The Forest Hills School District Invites the Community to a Presentation About Mental Wellness by the Hilinski’s Hope Foundation
Communication from the District:
As part of ongoing efforts at Forest Hills School District to support the mental health and wellness of students, the district is excited to invite the community to an upcoming presentation by the Hilinski’s Hope Foundation. As an educational institution, FHSD understands the importance of supporting student wellness and meeting the social, behavioral and emotional needs of children in the school community.
This community presentation, which will be hosted by Anderson High School and the Forest Hills Foundation for Education in March, is an opportunity for students, families and community members to learn about important topics related to mental health and suicide prevention.
The community event will be held on Monday, March 4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Titus Auditorium at Anderson High School. In order to ensure there is enough space to accommodate all who wish to attend, FHSD is encouraging interested individuals to fill out this RSVP form.
The Hilinski’s Hope Foundation (H3H) was founded in 2018 by Mark and Kym Hilinski to honor the life of their son Tyler. Tyler was a talented, kind-hearted and dedicated young man who excelled at sports, eventually playing football at Washington State University. At the age of 21, Tyler died by suicide.
At the January 2024 meeting of the Forest Hills School District (FHSD) Board of Education, the FHSD community received an explanation behind Board Vice President Katie Stewart’s “NO” vote on that evening’s consent agenda ... screen time. On the agenda was a budget item including new Lenovo Chromebooks. Like most parents, she was worried about kids having too much screen time. But I think this vote points to a larger issue with Mrs. Stewart’s performance on the board of our public school district.
Katie Stewart may not understand what a consent agenda is. Consent agendas consist of multiple procedural items, expected to garner unanimous approval. By voting “NO” on the January 2024 consent agenda, Mrs. Stewart voted “NO” on all items within the agenda.
Black History Month was born in the halls of Ohio’s Kent State University in 1926. It was first established in the second week of February as Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D., founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.
In 1969, Kent State’s Black United Students organization advocated for the entire month of February to be known as Black History Month. In 1970, they achieved their goal, and the first celebration of Black History Month took place across the university’s campus.
Six years after its inception at Kent State, Black History Month received national designation by President Gerald Ford who said, “we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
It is important in the second week of February, that we remember Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D., and the contributions that he made to Ohio education and the establishment of Black History Month in the United States. It is important that we remember this history as legislators in Ohio and across the country eliminate diversity training requirements in state colleges and universities. It is important to remember this and for us to advocate for honest education grounded in historical truth, facts, and diverse perspectives.
The previous blog post discussed the letter recently distributed to Forest Hills residents, by the county auditor, which contained essential details concerning property reappraisal, revealed a series of intriguing discoveries that prompted contemplation of the underlying process.
When crafting the last post it appeared that certain properties within the area exhibited only nominal alterations, and in some cases, even negative adjustments in their property values. In contrast, other properties experienced substantial increases in their appraisal values, with some surging by as much as 80%. Initially, suspicions arose that these fluctuations might be linked to property improvements. However, a thorough examination of the Auditor's website revealed no discernible record of such improvements for these properties.
Forest Hills residents recently received a letter from the county auditor with information regarding property reappraisal which is performed every 3 years, along with many new/renewed levies (Cincinnati Zoo and Anderson Township Park District among them), along with the new payments covering operating and permanent improvement levy.
It is our understanding that most homeowners will see an increase in the value of their home. The average increase is around 26%, and based on our research into the Hamilton County Auditor’s website, it appears that some properties saw a single-digit decrease, while several homes saw 50% increase or more, with one property on Salem Rd increasing by 80%.
Fortunately, FHSD residents have a unique and qualified resource to help taxpayers understand this complicated system.
It’s 2024 - and the district’s work to prepare for the year ahead is underway, with its first budget/organizational meeting on Jan. 4th at 6:30 p.m.
New board members and the change of board president could signal a fresh start with new objectives for the remainder of this school year.
Member Jonas’ statement itself is full of demonstrable falsehoods, these have already been addressed in multiple news articles as well as the Advocate FHSD blog.
The 4 for Forest Hills admit Culture of Kindness Resolution was an “unnecessary distraction” and a wasteful expense
After 18 months, the Forest Hills School District board finally rescinded the controversial Culture of Kindness Resolution. In a special meeting this morning at 7 am, a unanimous vote was heard by a number of district residents in attendance to settle the lawsuit and rescind the resolution.
The Protect Diversity group has created a timeline of events to provide a retrospective look at the dates and documents that were publicly available surrounding this event for the background and accurate history, including the statement written in protest by the National Underground Freedom Center, here in Cincinnati.
The district has issued a statement, now available on the Forest Hills School District Website, claiming that the “settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing” and that the board “denies that the Resolution violates anyone’s legal rights.”
Interestingly, the board suggested that the decision to rescind and settle the lawsuit was due to the recognition that the document and actions to defend it were distracting from education of students. In their statement they write, “the board chose to resolve the matter to avoid the unnecessary distraction from the important business of educating children and to also cease the costs of litigation that would burden taxpayers
The district has aggressively fought to defend the Resolution since the vote to pass it in 2022. Although many signals indicated that the effort was hurting the community, the board persisted despite
For 18 months, the supporting board members Bibb, Hausfeld, Jonas and Stewart willingly and knowingly engaged in - in their own words issued today - the “unnecessary distraction from the important business of educating children” and even as late as October 27th 2023 stated that they looked forward to defending the resolution in court.
This district has always deserved a board that considers students and staff first, perhaps the members of the board finally realized that the “business” of educating children should never include acts to discriminate, silence, or oppress cultural heritage, born-in traits, selected religious affiliation or even prevent healthy self reflection in class settings.
Perhaps the 4 for Forest Hills finally acknowledged that the Resolution indicated a lack of basic understanding of the progress of society towards inclusion. Perhaps the 4 for Forest Hills learned over the last year and half that societies that demonstrate equity among diverse groups have higher economic stability than those that do not, as shown in this article by the International Monetary Fund, a global organization that works to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity and studies the impact of diversity and the acceptance of diversity on economies.
Or, perhaps Board President Linda Hausfeld, member Bibb, member Jonas and member Stewart realized that the position was always a losing one. The combination of events that occurred from the end of October and early November demonstrated they were going to have little support from their voters and limited opportunity from a legal standing.
The notable series of events in the last few weeks cemented the inevitable end
While we celebrate the outcome and speculate on the motivation, we must continue to be vigilant. The board members that remain may still make other attempts to enact the policy’s words through other existing policies and actions. Or, they may consider the chance to rely on state-level legislation currently being debated. As a community our voices tied with increased visibility to the board’s actions through public records and increased engagement at meetings, in PTO’s and PTA’s, in Booster Clubs has led us to a satisfying outcome today, but as always - we encourage the community to continue to work for a more inclusive tomorrow .
Today, NPR reported that the Forest Hills School District offered to settle the lawsuit surrounding the Culture of Kindness Resolution, a written document created in part between Sara Jonas and several local residents and implemented in a flurry of chaos over a year ago.
In June of 2022, members of the Forest Hills School District Board of Education Linda Hausfeld, Bob Bibb and Sara Jonas voted in support of a resolution that banned assignments where students would have to consider their race, socioeconomic class, religion, gender identity and sexuality. Board members Leslie Rasmussen and Katie Stewart voted against the resolution.
Soon after, a group of parents and teachers filed a federal lawsuit claiming the resolution violated their constitutional rights.
In October the judge assigned to the case issued a ruling on a motion to dismiss by the district. At that time the district issued a statement stating they intended to continue the fight to enact the language of the resolution “vigorously”.
Yesterday Forest Hills Residents voted in large numbers on a number of important issues; reproductive rights (Issue 1), legalizing marijuana use for adults (Issue 2), Trustee in Anderson (Dee Stone won over Dom Wolfer), the Park Levy and Library Levy, both of which passed. There is a summary from resident and journalist Dan Sewell.
For school board, Wendy Strickler-Biederman and Jason Simmons won over competitors Ken Kuhn, Kevin Comerford and Kris Wahlke.
The negative impact of external agenda-driven groups isn’t a risk here in Forest Hills, it’s already a reality.
In a series of emails recovered through a Public Records Request (PRR) and social media content garnered from investigations into education-attacking political groups, we learned
that the “4 for Forest Hills” may have allowed the influence of potentially fringe political party members, dark-money group leaders and non-FHSD residents, to drive the agenda that they've attempted to implement — bringing expensive and embarrassing consequences to our district as shown in previous blog posts.
Extremist board members can impact school Costs
For school districts, the intolerance of extremism can have a multitude of costs, we lay out a few significant and measurable costs of extremism in school boards here.
Legal expenses: when controversial or illegal actions are taken by board members, the school incurs legal expenses to defend against the lawsuits and investigations. Court fees, insurance company’s higher premiums, settlements and the hours and hours of employee’s time spent in depositions and defense takes away from the true work of the district. In July 2023, the Cincinnati Enquirer estimated the district had spent around $500,000, nearly $75 per student, compared with CPS - a district with three times the number of students, spending $33 per student. Insurance covers most of this, but premiums will suffer - if the aggressive and exclusionary actions were never taken, we would not be dealing with lawsuits.
Staff turnover: Extremist board members may create a hostile or divisive environment within the school, leading to increased staff turnover. This turnover can result in recruitment and training costs for new staff members as well as potential disruptions to the learning environment. We’ve seen first-hand how this has impacted Forest Hills; where the divisive environment has already seen an increased number of retirements and turnover. The resignation of Superintendent Scot Prebles led to a search, which required the board to offer the highest administrator salary Forest Hills has ever paid to onboard Larry Hook, despite community sentiment preferring a different candidate. Prebles earned just under $170,000 annually, Hook’s salary reportedly exceeds $180,000; only board member Leslie Rasmussen objected to the increased spending, see video here.
Decreased funding opportunities: Extremist board members may hold extreme views that are not aligned with the values or priorities of potential donors or fundraising organizations. This can lead to a decrease in funding opportunities for the school, limiting resources for programs, infrastructure or student support services. In September, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported State Representative Rachel Baker was denied an opportunity to collaborate for funding for the district by board president Hausfeld, a member of Moms for Liberty, a group labeled extreme by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I am shocked by the political games being played by this Board,” Baker said. “I want to bring resources to our teachers, staff and students, but I can’t do that without being allowed in the room.”During her closing remarks, Hausfeld called Baker’s comments “a lie.” Baker posted corroboration of her meeting requests on her Facebook page after the meeting.
Negative public perception: Schools with extremist board members may face negative public perception, which can impact enrollment numbers, community support and new-buyer interest in the district homes. Loss of support for the district in turn can result in reduced district revenue, budget cuts that impact the financial stability of the school and value of the homes in the district. Thankfully, the parents and supporters of our township’s most valuable asset stepped up to support the 2023 levy, but frequent feedback from voters constantly reminded volunteers that the community had significant reluctance doing so under the current board. The negative perception however can be measured by the increased number of protests by parents and students since May 2022, making local news several more times since then, most recently in September 2023. In addition, Madeira parents are now using the experience at Forest Hills as a cautionary tale for their own voters to encourage turnout in their community.
Increased security measures: If extremist board members pose a threat to the safety and well-being of students and families, additional security measures may be necessary. This can include hiring security personnel, implementing surveillance systems or conducting safety drills, all of which can incur additional costs. This year, Forest Hills hired an additional School Resource officer, and has been posting a number of police at board meetings, where incidents like the one noted in the Channel 9 video showing Vicky Misleh, occurred. Parent of board member Katie Stewart who was wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” tee shirt. Stewart’s tee shirt is a Gadsden flag originally associated with freedom in the 18th century, now largely regarded to align to extremist and white supremacy groups such as the the organizers of the deadly Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, and those engaging in the insurrection of January 6th, 2021 — both widely reported as extremist-led events.
This election season, two seats are open for replacement as neither Hausfeld nor Rasmussen have chosen to run as an incumbent. The candidates each have a website, which readers and residents can access to find out where they fall along the spectrum of extremism, or reference the voter guide from a women-founded group focused on building awareness & engagement to fight anti-democratic issues in Ohio & in school districts and it’s impact on communities, Red, Wine and Blue.
Early voting has already begun, have your voice heard by or before November 7, 2023. Find out more about voting locations and eligibility at the Board of Elections website, here.
The 2023 candidates for FHSD School Board discuss one thing that MUST be implemented going forward and one thing that MUST stop going forward.
The 2023 candidates for FHSD School Board answer the community group question: What is your TOP priority if you are elected to the school board?
2023 School Board candidates answer the question: How do you interpret the "Culture of Kindness" resolution and how would you address concerns that it is stifling free speech?
The views and opinions expressed by individuals and entities on this blog are their own and do not reflect the views or positions of AdvocateFHSD.org.
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