Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 4:00pm

Is the Lake County School District Doing Good or Bad?

Posted by admin

In the last three years, thousands of families in Lake County have seen their lives completely changed because of this Great Recession.  Pay reductions have been implemented, homes have been lost, and vacations cancelled.  Learning to do more with less has become reality for most working people.  Putting on airs about their financial situation has long since ended, and many people are taking bold action to survive.

So, what is going on with the Lake County School District and its financial message?  Are they doing great or are they facing financial doomsday?  On Monday, the Daily Commercial ran an article entitled Lake Schools’ Bonds Gets High Marks.  In this article, Lake County School District CFO Carol MacLeod touted the district’s Standard and Poor’s “A” rating saying, “With the assistance of our financial advisors at PFM, we went through a detailed financial review with the analysts from Standard and Poor’s, which resulted in the rating being reaffirmed as reported.”

Le T. Quach of Standard and Poor’s said, “We do not expect that the rating will change within the two-year outlook horizon because we believe the district will maintain its strong financial position despite some external revenue pressure stemming from decreasing state funding levels and a shrinking property tax base.”  This rating affects about $308.5 million in certificate of participation bonds used to fund the massive building projects of the last seven years.  In short, this is the debt Lake County taxpayers are responsible for.

The very next day, the Daily Commercial published an article written by Brad Buck entitled Lake Cuts More From School Budget, which outlines the various cost-cutting measures the district is trying to implement to make up for a $10 million shortfall.  Understand, the reform by Governor Scott and the legislature this session in the employee retirement program is expected to save the district $6.3 million.  As a result, the real cut in spending is around $3.7 million.

To meet the budget shortfall, the district said that it will shut down operations the week of July 4-8; consolidate schools in the summer; and eliminate overtime.  We haven’t heard of any report of the district eliminating administrative positions in Tavares or implementing salary reductions of senior district employees or school administrators.  It appears if you have a leadership position in Lake County Schools, you’re a protected class.

The Lake County School District is sending some very mixed messages on its financial situation.  For example:

  • If you are a working person in the district, such as a janitor, cafeteria worker, or bus driver, it appears you’re responsible for busting the budget and your salary needs to be cut.
  • If you are friends with someone in the district hierarchy, you can probably get hired with a six-figure job even though you failed as a school principal.

The district must cut expenses, because the realities of this economy are that tax revenues will probably continue to decline for at least two more years.  In addition, the mistakes made in overbuilding are starting to choke the district financially, especially with the new Minneola High School in an environment of non-growth in the student population.  With that said, salary reductions and employee sacrifices should be shared.

Instead, the district wants to balance its budget with the burden being placed on the backs of teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and janitorial staff while at the same time preserving the opulent benefits and pay for its administrators.  Sources tell us that teachers fear for their jobs from principals and district administrators who have taken the old, 1970’s point of view:  My way or the highway.  For school administrators it’s about protecting their own pay and benefits and not about shared sacrifice.

We will probably be accused of sounding like a union representative for teachers and employees, but we find it very troubling that the cuts made by school administration focus on those who make the least and do most of the work.  Pay and benefits seem to be protected and off-limits for those higher on the ladder at Lake County Schools.  What should be put on the table are significant pay adjustments for senior district employees and school administrators.

Part of our mission is to be a voice for working people, and the working people for the Lake County School District are not being treated fairly. Conservatives, don’t lump your Lake County school teachers and workers into the zealous union crowds ostracized in Wisconsin, because our teachers and school employees are simply trying to scratch out a living just like us.

If the district is truly in a significant budget shortfall then they should start acting like it – make fair cuts in the school budget.  The blunders of overbuilding are choking the district, and instead of holding the folks responsible for the poor decisions accountable, their positions are protected.  That is not right.  Families across Lake County have drastically changed their lifestyles in the last three years – it’s about time the Lake County School District does the same.

The Right Side of the Lake is a publication of Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C., and if you would like to comment on today’s column please go to our website www.lakecountygov.info or www.therightsideofthelake.com.  This newsletter is free to all who would like to subscribe, and we encourage you to send it out to everyone on your mailing list.  If you have information or a topic you would like us to cover please email us directly at lakecountygov@lakecountygov.info.

14 Responses to “Is the Lake County School District Doing Good or Bad?”

  1. Name says:

    When are school principals going to be held just as accountable as teachers?

    Did you know that when a school principal is moved to a another school, such as high school to middle school, that the principal continues to make the high school salary?

    Did you know that some assistant principals have not met the minimum year requirements as a classroom teacher before becoming an AP?

    DId you know that former principals are supervising specialized departments without the proper credentials?

  2. I would say the LCSB is not just bad but very bad! One of the more recent problems that really concerned me about Lake schools was their attempt at covering up the LPN who worked for them for almost 5 years on a dead man’s LPN certificate! If it had not been disclosed here on the RSOL it would have never made it to the public media! Just like most of the other Lake government agencies their methods are deny, deny, deny and when it gets serious lie, lie, lie somemore! Now we find out this fake LPN has administered medications to our grandchildren!

    How can we say the LCSB and it’s supertendant is good when they are in fact accessories to this crime by the fact that they all conspired to cover it up? Our entire neighborhood reads the RSOL and that’s quite a few people! Some have children and others like my wife and I have grandchildren in the Lake schools system! Let me say we do not like nor appreciate our “public servants” lying and schemeing against the people they are supposed to serve. What happened to integrity? It is sure not present here in Lake County!

  3. runaway says:

    If these blogs are coming from just two or three people with nothing better to do they are some intelligent people is all I can say. They have covered just about every aspect of Lake County government and they are quoting facts, figures and numbers too!

    They might not have anything better to do but they sure are good at what they do! Documented facts recovered directly from government records do not kie unless the officials that entered them are lying when they do so!

    If two or three people can do all this just imagine what an entire army can do!

    Again the administrators are trying to paint 2-3 disgruntled former employee’s, disgruntled parents, conspiracy therorists, unhappy old people who are not allowed to speak at LCSB meetings because they have no children in school even thought they may pay more school taxes than some parents who do!

    Why in the heqq don’t they simply address the facts and tell the truth? Because they have been living in the lying fantasy land so long they don’t know where to stop the merry go round and get of the lying machine that’s why! All good things have to come to an end! The end has come for all these games of government! Schools need to start teaching children, setting rules and making them follow them, every child has the same rules and no one is better that the other!

    We need real people teahcing our children! Not someone who is educated beyond their intelligence! All elected officials need to be held accountable for our money they are spending and stop creating silly little sideline non-profits to aid their friends in the schemes!

    Someone in ever board or agency needs to take the reins and bring this big team to a slow down and a trot instead of this run away pace! If not this game is soon to be over simply because we can not sustain this pace! Money might be printed in Washington but it don’t grow on trees in Florida!

  4. Name says:

    The remarks about the sheriff and his cell phone bills just reminded me about the story I read somewhere that he had fired his finance director Lewie Wise last month. Wonder what that was all about? Was she being asked to do wrong things or what? Wonder if there is money missing?

    I would think that guy from the television that was trying to do the story on why the sheriff won’t cut his budget should find her and see why they got rid of her. She was in the click I heard. Something funny going on around here.

  5. Name says:

    Administrators at the School System do not believe that anyone actually reads this blog. They think it is just two or three people with nothing better to do.

  6. Name says:

    Actually it appears from the inside that the Lake county school system is terminal! Perhaps someone should call Cornerstone Hospice to mediate its demise! Guess what? Bob McKee has got his fingers in Cornerstone Hospice too! He never leaves a “stone” unturned!

  7. Have you ever heard the term “over extended?” Well the LCSB is well over extended in bond debts to the tune of over $560 MILLION. I doubt you were here at the time but on May 10, 1988
    We Lake Voters had the opportunity to vote on a $110 MILLION bond referendum! The results of that election were [5,479 FOR and 13,287 AGAINST] We overwhelmingly voted down borrowing money for schools!

    Never again has the voters been afforded the opportunity to vote on school bond issues! They simply concocted a method of avoiding voter approval for bond debt and went masterly into amassing the aforementioned mountain of bond debt!

    When you are already overextended it makes no difference what your bond ratings are! If you are already having troubles servicing your debts in a real world this would affect your credit ratings! In the fantasy world of municipal bonds no on cares, they just keep piling up the debts and paying some interest! Just recently the Great Jimmy Conner remarked how great it was that the LCBCC was able to re-write a series 2000 bond and reduce their interest rate! He wondered why they couldn’t also re-write more recent outstanding bonds and save the county more interest. He was told they can’t do that at this time!

    While the people have been working to survive their “public servants” have also been working to survive! They have been organizing and networking and scheming to save their precious jobs and benefits! They use other government agencies to place demands on the system to justify otherwise un-necessary jobs! GOES TO YOUR REMARKS @ “gut their administrative staff, only to run into compliance problems with the state and federal government.”

    The real truth here is the Lake County Schools are on the brink of bankruptcy! They require or demand absolutely no morals from their teachers and administrators! Their is no substantive organization in place to insure the health and well being of our children come along in line with the education of our children! In short the Lake County School System is a total failure! The only successful students are the ones whose parents care enough to watch their daily curriculum and stay totally involved in same!

    The administration is simply too busy texting their peers and organizing for self survival! All of this is the results of the Lake County Mafia successfully installing and promoting the weakest and most controllable persons in high places they can find! Don’t you think its funny how all these great local leaders just happen to be in the right place at the right time! A nationwide search costing us thousands of dollars for a superintendant of public instruction and Jimmy Conner and the crew hired none other than local former employee Susan Moxley (Getford) Yes! A local name not exactly synonymous with civility and organization!

    More recently newly hired without any real investigations was assistance county manager Darren Gray. When the mafia realized they were going to encounter troubles keeping King Cover up Sandy Minkoff in the county manager’s seat, they slipped Gray into second place!
    Naturally when Minkoff realized he did not have the full support of the newly elected BCC members and believed he would come under scrutiny he could not survive, he dropped his quest for the county manager job (the one he made out like he didn;t really want to begin with!) and yielded to his hand chosen successor Darren Gray!

    Much like they schemed and manufactured the work history of the current sheriff! A man with absolutely no law enforcement experience! A man who had quite simply been the head jailer since 1989. Mysteriously became the chief deputy of criminal justice and with the support of his department was anointed sheriff upon the death of his predecessor. All the while everyone with brains knew this person had a questionable lifestyle and was in no means qualified for that position! Now those questions have been answered beyond the shadow of a doubt! Why would these people concoct such a lie? Why wouldn’t they want the most qualified and educated person available? Because the courthouse mafia loves controllable people, that’s why! Note: Sheriff Borders did eventually get a two year degree online from Vincennes University, thanks to one of his employee’s in the Lake County jail! These are some of the reasons the sheriff will not curtail his monstrous budget! He provides toys for his boys at our expense. Just this month the sheriff’s department cell phone bill is $14 THOUSAND DOLLARS! This after installing the greatest 800 mhz radio system in the country! Why then does everyone need a free cell phone at taxpayer’s expense? Because they can that’s why! The controllable sheriff knows no one can afford to cross him and his budget, because he knows too much and he has passed out too many favors to others in high places! All objections will simply disappear just like Berndt.petersen@wftv.com disappeared after making out like he was going to question the sheriff concerning why he refused to lower his budget by $3 MILLION a few weeks ago!

    These experts have been well taught by the master smoke and mirrors man Welton Cadwell for years! They know how to create chaos far out in left field to get the publics attention away from their organized corruption! They know how to find or make an issue they can use to their advantage! They use dumb or otherwise unsuspecting people to achieve their goals! They have been very successful up to this point! Only time will tell just how long they continue to rob the taxpayers out of one side of their mouths and lie about their every moves out the other!

    Those who have no idea what is going on in Lake County government such as the Tea Party people and thousands of others too lazy to read or trained to reject “conspiracy theories” by the very conspirators who are robbing them blind daily might wonder how an article about the LCSB can eventually trail to other agencies in Lake County government! The answer to that question is simply the common denominator for all Lake County government schemes trails directly back to the Tax Collector, Bob McKee! Mr. Get ’em as far in debt as possible himself with the help of his protégés Welton Cadwell and Sandy Minkoff! But he’s always sure to have everyone else do his dirty work!

  8. Don’ t be such a simpleton. The school board isn’t sending a mixed message at all. If times are tight and my family buckles down and cuts spending, perhaps I can maintain my great credit score. That is exactly what the school board has done. Maintaining an “A” rating in this economy is a very good thing. It means they are doing their job!

    What you are really upset with is the way they are cutting. FIne. You have your opnion. But don’t suggest that an organization that is taking drastic steps to reduce their budget, and whose drastic steps are translating into stable bond ratings, are somehow being duplicitious.

    By the way, at what level would you say “okl, they’ve cut enough administrators”? Do you have any idea what amount of administrative staff is actually needed to run a school system? Do you care? Would it satisfy you for them to gut their administrative staff, only to run into compliance problems with the state and federal government? If that happened, could you then enjoy criticizing them for “mismanagement”? Wow. You will have actually created a Lauren Ritchie situation not unlike the Niagra Bottling fiasco. Encourage one action, then criticize the very people you influenced to take that action when it blows up.

    It may very well be that the school system could use a little thinning in the ranks. I don’t know. My problem is that I doubt the Right Side knows either. But that doesn’t stop you from spouting off about it. Lauren acts like she knows everything, but we all know she doesn’t. Your blog is really no different.

  9. Name :Pete says:

    The problem with the School Board, and others, is that our elected officials are only concerned with getting re-elected. Someday in this County the people will elect someone who does not care if they get re-elected to a second term, unless they do a good job in the first term. Officials go from the School Board to the Commission (BCC) and tell us what a great job they did on the (LCSB) and we all know what shape it’s in now (or viceversa)…. or they leave the (LCSB) after so many years and tell us what a great job they did while they were there( we only see what happens a few years down the road)…..cut from the top, that’s where the money is and the workload is less. Shutting down schools over the Summer will cost more when we return, then if you kept them running over the summer (mold will grow) it happened just several years ago…Why is it that the bottom must have days off for cost cutting measures, yet the top does not?..Where is the thinking in that…take my $12.00 an hour away and let the ones with $50.00 keep getting paid all year! Someone needs to take a hard look and make the hard choices.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A fundemental mindset change must occur to balance the budget and create fiscal responsibility. This is true for all forms of government. Why would you cut/reduce the lowest paid personel while keeping the managers/administrators. The lower workers provide the greatest value(work unit per dollar expended). Cut some principals/a. Principals/administrators and watch the dollars stack up. Government is top heavy because most people suffer from self preservation. Human nature is to survive, and you can’t do that by eliminating all of your highly paid cronies. Remember this…if you have an average IQ every other person you meet is dumber than you.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A fundemental mindset change must occur to balance the budget and create fiscal responsibility. This is true for all forms of government. Why would you cut/reduce the lowest paid personel while keeping the managers/administrators. The lower workers provide the greatest value(work unit per dollar expended). Cut some principals/a. Principals/administrators and watch the dollars stack up. Government is top heavy because most people suffer from self preservation. Human nature is to survive, and you can’t do that by eliminating all of your highly paid cronies.

  12. Name says:

    The schools should pour more money into teaching and figure out how to be more efficient at the other stuff. After all, isn’t teaching students thier core business? I am a friend of the working man but take a look at the maintenance and facilities staff that hangs out in packs, takes long lunches and heads back to the office early. Ask around to the teachers off the record about how much loafing the custodial and janitorial and technology staff does. If they can’t do it efficiently, maybe they need to outsource these to someone who can. Better yet, instead of giving the money for each student to the School System, allow the parents to choose what school will receive it. I bet they get efficient then.

  13. Name says:

    What you are saying is nothing has really changed in Lake County in decades. I remember when the great former Senator Dick langley was a teacher at Groveland High School and was accused of sexual misconduct with a female student. (Old fashioned I know!) Almost fifty years ago.They swept that one right under the carpet and low and behold years later he become the Lake County School Board Attorney. I wonder what ever happened to his brother in law Sportsy? The one he was at Alexander Springs with back in 1968? Let’s not forget Langley’s son that was fixing those corvette ID numbers! I think I saw him sucking up to some politican a couple of years ago! The social elite in Lake County always maintain their status! Some people never forget anything!

  14. This article seems to indicate that teachers and “non-instructional” School district workers are suffering, but based upon what I have seen at School Board presentations and Union bargaining sessions (which may not be final yet), both groups are close to negotiating a step increase of 1-3% increase in salary. However, they are also being asked to contribute 3% ( a pittance, compared to corporate requirements) towards health insurance costs, as well as the State mandate to contribute 3% (again, a pittance compared to the REAL world) towards pensions. Last year, they also got wage increases, but I think the Administrators did not, and as for this year, the Administrators wage increases, if any , haven’t been discussed that I have seen.

    Additionally, there are hardly any layoffs scheduled, mostly through attrition and nowhere near the 1400 teacher layoffs being planned in a nearby county. This School District IS really conservative in financial planning. Also, remember, the Lake County Board, without School Board consent, passed a 12 month impact fee waiver (the School Board only wanted 6-months until better data was received). That waiver will cost the School District about $4.5-million and the planned wage increases will cost about $3-million. The Board recently saved the School District about $2-million by voting down a staff request to add hard construction rooms to one school, and instead lease some portable units.

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