I would remain quiet until after graduation. Well that is over,” she wrote June 2, describing a visit earlier in the day with a community group.

“... I told them the truth, and I said that I want a complete investigation of Liberty, LEARN and LEAD and I want everything told to the public.”

In July, auditors found payments from the district and the conversion schools to Obermiyer.

“Never was she to be paid extra from the District or directly from LEARN,” Grinstein wrote.

In a Nov. 3 interview, Obermiyer said the same, that she never received payments from LEARN and LEAD, including overtime payments.

“I was a salaried employee,” she said. Her salary was $59,000 in 2011, district records show.

But public records obtained by The Vindicator and memos show:

An October 2009 payment from the district to Obermiyer for $4,920. A memo attached to the payment, the email says, references “16.4 days @ $300/day” and “conversion school.”

An April 2010 payment from LEARN payroll to Obermiyer for $3,269.64, with a memo referencing “LEARN.”

A July 2010 payment of $1,634 to Obermiyer with a memo referencing “CCIP/ARRA,” which are federal funds for educating students in poverty.

An October 2010 payment of $4,950 to Obermiyer with a memo referencing “LEAD set up.”

Obermiyer did not answer phone calls from The Vindicator for an additional interview to discuss the individual payments.

Even a working contract between LEAD, LEARN, the district and staff was never finalized.

A draft agreement between the district and LEARN, written by Miller, was dated Dec. 13, 2010 — almost a year and a half after the board authorized LEARN.

The conversion schools’ articles of incorporation — something all for- and non-profit corporations must file with the secretary of state — were not filed until May 18, 2011, two years after the board approved the schools.

Obermiyer said there was no service agreement because the “board refused to place it on their agenda.”

Watson countered that the draft was insufficient and written “as if someone was renting a space in a plaza for a business.”

Therefore, he refused to bring the draft to the agenda. By the time they began pursuing a rewrite, “everything blew up,” he said.

“It was an experiment that started with the best of intentions,” DeVito said in an interview. “But it soured by the second year. We took a shot; it didn’t work out.”

TO DISCLOSE OR NOT TO DISCLOSE

The communi- ty wanted answers after news spread of Obermiyer’s resignation and the district’s deficit. In emails, board members instructed one another on how to address the public.

In May, Grinstein sent an email to board members with a list of ways to respond to the public at the upcoming Liberty Relay for Life cancer fundraiser, admitting two intended omissions: “Obviously the details regarding the [House Bill] 264 money and the health-insurance funds are not on the list.”

The board also worked on ways to separate itself from the LEARN and LEAD conversion schools. By July, it seemed the majority of board members believed the best option was to lift the suspension of the sponsorship on the conversion schools, agree to a financial settlement and allow the schools to open elsewhere rather than deal with closing them.

“I continue to believe that the District will be better off if [LEAD and LEARN] get a new sponsor and continue, thereby relieving us of the responsibilities of a sponsor of a closed school,” Grinstein wrote in a July 28 email.

“To me, suspended or closed is a distraction. They are done in our buildings and that is all that matters. To rile people up with the distinction will only blur the message and reality that going forward, Liberty is unified for the benefit of our students.

“I would keep things quiet. This reminds me of something my father told many years ago ... stirring up the mud only makes the water cloudy; it does not make it less wet.”

On Sept. 6, the board voted to accept a $250,000 payment to settle with LEARN and LEAD.

Board members said they feared the LEAD and LEARN attorneys would drag the cash-strapped district to court if the district simply closed the conversion schools. Instead, lifting the suspension allowed the Portage County Educational Services Center to take over as the community schools’ sponsor.

On Oct. 14, 38 days later, Portage ESC also suspended the schools’ operations due to a lack of students and lack of a place to teach them.

TODAY

Today, Portage ESC is keeping LEARN and LEAD suspended as the schools seek a building near Akron in which to teach classes.

All of the teachers who taught for the conversion schools have returned to work in the Liberty district, implementing the same teaching tactics that made the conversion schools academically successful.

In August, the state rated E.J. Blott Elementary — the school that fell into academic watch and started the $700,000-per-year draining of school funding — as excellent.

Nevertheless, the cash-strapped district faces $1 million in cuts to be announced at Monday’s board meeting.


Comments

1repeaters(196 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Am i supposed to feel 'sympathetic' for this board after reading this article.....I think 'not.' The article states 'all' the levies that failled to pass, yet the taxes in Liberty are 37% higher than the next highest community in the County. Which translates into, 'others have done a lot better with less.' "Throwing the students under the bus, and daring the taxpayers to run them over", has been the favorite tatic for ALL the school boards in the Valley. But in this case, the taxpayers were thrown under the bus by a lying, deceiving, board that added two, new districts (by breaking up the current school district) without taxpayer approval or knowledge.....the taxpayers were kept completely in the dark. You try not reconcilling with your bank, and see how long it takes before they are 'knocking on your door.' The state board needs to have a special election with all new candidates so the current board can be removed. This inept board, the majority of which are currently employed educators, has approved irresponsible actions completely under the radar of the community it took an oath to serve, and deserves "NO RESPECT" and no more levy money..

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2UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

What Liberty BOE has learned is how to waste taxpayer property tax money without any consequences! They should all resign for what they did and the money they wasted.

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3fcb(318 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Start making all the families of students who go to Liberty schools that either don't live in the township or live in apartments,townhouses,ect. Their are several apartment complexes in Liberty where it takes two school buses to pick up those students in each complex.All those families are sending their children to Liberty schools and are not paying for it!! Also,watch the amount of cars that drop off children at the schools and then follow them back into the city of Youngstown.I have done this.You will be surprised.There is no policing of this.If you don't pay for the education of your child,then they should not be allowed to go to the schools. You can forget about asking the residents for more money until you get basic problems fixed.

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4lib(12 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Just like Liberty Local School District never publicly advertised an open position on the board due to the resignation of Gloria Lang, the board and administration failed to get anything in writing during this whole “Lead and Learn” fiasco. The board then failed to get a letter of credit for the additional $100,000 promised after the $250K payment was negotiated. When we asked at a board meeting about a letter of credit to ensure the $100K be paid, we were told that they did not need it but they would get the money for sure. Well, now we learn that the $100K is in question. Obviously, the BOE negotiated the $250K money and the verbally promised $100K money because they did not want to go to court since they had nothing in writing. Attorney Grinstein, a former board member, was praised for these negotiations but then decided not to run again for the board. Do these people do everything with a handshake and a smile? It is time that the public realize that students were “chosen” to attend the private school within the public school building and everything else with the administration and board is done in secret and the public is duped every time. They now say that they were lied to by people who ran “Lead and Learn” but they have no written documentation proving it. This is the 21st century. Who runs a business like this? They wasted the public’s money and now will probably come to us for more money through another levy. Don’t buy it. They need to learn the hard way how to manage money and to be more transparent. It is obvious from the emails in the Vindicator that people in charge are hiding a lot of dirt. Please get involved and speak your opinion.
And, did you know that particularly everyone in the district (teachers, bus drivers, tutors, cafeteria workers) is working under a 2008 contract that contains a “Cadillac health plan.” I am sure the Board that is supposedly currently negotiating will not be like Niles and stand firm but will give them an even better “Mercedes” plan even though they are broke. Get involved. Come to the board meeting Monday night.

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5gdog4766(1406 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Charter schools (which Kasich loves) are a total sham and farce. They need regulated and controlled. They are a failure in education and just siphon off taxpayers money.

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6lib(12 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

"Lead and Learn" were not charter schools. They were conversion community schools sponsored by the Liberty Local School District. The Board thought they were going to get paid twice to educate the same select students. This was a deal too good to be true and it turned out not to be true. The problem was with the negligence of the Board and administration.

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7Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

"Conversion Schools" and "Community Schools" are the Ohio Dept. of Education euphemisms for "charter schools." These schools were, in fact, charter schools.
School districts have just as much right to sponsor a charter school as the Ursuline nuns or the guy who runs a gas station down the street.

The comments so far have chosen to ignore the part that state policy played in this fiasco. Because E.J. Blott had temporary low scores on an elementary standardized test, the state forced Liberty residents to pay tuition to St. Rose, Ursuline, and other private schools for students ENTIRE remaining k-12 education. (Despite the fact that there was nothing wrong with the scores in the middle or high school.) As these students advanced, the costs became greater as they entered high school.
Then in defense, Liberty tried this charter school nonsense, in which the state would supply them with additional funds as they do other charter schools.
The state had a lot of nerve to then come in and make fiscal accusations against this district.

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8repeaters(196 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Was it the State of Ohio's fault that LLSD went into 'Academic Watch' 2 out of 3 years or the boards? Who ran the local district then, the State of Ohio or the LLSD school board? Who's 'academic plan' did the board approve even when the 'ship of state' faltered causing the first academic watch rating? So, was it the state's policy or the 'blind leading the blind?'

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9FYI41(5 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Its not just Liberty schools that are in this situation, many schools are in fiscal emergency. Open enrollment students need to be required to pay some type of tuition to attend a school that is not in their district. If you dont like it, then go to your own school in your district!!! You chose to live there so then you chose that school district. Open your eyes Liberty!!! Get those open enrollment students to start paying!!!! The majority of your students are open enrollment students, Let them pay!!!

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10nolongerdemocrat(4 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

This is where our tax dollars go. To a board of liars. There is a petition that is being signed that board members should be voted on by taxpayers.

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11Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

The district was not in Academic Watch, one elementary school was. For a short time. Because they accepted open enrollment students -- another state policy.

However to blame today's problems on open enrollment students is not accurate. After that Liberty moved to a stricter open enrollment policy, in which paticipating students must register in K or 1st grade. Others are denied. (And other Trumbull County districts opened enrollment, drawing Youngstown students away from Liberty -- Hubbard, Niles, etc.)

Liberty, refusing to face the changing demographics of the township is not going to help.

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12FYI41(5 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

EDUCATION VOTER,...... WHERE ARE YOU GETTING YOUR INFO FROM??? MY KID GOES TO LIBERTY AN I WILL TELL YOU HALF OF THE STUDENTS ARE OPEN ENROLLMENT AN HERE I AM PAYING THE DAMN HIGH TAXES!!!!!!! GET YOUR INFO STRAIGHT!!!!! IF THEY PASS A LEVY, I HAVE TO PAY A LOT MORE THEN THE OPEN ENROLLMENT STUDENTS PARENTS DO!!! I DONT UNDERSTAND WHY THESE STUDENTS DO NOT GO TO THE SCHOOL IN THEIR OWN DISTRICT, THEIR PARENTS CHOSE TO LIVE THERE. IF THEY DO NOT LIKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT WHERE THEY LIVE, THEN MOVE TO A DISTRICT YOU ARE PLEASED WITH, AN PAY THE TAXES JUST LIKE THE REST OF US HAVE TO DO.

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13lib(12 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Why is the board and the administration constantly trying to blame others for your incompetence? When the state came in because of your fiscal irresponsibility, the chairman said that the biggest problem with school districts in trouble is their denial that they have a problem. The arrogance of the administration and board and the constant denial of their problems have lead to the current problems we now have. Quit blaming everyone else. Should we talk about giving all your employees a "Cadillac" health plan that the state has told you is not in keeping with the rest of the state. Why won't you listen to anyone? Hopefully, the state and the voters will make you listen. We already have the highest taxes in Trumbull County. The majority of school districts in Ohio are not in your shape and they don't blame others for their problems.

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14nolongerdemocrat(4 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

My children went to Liberty then I put them in LEARN and LEAD. When those schools were gone I took them out of Liberty. We can't say all the schools are the same because they are not. My home has been for sale in Liberty for 3 years. Why: 1. Nobody likes the school district. 2. Taxes are way to high. It is amazing how 3 of the board members now had their children in the LEARN program and now they are Liberty board members it is all one click. There will not be a yes vote for any levy at liberty from me. And last those teachers that called the "haves and have nots" is not professional at all. That is very low to say that, Those schools were not the students fault. It was most of the teachers that turned out to be bitter. So, I agree with some of the other comments. Stop blaming others and look at the board and the administration. Shame on you!

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15Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

To FYI 41:
Every district must file a form called a "Five Year Forecast" which you can google.
Here's Liberty's:
ftp://ftp.ode.state.oh.us/geodoc/5-yrForecast/2011%20OCT%20Assumptions%20-%20FY12/Liberty-050195.pdf
On page 6, you will see that their state foundation money is about $6,000. That is what Youngstown City Schools must pay for each open enrollment student in tuition.
On page 8, you will see in district revenues that Liberty gets $600,000. in open enrollment money. That means there are about 100 open enrollment students.
Liberty enrollment usually runs at 14,000 plus students.

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16Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

And FYI, this is from a Tribune Chronicle article from Oct. 30:
http://www.tribtoday.com/page/content...
Oct. 30th Tribune Review:
"Nonresidential students, the majority of whom live in Youngstown, who were attending Liberty at the time, will be permitted to continue doing so, Liberty treasurer James Wilson said. However, the district is no longer accepting new open enrollment students.
Liberty School Board of Education president Diana M. DeVito said although her vote reflected what residents wanted and made clear through the results of a random, districtwide survey, she doesn't believe that the district should abandon open enrollment altogether.
"There's this perception that any behavior problems we have are because of nonresidential students," she said. "But we also did an internal survey that proved that was not the case at all, and that most of our behavioral problems did not come from open enrollment students, but from residential students."

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17Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Sorry about my post above, Liberty's enrollment is 1,400. I accidently added a zero. However, as you see, open enrollment students are still 1 in 14.

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18lib(12 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

The former board president who wasted money and now is complaining that they have not had new revenue since 1995, claims that she has moved on and has no secrets. Question for Diane? Do you realize that taxpayers pay one of the highest rates in Trumbull County? Are you negotiating another ridiculous contract? Are you keeping secrets about this contract? Do you think you should apologize for wasting the taxpayers money? As part of the "Lead and Learn" fiasco, don't you think you should do us all a favor and resign? Do you think you and Flannagan should forget traveling to Columbus or pay for it yourself since we are broke and will continue to be broke? And, finally, do you really think anyone in this community will vote for a new levy? No way. More cuts coming. How can you move on? Are you in denial or just arrogant about your performance as a board member? Great job Vindicator. I hope they continue to expose the truth and secrets that Diane doesn't think exist.

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19lib(12 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Hey, Diane, person who complains about no new revenue. What did you do with the $1.3 million stimulus money you received? Can we see what's in your notebook that you referred to?

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20Politico(27 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

A a Liberty resident, I will not vote for ANY levy for the schools until there is clear evidence that they have a grip on their fiances. Also, I have a serious problem with current or former teachers serving on school boards. Too much conflict of interest and too much union sympathy. I have NO confidence that these people would make the hard decisions necessary when it goes against the union positions or their friends. They serve the taxpayers and NOT the teacher's unions. Also, I would NEVER approve a union contract that requires arbitration. Having closely watching cases that have gone to arbitration in this area for the past years, the arbitrator rarely rules on the side of management even in cases where the management is clearly in the right.

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21Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Politico
The names I recognize from the field of education are administrators, not teachers, not union members, not sympathizers with unions.
Secondly, c'mon. You say "...I would never approve a union contract that requires arbitration." No kidd'n. The participants in contract negotiations go over the language repeatedly to try to make it as clear as possible. These arbitration cases occur when their attempts are not successful, or when a Board of Education decides to ignore their own agreement.

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22Education_Voter(841 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Curious about taxes, and thinking about Trumbull County. Are there townships in Trumbull County with comparable population and business? I know that Warren, Niles, etc. are populated, but they are cities and thus can collect taxes for services without having to rely solely on property taxes.

How about comparing Liberty's taxes with comparable townships in Mahoning County? How about with Austintown, Canfield, etc.?

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23commyliberal(94 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Heads up about Open Enrollment Students!
Each open enrollment student BRINGS $5,700 of funds with them to the district. The money follows the student. These students are probably bringing in MORE money than a Liberty resident student does to the district through the taxes paid by levies, especially if a levy has not been passed since 1995. The district can cherry pick students from Youngstown and take the ones who dont need extra services (special education).

Austintown School District GENERATES $570,000 in extra income per 100 open enrollment students. This is how we stay in the black without having to go back to the voters for a NEW levy. Our last new levy was in 1996.

Liberty residents, get educated and demand more form your BoE and district.

My question to the State of Ohio is: How can one person (not a BoE) sign for a $100,00 loan that the district is on the hook to pay? Per Vindy article, the treasurer signed on for a loan that was supposed to be used to upgrade buildings to make them more energy efficient and then used that money to keep up the appearance that the state was reimbursing the district for expenses related to the Lead & Learn school. That policy needs to change if it is what really happened.

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242muchtax(307 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Whatever person signed for that 100,000 loan that was not used for what it was intended for the treasurer in this case should goto jail. Liberty is a mess. By the way Canfield and Poland do not accept open enrollment. I have a friend that pays almost 6000.00 a yr to libery and has no kids. It sounds like he will have to out another 6000.00 to put his kids through catholic schools! I am sure the golden benefits and retirement in the early 50's are not cheap either! I calculated a kindergarden teacher @ 55.00 an hr plus benefits!

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25ROBERT(137 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank goodness that the BOE in Ytown is around or the Liberty BOE would be the worst in the world.

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