Sylvania Schools Issue 3

State auditor's probe to end soon on Sylvania Schools levy campaign

Latest update:
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The Ohio Auditor’s office is wrapping up its investigation into how Sylvania Schools staff and resources were used last year to campaign for a school levy, which was rejected by voters.

A spokesman for the state office, Carrie Bartunek, confirmed for the first time that the office was investigating, but declined to provide details of findings or say when the work may be completed.

Read more at http://www.ourtownsylvania.com/Our-Town-Schools/2015/02/18/State-auditor...

Follow-up: What the Sylvania School district is doing to address levy campaign issues

Back in November I followed up with the district to see what they put in place to address the problems with the Issue 3 campaign in 2014. Brad Rieger sent the following response:

We had legal counsel conduct a levy training at our Admin Team retreat this past August. Whenever we are on the ballot again, we'll do a similar session for the levy committee. I foresee a communication about levy protocols going out to all staff members at that time also.

Payroll deductions at the Sylvania Schools help fund school levy campaigns

The latest into the story surrounding Sylvania Schools' levy practices for Issue 3 which was voted down in May. From Maggie Thurber at Ohio Watchdog:
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Allowing teachers and administrators to contribute to school levy campaigns isn’t illegal, though many Ohioans might be surprised the practice exists.

Instead of writing a separate check, school employees fill out a form authorizing the deduction and, voila, they’re donating to the levy campaign. The district processes the deduction and forwards a check for the total to the campaign committee.

School district accused of working on campaign during school time

I know what you are thinking. It is not Sylvania this time, but North Royalton. This issue is not local and happens across the Ohio, BUT it does not make it right. The State of Ohio should clarify to the Ohio districts the consequences of districts and employees violating the law.
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The North Royalton school board has revisited its policy and formally and clearly spelled out what can and cannot be done in regards to employee campaigning during school work hours.

Latest on Sylvania Schools levy public information request

The Sylvania Schools has provided some of my information request and we have been going back-and-forth on the scope of the e-mail request. They also went out of their way to prove who bought and paid for the domain name and the levy web site hosting - I will give them kudos on that. I will produce a more detailed report once I get more information...stay tuned.

Of disappointment and defense

Recently, I was accused by Sylvania Councilman Doug Haynam as being someone who does “not like public schools” and wanted to defeat a levy (even going as far as saying that I was the one responsible for defeating the Sylvania School levy) but nothing could be further from the truth.

Sylvania Schools public information request Our Town Sylvania/Blade story

Our Town Sylvania/Toledo Blade has a story of the levy campaign activity as well as next steps.
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Sylvania Schools may have acted improperly in the way it used staff and resources in its recent unsuccessful tax levy campaign.

A Sylvania resident has questioned whether the district violated the law in its bid to get voters in May to approve a 3.8-mill levy. The measure was rejected by voters.

Read more at http://www.ourtownsylvania.com/Our-Town-Schools/2014/06/03/Sylvania-Scho...

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Sylvania School employees won’t be disciplined for violating OH law

Here is a follow-up to the original story about Sylvania School employees working to pass the school levy on school time and using school resources.

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The Sylvania School Board will not take disciplinary action against their superintendent and other staff who violated Ohio law during a recent property tax levy campaign.

The board placed a 3.8 mill continuous levy on the May 6 primary ballot, but it failed. During the campaign, employees of the district used school resources to promote the levy, illegal in Ohio.

View the rest at:

Sylvania School levy story featured on Watchdog.org site

The story of the Sylvania School employees inappropriately using school resources to support Issue 3 is the feature of the http://Watchdog.org this morning.
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Chris Myers started getting emails about the upcoming Sylvania City Schools levy campaign, but he didn’t think much about it.

Myers signed up for school updates because he has stepchildren in the system. A couple of months ago, those updates began to include solicitations for parents to help with the additional $3.8 million continuous levy, which would appear on the May 6 primary ballot.

Full story:

Sylvania Schools contradict an Ohio Attorney General opinion and the Ohio Revised Code with Web link

Update 5/9: Sylvania's own district policies prohibit linking to a levy Web site. See: http://www.neola.com/sylvania-oh/search/policies/po7540.02.htm

Under no circumstances is a web site to be used for commercial purposes advertising, political lobbying or to provide financial gains for any individual. Included in this prohibition is the fact no web pages contained on the District’s web site may: (1) include statements or other items that support or oppose a candidate for public office, the investigation, prosecution or recall of a public official, or passage of a tax levy or bond issue; (2) link to a web site of another organization if the other web site includes such a message; or (3) communicate information that supports or opposes any labor organization or any action by, on behalf of, or against any labor organization.

Update 5/2: Sylvania Schools Superintendent Dr. Brad Reiger sent the following: No, we do not encourage district email accts be used for levy recruitment. We clarified with our Admin Team & staff members that personal email accts are to used. Also, you are correct that the levy website shouldn't be linked to the district website. Thank you for pointing this out. We have removed the levy website link. We'll do better with this moving forward.

5/1/2014 - original story:
2 days ago I wrote about the Sylvania School employees organizing pro-levy campaign volunteers using school resources which clearly violates the Ohio Revised code. Today, I will move a step higher and tell how the Sylvania Schools are violating an Ohio Attorney General opinion and the Ohio Revised Code by including a link to the pro levy site campaign site on the district Web site.

Is Sylvania schools using district resources to promote the levy? The answer is yes. The question should be to what extent?

Update 5/9: These activities also violate school policies

Staff members shall not campaign on school property during school time in behalf of any political issue or candidate for local, State, or National office.

See: http://www.neola.com/sylvania-oh/search/policies/po4231.htm

Update 5/2: Sylvania Schools Superintendent Dr. Brad Reiger sent the following: No, we do not encourage district email accts be used for levy recruitment. We clarified with our Admin Team & staff members that personal email accts are to used. Also, you are correct that the levy website shouldn't be linked to the district website. Thank you for pointing this out. We have removed the levy website link. We'll do better with this moving forward.

The Sylvania Schools district would like the residents of Sylvania to pass the 3.8 mil operating levy on May 6. So much so that employees of the district are using district resources to promote their new levy. This can be proven by a set of emails from one school and resources from another, but one has to wonder how much more effort they are doing throughout the district on district time.

First a primer:
ORC 3315.07 dictates that “no board of education shall use public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue or to compensate any school district employee for time spent on any activity intended to influence the outcome of a school levy or bond.”

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