School board candidate claims no vendetta, says change needed

Steve Linder, a candidate for Norwalk's school board, said he is not out for revenge for past problems with the system, but believes the district and administrators must be more accountable to residents. Since one of the issues Linder has raised in his campaign is communication, the Reflector is asking the district for copies of letters written by the Linders and responses from the district. Linder maintains that the district sent responses, but often didn't answer questions or resolve complaints. "We never really got an answer,' Linder said, even though school administrators returned letters. "They may have answered, but they haven't addressed the issues.'
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

Steve Linder, a candidate for Norwalk’s school board, said he is not out for revenge for past problems with the system, but believes the district and administrators must be more accountable to residents.

Since one of the issues Linder has raised in his campaign is communication, the Reflector is asking the district for copies of letters written by the Linders and responses from the district. Linder maintains that the district sent responses, but often didn’t answer questions or resolve complaints. “We never really got an answer,” Linder said, even though school administrators returned letters. “They may have answered, but they haven’t addressed the issues.”

This information was too lengthy to print in the paper, but it can be downloaded by clicking here.

Names of students, referring to them while they were students, and information regarding special education plans have been removed under the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

“I don’t want to open any old wounds,” Linder said, “but many people are afraid to say what’s on their mind. Issues should be brought out in the open.”

Linder said he thinks administrators should be accountable for mistakes, specifically high school principal Robert Duncan. Linder considers Duncan the root of the problems he has brought before the board.

Linder said he has talked to both residents and staff members who feel that if they make any complaints against Duncan and other administrators, the complaints will be ignored. In the case of staff members, he added, they are afraid they will face repercussions on the job.

Both Linders said they believed Duncan had done an excellent job as assistant principal, but is not managing the role of principal effectively.

Four years ago, Sharon Linder was transferred from her job as secretary at the high school under Duncan’s ultimate supervision to secretary at Main Street School. Both Linders said they believe she was transferred because the couple had complained about Duncan.

Sharon said she was told that the district wanted the best employees in place to make the new school successful, but she doesn’t feel she was given the true reason for the transfer. Linder says his wife enjoys her job at Main Street, but says she feels her talents were better used at the high school. Both Linders went to the board with questions about the transfer, but said the board would not grant an executive session for personnel questions and said it was an administrative matter.

Sharon would not comment on her transfer now because of her position with the district.

In their letters to the district, the Linders also complained that Duncan broke district policy by using tobacco on school property and by falsifying records over fire drills. Duncan was given a three-day suspension for the problem with fire drills.

The Linders’ latest conflict with Duncan has been over the district’s delay in releasing their daughter’s high school transcript for several months. Melissa Linder, an NHS graduate and a student at the University of Akron, was applying for a program to train as a radiology technician through Akron Children’s Hospital last spring.

When Melissa turned in her application, she was missing her high school transcript and ACT score. Her ACT score should have been included on the transcript, Linder said.

The high school guidance counselor, Julia Gullett, did send a letter to the University explaining why the transcript could not be included in Melissa’s application and invited the university to contact her with any questions. Gullett said that Sharon was satisfied with that at the time.

Gullett also said that in her experience, such a note is sufficient.

“I don’t know if she would have gotten in or not,” Sharon said, but added it was upsetting to know that Melissa’s high school record and ACT score couldn’t be added to the point total needed for the position.

Melissa is now a part-time student at the University of Akron and has a part-time job at Akron City Hospital. She plans to apply for the radiology program again next spring.

Linder said he later discovered that the district had access to the records sent away for imaging at any time and administrators knew that, but never told other staff members. Both Linders said they can’t change the facts, but they would like for more than an “I’m sorry” from the district.

Linder said the board also refused to meet in executive session over the incident. “If we could have had an executive session, we could have resolved this without numerous trips to have the simple communication to make a better school,” Linder said.  

“I think it’s great that Dr. Babcanec stands up for Duncan, but I believe there should be some accountability,” said Linder. Both Linders say Duncan should resign because of what they see as his ineffectiveness as principal.

Michael Grose, president of the board, said he thinks the issue is over and the board handled the situation properly.

“I think we investigated the situation thoroughly and came up with a conclusion of what we needed to do,” he said. “They feel they had the solution for their problem and we didn’t use that solution. We handled it in what we felt was an appropriate way.”

“The board says the problems are the administration’s concern,” Linder said. “I just want someone to be accountable.”

Even though he has been before the board with numerous complaints, Linder said he has respect for the current members and feels he can work effectively with them. “I understand why they work the way they do. It’s a thankless job and it doesn’t pay much,” he said. “I just don’t feel the board asks enough questions.”

Grose did agree that board members could work with Linder if he were elected to the board.

“I’ve had him for a student and known him for 30 years,” Grose said. “If he’s elected, things will work out.”

Linder said his intention if he wins a seat on the board is to give another opinion and raise questions. “I’m not after anybody’s job,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about a democratic society. I would just be one vote.”

He said his first year on the board would be a learning year.

“I’ve been in management for over 20 years. I treat people like I want to be treated. I think I could bring some of my management skills in there and maybe change things around and make a difference,” Linder said. “It’s not a vendetta, but I’ve seen so much wrong. I just think changes need to be considered.”

Comments

anybodybutlinde...

Too bad the "Norwalk Reflector" can't re-print all of the Linders' past Readers Forum letters. The letters posted on the link provided here only give a partial view of the Linders, and their public beefs.

handsome man (A...

I believe that this whole discussion is being done by the same person

needin a man (A...

hey handsome man did you read my post

Cory Nardecchia...

My dad DOES work at Norwalk High School, but that has no point in this matter what so ever. I never said anything about my dad in my response, what I said was my own opinion.

Seriously (Anon...

" After reading all the letters, it would be hard to believe that Steve Linder does not have a vendetta. He seems to be mad at everyone at Norwalk. His wife also appears to be a PSYCHO!!! I know if I talked to my employer the way she complains about hers, I would be looking for a new job!! She is probably trying to get fired so she and her union can sue the school and get a nice settlement. Then maybe they can buy their daughter's way in to X-Ray school! Don't let a problem become a part of the school board! "

Watch out! (Ano...

I caution everyone to look at what has happened in Milan and Monroeville - once you get a "bad egg" on a board or council, nothing gets done and the board constantly fights. If Linder is elected, he will immediately ask for Bob Duncan's resignation and will attempt to get him non-renewed. Thankfully the rest of the board (minus Janet Broz) will think otherwise and keep him!

handsome man (A...

I promise I will never run for school board and I will advise everyone that they had better not either because
it is reserved for a select few,what the hell happened to the election system that we used to have.
is the devil running for school board??
do we have anything to hide??

lookin for a ma...

i dont have anything to hide handsome man

Jack Beckett (A...

Wow. Either a lot of people are legitimately fired up about this issue, or else there are four or five people who are spending an awful lot of time on here making it look that way. I just have a few things to say: first, regardless of how you feel about this issue, it is completely unfair to criticize Melissa Linder for the actions of her parents. I've seen a number of posts on here demeaning here abilities and her character; she's been called, among other things, a "mediocre student," and has been mocked for her 3.0 GPA at Akron (whoever posted that one must never have gone to college--a 3.0 is a darn good GPA, especially for someone studying the natural/medical sciences). I personally knew Melissa in high school; she's a good student and a very nice, unassuming person, and has done nothing to have her name and reputation sullied by commenters who don't even have the guts to reveal their own identities. Second, Cory--kudos for using your real name on here, man. I don't agree with your point, but I respect the fact that you're not trying to hide your identity. However, your statement about Norwalk High having an excellent academic record has absolutely no grounding in reality. As I point out in my forthcoming readers' forum letter (aren't you all excited?), Norwalk's test scores are the very definition of average, and as few as two years ago we were classified as an "at risk" district. Take a look at the Ohio Department of Education website if you'd like--the school report cards are on there, and you can see that barely any of our scores vary from the state average (and I'm talking about in a statistical sense here--I can draw up the confidence interval/t-ratios as an example if anyone is reeaallly interested). Furthermore, other area districts outperformed us on a regular basis for several years before we were labelled as "effective". I'm not saying this to bash Norwalk schools; I just want to dispel this illusion that Norwalk schools are somehow exceptional.

Not Jack Becket...

Hey Jack -

Area schools, such as New London, Huron, and other area schools with better scores, don't have the amount of special needs students and don't have the diverse population that Norwalk has. A city's poverty level has a direct affect on how the schools perform. Not every student in the school district has two parents at home ready to help them with their homework afterschool. Many of the parents work two jobs just to support their family. How are those students expected to compete with children in wealthier districts? They're not, and they can't. Norwalk is doing the best it can with what it has to work with.

Jack Beckett (A...

Once again, I understand that different factors come into play with these tests. However, even if you look at our results vs. those of similar districts (as defined by the Ohio Department of Education--you can see the data here--http://ilrc.ode.state.oh.us/Dist...(Similar%20Districts)&str=044560,Norwalk%20City,Huron%20County), you'll see that we are essentially an average district. In some areas we underperformed, while in others we did very well. However, given the sample sizes involved (my graduating class was 162, so if we assume around 200 students are taking these tests at each grade level, a difference of 5% or 6% between our average and the state average is not likely to be statistically significant (you'd need to know our district's sample variance to truly figure it out. . . blah blah I know I'm boring you here, but if anyone knows what it is, I would like to see). Either way, for most intents and purposes, the numbers show us to be average. Is this bad? No, not at all, and I never said it was. I just pointed out that there's no objective evidence that implies we're an 'exceptional' district. That's an important distinction to make.

Jack Beckett (A...

Just an as addendum--in case I didn't make myself clear, when I said that we're average, I mean that we're doing roughly the same as other districts with similar demographic characteristics, as defined by the Ohio Department of Education.

Richard (Anonymous)

After a half-hour downloading the Linder correspondence file, I noticed on pg. 18 that the name of Linder's legal counsel is Andrea Martin. Is that the same Andrea Martin that was on "Second City TV" ? Because she was pretty funny - just like most of this correspondence. You can look it up on www.imdb.com -- Andrea Martin, that is, not the Linder correspondence.

The Linders made a mistake by not requesting the transcript 5 months earlier. The school made a mistake by sending out recent files for imaging (in 2007, nothing before 2004 should have been out of the building). Any graduate makes a mistake by not getting a copy of their transcript when they graduate -- the school could have certified that copy somehow. It sounds like the hospital made a mistake by basing everything on a piece of paper and not accepting a motivated student into their program (and how the heck is a high school transcript relevant to a college technology progam?).

And if any or all members of the board of education or the school administration were taken out and drawn and quartered, would that now get Ms. Linder into the tech program at the hospital ?

supporter (Anon...

Everyone keeps saying how the board is for the tax payers and the kid's which i agree, but what about the employees.

Re: Jack Becket...

Check your demographics. 'Not Jack Beckett' raises several good points. An issue you fail to raise, however, is the education level of our teachers compared to the other districts. Check the number of Masters and PhD's in similar school districts. It will tend to tip toward Norwalk.

I do look at the test scores and compare them with other districts as a measure. I rank the schools right down to my sons' performance year-to-year.

It sounds like you are finding out once you get 'into the world' it does not matter what high school you graduated. It matters what you did while at that high school.

Now, with that in mind, I have a 'soapbox' issue here. It seems more and more students are being 'homeschooled'. Not in the sense we expect. You start the school year, already paying the taxes, then get fees. Even at the grade school level. Send everything short of a new car to school for supplies.

Then, early on, it's not homework. It is a list of things to be done at home.

This is not a complaint about working with my kids. This is a realization that at 2:30 or 3:15 the starting school bell rings.

Just an observation that affects my vote on levies, school boards, etc.

The experience I have with the other area school boards and operations (somewhat extensive) is that Norwalk is managed well. Dr. Babcanec, and Mrs. Poling before him, are excellent leaders and school administrators. I have talked with both many times and, while not always agreeing, I respect their positions. This is not the case with all the districts.

The school board is harder to judge at times. Working right, they will not be constant newspaper fodder. Do you want politics, greed, and vendettas playing out on your school board? I don't. I want a level, straightforward approach to the education of the entire student body.

As far as Bob Duncan, or any of the building principals now or in the past, I have NEVER had issues with any when calling to communicate concerning my sons.

This can be closed with the teacher/student relationship. The effort is not entirely one's own. Much like the communication relationship. The receiver can not reply/comply if the message is garbled, impossible or the sender is unreasonable. It simply does not work.

Beware of someone's rallying cry. An orator with an unjust cause can lead to great harm.

Good points by all.

Jack Beckett (A...

re: Re: Jack Beckett: I agree, 'Not Jack Beckett' did raise a valid point (can we come up with some different handles? this is getting confusing). However, if you read my second post, I linked to an Ohio Department of Education page that compares our scores with those of similar school districts. I realize that we cannot try to compare our performance with districts such as Indian Hill, Dublin, Hilliard, etc. Using other similar districts as our baseline for comparison, however, we are still quite average. Why does everyone take issue with this? I'm not trying to slam Norwalk--I grew up there and think it's a pretty nice place to live. I just find it strange how many people in this town seem to live under the illusion that it is exceptional in some way. Anyways, I'm wasting way too much time posting on here. . .

Handsome Man (A...

To the post that responded to Jack Beckett and said he never had a problem communicating with Duncan or any other principal, it's very obvious that you were very close to the schools and had a lot of communication with Babcanec. That explains why the individual schools and principals were so willing to deal with you. Non-prominent persons do not get this kind of treatment at our local schools.

Re: handsome ma...

I am not connected to the schools other than being a parent. It's very obvious you attempt to make your points without all your information in order. Unreasonable people do not get the attention they crave. THERE is your point.

handsome man (A...

why would you criticize me personally just because I expressed my opinion about accessibility?

Sunnie (Anonymous)

As an observer OUTSIDE of the Norwalk school district, I read about each candidate, then said, well if I were allowed to vote, I would vote for Mr Linder, not knowing there was any type of controversy. Then the above article was printed in the newspaper, which looks like another hatchet job on their part. (imagine that!) Let the voter decide, not the media, who the best candidate is.

Norwalktaxpayer...

Sunnie: I live in Norwalk, and I can say Mr. Linder has made his position quite clear. The newspaper has just passed along what he's said, both in public meetings, and in interviews leading up to the election.
Also, he and his wife's views, which they themselves wrote in various letters, are available for all to see here.
This allows voters to get a true picture of the candidate.
How is that a hatchet job?
Mr. Linder's victory or defeat doesn't benefit the newspaper one way or another.

swiss family......

i wish that Stan Obrenovih would run for school board.. he would fix the problems that seem to be unfixable!!!

Dear swiss fami...

you would say that. Is he your uncle or something? father in law?

re: handsome ma...

Your comment 'you obviously' claimed something that was not true about me. When you make a claim about someone back it with facts rather than a baseless conclusion. It wasn't personal. It was a clarification needed due to a baseless conclusion. I do not have any additional avenues in making contact with the administrators in the school system other than the telephone.

I will say this, I was not aware of Linder's campaign until I read the newspaper and several comments. Regardless of good or bad views from individuals, I am suspect of ANYONE who seeks office with a spouse who has complained, and in the method she has complained, about her work with the school. It makes me ponder the reason for the campaign.

This view is not based in fact but observation. Linder very well may be an excellent board member if elected. His POSSIBLE motive costs him my vote.

handsome man (A...

this bickering could go on forever,I'm glad you have decided who you want to vote for.
after all this is a school board election we are talking about not ruler of the world
goodbye

Really... (Anon...

Steve Linder said - "I’ve been in management for over 20 years. I treat people like I want to be treated." Really? You want someone you work for to constantly complain about everything you do? You want to be able to blame someone else for your shortcomings? You want your employees to write letters and send comic strips to you telling you are doing a poor job? It sounds like you want to be treated poorly!!!

I have some que...

I read the letters and there were some very valid points. Why would Mr. Duncan not answer Mrs. Linder when she had questions as his employee? Why would he not answer questions about her child? Mr. Linder says there needs to be more open communication. After reading these letters I agree. When Mr. Duncan stated (he now knows Mrs. Linder wanted to be acknowledged) and her reply (no she wanted answers). She was obviously frustrated with him at that point and again, as a parent, I would be too. Did Mr. Duncan ever answer her questions? It even showed he would not respond to the newspapers when asked about his past discretions. Mr. Linder is being very honest when he states he would not vote to renew Mr. Duncan's contract. I got one of his fliers in my door and it says (I believe in teamwork, accountability, honesty, integrity and open communication) I think he does and I will vote for him.

To Really (Anon...

I was thinking the same thing myself, well said!
To:I have some questions,I only know of two people who could really believe the valid points addressed in those rambling letters, and I'm sure they have some posts on here.

T$Robinson........

Ibelieve that steve linder has a personal thing against mr duncan. this is just a childish fight going on between them, instigated by mr linder. i really dont think that mr linder wants to serve us in this capacity,as much as he really wants to dethrone mr duncan.i wish mr linder would grow up,and put his childish games behind him

REPLY TO T$Robi...

For the love of God, will you just shut up. You went away for a while and we all rejoyced, now you are back and we are angry. Shut up.

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