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Westlake Board of Ed Opts for 5.4-Mill Levy for November Ballot

Failure could mean eliminating 30 additional teaching position and additional cuts.

Westlake Board of Education. Photo credit: Patch file photo
Westlake Board of Education. Photo credit: Patch file photo

The Westlake Board of Education approved placing a 5.4-mill operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot at July 30 meeting.
If approved, the levy would cost a homeowner $15.75 per month per $100,000 of market value.

In May, a 5.9-mill levy failed by just 44 votes. After the narrow defeat the district opted not to seek an August ballot, but made about $1 million in cuts and sought community feedback about how best to proceed.

The district has already cut $5 million over the past three years, the equivalent of 10 percent of its budget.  

This year, cuts included eliminating 19 positions and further reducing transportation services: No one living within 1 mile of their home school will receive transportation services in the coming school year.

The district is taking measures to control costs, including changes to employee insurance and a move to a health care purchasing consortium that saved more than $1 million annually. Last year, a 5 percent pay reduction was instituted for all new administrators. Earlier this year, teachers agreed to a 0 percent pay scale increase and a 2.5 percent decrease in the second year of the new contract, saving more than $5 million. Recently, classified staff agreed to a two-year wage freeze. All employees’ insurance contributions rose by 50 percent for the first time.

“This levy is critical for the future of Westlake Schools,” said Westlake Board of Education President Thomas Mays. “We listened to the community and we believe this is our best option to keep Westlake excellent.”

After community input, the November levy request was reduced to 5.4 mills and would be the first operating levy in seven years. The levy will allow current programming to remain.

“Our schools reflect our community’s values as defined through our Continuous Improvement Plan,” Superintendent Dr. Daniel J. Keenan Jr. said. “Great schools make great communities. We understand the importance of providing the schools our community expects while being fiscally responsible. Even with this levy, Westlake will remain in the bottom 25 percent of school taxes in Cuyahoga County and will ensure great schools for a great community.”

If the levy fails in November, Dr. Keenan indicated he will recommend another $2.2 million in cuts, which may include eliminating 30-plus teaching positions and seven to 10 non-teaching positions; imposing additional transportation cuts; eliminating access to school buildings after hours; either significantly increasing tuition for all-day kindergarten or eliminating all-day kindergarten; reducing athletics, music and arts offerings or imposing significant pay-to-participate costs; cutting AP offerings; and delaying or eliminating International Baccalaureate programs.

The Westlake Schools have consistently been recognized as one of the top districts in Ohio. Of the nine Ohio school buildings recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools in 2013, two are part of the Westlake City Schools.
dan August 16, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Steve, The ODE scores all the districts, every year. Joe is correct (look it up), we have lower scores than Avon Lake, Bay Village, and Rocky River (highest in the area). I will even help you. Here is the web address: http://education.ohio.gov/. Staff salaries and education levels are available at the state of Ohio treasurer’s office website. Here is that address: http://www.tos.ohio.gov/Transparency_Teacher.aspx. Now you can download the information and make an informed conclusion. Every homeowner in this city should do the same thing. Joe and LO are correct in stating that we should all inform the masses of this information.
Steve Novak August 16, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Per education.ohio.gov, in the first link, Westlake compares similarly to comparable districts. http://ilrc.ode.state.oh.us/Districts/Report.asp?Dssid=5F47A9F0440DF365871283845E82E72B&desc=D.2.1 - Proficiency Test Results (Similar Districts)&str=045062,Westlake City,Cuyahoga County In this second link of high performing districts, the districts of Avon, Bay Village and Rocky River are all about the same as Westlake. What am I missing? Where is this discrepancy? Please be specific and cite a website as your previous post just is a general website and provides no link to actual data. http://ilrc.ode.state.oh.us/Districts/Report.asp?Dssid=E21F4203440BB7054068CA8286C72BB6&desc=D.2.3 - High Performing Districts&str=045062,Westlake City,Cuyahoga County
Steve Novak August 16, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Per your other website (http://www.tos.ohio.gov/Transparency_Teacher.aspx), I downloaded the entire 2011-2012 teacher spreadsheet for Ohio. As I suspected, out of the 97 teachers in Westlake - 82 of them have Masters. Bay Village has 55 teachers - 41 with Masters. Rocky River has 56 teachers - 45 with Masters. Since teachers with Masters degrees earn more than Bachelors and Westlake has a higher % of teachers with Masters, wouldn't it make sense based on the current compensation structure that our teachers are paid more? So I have used the websites provided by others and proven essentially our district performs just as well as neighboring communities and we have a higher % of Masters degrees accounting for higher compensation. Can those opposed just be honest and say they don't want to pay anymore taxes and not make it out that the district is horribly mismangaged and is not capable of education the children of the city? Your own websites are proving you wrong. And if you disagree, please provide specific links from these websites and not just the general website.
Duane Gibson August 16, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Steve, I don't think it's possible for them to admit that. No one told them that at the Tea Party meeting! What they won't tell you is that while the School Board ran a limited campaign, the Tea Party zealots, led by you know who on the Board, ran a very aggressive campaign to squash the levy. WOW, what a great job. You won by 44 votes. Here's some numbers to crunch .......6196 people voted in May, and you secured 3120 votes. For the bond issue, 9189 people voted. Lastly in Nov. 2011, approx. 25,550 people voted (for School Board members). Do you really think that you can garner 12, 776 voters against the levy? You can't do it running your stealth anti-school board campaign. Even with the help of you know who on the School Board. I'll post more concerning your "facts" as the Tea Party tells it later.
Duane Gibson August 16, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Before I leave, Gail used the term "trolls". You came back attacking her weight, appearance, intelligence, and possibly her economic standing. WOW....... at least she has the courage to post with her name, and not some hide behind "tag". Interestingly enough, I secured the definition for troll, as used in slang on the internet: "One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers." As was stated earlier by someone.......Spot on Gail.
Duane Gibson August 16, 2013 at 10:17 PM
To help understand the onslaught of statistics that will be spouted off by the "Google search experts", read this first: http://www.amazon.com/How-Lie-Statistics-Darrell-Huff/dp/0393310728
Joseph Smith August 16, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Simple math seems to be a problem for you guys. Westlake has 174 masters degrees with 244 teachers that is 71.3%. Rocky River has 107 masters with 148 base that is 72.2% (higher), Bay 111/149 74.5% (higher), Avon Lake 178/212 83.9% (higher), and North Olmsted 205/239 85.8% (with 4 doctorates). All are excellent or excellent with distinction. Avon Lake, Bay Village, and Rocky River all have higher ODE scores. We pay $6,500 more for each teacher than our next closest neighboring city. Pay more with lower scores and less education.
Steve Novak August 16, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Joseph, no I am quite good with math. I have completed four semesters in Calculus during college. I just used the website that you and your friends have cited for your facts. If you are so certain of these facts, please cite an actual website link where you received this information. I used the website that was provided by Dan who is on your side of the argument. So basically you are saying that the facts from this website are incorrect and should not be trusted. I can accept that statement as well.
Joseph Smith August 16, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Nothing that you say alters the fact that we overpay our teachers at the cost of services to our children. Westlake teachers receive on average $75,000 annually compared to $68,000 for our next closest neighbor. On top of that, the average salary is $3,000 higher than the median household income in Westlake. If you don’t like average to median, then compare median to median which is even worst as the district’s median income is $77,500 compared to the less than $72,000 for the median household (two wage earners in households). The district attempts to deceive the public by saying there is a freeze and a cut, but never mentions the step increases that offset any reduction. As stated many times, the district is upside down on every measurable metric.
Joseph Smith August 16, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Steve, You think we have 97 teachers in Westlake? Teaching assignment is the classification and there are 244.
Joseph Smith August 16, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Steve, if you are so good at math then you would know that 97 teachers in a district of 4,000 kids would be a ratio of 41 students to 1 teacher. Does that seem realistic for this community? I believe the real ratio is closer to 17:1. That would be 235 teachers. Hmmmm, maybe the 244 number is accurate. With your results in the argument, you may be entitled to a refund for those Calculus classes.
Roger August 17, 2013 at 07:19 AM
@Duane – Troll “a person who lives or sleeps in a park or under a viaduct or bridge, as a bag lady or derelict.” – dictionary.com. Gail has butchered our language and resorts to name calling when her positions are challenged. You are the same type of bully. If you slap a man in the face, don’t be surprised if he knocks you out. In the case of Gail that is exactly what happened (verbally speaking, I am not condoning or supporting violence). I read all three of your posts and you provided exactly ZERO facts supporting increased funding. Steve apparently purposefully posted false information related to our teaching staff. I assume that was his intent as he has taken four whole Calculus classes in college (perhaps it was the same one, taken four times). John supports cutting services from our kids so that teachers can get more raises. Tom (a lawyers) believes that the law requires levies (where is that written?). Gail, well nobody can understand a sentence that woman writes. Yeah, your side is well represented on this blog.
LO August 17, 2013 at 09:04 AM
Getting back to all of you . I have said from the beginning. Who cares what other cities do . The fact is Westlake needs to make due with the budget they have. The economic climate in this 21st century dictates that no more doing business they way it used to be done. Residents cannot afford another tax hike and are tired of being cash cows. All of you that think that the levy should be passed . here is my challenge . why don't you all form a group to have 15000 residents who think like you and fund an open ended account so that the BOE can just withdraw money whenever they desire and do not need to account for it . That would save the rest of us from your rediclous notion that never having to stay within a budget like everyone else is a good thing . i bet not any of you will put your money where your mouth is :-) In my opinion Privatization seems to be the next move .
LO August 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM
What no comments ? Amazing. The facts support themselves. I do not have to defend them. I have not changed my position on this site since I started posting comments . Unless you have constructive or concrete facts to support the levy . Don't say anything ! I still say NO TO TAX LEVY AND NO MORE CASH COWS HERE.
Steve Novak August 17, 2013 at 01:54 PM
To Joseph Smith, LO, Roger and Dan - when you download the entire 2011-2012 School Year Education Employee Salary, I only got the # of teachers I previously posted. Roger, I am not trying to deceive anyone. If you then use Teacher and Education Employee Pay and search by Westlake and Teacher Assignment, you get 200+ teachers but you can't do anything to analyze the data such as who has what degrees and years of service. So I don't know what conclusions can be drawn from this information. Roger, your comments on college coursework were hilarious. Since I don't hide behind a fake name, it is not too hard to find my academic credentials. You get to differential equations in Calc 4. I also took a Statistics class for Engineers as well. No one has yet to respond to the links I posted from the website provided by Dan showing our schools are basically the same performance as everyone else. I keep hearing your side say that our district is poorly performing versus others. Unless you can provide me an others here a link to where you have data supporting this argument, your statements are an opinion at best and libelous at worst. Remember, just because you keep saying things does not make it true and just because you reference a website with hundreds of links without providing the actual link supporting your claim does not make your statements true either. If you continue to also claim that the district did not maintain buildings that have not been replaced, please provide information supporting these facts. I can go ahead and say the Cleveland Browns are a Super Bowl team all day here, but I think that is a point we can all agree on. This does not make that statement true. And to LO, here is my challenge to you. There are taxes that I pay for benefits I will never receive - namely Medicare and Social Security. I have no problem paying the whole bill for my children's public or private education. If you can exempt me from future entitlement payments so that I can make these payments for education, I can run with that. Be consistent, no more cash cows for anyone. I don't have to use capitals to make my statement, just reasoned arguments. As before, this is my last statement on this topic. I don't think I can add anything else to these arguments. To the undecided voters, just remember, don't believe everything you read here unless someone provides supporting facts to their statements. Otherwise, it is just chatter. Good afternoon.
Joseph Smith August 17, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Steve, With your years of education, you should be able to use a simple excel file. Downloaded data will provide teacher name, education level, job description (i.e. teaching assignment), city, county, school, days worked (most are at 185 for Westlake), hours worked per day, salary, etc… My ten year old is able to use excel and rank by the various categories. Rank education and then count the number of masters degrees divide by total and viola there is your percentage. Show me where anyone has stated that the district is less than excellent? We have said the our scores are lower than Bay, River, and Avon Lake and our percentage of master’s degrees is lower than those three plus North Olmsted. Lower scores, less education, and Westlake pays over $6,400 more than our next closest city (river) and nearly $11,000 more than the average of the surrounding six cities. Those are facts!
Joseph Smith August 17, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Steve, It I dishonest to state that we have 97 teachers when we have 244. It is dishonest to quote percentage of master’s degrees that are not accurate. It is dishonest to accuse individuals of libelous remarks just because you cannot manipulate a simple program. Finally, it is dishonest to compare federal programs to local levies. One is under the control of the federal government, the other is under the control of the people. Fortunately, the people of Westlake understand that $75,000 is more than $68,000. An ODE score of 107.9 (Westlake) is less than 110.8 (River). Let’s not forget that Avon Lake has 86% of their teacher’s with master’s degrees while Westlake is at 71%. We pay more and get less. Those are facts, just because you don’t understand technology doesn’t make those facts any less accurate. Oh, and good afternoon to you.
Roger August 17, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am not a rah rah guy, but well said Joseph.
dan August 17, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Joe is correct on how to access the information via the treasurer’s office. ODE scores are located in the annual report card. This is a big deal to the district as it touts the highest score ever for Westlake (107.9). The district does not mention that the score is less than Bay (108.4), Avon Lake (108.7), and Rocky River (110.8). As an aside, Avon is 106.7 (excellent) and their average salary is closer to $58,000. That is a $17,000 per year difference for a score that is 1.2 points or 0.011% higher. $17,000 over 244 teachers is over $4.1m annually. I’m not saying that Avon’s salaries are where Westlake’s should be, only that Avon achieves an awful lot for a lot less.
LO August 17, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Steve: I will respond to your challenge by saying . It has nothing to do with Medicaid etc . All I have ever said is we are taxed enough . No more taxes and certainly don't need a levy in this economy . Try to stay on point if you can. how does that have anything to do with what I have stated all along. My challenge still stands. No more cash cows ! Pertains to exactly what this blog is about !! We are not talking about anything else except not adding another tax burden to the resident. Why do you feel you need to distract from that fact ?
LO August 17, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Joe: are people not understanding the facts ? Or are they just not admitting to themselves that truth is here. ? I'm confused ! :-). What is missing from these facts. ?
Joseph Smith August 17, 2013 at 08:32 PM
LO, there are many subjects that I could comment on (after research); however, the minds of others is not one that I could intelligently discuss. Those who are willing to sacrifice the well-being of our youth for the benefit of the well-off perplexes me as much as you. Detroit has shown us the result that unsustainable spending creates. Many will turn a blind eye. All that I can say, is talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. Let them know the facts. Lower ODE scores and Less education than many of our neighboring cities. Higher salaries that ALL of our neighboring cities. Rocky River (next closest) is $6,400 less per teacher with higher scores and better educated teachers. The average for salary for neighboring communities is $11,000 less. Westlake would save $1.5m if we had River salaries. Westlake would save more than $4m if we had the average salary. There would be no reduced services for our children and no increased taxes for our citizens if either scenario was implemented.
Jake Nabookney August 18, 2013 at 10:32 AM
Steve It is painful to read your posts. Your personal self-esteem belies your lack of basic data analysis ability. Calculus is not necessary to compute the average compensation for Westlake teachers. There are 252 “Teacher Assignments” listed for Westlake by the State Treasurers’ office in the Excel data file at the Treasurer’s web site. Eight of those 252 worked less than the 185 days in the 2011-2012 school year. It is quite easy to TOTAL the salary received by the 244 teachers who worked the whole year and divide by 244 to get average compensation. Column C has education level. The data for the 244 full time teachers can be sorted by “Education Level” to find out how many have a Masters degree. It is not necessary to count or use Calculus, just simple arithmetic will do. The 244 teachers (rows on the spreadsheet) less the 70 (rows on the spreadsheet) that have Bachelors’ degrees equals the 174 that have Masters degrees. This same process can be easily replicated for Avon Lake, Bay Village and Westlake. I suggest you develop some basis Excel skills before questioning the intelligence and integrity of everyone except yourself. The truth is Westlake teachers are generously compensated relative to neighboring districts. Passing the November levy will enable the Westlake School Board to give Westlake teachers even more. Jake
LO August 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Thank you Jake. I thought I missed something when I looked. The reason I didn't get into all the numbers originally is. No matter how you twist and turn them. The bottom line is. The levy is a bad business decision and should not be passed. Have a great day.
LO August 18, 2013 at 06:22 PM
To add. Nobody wants the levy anyway. No more cash cows
Chris August 20, 2013 at 09:09 AM
The District needs to live within its means. It is all about administration and teacher job security, salary and benefits. For example, "Why are football coaches paid thousands of dollars in addition to their salaries for coaching"? All sports should be pay-to-play, that is if the district is really about education. "NO LEVY"
Chris August 20, 2013 at 09:15 AM
@Steve - Given the face that Westlake has 42 more teachers than Bay; Bay Village actually has a much higher percentage of teachers with a master degree. Not to mention that Westlake has, at last count well over 200 teachers.
Joseph Smith August 20, 2013 at 11:02 AM
Chris, I am in complete agreement with your statement of “no on the levy”. Just a reminder that if teacher’s were paid a competitive salary then we would not need any cuts; including pay-to-play. Nobody is against athletic program, but the district must stay within its budget. 85% of the budget are salaries and benefits. Westlake salaries average $75,000 per teacher. This compared to between $58k and $68k for all of the neighboring districts. All districts are excellent. Three of the districts have higher ODE scores than Westlake and four of the neighboring districts have a higher % of master’s degrees. All that at between $1.5m and $4m less annually than Westlake!
LO August 21, 2013 at 10:07 AM
There is a new post for levy issue. It appears it has received a lot of attention. We are getting the word out. For the vote NO ON TAX LEVY.
Jake Nabookney September 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Gail I went to the wlake.org sight. There were NO CORRECTIONS OF FACTS SIGHTED at www.educatewestlake.org! The highest average compensation for teachers on the westside of Cleveland is not addressed. On average, Westlake teachers receive 10% higher compensation that the NEXT highest district on the westside. Not only did I not see a plan to reduce Westlake teacher compensation to the average of other west side districts, I did not even see an ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that teacher compensation is a problem the School District and the Board intend to address. What the Westlake School District intends to do with the additional $5.2 million is not addressed. The site's assertion Westlake has the "lowest tax rate" is misleading, at best. Westlake's tax rate is low because the tax base is the HIGHEST on the west side of Cleveland. By virtue of the Board neither addressing the teacher compensation issue nor how they intend to use the additional $5.2 million (over the $2.2 million in cost reduction if the levy does not pass), it is obvious the District intends to use the additional $5.2 million to raise teacher compensation when the teacher contract comes up at the end of this school year. This levy is not about the children. This levy is about increasing the compensation of relatively overpaid teachers. Jake

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