Universities are people too? WSU gets a fine and a gag order on H1B visa scandal

Right hand sues left hand, in senseless exchange of public tax dollars in the name of Justice.

Sounds like a headline from The Onion, but unfortunately, it’s the latest volley in the folly that’s known as the Wright State University self-enrichment program for trustees and their friends- or H1B visa scandal.

If you’ve been hiding your head under a rock for the last 3 years, here’s the recap. Wright State University President David Hopkins who is universally loved, gets played by the local Military Industrial Complex and their cronies to extend the university umbrella to cover a bunch of projects/programs/initiatives to “save the base.” Next thing you know, WSU isn’t in the business of granting mediocre students degrees (WSU is open enrollment- meaning if you graduated from an Ohio High School- you are guaranteed admission), it’s a research institute and training facility for “the next generation war fighter” (cue patriotic music and wave a flag). All of this is because of the BRAC, Base Realignment And Closing act of Congress might cause “job losses at WPAFB“- which is “Ohio’s largest single location employer.” Note, anything in italics is meant to be said in your best hyperbole voice.

It doesn’t help that WSU has severe University of Dayton envy- where they run a very successful “Research institute” to gain government contracts and funding for research. Of course, a university with a pretty good engineering school that has hired top base scientists for years has the jump on Wright State. A friend of mine who taught in the Wright State engineering department used to call it “the best recruiting tool UD had.”

Hopkins puts a plan into place to build a similar structure at Wright State creating “affiliates” of the university- the Wright State Research Institute and Wright State Applied Research Corporation- and then goes to get contracts for them to “do research stuff” and “provide opportunities for Wright State students” and create “World class something or other” which was going to make Wright State a global player right behind MIT, Stanford, Georgia Tech…. and Boise State, all giants in engineering and smart folk stuff.

Instead, WSU Trustee Nina Joshi who owns a company named UES, and Michael Bridges who owns a company named Peerless Technologies, and this other local company, Lexis Nexis, and a fall guy, Vijay Vallabhaneni, who owns WebYoga (which has the worst website I’ve seen in the last 5 years) all start hiring tech staffing at discount prices through these new, “affiliate” entities- and avoiding government regulations. Wright State adds a nice little markup on the tech folks- much like a modern day human trafficker. The program is called an H1B visa, and it is supposed to restrict the number of people who come into the USA to work from places like India and China- where they have more engineering students than we have people. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle etc- fight over the allocation of these visas every year. WSU used its educational facility exemption to skirt the limits and bring in brainiacs by the boatload. The conditions for the academic exemption are that the “students” are supposed to be working for WSU and managed by WSU. This wasn’t the case. Instead, they were supposedly building a product called “SpiderXchange” for WebYoga and doing other stuff that wasn’t kosher.

When the curtain got pulled back from the scam, the university started to clean house. The President, the Provost, the Lawyer, the DealMaker, the Candlestick maker- all got ousted, while the board of Trustees got a reprimand. Nina Joshi resigned from the board – without shame. Bridges stayed on. Governor Kasich rewarded LexisNexis with a representative on the board to be privy to all these legal messes right in the middle. Sean Fitzpatrick works for LexisNexis- which is being investigated- yet, he, like Bridges, signed off on the “Non-Prosecution Agreement” tendered today by the US DOJ attorney, Benjamin Glassman. How this is even allowed to happen is bewildering, but, since WSU also agreed to a gag order, no one is talking.

Now here’s the crazy part: Wright State, a state owned entity, is to pay the US Treasury a million of yours and mine tax dollars as a “fine” to make sure “Wright State” isn’t naughty again in the H1B visa space. This is to stop anyone from being a dirty rotten slave trader of tech workers. Oh, and we may still prosecute some of those people in the future…. but we won’t say who.

Remind me how this happened? Was it the Wright State students who came up with this scam? Or was it the taxpayer of Ohio? Because, last I checked, while “corporations are people too” thanks to Citizens United, public entities are still managed by people who can and do commit crimes, and that’s what the US Attorney is supposed to do- find those people and prosecute and punish them.

That didn’t happen today. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, nothing happened, except tax dollars were once again wasted at Wright State, but that’s par for the course. That’s all the place is really good at lately. Today at the Board of Trustees committee meeting if you were listening carefully- you heard about how Wright State lost $1.3M when the building they helped build for ATIC– was sold out from under them- and they got to absorb the loss. Of course, the building was built by Wright State “benefactor” Bob Mills, who keeps showing up on almost every bad real-estate deal the university has been involved in. There was also discussion of creating the Douglas Fecher Boondoggle Memorial Respectability Center for the Preservation of His State Bailout… to which Trustee Langos said he wouldn’t vote for until the University had delivered a true “Space Plan” (not to be confused with Trump’s Space Force” where the utilization of physical spaces and classrooms is appraised and analyzed with our new lower enrollment. The meeting was held in the Fecher Boondoggle space- Fecher, who is the CEO of Wright Patt Credit Union (and a former EMT- as he shared today) sold his former HQ to the Wright State sham shell corp Double Bowler so he could move into the former CSC building which was owned by Bob Mills. The building has been a giant sucking sound on the WSU balance sheet- but now- it will become the new home of the Wright State Archives.

Apparently the Wright State Library isn’t a safe place for storing books, with every kind of problem down to insect infestations and no fire suppression system. So, $450,000 was raised to move the collection to this building and only this building. I’m pretty sure Mill’s will get the construction contract to do the retro-fit, and then, Wright State will have a building across the street from campus to hold a collection that’s supposedly worth about $20M, and used by approximately 4500 people a year (note, many of them are WSU students ASSIGNED to do homework utilizing the collection).

Two questions come to mind- where is the $150M that donors gave to the University in the Rise and Shine campaign that was touted as a great success, and why doesn’t the university sell off the collection and the cost of maintaining it to someone else- they need the money… to pay fines to the US DOJ.

thumbnail of U.S. Attorney Southern District of Ohio Non-Prosecution Agreement

Click to download complete PDF of the Wright State Non-prosecution agreement

I’ve got the entire “Non-prosecution Agreement” as a PDF for you to read, but, I thought I’d just pull out the pertinent bullshit that should make your head spin as a teaser to read the whole thing- it’s the shortest document I’ve seen in the Wright State drama, weighing in at a brief 5 pages plus a signature page. It’s even written in clear English, which I guess is what you get for a million dollars to pay for a Harvard Law Grad to slap you on the wrist.

This Agreement does not provide any protection against prosecution for any crimes except as set forth above and as described in the attached Agreed Statement of Facts, and applies only to WSU. This Agreement does not apply to any other entities (other than those identified above as being part of WSU) or individuals. WSU expressly understands that the protections provided to it by this Agreement shall not apply to any businesses or agencies that are merely affiliated with WSU. Additionally, this Agreement does. not provide any protection against criminal prosecution of any present or former trustee, officer, employee, agent, or consultant of WSU for any violations committed by them.

Note that last line- “Former trustee” making you wonder if the current trustees are buying immunity?

It is understood that WSU accepts and acknowledges responsibility for the acts as set forth in Exhibit A, which is incorporated herein by reference. WSU further agrees that it will not through its present or future Board of Trustees, attorneys, officers, or senior management employees, who are employees that hold a position of Vice President or higher, make any public statements contradicting any of the facts as set forth in Exhibit A. Any such contradictory public statement by WSU, its present or future Board of Trustees, attorneys, officers, or senior management employees shall constitute a breach of this Agreement, and WSU would be subject to prosecution by this Office pursuant to the terms of this Agreement. The decision whether any public statement by a member of WSU’s Board of Trustees, its attorneys, officers, or senior management employees contradicting a fact contained in Exhibit A will be imputed to WSU for the purpose of determining whether WSU has breached this Agreement shall be at the sole discretion of this Office. Upon this Office’s determination that such a contradictory statement has been made by WSU, this Office shall notify WSU and its counsel. WSU may avoid a breach of this Agreement by publicly repudiating such statement within forty-eight hours after notification by this Office. This paragraph is not intended to apply to any statement made by an individual in the course of any criminal, regulatory, or civil case initiated by the United States against such individual unless the individual is speaking on behalf of WSU.

This is the don’t talk about Fight Club clause. The district attorney has eyes on you, don’t talk, don’t mention this mess, and maybe, it will go away.

WSU accepts and acknowledges responsibility for the acts of its current and former employees who were involved in the conduct set forth in the Agreed Statement of Facts in Exhibit A. WSU further agrees that the factual statements set forth in the Agreed Statement of Facts are accurate. WSU condemns and does not condone criminal conduct, including the improper conduct set forth in the Agreed Statement of Facts, and has undertaken and ‘ completed substantial changes throughout WSU to prevent such conduct from occurring in the future, including, but not limited to the remediation measures set forth below.

Except, WSU can’t go directly to jail, it can’t pass go, it can’t collect $200 Mr. District Attorney, because WSU isn’t a criminal or a person. It’s a public entity. The criminals are still running around Dayton doing business, or have retired to South Carolina, and you haven’t done a damn thing about it. It’s like someone farted in a room, and everyone knows it smells, and even know who did it- but no one is willing to actually call them out- including our Harvard trained lawyer. Yet- since I haven’t done my job (yet?) others may… seriously, when you read this next part, all kinds of people still might be smart enough to go after people who actually committed crimes and benefited from it.

It is further understood that this Agreement does not bind any federal, state, or local prosecuting authority other than this Office. This Office will, however, bring the cooperation of WSU to the attention of other prosecuting and other investigative officers, including but not limited to Department of Defense, Department of the Air Force, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, National Security Agency, United States Secret Service and National Institutes of Health, as requested by WSU and to the extent any federal, state or local prosecuting authority submits a request for information to WSU as a result of this Agreement or the federal investigation.

Let’s play abbreviation bingo just because it’s fun: DOD, DAF, DOL, DHS, DHHS, NSA, USSS, NIH – did we miss any? I’m guessing the DOJ is acting on info uncovered by the FBI- but, I’m not a lawyer except when I play one in my own defense on TV.

The big problem is the lie the attorney tells in the last paragraph of Exhibit A:

Upon being notified by this Office of the federal investigation, WSU’s Board of Trustees immediately addressed the H-lB visa employment issues. WSU removed the faculty and employees responsible for the contracts and completed substantial remedial measures. This included restructuring key departments such as the General Counsel’s Office and the Department of Compliance in order to insure all existing and future H-lB employee applications comply with all federal laws and regulations.

If the trustees had truly addressed this- there would be 2 less trustees on the board, and at least some folks in an 8×8 cell. Instead, the taxpayers are paying a million dollar fine while the people who were implicated were paid to go away, or walked away with retirements and separation pay.

There is no justice in this action by the Justice department.

I hearby crown US DOJ attorney, Benjamin Glassman with Hue Jackson Job Security award. The HueyJ award is where you get paid a lot of money, to successfully do nothing, and even after getting fired, end up with a job again smelling like roses.

Just remember, from now on, universities are people too.

 

 

 

The fall of Wright State

Warning, this is a TL/DR (Too Long/Didn’t Read) post. It’s not meant as quick hitter, but as a serious starting point for changing the worst school board into the best. I’m personally vested in this as a graduate of Wright State. Even though I know I could have gone to a “better school” and been challenged more, at the time, Wright State was probably the right place for me. I’m sure that Stakeholders in the Wright State community will appreciate this post and what is coming. For $100 million to vanish, and the board of trustees basically given a hall pass, is unconscionable. Where did a $100 million reserve, $150 million in new research/workforce development contracts and a supposed $150 million capital campaign fund go?


Wright State University Board of Trustees president shared his favorite quote early on in the 3+ hour board meeting on Aug 17, 2018 “you know a camel is a thoroughbred designed by committee” and then proceeded to lead a committee to design WSU camel version 51.8.17

That version number stands for 51 years and the meetings date in case you are wondering.

Wright State is now 51 years old and going through a second self-induced midlife crisis. The first came when the university, under many of the very same trustees, started a process of “reinvention” by committee around 2010 give or take 2 years.

Wright State budget showing $100M loss in five years

Where did $100M go in 5 years?

thumbnail of FY19 Budget Presentation_final_boardmaterials

Wright State FY 2019 Entire PDF budget presentation. Click to download PDF

According to a slide presented at the earlier, well attended, June 8th 2018  Board of Trustees meeting, Wright State had a healthy balance sheet in 2011- $98M in Departmental and others, and $72M in “General University” accounts. By FY 2017 they were $11 M in the hole on the general university fund and down to $52M in the departmental and other. The outlook wasn’t good.

A president had stepped down, an interim hatchet man stepped in to stabilize things. The same board that was asleep at the wheel hired a new president. Hundreds of workers lost their jobs, others fled the sinking ship, but none of the trustees were held accountable, despite investigations into missing funds, H1B visa violations, ethics issues, voting to hire the Chairman Michael Bridges’ son, many lawsuits and some very questionable real estate deals. They did however, manage to cut the swim team, while “upgrading” the men’s basketball coach and paying him half a million a year, double what his predecessor made. That’s even more than the new president.

How did we get here?

Back in 2008 a new mission and vision statement were rolled out with great fanfare. A 2-year process led by Dr. Robert Sweeney who some say was the man behind the curtain of Dr. Hopkins regime. It was also around the same time that Dr. Hopkins started drinking what I call the Dayton Development Coalition Kool-Aide and believing that Wright State had to tie its pony up to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Since so many major corporations had left, downsized, or been bought in Dayton- the only reliable teat left to suck on was Uncle Sam’s and they went for it in a big way.

Even as far as to hire the former DDC chief Jim “Lefty” Leftwich and founding DDC Chief Ron Wine to consulting contracts (full disclosure, my firm, The Next Wave, is working with Wine to build his consulting business and website), neither of which ended well in the eyes of the public. However, the work Wine was involved in; creating the ARC (Wright State Applied Research Corporation) and growing WSRI (Wright State Research Institute) are now put on pedestals as pillars of Wright State’s future.

The problem is that Wright Patterson Air Force Base was here before Wright State, and if this current board continues on their committee driven path, the base may be there long after Wright State as we know it. Consider the following two articles:

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Source: HBS prof says 50% of US colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years

Wright State University’s financial woes are so deep the school may not fully recover for two decades, according to a report obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

The report was created by the WSU administration and filed with a fact-finder as part of ongoing contract negotiations with the faculty union. It paints a vivid picture of Wright State’s budget trouble and shares certain details publicly for the first time.

“It will take WSU more than 20 years to get back to the financial position it was in just six years ago,” the report states.

The report comes even as Wright State administrators and trustees have said in recent months that the university has “turned a corner” financially.

The report was submitted by the university to make a case for its stance on contract

Source: Wright State won’t recover from financial crisis for 20 years

Wright State, landslide winner of the “Esrati.com worst school board in Dayton” contest,  just like the Trotwood Schools and the Dayton Public Schools, Wright State is teetering on the brink of “State Takeover” which is an untested, unproven, unrealistic threat from a State that’s done plenty to allow these organizations to get in trouble- without providing the oversight and guidance to stop them from heading down the wrong path in the first place.

One has to wonder what the Ohio State Auditor does when a University manages to lose over $100 Million in the span of 5 years- and a redacted $300K forensic audit by Plante Moran Report reduced size, can’t tell anyone where the money went. Even board member Bruce Langos, who ostensibly gets to see the un-redacted version, can’t tell you where the money went, and he used to be the Chief Operating Officer of Teradata. The board chair, Douglas Fecher, is a banker (calling him a Credit Unionist just doesn’t sound right) and he can’t tell you where the money went either. [We won’t delve into Fecher’s issues – the university graciously bought his old HQ at what insiders say was an artificially inflated price just before he was anointed to the Board by the Trustees. Oops, and then he took WSU’s money and bought out a WSU major donor to move into a bright, shiny new headquarters building next door.]

Nothing forces change faster than being broke. Yet, some who go through the agony of bankruptcy, of business failing, of falling down, actually learn from it- and spring back in a big way. America loves come-back stories. Think Apple, even if it’s a wild stretch.

Part of the “if” Wright State will spring back was what was covered in the board meeting on August 17th, and interestingly enough, the starting point for that discussion was from a suggestion from the Student Trustee on the board- not from one of the “high-powered” business brains appointed by the Governor.

Austin Rains is the kind of student that Wright State wishes it had 18,000 of. An over-achiever, a guy who is headed toward a bright future in our community.

From his LinkedIn profile “My goal is to become a recognized servant leader in health care industry. I am a hyper-focused, people person committed to innovating health care and improving my community. What excites me? Mission-driven work, leading change, breaking down barriers for people and empowering people to pay it forward.”

It was his suggestion to view an archived webinar from The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) which bills itself as “the premier organization centered on governance in higher education.” And although it’s in the video, here’s the link: https://www.agb.org/events/2018/complimentary-webinar-business-model-transformation-for-organizational-change

It was a case study of a university going through a financial crisis and trying to reposition the remains to be competitive, in an environment where most universities are battling to even be considered relevant. Wright State isn’t by any means alone in its quest to prove the value proposition of a bachelors degree in a day when you can teach yourself to code online. I spend about 30 minutes a day watching YouTube to learn new skills. I spend at least 90 minutes a day reading online, and pre-internet, when I was a student at Wright State, I spent time reading business books in addition to my text books, unlike any of my classmates and even some of my professors (anecdote- a management professor had assigned reading that included a sidebar about management guru Tom Peters– who had written what was considered the first business best seller- creating a whole new genre. When I asked about Peters- the professor, despite having assigned the reading, had no clue of who Peters was. His book- “In Search of Excellence” now reads more like an academic text than all that he’s published since, but it was still a hot topic around 1985, 3 years after its publication).

The webinar was watched by the board members in attendance, Fecher, Michael Bridges, Sean Fitzpatrick, Dr. Anuj Goyal, General C.D. Moore, Langos, Rains and first-time attendee, second student trustee, Shaun Wenrick. Grace Ramos showed up later, Stephanie Green and William Montgomery were absent.

The webinar was about 45 minutes- with all the typical academic style charts and graphs to make things legit. Nothing presented was rocket surgery. Basically change is hard, establishing unique positioning is difficult, competition is challenging, change or die. And stuff that shouldn’t have been a surprise to Wright State people in particular- 75% of your student body will probably be a transfer student.

The irony of them watching online education to solve their bricks and mortar problems was lost on them- but not on me.

Yep, schools, just like careers, are now in the gig economy. And most of them do their damnedest to “protect the value” of their degree by requiring you to meet their curricula standards and doing at least your last 30 credit hours with them. It’s an obsolete policy that’s part of a no longer relevant model- especially when competing with online education which isn’t saddled with legacy buildings and infrastructure and moves with you. The consultants called this kind of a policy a “self-inflicted wound.”

Reminder to WSU, all those military people and their spouses, may not be here for a full 4 years, or long enough for just 30 credit hours, and they have always been a significant part of your enrollment.

A good friend and former client, Sally Hogshead, wrote a best-selling handbook- “Radical Careering” where she talked about investing in “portable equity” – it’s “Radical Truth 44- “portable equity is the only form of job security today” and she goes on to define it as “Portable equity: The reputation you earn. People you meet. Skills you learn. Accomplishments you acquire.” Unfortunately, it’s out of print, good news is you can download a free copy here. If it takes you more than an hour to read, you flunked the third-grade reading standard- if you don’t spend countless hours thinking about it after reading it, you are insanely out of touch.

“Radical Careering” probably has more answers in it for helping train tomorrows workforce than hiring high priced consultants from out of town to tell them how to attract and engage the future workforce that Wright State wants to prepare. But since it’s written by an advertising superstar, not a PhD. It couldn’t possibly be relevant. And that’s the problem with higher ed as we know it today- they still take themselves way too seriously and spend too much time creating silos of “education” instead of fertilizing the fields.

My 27 year-old web wizard is a perfect example of the new workforce. He taught himself to code at age 12- because he wanted to build a website to put his band online. He went to Bowling Green to get a liberal arts degree, B.A. in English language and literature, theory. Never paid a dime to learn coding, yet that’s how he puts his bacon on the table. I’d put his practical knowledge and ability to think against any WSU computer science student any day. In fact, I had a guy with a Masters in Computer Science from WSU – who was able to do the same job, but wasn’t nearly as proficient or ingenious- and ingenuity is today’s currency.

The board discussion that ensued after the online learning session that they just embraced without acknowledging the irony, was where you’d expect to hear the nitty gritty of operational plans and projects, or have marketing strategies with budgets and projections. Instead, Dr. Schrader (who might have gotten an edge in her hiring because her last name sounds like Sch-raider) brought in a professor and a political strap-hanger to go over their accelerated process to rebuild the mission/vision statement and help her develop her 35 word or less “strategy” statement. She had tapped Dr. David Bright, a tenured Professor of Organizational Behavior and Organization Development and Michael Wiehe, who has both an undergraduate degree from WSU as well as an MPA. Wiehe’s background is straight from Congressman Turners office and before that, the Dayton Development Coalition. He’s now the director of Wright State’s applied policy research institute.

I’d look up his salary, but State Treasurer Josh Mandel only has Miami and Bowling Green in his employee database.

Up came their deck, all the little boxes and arrows, and an explanation of how they got from there to here.

Bright had talked about his “comprehensive process” with 320 people, 20 themes, and Schrader said they’d spent over 6100 person hours in events talking about what they called “The Wright Path to 2025.” Absolutely nothing wrong with any of it- except this is the academics deathtrap- process trumps palatable for lack of a better word. It may sound good on paper, but, you don’t want to eat the paper.

Operational plans were non-existant. They checked all the proper boxes, but what came out was again, a camel. The board, with their “street smart” business sense behind them- immediately proceeded to dissect it thinking they were helping the process. “You can swap this out for any university”- which is absolutely true. We have the same problem in advertising- almost every agency can sell you on their process by promising the moon and the stars, but only a few actually deliver. Schrader left her wounded on the battlefield as the bullets kept coming.

“Radical Careering” wasn’t written by just anyone in advertising btw, Sally had won almost every industry award known to man or woman by the time she was 27. A superstar copywriter, she had worked under the best, another friend, Luke Sullivan, who also wrote a textbook on advertising called “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” which is in its fifth edition (I’m quoted in it- and also built and host the site www.heywhipple.com). The difference between most writers and creative copy gods is that they can take the mundane checklists of features, advantages and benefits of anything and turn it into something people want to buy.

Sending a professor out to write a mission/vision statement/strategy is kind of like sending a teenage mutant ninja turtle to take on Bruce Lee. One sounds like he has superpowers based on the ideas and leading research of what a superhero is supposed to be- and the other- is an actual super human who has trained his whole life to kick your ass.

Radical Truth number 6 Break out the nunchucks and let the street fighting begin

Radical Truth number 6

We’ll detour to another radical truth from Sally’s book- Number 6- “Break out the nunchucks and let the streetfighting begin.” The graphic that goes with this “truth” is epic- what she continues with – is a good description of what was missing in the discussion.

“Victories are no longer civilized affairs won by following the rules. Not in the boardroom, and not on the squash court. Today, success is won in the streets with your cunning and instinct. You have to roll up your sleeves. You have to figure out how to get to the sales meeting to present the work, even if all flights out of O’Hare are delayed because of a blizzard. Are you willing to push harder, work faster, and think smarter no matter what obstacles arise?”

And that’s what the board started to do. Street fight. Only without the enemy in sight, no general in the room and most importantly, no one skilled at crafting a sales pitch.

There was no actual work done to increase enrollment, cut costs, improve public perception, make students feel good again about their university. They just postured and pronounced.

Marketing was never mentioned in the room, even though their biggest problem is attracting students.

There is a fundamental problem with board and organizations. Unlike the “Mastermind group” of 5 advisors that Henry Ford relied on according to the classic management book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolean Hill, boards and leaders aren’t really picked to be a team. Boards are picked to more to serve as a check and balance, and in this case, it’s 9-1, but the 9 picked the 1- and they think they are the smartest folks in the room.

If Dr. Schrader was picking a team to work with, this is another one that looks good on paper but you wouldn’t want to eat. A retired general, a doctor, a pair of bankers, a few business C types, all sounds good- except not a one has any experience actually running an institution of higher ed.

So we hear things that sound like they came out of the Jack Welch playbook “be number 1 or 2 in a market.” (Welch is sometimes referred to as the world’s greatest CEO, as if there is a world series of corporate meritocracy) A discussion ensues about what we should specialize in- including health care, logistics, computer science- and damn those people in the liberal arts, until Bridges pipes in “I believe the college of liberal arts is our largest in terms of enrollment.” Boom.

It’s also one of the lowest cost centers. It’s cheap to teach the classics, all the important texts are already in the public domain.

Of course, I’m just a spectator at the bullfight- and can’t say anything, but all I keep thinking is wake up folks, the guy who took a broke and bankrupt company to become the most valuable corporation in the world was not only a college drop-out, but a liberal-arts major.

Yep, I’m invoking the ghost of Steve Jobs. Something people in silicon-valley like to do in discussions of everything from immigration to privacy. Unfortunately, he’s not here anymore to weigh in, but, like Jesus on the cross, he has followers, and I count myself as one.

My favorite quote attributed to Steve Jobs is “A people hire A people, B people hire C people.”He also hated committees and focus groups, because “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Proof in point- up until the iPhone, no one needed either a touch screen or the internet in your pocket. Now, we can’t live without it.

Jobs had a reputation for berating his employees and being a shitty human being, but still managing to create unmatched value through differentiation. The Mac wasn’t the first personal computer, nor was the iPhone the first “smart phone” but both changed the competitive landscape via design that put the user first. Something that universities talk about but fail.

Wright State was never designed to be the things that the board talked about, or the professors presented. It wasn’t supposed to be world leading anything, or known around the globe, it was one step up from a community college- a place for folks to go who weren’t black, to get an affordable education in a 16-county area. Before you jump on the racist bandwagon, just be aware that Greene County is the only county in the state to have 2 state universities, Central State- and White State as it’s known in Wilberforce Ohio- home of our two Historically Black Colleges/Universities.

Yep, Wright State is an invention of separate but equal, that was founded just as that wall was being taken down by the civil rights movement. However, once a state institution starts, momentum keeps it going and now, we have Wright State with around 17,000 students and Central State with about 1,700. Note, African American population of the US- about 10% – case closed.

Wright State, for the most part is open enrollment, meaning anyone with a high school diploma or a GED can attend. It’s not selective like Miami or Ohio University, it takes anyone. It’s Sinclair 2.0, it’s BeaverTech, a place for those who are looking for an affordable option close to home to get a degree which is supposed to lead them, and often does, to the promised land of better employment opportunity upon graduation.

All the discussion of how to attract students by improving programs or making them better won’t matter, because as Langos kept reminding people- Wright State is almost universally peoples second choice. Not quite the school of last resort, but, the one that fits best situationally. Professors don’t like that, and neither do board members who want to think that they are part of a Garrison Keeler story “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Wright State is struggling for average right now, and sometimes just being the best at being average is perfectly fine. Henry Ford sold a lot of cars that were just black and affordable.

Under Hopkins, they just thought if they find their secret sauce all will be ok. Then went wild with corporate strategies of reinvention. They spent a ton of money on a rebrand with some consultants from Florida, only to find out that their “new and improved logo” looked more like the local rubbish disposal companies brand mark.

WSU paid Florida-based YorkBranding $250,000 over the past year — with the majority going toward the design of the logo. In total, the university has spent around $850,000 on its branding effort, Gabbard said.

Despite opting to keep the logo it launched nearly two decades ago, university officials say funds paid to YorkBranding were worth the cost.

https://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/wright-state-rejects-new-logo-keeps-wilbur/KPLqkgLRL3vt6kJA9V9bPI/

In one of Hopkins missives to the troops- he said “We captured the essence of our decade-long transformation by our intention to be the “Best University FOR the World.”=

This is yet another one of those pie in the sky, sounds great, but could be used by any University lines- and the real question is what world was he talking about- the real world or Fantasy Island where money buys secret dreams that may just turn into your worst nightmare. The world of higher ed was changing, and Wright State thought there was a silver bullet- a new brandmark, vision and mission and saddle up to Uncle Sam for those Government research contracts and *poof* we’re relevant again.

Once they realized the money was pouring out faster than it was coming in, they decided to do a capital campaign to try to hide the fact that they had a burn rate that would embarrass a silicon-valley startup. They announced it as a star-studded success, parading Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks as their front man, when in fact, no one can account for the money (They claimed $150M).

Unfortunately, just like in comedy, the best and most fundamental building block for turning something around, is honesty and this board can’t be honest.

While they start each meeting reading a conflict of interest statement, we’ve already seen evidence that some board members past and present have benefited from some funny business being run through Wright State. H1-B visa students working solely for board members companies, building sales, building purchases, naming rights on buildings, and a whole bunch of hocus pocus, much of it hidden behind wholly owned subsidiaries that operate as questionable stand-alone non-profits. All of these will be thoroughly detailed in future posts. The fact that this meeting was being held in the mostly vacant former HQ of WSU Board chair Doug Fecher’s Wright Patt Credit Union was almost laughable. Five and a half-million laughs.

Bruce Langos, the newest trustee is the only one suggesting that the school get back to basics as a low-cost value proposition to attract students and lead them to good jobs. They are already supposedly one of the most affordable institutions in the state, yet, somehow they haven’t figured out how to turn their loss-leading positioning into a strategy for competitive advantage. As Langos says, we’ve got the fixed cost of the campus, and holding out for a premium isn’t helping us cover the nut (I’m paraphrasing- but you get the point).

The challenge now is enrolling more students because that’s where the money comes from.

Yet, throughout the discussion, the brilliant business people in the room didn’t bring up marketing at all. Dr. Schrader had her dynamic duo with their scholarly solutions, yet the only ad guy was the one moving around the room with a camera, capturing the story of yet another local educational organization ship sinking, only with ostensibly smarter/wealthier people at the helm. He’s the one writing this story.

The fact that the student trustee found the seminar and had them watch it was probably the most salient takeaway from the 3-hour shitshow. He also made the most astute statements. When discussing focusing on certain majors- he said “you can’t solve all computer science problems with computer science” and while they were talking about school as a preparation for a career- he’s talking about focusing on student success, making the current customers feel good and empowered to do more. The more I think about this whole thing, he may be the smartest person in the room.

Another “Radical Truth” from Hogshead is my favorite- “Aspire to be the dumbest person in the room.” Watching this meeting, there were no aspirations at all, other than to talk the most.

That Schrader had no control over the board or the meeting, and was minimally involved in guiding the discussion is indicative of a problem.

Can you imagine Steve Jobs sitting at a board meeting trotting out consultants to tell the board how to turn Apple around? Successful CEO/University Presidents/Leaders actually present the big ideas- and own it. Schrader, for the most part, never challenged the board, never suggested she had a plan. She sat on the sidelines while Bright and Wiehe took her bullets.

They planned to talk about this some more at the next meeting in September. They plan to roll this whole plan out for implementation in October. A very compressed time line, even for someone that actually had a plan.

When the September meeting came, she trotted out Bright again, and the mission statement might have been a bit shorter, but, whoop-de-doo.

What was more important to them, was making sure the media now had new rules for recording. “The media”, being me. See the last post for their new rules.

Unlike the big board meeting in July- where the university was running cameras, and the show was choreographed, this one was much more of a rough and tumble. There were a few other spectators, Max Filby from the Dayton Day-Old News- where you got to read a short 600 word article about the meeting five days later.

A few AAUP members in the audience asked who I was and were happy to confirm their suspicions. Dr. Doom (I just love writing that- Dr. Travis Doom is the faculty president and an outstanding teacher according to rate my professor etc.) was there and was asked for some off-the-cuff personal opinions on the matters at hand, but the small conference room setting was a lot like what Dayton Public does to avoid scrutiny- a place where there isn’t really a comfortable place for the public to observe.

I had one fixed camera running – and worked to get some good upclose and personal footage for the big picture expose of yet another school struggling to be relevant and avoid a takeover. I sent the link of the unlisted video to Doom, and within a week it had 100 views. That’s a lot for a 3 hour board meeting. It’s first publication is today, and the view count stands at 500.

I have been holding back a few things in this TL/DR story. Back around 2007 I approached Dr. Hopkins with a strategy for rebranding the university. He liked it, but as the new guy on the block, with no marketing chops at all, didn’t do anything with it. Instead of hiring me- or any of the other local talents at branding and marketing that might know the market well, he brought in a football guy, literally. George Heddleston was his answer to marketing higher ed. Heddleston had worked for the 49’rs and had a few superbowl rings.

Heddleston’s Linkedin profile  looks pretty much abandoned, but the last update had him as “Chief Communications Officer at Wright State Research Institute (WSRI)” probably because Hopkins could never fire anyone, but he could shuffle the deadwood off to his private slush fund.

Now Heddleston is the “Vice Chancellor, Communications and Marketing” at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga- with no online bio connecting him to Wright State or the 49’rs.

Although the local media caught on fast. He rolled into UTC with a bang-

“Speaking of head honchos, did your old colleagues from Wright State University who you’ve recently rejoined at UTC (Chancellor Steve Angle and fundraising whiz Bryan Rowland ) mention when you were being recruited from Dayton that you’d have to be the bag man for business dealings like this? Or was it sprung on you after you got here?”
https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/columns/story/2017/mar/31/martinwelcome-chattanooga-vice-chancellor-hed/420452/

Heddleston has a rather inflated vision of his abilities, before he got the title of bag man-

“Chancellor Angle was also previously employed at Wright State University.

“He was provost there when I was Vice President for Communications and Marketing,” said Heddleston. “We had a big job to do back then in ’09 and we succeeded at it, it took a while and he never forgot that. He feels that there are similar circumstances here at I could be helpful to.”

http://www.theutcecho.com/university-relations-instills-new-leadership-staff-members/

I’m not quite sure what job he thought he had, unless it was to begin the sinking of Wright State. I met with him once because Hopkins wanted me to, and left the meeting wondering to myself how do I get paid that well for knowing nothing?

The rebrand idea I gave to Hopkins is still viable, but what grew out of that was that Hopkins put me on a retainer, and never really assigned any projects. Maybe it was to buy favor, something Hopkins seemed very important, but, I did complete one assignment that I suggested to him and he gave a greenlight to. I rewrote the mission/vision strategy statement for the university in advertising language instead of professor-ese. He liked it, even said he’d use it in his speeches, but he could never dare to suggest that the two-year process of formulating their manifesto could be undone by a Wright State grad with a degree in marketing in a few hours (my total billings to WSU around that time were around $1400).

That document, which technically belongs to the university, made its way off my hard drive over to Bruce Langos, as had my rebrand proposition a few weeks ago. I called it the “strategic plan lite.”

Langos wrote back- “I think strategic plan lite has some excellent thoughts that you should share with the board. I can do without the bicycle shop piece but I like the rest and maybe the others on the board would as well.”

Nothing has come from that months later.

But, in doing background, there is so much more to uncover. The University still has a lot of answers to give on how $100M vaporized before they should be trusted again with any money. Where is the $150 million Tom Hanks Capital Campaign money? It was sold to donors as a means to boost student scholarships, faculty retention and recruitment and pay down debt service on new /purchased buildings. Schrader, apparently thinks she’s done a great job in her first year, enough to warrant a bonus, that “she turned down.” Although that whole meeting of a subcommittee of the board in executive session seems mighty suspicious and probably a violation of the Ohio Open Meetings act, since it was public business in which a decision was reached, yet, never voted on in public. Remember, a subcommittee can’t take an action without approval from the whole body- in public.

The Evaluations

Evaluations at WSU are something that seem to be overlooked as well. Although the very same organization that provided the webinar for the August meeting strongly believes in annual presidential assessments, the Wright State Board apparently does not. They were unable to provide a single presidential assessment for the last 5 years when asked via public records request.

thumbnail of WSU Response to PRR – Presidents Contracts

The last three contracts of university presidents at Wright State. David Hopkins, Curtis McCray, Cheryl Schrader. Click on image to download PDF

What they finally did provide was the contracts of the last three presidents.

In the Hopkins contract, this appeared:

“The Board of Trustees (or a group of Trustees designated by the Chair) shall conduct an annual performance evaluation (emphasis mine) in the fall, and in its-sole discretion, adjust your base salary upward (if at all) following its review of your performance.”

They also had this clause:

Additionally, the Board of Trustees, in its sole discretion, at the conclusion of each year, shall determine whether to pay you a performance bonus for specific achievements during that year. It shall base its consideration upon its review of your performance of specific goals previously approved by you and the Board of Trustees.

The next line is almost mob worthy- offering to pay a bonus in CASH.

The bonus, if any, shall not exceed a sum equal in value to twenty percent (25%) of your then annual base salary, and may be paid in cash in whole or in part or in another appropriate manner agreed upon by you.

They have a little handwritten fix to the “twenty percent”- because twenty ain’t 25- and these folks are very generous.

Another problem with the “contract” is that the University- which keeps claiming that the University Foundation is a separate entity- and not required to follow the rules of public records- is not a separate organization, by having the following clause in his contract:

(7) The University will work with the University Foundation and arrange for it to reimburse you for dues at a country club. The University will also work with the University Foundation to provide reasonable support for your spouse, Angelia, in her role as an ambassador for the University and particularly as she assumes a greater role in the university’s campaign activities.

In addition, the university actually has a “formal primary operating agreement” with the Foundation where funds are paid and exchanged and expenses are shared like the capital campaign. I have recently requested this document from the University through a public records request along with sources and uses of funds.

You can’t have it both ways. Either the Foundation is a totally separate entity, or it’s not.

Just because it’s interesting- the termination clause:

The Board of Trustees may choose to terminate your services as President for cause at any time. “Cause” shall be defined to mean actions or omissions by you which are undertaken or omitted knowingly and are criminal or fraudulent or involve dishonesty or moral turpitude. In the event of termination for cause, your appointment as President shall cease immediately and you will not be entitled to receive any further compensation or benefits as President. If a dispute arises as to the existence of cause for termination, it shall be settled by mediation, with the costs of mediation, except your attorney fees, paid by the University. No compensation or benefits will be paid during the time of dispute and mediation. Any termination of your appointment as a faculty member shall be governed by the provisions and procedures applicable to University faculty members at that time.

Since the board failed to comply with any of the evaluation terms of the contract, and they were the ones who failed to terminate him for the unexplained $100M+ burn rate from stability to turmoil, we have to question who oversees the overseers’? And when will they be held accountable?

This sweetheart deal of a contract was signed by Larry Klaben, Chair of the BOT on 1 March 2013. Klaben, owner of Morris Home Furnishings and several Ashley Furniture Home Stores- was replaced on the board after his 9 year run, by Sean Fitzpatrick who began on July 22nd of 2016.

On March 15, 2017 Hopkins signed an amendment to his contract, to accept the terms of his resignation as tendered by Michael Bridges, who was the board chair.

The termination clauses and pay of his contract were basically washed away, leaving Hopkins a mere pauper, being paid $200K a year salary, plus his deferred compensation and vacation time. He got to keep the company car until June 30, 2017- but after that, was on his own.

To most observers, this would look like a firing for cause:

The one (1) year of presidential base salary, car allowance and reimbursements for university related expenses that was to be paid in Dr. Hopkins first year following the conclusion of his term as President which is referenced in Section 8. of the CONTRACT AGREEMENT, shall not be paid to Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Hopkins specifically agrees to forego, release, waive and relinquish all right, title or claim to such components of compensation in the CONTRACT AGREEMENT.

~ibid contracts of last three presidents

How the board explains this is anyone’s guess, especially, since there are no performance evaluations from the previous years showing any concern for the financial stability of the university.

None of the financial guys running the show got in trouble either. Jeff Ulliman who signed off on the budgets with the giant sucking sounds, retired gracefully on June 30 this year.  Mark Polatajko who served as Wright State’s vice president for business and fiscal affairs beginning in 2012 and left just as the holes in the ship became obvious, fled to Kent State.

Considering the hatchet man, Dr. Curtis McCray,  the board had to bring in, to do the following, there would be probable cause for a firing- and zero compensation paid to Hopkins.

A) Stabilize the University’s financial situation, eliminate a budget deficit of $30 Million Dollars, and restore a budget that increases University unrestricted reserves to a $5 Million Dollar surplus while preserving the University’s core academic mission and services, and maintaining its core athletics programs at a NCAA Division I level. Present for approval to the Board of Trustees a 2017-2018 budget reflecting the deficit reduction and reserves surplus at the Budget Workshop in June, 2017.

To do this act of magic in a mere 108 days, the Board allocated $119,892.00 or $1,164 dollars a day plus per diem for expenses. This was signed 2 days after Hopkins agreed to bow out, and after the university had identified the University’s President-designate, Cheryl Schrader, to begin as University President on July I, 2017.

Schrader had been offered and accepted the job on March 1st. Her contract also called for an annual evaluation:

The Board of Trustees (or a group of Trustees designated by the Chair) shall conduct a performance evaluation annually, (emphasis mine) and in its sole discretion, may increase your base salary if merited following its review of your performance.

Once again, those evaluations have either not been done, or the University has committed a violation of the Ohio Sunshine Laws by not supplying them as required by law.

That maintaining athletic programs at a division 1 level was equal to “preserving the University’s core academic mission and services” tells you a lot about this board and their egos.

We’ve been gathering other documents, as best we can. Questions about the very property that this meeting was held in, were sidestepped by calling their wholly owned subsidiary, Double Bowler Properties Corp “a private, non-profit corporation that is separate from the University” as an excuse for not providing responses is criminal.

thumbnail of Double Bowler Guided self study

Double Bowler “self-study” by Greg Sample and overseen by Brickler and Eckler submitted on Feb 14, 2017 Click to read the PDF

The Double Bowler board according to a “self-study” by Sample and overseen by Brickler and Eckler submitted on Feb 14, 2017 is:

Michael Bridges, Vishal Soin, Robert Sweeney, Jeff Ulliman, and Larry Klaben. Michael Bridges is the Chair of the University Board of Trustees and the President and CEO of Peerless Technologies Corp. Robert Sweeney is the Secretary to the University Board of Trustees and the Vice President for Planning at the University. Jeff Ulliman is the Vice President for Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer at the University. Vishal Soin is the CEO of Corbus LLC, the CEO of CTC Plastic, Inc., the Partner and Manager of Soin Capital LLC, the President of Soin LLC, the Chair of the Dayton Children’s Hospital Board of Trustees, and a former member of the University Board of Trustees. Larry Klaben is the immediate past chair of the University Board of Trustees and the CEO and President of Morris Furniture Company,Inc.

Michael Bridges, Vishal Soin, Robert Sweeney, Jeff Ulliman, and Larry Klaben, which is basically current and former Wright State board of Trustee members and WSU employees. It would be a conflict of interest for Bridges, Klaben and Soin to be involved in an entity that receives payment from Wright State and for school employees to also be involved, without university and board oversight.

Keep in mind, Dr. Sweeney, the architect of many of these University boondoggles like the failed 2016 Presidential Debate, remains as a highly paid faculty member. He also sits on the WSU Board Chair’s Doug Fecher’s company, Wright-Patt Credit Union. And Greg Sample, heads up the cloaked in secrecy Double Bowler while serving as WSU “President Administration”?

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”
? Walter Scott, Marmion

We will be digging deeper into these contracts, the Wright State Applied Research Corporation, Wright State Research Institute and the very questionable relationship with Wright Brothers Institute, Double Bowler and the Foundation and how one dead mystery man seemed to tie them all together.

We’ll also look for where the “Rise and Shine” campaign money went, the questionable shell companies surrounding so many of these entities and the Presidential Debate failure.

If you have information on any of these issues and the fall of Wright State, please feel free to contact me to share your information. All sources will be kept confidential.

It is my goal to continue to dig into this story until we’ve not only uncovered where the money went, but, how board members managed to enrich themselves, and escape prosecution throughout this debacle.

This community deserves more value, honesty and integrity from Wright State. Because, it belongs to us, not the Board of Trustees, Dr. Schrader or any of the other dilettantes who have crashed one of our great community assets.

Thank you for reading.


I’d like to thank the numerous people who contributed to this piece, but, most are doing so anonymously.

I reached out to numerous people mentioned in this story, including Dr. David Hopkins, Dr. Robert Sweeney, Sean Fitzpatrick, and some that weren’t, including Dr. Sundaram Narayanan, Gwen Mattison. All declined to talk to me.

There will be more stories coming.

The Open Meetings Acts for dummies at Wright State (and elsewhere)

The new wright state logo not done by YorkBranding or Push Inc showing Wright State leadership under Dr. David Hopkins

If there are two primary jobs of a university board of trustees, it is to hire and evaluate the President of a University and to keep track of the money. It would seem the WSU board of trustees can’t figure out where the money went and who to blame or praise. Maybe it’s because this feckless bunch lead by Doug Fecher of WPCU don’t know what their job is, and no one at the State level seems to care.

When the university went from cash rich to the poor house, no one got blamed. The President didn’t get fired, the numbers guy, Mark M. Polatajko, Ph.D., CPA ended up at Kent State, and the money has never been accounted for.

So, when the board has a committee meeting, ostensibly to review and create the evaluation for the president, in private- they have to do it a certain way.

From a regular meeting, a majority of the board has to make a motion to go into executive session to specifically discuss personnel issues. No exceptions. A subcommittee can only meet in public.

Here’s the law:

(G) Except as provided in divisions (G)(8) and (J) of this section, the members of a public body may hold an executive session only after a majority of a quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, to hold an executive session and only at a regular or special meeting for the sole purpose of the consideration of any of the following matters:

(1) To consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual, unless the public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual requests a public hearing. Except as otherwise provided by law, no public body shall hold an executive session for the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official’s official duties or for the elected official’s removal from office. If a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (G)(1) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (G)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held, but need not include the name of any person to be considered at the meeting….

(4) Preparing for, conducting, or reviewing negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees concerning their compensation or other terms and conditions of their employment;

Source: Lawriter – ORC – 121.22 Public meetings – exceptions.

The problem is, if the meeting wasn’t announced, and wasn’t specified to follow one of these two directives- the meeting is illegal.

… a release issued Wednesday from the university stated “Schrader would not accept” either for her work in the past year. Clarifying the issue later, WSU board chairman Doug Fecher, who said he helped write and review the release, said, “There was no vote taken and it wasn’t meant to imply that” the president turned down a bonus offer….

The executive committee of the the WSU board, which included Fecher, former board chairman Michael Bridges, Anuj Goyal and Grace Ramos, met behind closed doors with Schrader on Monday to discuss an evaluation of her first-year performance.

Schrader was not offered a merit raise or bonus because of the university’s financial troubles, Fecher said.

In June 2017, trustees slashed more than $30 million from Wright State’s fiscal year 2018 budget and another $10-million decline in revenue is expected over the coming year. Just last week, the university announced it would begin issuing layoff notices to around 26 employees.

“There was no change in compensation offered and she agreed there should be no (additional) compensation offered,” Fecher said.

Cox Media Group has requested public records about the evaluation and was told by the university there were no written documents from the meeting. Trustee Bruce Langos also said that he was not aware of a formally documented evaluation.

Fecher said the evaluation was more of a conversation. Fecher said he contacted trustees separately before the Monday meeting to get their opinion of Schrader’s performance and ideas for what she could improve upon.

Langos said he was “shocked” when he saw the release sent by the school that stated Schrader did not accept a raise or bonus, because he said it made it sound like the board offered her one.

Although the university may not be in a financial position to offer Schrader a raise, Langos said it’s something the entire board should have discussed and voted on publicly.

“I don’t think any laws were broken but I don’t think the rules or the bylaws (of the board) were followed because the bylaws require that things like this require (a vote). And we didn’t take a vote,” Langos said.

The executive committee cannot take action in executive sessions, meaning any action such as a vote for or against a raise for Schrader would need to be taken in a public session.

The Ohio Open Meetings Act states that members of a public body are required to “discuss and deliberate on official business only in open meetings.” How Wright State’s board handled Schrader’s evaluation falls into a “gray area” of the law, said Dan Tierney, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“Our advice is always consult your legal counsel in such a gray area and then decide whether they would be comfortable defending that or not,” Tierney said.

Source: WSU president not given raise due to budget – Dayton Daily News

Fecher isn’t allowed to have private conversations with three others in private to discuss university business, and he is not allowed to round robin request information. Him contacting other board members to discuss their opinion is a violation of the OMA. Pure and simple.

The proper procedure is to create a subcommittee, that works on the evaluation, a written document, that is then reviewed by the entire board in a properly called executive session, and a final document is released to the personnel file of the President. If an “executive session” discussion is to be held in private with the president, it must be stated what the issue is in advance, from an open session.

Unbelievably, I’m forced to cite the Dayton School Board lawyers site for info on case law of actual evaluations- which may be an interpretation that evaluations may have to be done in public:

The most striking part of the court’s decision, however, is its conclusion that performance evaluations do not fit within this executive session exception.  The court said, “construing the OMA liberally in favor of open meetings and construing the executive-session exceptions narrowly, the trial court correctly found no exception for employee ‘evaluation.’”  The court agreed with this interpretation.  This ruling appears to be based upon the fact that the word “evaluation” is not specifically listed in R.C. § 121.22(G)(1).  The court continued:  In any event, we do not necessarily disagree with the [  ] statement that the OMA permits discussion of an employee’s ‘job performance’ in executive session.  Prior to entering into executive session, however the public bod must specify the context in which ‘job performance’ will be considered by identifying one of the statutory purposes set forth in R.C. 121.22(G).

Notably, the court offered no opinion or explanation on how performance evaluations of administrators and executives by a governing board do not fit within the continued “employment” of employees under Section (G)(1).  Is it their opinion that the “employment” exception to open meetings is only for the initial hiring?  We do not know.  The court offered no explanation on how and when a governing board should discuss routine evaluations of employees (especially direct reports, such as the Executive Director), which often do not relate to a specific “dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation” decision.

The court’s ruling may now require governmental entities that conduct routine evaluations of Directors, Superintendents, Treasurers, City Managers, etc. to either find one of these specific pegs of (G)(1) on which to hang personnel evaluations or, otherwise, hold the discussion in public.  Unlike Ms. Maddox, it is likely that most public administrators do not want their performance evaluations to be aired in a public session.[1]  And, the promise of a public discourse on one’s job performance by one’s own employer could make the difficult job of finding qualified people to fill these high-level positions all that more difficult.

Source: Public Records Decision: Consideration of Performance Evaluations | Subashi & Wildermuth

Part of the reason University Presidents are paid the big bucks is that they agree to take public criticism, hold responsibility and lead by example. There is really no legitimate reason to conduct annual reviews in private, or to be embarrassed by the discussion- it’s the future of the university- a public institution.

The Open Meetings Act is the only law I know of that comes with a 250 page public handbook to explain the importance of conducting the public’s business in public.

One of the quotes in the beginning of the handbook should make it pretty clear:

 “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when rulers may be concealed from them… {T}o cover with the veil of secrecy the common routines of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man.” Patrick Henry

~see State of Ohio Sunshine Laws Manual

Every elected public official is required in the State of Ohio to take a three hour course in the Open Meetings Act/Sunshine Laws. I’m not sure if University Trustee’s are, but, this latest screw up suggests that they should be.

And, btw, ostensibly the penalty for violating the OMA is removal from office, although it’s never happened in the State of Ohio. Removing this board for a violation of the OMA would be a good start.

As to the whole faux pas of Schrader announcing that she declined a bonus that was never offered, and that Fecher helped write the press release, says there is way more wrong than right at Wright State.

Battle of the bad school boards

The Esrati.com PollWhen I first ran for City Commission, Abner Orick was the director of the Board of Elections. He asked me “why don’t you run for school board first to get your name out?” I didn’t have kids in school, I didn’t understand politics in Dayton yet, and I didn’t realize that school boards are one of the most dysfunctional positions in the state of Ohio. It’s almost written into law to make sure you end up with a keystone kops krew- with no easy, specified way to remove a board, and allowing them to pick their own members when someone leaves. The fiasco with Adil Baguirov’s residency last year proved that there are no checks and balances on even the most basic rule- residency.

The pay is minimal- capped at $5000 a year (the cap had to come because Dayton routinely ran up huge board compensation with their over abundance of meetings).  The actual role of the board is convoluted- they are supposed to set policy and direction for the Superintendent- who is supposed to run the district. Most of the time- it’s the other way around.

All that aside, we have two school district boards and one college board of trustees that can’t seem to do anything right in the Dayton area- so, let’s have a little poll, and decide who should get the crown of incompetence for the first quarter of 2018.

Trotwood Madison Board of Education

Last week, the Trotwood School Board voted 4-1 to fire a teacher, Khalilah Forté, for cause. Forté organized a student college tour, outside of school, with private dollars. This, along with her taking a student into her home, against her principals warning, were the stated reasons. There is more to this story, including that the one school board member who didn’t vote to fire her, Norman J. Scearce III, was the past president of the group that sponsored the tour. All the kids who went on the tour, did so with parental approval. The student in question, had her parents leave the area- and she needed some place to stay until she graduated. 

I remember examples of this happening when I was in HS. In my day, the teacher would be praised for going above and beyond in looking out for the welfare of her students. Her personnel record was spotless in her 3 years at TM.

The district is ranked worst in the state, and just hired a new Superintendent. Students are unhappy with this decision to fire a teacher that went above and beyond for them and are threatening a walkout during testing week.

Dayton Public Schools Board of Education

In just the first quarter of the year, this BOE has redefined FUBAR, starting even before the 4 new members took office, with their an attempt at convening of a school closing task force closed to the public. Already working with an interim superintendent with a whopping total of 1 year experience in the district, they then hired her at a premium amount, for three years, without even opening the position to internal candidates. The bench clearing brawl that broke out at the end of a Thurgood/Dunbar basketball game ended up getting Thurgood tossed out of the tournament and Thurgood being put back in. They decided to waste a ton of money- and piss off the Ohio High School Athletic Association (the sports Mafia of the state) by taking them to court- even though the district was already under sanctions for the Dunbar/Belmont thrown football game attempt the year before. They won the suit, but Dunbar only won one game before getting knocked out. They lost in an appeal on the improper termination notification of former Treasurer Craig Jones. They lost a first round in a Sunshine laws case brought by me, pro se, against them for their task forces private bus tour of buildings to close.

The bus drivers union came to within two days of a strike- pushing some testing back a week. The demoting of the Belmont Principal 6 weeks before the end of the school year did nothing to stop the systemic problems of a school that’s over-enrolled and understaffed. There have been multiple calls for police intervention at the school since the change over to management by committee. The district also subverted  their own purchasing rules by sliding a contract for a PR survey by a Cleveland firm to the Montgomery County Educational Services Center. The district PR machine seems totally broken, with the non-renewal of Dr. Venita Kelly who was hired to manage the PR a year ago, along with a contract to the most expensive bidder on an RFQ last year. When the assignments for principals was made public last week- it came via Esrati.com- with the Superintendent only releasing an email to staff after the changes were public. And lastly, despite enrollment drops being a primary concern, procedures for enrolling students are still a mess- with some parents spending an entire day in the “enrollment center.”

Wright State Board of Trustees

It’s been a while since esrati.com covered much of the ongoing fiasco at my alma mater. Therefore, I’m not limiting the screwups to just the last quarter.

This board is about to put the university into fiscal ruin, and just two weeks ago, declared that $10M needs to be cut in 10 weeks. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long steady progression into the abyss. While Dr. David Hopkins got to retire with a pension and with his dignity and immediately move to South Carolina so that he can’t be hauled back into court to pay for his sins, the board continues to oversee what can only be described as a train wreck.

The malfunctions all began when board members used WSU’s ability to bring over students that amounted to unlimited H1-B visas, so they could have cheap labor for their IT firms. Trustee Nina Joshi president and CEO of UES Inc. resigned after getting her hands caught in the cookie jar. Trustee Michael Bridges of Peerless Technologies managed to vote for WSU to hire his son for a $125K a year IT job, without the job even being posted. Either of these infractions would normally result in prosecution, but both got barely a hand slap. Bridges stayed on the board, his kids job offer revoked. Current board chairman, Douglas Fecher, the CEO of Wright Patt Credit union should have some explaining to do about how WSU bought his former HQ while he sat on the board.

The failure of WSU to execute and bring the Presidential debate to campus should have been an early indication of managerial malfeasance and an organization run amok, however it was just the easy target. Harder is the operation of a bunch of shell companies which have been spending money like they can print it, with no legitimate oversight- since they aren’t quite WSU, or anything else. The Wright State Applied Research Corporation and Double Bowler Enterprises both fall into the netherworld of quasi-governmental slush funds. That a bunch of former politicians, lobbyists and “economic development” types are tied in should set off alarm bells. The hiring of Jim “Lefty” Leftwich, who tried to represent both WSU and the State of Ohio on the same deal was just one indication that no adults are captaining the ship.

Labor relations at the university are at an all time low, with staff being told that it’s up to them to control costs, mostly by not spending money required to actually do their jobs. When the Trustee’s brought in an interim President to do the dirty work of slashing and burning bloat- they chose to not listen to Dr. Curtis McCray- and instead cut Swimming- but boosted athletics budget by a million for basketball. Now, with ten weeks left they are wondering where the money went.

The hiring of the new president drew a limited field thanks to the dire straights of the school. The eventual pick is an introvert, who has yet to figure out that her salary alone is part of the problem. If there is one place where pay for performance is indicated, it’s for “turnaround” leaders- and so far, she’s barely been able to point out where the cuts need to be made. First hint: paying former congressman Steve Austria $150K a year probably doesn’t win you any favors with the state.

Your three choices

We’ll quickly see which organization should win the prize for incompetence in the first quarter with this poll. Feel free to also leave any other pertinent issues that I managed to overlook in this post as comments. This poll is in no means scientific (we’d need to hire a consultant from Cleveland to do one of those…). I just thought it was time for something new.

 

Which Board Should Be Fired First?

Trotwood Madison School Board
Dayton Public Schools Board of Education
Wright State University Board of Trustees

Time to clean house at Wright State

I like Dr. David Hopkins. A lot.
I’ve done work for him- not a lot.

I’m a Wright State graduate. I was active in Student Government. Inter Club Council and Student Affairs when I was a student.

All that being said- in light of the really good journalism at the Dayton Daily news by Josh Sweigart, it’s time to clean house.

The newspaper no longer publishes editorials. There is no editorial bully pulpit that calls people out when things have gone to shit.

At Wright State- they’ve gone to shit.

First indication was when they hired Jim “Lefty” Leftwich on some consulting contract to get business from the state- while he had a contract from the state. Right there, someone should have ended up in prison- but, no, that was the tip of the iceberg.

Then comes the scandal of H1B visas. The school went into bunker mode. People got fired (and had the audacity to sue for “money owed”). Others, demoted. One person- the long time legal counsel, retired with a lump sum payment.

At the same time- they create an off-books corporation “Double Bowler Properties” with a lobbyist/former congressman to “acquire real estate” quietly. There is an interlocking directorship with the Director of the WSU Board of Trustees- who voted on the hiring of his son to do “cyber security” by the university, without a public job posting- a serious conflict of interest and violation of rules.

Then all of a sudden, there is some hoo-hah about the university needing “internet security upgrades” for “The Presidential Debate” and the numbers are in the millions- all for a few hours of a nationally televised show.

Next comes the whole issue of hiring Ron Wine Consulting- and continuing to pay Ron (no one has proved he has any employees and he doesn’t have a website) a million plus in a year when there was no contract in place. Mr. Wine makes suggestions like “you should offer to hold a fundraiser for the (insert politician’s name here)” as part of his counsel, yet claims he’s not a lobbyist. He also thinks he should be paid a commission on contracts he brings in to the school, something that shouldn’t sit well with anyone in charge of a public institution- funded largely by the taxpayers.

I could go on. I could link to article after article. I could sit and wait- and hope that the Ohio attorney general and the FBI and the others do their jobs- and start throwing people in prison, but we all know white collar crime doesn’t land you in prison- only being poor or having drug offenses will do that. These are all wealthy people. They have that magic “Get out of Jail Free” card given to them as a birthright.

Wright State needs new leadership. Yesterday.

This is too much of a distraction. It’s been taking up too much bandwidth. It’s time for a new set of trustees, a new president, and some sort of independent ethics oversight, since the moral compass of what Wright State should and should not be doing with tax dollars seems to have been tossed off campus.

The university is a key part of our community, which has hitched its cart to the stupid strategy of “Meds, Eds and Feds” (none of which pay property taxes). When the wheels come off one of the key parts of the cart, we’re all at risk.

Sorry Dr. Hopkins, too much has gone off the tracks under your watch. You’ve fallen in with the wrong crowd, and lost your credibility. It’s time to step down.