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Wilmington City Schools' Board of Education Presentation February 26, 2024

Updated: Feb 28



In 2016, Wilmington passed our schools’ levy by 52%, yet for the past 3 years our levy has failed 5 times.


I don’t believe it has failed because our community doesn’t support our children or paying taxes, since the tax was lowered once, then removed altogether for seniors, and still JFS renewed their child protection levy by 58%. I think our community is voting against you, or at least their idea of you.


So for the past year, I’ve worked to understand why our community votes against our schools and what our schools can do to improve. Through this I’ve said challenging things to both sides with the intentions of reconciling our issues. However, I understand from our last school board meeting that some things I’ve said have been misunderstood, so I thought it would be valuable to clarifying a few.


THE FACTS


I spoke at city council on January 4th and said “despite our school board announcing that there would be student fees and staff cuts if our levy failed again, not a single parent or teacher showed up to our many outreach events over the summer, or even the events others put on.”


You responded that you would like me to “use the facts”, because there actually were a handful of people who manned a booth at the Corn Festival in September, and another handful who stood downtown on election night in November. But the fact is, neither September nor November are in the summer. And while I understand being proud of our efforts, because I too was at the Corn Festival and took a $10k hit helping our homeless shelter, our focus has to be on getting better, because the board of elections doesn’t pass out participation awards. Our community will eventually need to pass our levy for the remaining funds property taxes didn’t cover so our schools can continue to operate.


I think the most important fact however, is that we are better than this. As a community we are better than our efforts over the past 3 years. And I’m going to continue to remind and challenge people of this fact. That is the meaning of the phrase, “we earn our pride”. It’s not a statement about what we need to do, it’s a reminder of who we are, our identity, and from that, how we, as Wilmington, work to better our community.


WORK TOGETHER


At our last school board meeting you also wanted me to “work together” with our schools so I thought I would provide context.


At the beginning of 2023, I recorded interviews with 7 leaders from our schools responding to community concerns in order to highlight our schools’ goodness.


From that, I stumbled into the first levy committee meeting where it was decided there should be a social media presence. The people there who manage social media for our schools did not volunteer, nor did people who manage social media for a living, so after some time, I volunteered—and I don’t even have social media, so I had to pay my employee to help our schools.


Then after we lost the levy, I wanted to get better, so I made a survey and got 60 responses from residents, parents, and teachers that I presented to school board.


I also wanted to change, so last summer we posted on social media, what I thought was very mundane, saying yard signs don’t “work” people do, so let’s do the right work to engage the concerns of people who are actually voting. And you would have thought, based on your response, that I posted explicit content on our schools’ page. You then accused me of not collaborating, even though the reality was no one else offered to help you, and in the process you left one of your best friends feeling terrible and worthless.


But what really caused me to step away, was when you slide across the table a PDF you got off the internet on how to pass a levy, to say nothing of the 60 people who told you exactly what changes they thought could make things better. In that moment I knew no matter what anyone did, you were leading us to lose. But what hurt the most, was knowing I was losing you as a friend.


And while I’m sure we both view that entire situation differently, I think it says all that needs to be said that I continued to work for your good and brought reconciliation to the table time and time again, and you still haven’t even responded to my email from over 6-months ago. And when you did approach me, it wasn’t to heal what was broken, it was to take the website and social media I created for you.


So it isn’t me, who won’t “work together”, but it is me who won’t be lead to do the same things that have caused us to fail because that is foolishness. And it is me who won’t accept disrespect, because no one wins in relationships like that, and I want us to win.


So I’m going to stand my ground for a higher standard. Not just between you and I, but between you and our community, and our community and you. It’s crazy how no matter what good things I say about you, there are people, and you can read the comments on our posts, who believe the only way forward is for all of you to be fired. I am simply not like that. What I want is reconciliation—to do the hard work and make the real changes required to truly move forward as a community and school.


DEFINE REALITY


I know I’m going long, but this last thing is important. When I spoke at school board last November, I said “I’ve heard stories of teachers being fired for silly reasons”, and you responded that you seriously doubt that given regulations. And to be fair, you might be right, but what I said was “I’ve heard stories”, and I’ve heard these stories from members of your senior teaching staff.


I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to bring their concerns to you the source, but when they are not mature enough to do so and content with bitterness, you are still our leaders, and it is still your responsibility to define reality by having your ear to the ground and getting in front of misinformation and unresolved frustrations.


I have personally endured more than my fair share of ignorant and ill intent people in this town, but instead of fight with them, I have decided to level up. And what I’ve learned is when you simply refuse to hide your light, you prove that all their finger-pointing really does is lead people they have trapped in their darkness straight to the light. And you not only gain followers and respect, but you make your community a better place to live.


My point is this, there is no reason why someone shouldn’t scroll our schools’ social media and see people like Nikki Quallen saying, “I know Cleveland ranked us lower 500s out of 600 in Ohio, and while we make no excuses, did you know we improved test scores in a few areas by over 10% last year? Or apart from that, that 50% of our students are on free and reduced lunch? So please, let us give you a tour of our facilities so you can see our standards of excellence, and how you can actually make a difference in our rankings, not by voting no, but by helping a real student in our community.“


Another idea: we have 5 highly trafficked buildings in our town, it would cost virtually nothing to have giant banners outside with new messages every month like, “Wilmington High School receives grant for vape detectors, staff and students report better educational environment.”


I think the reason we don’t have pride in our schools is that our schools don’t have pride in themselves, and on the flip side, the reason we don’t see community values reflected in our schools is because our community isn’t involved in our schools outside of their own children and extracurriculars.


I commend you for planning to create a community group to help oversee our schools’ budget, but the reality is our community already has this power by who they vote for school board, and if they want more input, they can speak at monthly school board meetings, or just email our schools anytime. So if our community wants the perception of change, I think the group is a great idea, but if they want real change, let’s challenge them to step up. 


THANK YOU


I got your newsletter in the mail a few weeks ago like many people did and what I loved most about it was the fact that it isn’t something the News Journal made for you, it isn’t something I made for you, it isn’t even something the levy committee made for you, it’s something you took the time, effort, and money to make and distribute yourself.


I have challenged you from the beginning that having people come to your office hours or subscribe to your emails is not enough, you have to go to them, and you are finally doing that and showing responsibility for your role in our community. And for that, I am so extremely thankful and proud of you, and I think our community should be thankful and proud of you as well.

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