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Concerned Patrons Of Rockwood: Mehlville Reps Provide Advice

In the second of a three-article series today, attendees at Sunday town hall meeting for Rockwood School District stakeholders were joined by patrons of the Mehlville School District who wanted to share their wisdom in dealing with district finances.

Sunday's town hall meeting by a grassroots' group called Concerned Patrons of Rockwood (CPR) included some interesting guests:  three residents of the Mehlville School District who attended to lend moral as well as hands-on support.

Mehlville representatives were among a group of activists who campaigned against an 88-cent tax increase in Mehlville that voters rejected in November.

About 35 participants attended the CPR meeting at in Wildwood. taxpayer and parent Dennis Broadbooks organized the meeting in reaction to districtwide concerns expressed from parents and residents regarding Rockwood's recent hiring practices and finances.

in Eureka-Wildwood Patch this morning.

Ken Meyer, a Mehlville resident, announced he was at the meeting to explain how local activists defeated a proposed 88-cent tax increase for the Mehlville district. He said it definitely can be done with a grassroots structure.

Meyer said activists were skeptical of a $75,000 survey they said the Mehlville district commissioned from UNICOM, which they believed was designed to support the need for a tax increase.

A second Mehlville representative at Sunday's meeting, Rich Franz, was a founding member of the anti-tax group dubbed Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association. Franz ran for, and won a seat on, the Mehlville school board in April.

Meyer said the Lindbergh School District passed a 65-cent tax increase during the same time the Mehlville situation was being addressed, because there was no organized opposition to it. Half went to teacher and administrator expenses and pay raises, he said.

He said district officials justified the increase by saying teachers and administrators were getting less take-home pay, and health insurance costs of their dependents went up. The other half of the increase was used to increase the district's reserves. "They will back at the trough soon," he said.

Meyer said they got the word out about tax increase concerns in Mehlville by first having a town hall meeting. "Five former school board members became involved, and we just hammered away."

He said he believed the CPR group's assessment of the Rockwood organization chart was a good start. "This chart looks bigger than the Pentagon's. It’s mind-boggling."

Attendee Rob Thoele, a Rockwood parent from Ballwin, asked Meyer what Mehlville district officials did when they didn’t get the money.

Meyer said teachers and staff didn’t get pay raises this past year. He said they also conducted a "wonderful survey," that interestingly enough, disguised the purpose as desperately needing to build a new middle school across the street from the high school. But, since the time that the tax increase failed, he said the new school project has not even come up on school board agenda.

He and Franz indicated employee numbers and costs decreased due to attrition.

Franz encouraged the Rockwood-related attendees to organize and focus. "We would love to see other community taxpayer association groups formed across the St. Louis region," he said.

Franz, , also told attendees to reach out to available media about the topic.

"Get in touch with your chambers of commerce, too" he said. "They are never going to publicly endorse you, but they are just as interested in controlling tax dollars. They will support you."

He then suggested the group find quality candidates to run for the school board. Two candidates from the association's members ran in the April school board election. Meyer said they interviewed all nine candidates, to see which ones they believed represented taxpayers. They endorsed two candidates, and he said both were elected.

Franz said he recently met Rockwood's board of education director Keith Kinder, who told him he had a doctorate's degree in educational leadership. "I was glad to hear that, because Rockwood would really be screwed up without things like that," he said.

"District officials are often arrogant, and typically believe that you owe them your money," said Franz. "Attack them head on."

A third Mehlville resident at the meeting, Greg Frigerio, said former Mehlville Superintendent Terry Noble was getting close to becoming one of the highest paid in Missouri at $186,000 base and a proposed $44,000 raise in 2010. Noble turned down the raise and has since retired.

"We need to put an end to the insanity. You are the owners of the district. Taxpayers keep the district going. Boards sometime forget that," he said.

He called the typical tactics used by districts "the educational cartel," or instilling fear that students are not going to get good education.

"The $24,000 per student invested by the city of St. Louis doesn’t guarantee an education, does it?" he posed.

Frigerio also said the common rationale for tax increases is to keep teachers in the district. "But teachers aren’t going anywhere. We researched it, and the average Missouri teachers' experience is 13 years. There's really nowhere for them to go, and there's a bunch of great young teachers just graduating who need jobs."

The Mehlville attendees indicated that they receive between 75 and 100 applicants for every teacher opening they have.

Attendee Chris Howard said his viewpoint is that some administrators could be spared, but that he didn't want to lose teachers.

Thoele, who has served on Rockwood's finance committee, said the district's teachers are making $55,000 to $57,000 annual salaries, on average, and $80,000 to $85,000 for the more experienced ones. "I don’t see them leaving, especially in this economy," he said.

"If they (teachers) are going to leave, they are going for their own good and don’t give a damn about kids. We don’t want them," shouted one attendee in the crowd.

Frigerio said his main concern is that 75 percent of the district's funds go to salaries, pensions and benefits. "This is no longer the '80s, and it's bull that districts can't be run like businesses."

"It’s your money; my eyes got open last year. The board couldn't care less about your money. Times are bad for everybody. Until you vote every tax increase down, it's just more money they get."

Read related article:

Eileen Tyrrell July 12, 2011 at 05:36 AM
Great job Ken!! Grassroots at it's best. RS for RS Coalition has been in the planning stages for several months; mainly to oppose the upcoming tax levy on the November, 8th 2011 ballot!! We are up, running and ready to go. Numerous hours have been spent researching current and ongoing RSD issues. Please join us. ROCKWOOD STAKEHOLDERS FOR REAL SOLUTIONS @ rsdstakeholders@gmail.com. Visit our facebook page and read our Mission and Purpose Statement.
Eileen Tyrrell July 12, 2011 at 05:39 AM
The RS for RS Coalition was formed to give a REAL VOICE to the stakeholders. Teachers have the NEA; don’t you think it is time for the stakeholders to have a coalition working for them, and supporting their issues and concerns? We are simply citizens striving to “make a difference”. Please join us. Mission Statement: To provide a volunteer coalition that works for the Rockwood School District Stakeholders and supports the real issues that matter to them. Purpose: *To inform and educate the RSD stakeholders on current and ongoing district issues via our monthly newsletters. *To assist stakeholders in bringing a grievance to the attention of building administrators and/or district officials; utilizing our advocates. *To establish a working relationship with the RSD Administration and Board of Education to ensure stakeholder’s true issues and concerns are brought to the forefront. *Provide an online voice for RSD stakeholders to openly, effectively and respectfully express their opinions and concerns without fear of retaliation, retribution or discrimination. If you are interested in becoming an RS for RS advocate or coordinator please contact Lisa Hunt Earls ( 636-938-4865) or Eileen Tyrrell (636-549-3259) or email us at rsdstakeholders@gmail.com. If you want to receive our monthly newsletter, beginning August 2011, send your email address to rsdstakeholders@gmail.com . All names and email addresses will remain CONFIDENTIAL!
Dale July 12, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Correction to my earlier comment direct from the article, Mehlville actually gets 75 to 100 applicants for every open teacher position. I don't know why I was thinking the number 66 that I put into my comment.
Karen July 12, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I am a recently retired Rockwood teacher. I was very disappointed with the actions of superintendent Bruce Borchers this past year. He did indeed conduct staff and patron surveys, only to largely ignore them. It is clear he arrived with a predetermined agenda, now confirmed by the fund given him by the school board to bring change without their oversight. My worst moment this year was when he eliminated the entire curriculum coordinator department with no notice. Calling them to a meeting, he told them they were "no longer a part of the Rockwood vision and that their positions were being eliminated". These veteran Rockwood educational experts were dismissed at the same time he was paying the outside consultants. It was a very sad day in Rockwood. My overwhelming feeling now is that when Dr. Borchers leaves Rockwood, we will be left with shattered lives and a huge mess to clean up; As a teacher in one of the best school districts in the state, my question is why? The student achievement issues that Dr. Borchers raises as the reasons for all this are not issues for the Rockwood staff. Student achievement is already very high. Let's focus on reducing spending without reinventing Rockwood .. again!
Dale July 12, 2011 at 03:56 PM
I attended the meeting Sunday and I can tell you that the reason given by the school board member who spoke for the elimination of what I assumed to be those curriculum coordinators what that there was "confusion" over "who was really supposed to be in charge of what". I assumed they felt there was an overlap in responsibilities. I think hiring this guy was the biggest mistake that has ever been made in this school district, you are not the only educator that has expressed the opinion that he is ruining this school district quickly. You as a retired teacher need to speak up at the school board meeting about this I will be there Thursday too.
Dale July 12, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Sorry the second "what" should have been "was" in the first sentence.
Chris Grahn-Howard July 12, 2011 at 05:08 PM
My comment about binge drinking was related to how all of the area school districts are spending too much. These districts act as city states or like the Byzantine empire I mentioned. Due to the current and sadly long lasting economic situation we are in, the reality has changed. School districts will need to change as well. I am more concerned with the process and the larger questions of how to spend a quarter of a million..not in classrooms. That money could have gone to teachers, fund parents as Teachers (the State can no longer afford it), bank to prepare for teacher/admin pensions (there is 8 Bill. across the state in unfunded liability), or we could have not spent it at all ( as the RSD is going to be asking for an additional .65 in property taxes). I wish to add my thanks and respect to Board memeber Steve Banton who displayed the courage to stand before the group to answer questions and to Dennis Broadbooks for the courage to do this at all. Finally, I respect the emergence of groups to organize and to work together. Lets be careful not to divide a house as it is being built. I welcome the debates offered by Dennis and Eileen, lets be sure to work in tandem if not in unison.
Ron July 12, 2011 at 06:38 PM
RSD needs to do the right thing NOW and admit mistakes were made and quit attempting to justify them. Only makes them look worse. Cut ties now with Borchers and Company. The longer those people remain, that is the image patrons and others will associate with RSD. Borchers provided the opening for others to capitalize.
Dale July 12, 2011 at 07:06 PM
I agree these three need to be gone from this school district (and some others as well). If they are not it will be destroyed. I have yet to hear anything positive from a teacher about what has been done so far to this district since Borchers arrived. I think the "chief communications officer" is the only person employed in the district to have anything good to say about him and I am sure that is only to save her extremely overpaid position even though I understand from comments to other articles she actually thinks she is making a "sacrifice" to be working for the school district versus how much she thinks she could make working in the private sector. Please stop making that sacrifice we can no longer afford to be paying someone to tell us that everything done by Borchers is okay and we shouldn't worry about it. The arrogance of these people makes me sick.
Lisa Hunt July 13, 2011 at 04:01 AM
Hi my name is Lisa Hunt co-founder of RS for RS and a mother of two Rockwood students. I'd like to tell you a little about my experiences with the district that lead to the launching of RS for RS. Volunteering for the Rockwood School District for 8 years left me very deflated. When problems arose I felt like I was up against a giant alone. I quickly realized the school did not have "my back or my child's". I experienced the "win at all cost" mentality this district has adopted when dealing with upset parents. When challenging any of the curriculum I was told "we are the experts" time and time again.When calling principles to file complaints regarding personnel, phone calls would not be returned for three weeks.When I sent out emails to seven teachers only 2 responded regarding a serious matter. These are just a few examples of my frustrations I had with the RSD as a parent. I finally said "Lisa, stop complaining and do something". By creating this organization I hope now my voice will be heard and taken seriously by Rockwood School District....RS for RS would love to be your voice too. Special thanks to my friend Eileen.
Lisa Hunt July 13, 2011 at 05:03 AM
RS for RS is not leaving the budget off the discussion table. We are in the process of working on this key issue. We will discuss this issue when we know our facts are complete and accurate. The tax levy is at the forefront of our discussions as well. To all the citizens who've met with us, have left messages, phone calls, and emails we appreciate your support. Eileen and I couldn't have done this without you. We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you have. rsdstakeholders@gmail.com
Liz July 13, 2011 at 10:40 AM
Just a clarification for Rockwood parents and residents, the folks that visited from Mehlville aren't "reps" of the district despite one being a board of ed member. Their gripe with the district was $$$ always and only $$$. They suggested it was more but the bottom line was their own bottom line in terms of taxes. It sounds like you have more involved in your situation regarding central office issues. Mehlville does not have those issues, though some felt it did in the past. Good luck with your process but please don't take the advice of some disgruntled taxpayers from south county. They don't speak for the majority of residents....just for themselves and some other people concerned with their own tax bill vs the support of the district. Don't forget- your actions will hurt kids. It will fracture your district and you'll have to rebuild it all again.... That hurts morale... that hurts students...
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) July 13, 2011 at 11:31 AM
Liz, the three gentlemen in this article were referred to as "reps" of Mehlville (city) in the headline. They were identified as "patrons" in the subheadline. And they were called "Mehlville residents" in the lead sentence of the article. We clearly and accurately stated what role these men had in relation to the Mehlville School District. At Sunday's meeting, they also clearly introduced themselves as members of the grassroots organization entitled Mehlville Community Taxpayers Association. To clarify for those who could not attend Sunday's meeting, the men did not attempt to indicate they were official representatives of Mehlville's school district.
Dale July 13, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Liz I beg to differ, the majority of voters in Mehlville voted down the tax levy so they apparently were speaking for the majority of residents. I am tired of people like you telling us that when we do not want more of our tax money going to a school district we are "hurting the kids". How dare you even make that statement. The complete wasting of our money to give these administrators higher and higher salaries and paying them $255 an hour to "consult" each other while laying off teachers is rediculous. This superintendent has already fractured this district and destroyed morale from what I am hearing from the teachers despite the fact that he's making $40,000 more than his predecessor. He has never served as a full superintendent anywhere and should never have been given this job. Now he's hiring his former coworkers at 40-50K raises over what they were making. How dare you tell me that wanting accountability and spending controls means I want to hurt the kids. You have no right to make that generalization about me or anyone else.
R. Woodson July 13, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Remember the April Channel 4 investigative report about Rockwood employees taking home vehicles - many more than any other district? http://www.kmov.com/news/investigates/School-District-Take-Home-Vehicles-120289024.html Looking at the Rockwood July 14 Board meeting http://www.boarddocs.com/mo/rsdpa/Board.nsf/Public Noticed "Purchases Over $7,500/Bond Issue Purchases" - it includes $206,000 to Bo Bueckman Ford for new vehicles, including two 2012 Ford Escapes ($20,596 ea.). Anyone wonder who will be driving these home? Business as usual.
R. Woodson July 13, 2011 at 04:55 PM
At the same time they are obsoleting several vehicles (2001-2005 models) to be sold to the highest bidder. In difficult budget times, maybe consider using those vehicles as opposed to purchasing the new 2012 models?
Dale July 13, 2011 at 05:03 PM
I agree on these vehicle purchases and uses. I was next to what looked to be a brand new F-350 Ford truck pulling a closed trailer on my way to work last week with Rockwood School District on it. It was so shiny I was glad I had my sunglasses on. I'm beginning to think they buy new vehicles when the old ones get dirty. The cost of that truck alone could have saved one teacher's job or come pretty close.
R. Woodson July 13, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Rockwood does have a list of the bond issue items http://www.rockwood.k12.mo.us/prop5/Pages/DistrictwideProjectList.aspx Can't find the new vehicles listed as a line item. May be buried in there somewhere since I can understand that a line item like "Purchase new vehicles for people to drive to and from work" may not have been a selling point. Particularly by taxpayers who are struggling to just make ends meet and probably not driving a new vehicle generously provided by their employer.
R. Woodson July 13, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Yes, hard to understand what is going on there. The Board meeting website provides some very interesting information. http://www.boarddocs.com/mo/rsdpa/Board.nsf/Public The July 14 meeting FY11 Budget Adjustments. One line item for a Finance Office Consultant for $7000. At Rockwood rates, that would be less than 4 days work. I wonder what the consultant did in four days that couldn't have been handled by the staff during difficult budget times?
Lisa Hunt July 13, 2011 at 08:53 PM
When you add up the expenditures for these vehicles it comes to $178,494, but has the bid statement at $206,046. Did they leave a vehicle out? That's a 27,552 difference.
Lisa Hunt July 13, 2011 at 09:09 PM
On the Agenda: The Crossroads Program $8,820.00 Is Rockwood School District paying for High School and Middle School students (who have been involved with substance abuse hearings) to get counseling at school or at Crossroads location? .......Bond Issue/over $7,500
Liz July 13, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Oh Dale, I certainly do "dare." :) The majority of voters were opposed to the proposition...that doesn't translate to the majority of residents. Voter apathy is yet another issue to address but let's talk about WHO goes out to vote? The elderly have a much higher turnout than other age demographics. Shame on the younger residents and parents for not voting but what was happening in Mehlville is NOT the same as what's happening in Rockwood. Don't take these men at their word...they tend to censor opposing views on their blog. I don't doubt you have some issues to work through in Rockwood- it sounds like a hot mess out there but grassroots efforts that are in direct opposition to the school district WILL impact the kids in your district moreso than a poor superintendent.
R. Woodson July 13, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Good question. Seems those items should have more information for the sake of transparency.
R. Woodson July 13, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Good catch Lisa - appears they have difficulty adding a few numbers or maybe they didn't want to list the new MUSTANG convertible! Either way, sure doesn't raise my confidence in their ability to generate and manage numbers! July 14 meeting item 3.04 - Purchases Over $7,500/Bond Issue Purchases (Continued) Bo Beuckman $206,046.00 The expenditure is for: 3 2012 Ford E-350 vans ($23,690 ea.) 1 2012 F-550 Truck (42,158 ea.) 1 2012 E-350 can ($24,074) 2 2012 Ford Escape ($20,596 ea.)
Liz July 13, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Julie, as a journalist, I'm sure you realize it's all in the headline :) While you may have clearly stated it in the article, your headline would lead readers to believe differently. But hey, it's your site. :)
Dale July 14, 2011 at 02:53 AM
If they didn't vote then they weren't in favor of tax increases any more than they were against them.
Dale July 14, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Liz since you are so good at replying to these comments please provide evidence of these "hurt students" & "impacted kids" damaged by grassroots efforts aimed at holding school districts accountable for how they run a school district and how they spend our tax money. I certainly hope you are not a teacher or school district employee whose work performance and attitude fluctuates depending on whether or not you get the raise you expect to get each and every year because if that is the case I feel sorry for the students in your district. Perhaps you are someone who has all the money you could possibly ever need and has never been laid off from a job. If so you are very lucky, there are many in the Rockwood District who are not as fortunate and these people want to know what $255 per hour got for their school district from the consultants. I actually know a teacher who told me they are glad the grassroots efforts are taking place because they want accountability from our superintendent. This person is a dedicated caring teacher and obviously does not agree with your comment about grassroots efforts impacting the kids more than a poor superintendent this person feels the superintendent is ruining the district.
Liz July 14, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Well, I work in a school but not for the district. I can tell you that my wages don't make or break our lifestyle. I can tell you that I am exceptionally dedicated to children. That said (and I'll ignore other character attacks from you from this point on....) budget cuts hurt kids. Anyone who thinks otherwise is totally delusional. As I already stated....your district is in an extremely different place than Mehlville. I can imagine people are upset about the consultant fees. Clearly they've upset you so much that the filter between your brain and your fingers has failed and you are attacking random comment posters. Examples of cuts that are designed to not hurt kids but end up impacting their education are ....delayed purchases of new curricula; delayed purchase of new technology (when a computer takes 6 minutes to boot up students lose that much instructional time waiting); delayed maintenance and repairs (students whose lockers get jammed miss class time over and over plus there's a teacher in the hall trying to unjam it and his/her class isn't getting instruction either); reduction in high quality professional development (the better the pd, the more it costs BUT the more it brings to the classroom....cut costs, get basic pd opportunities, get poor results from them); cutting supply budgets (sure kids should bring their own pencils but the don't...teachers spend more time acting as pencil librarians than teaching!); and finally library cuts.. all hurt kids.
Liz July 14, 2011 at 11:26 AM
Additionally, grassroots efforts often succeed. (In Mehlville, people believed what they wanted to believe...like the levy would go to give all principals raises or they were going to rename the school district or whatever got people fired up... it was really a lynch mob mentality.) Therefore cuts will need to be made that will impact kids. My original comment was meant to point out that these men were not representatives of the MSD. They worked to get some people out to vote but in south county, the levy would have probably failed anyway because people vote no on every tax levy ...no matter what. The last SSD levy only passed 51:49 in the same precincts. Too many parochial parents, too many retired people that do not want to support the school district. If that's your angle, I'm sorry for your district. If your angle is to really change the district, then you are going about it the wrong way here. Vocal, active parents at school board meetings, talking to board members, meeting with the superintendent CONSTANTLY to hold them accountable for spending and demanding that tax monies be spent on the children is a better way to achieve that. Your superintendent won't stick around for long if he has to defend every penny he allocates that doesn't go to books, teachers or programs. But sitting at home griping about consultant fees is not productive. Kids pick up on the mood and they'll lose respect for the people you complain about. You'll have problems. just saying :)
Eileen Tyrrell July 15, 2011 at 03:46 AM
Chris: I believe it is important to respond and bring some clarity to the last sentence of your statement below, "I welcome the debates offered by Dennis and Eileen, lets be sure to work in tandem if not in unison". "Eileen" is not offering any debates. The members of the Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions coalition are the persons offering up the debates. Yes, I am a co-founder of the coalition, but in no way am I working alone. The coalition is made up and supported by many RSD Stakeholders. Personally, I appreciate your interest in our school district, however I needed to address your misleading statement, because it leaves the public with an impression that RS for RS is just Eileen. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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