South-Western schools superintendent Bill Wise told those attending the Jan. 25 school board meeting it's difficult to tell how much money the school district will receive if a $250-million casino is built at the Delphi site in the Westland area.

South-Western schools superintendent Bill Wise told those attending the Jan. 25 school board meeting it's difficult to tell how much money the school district will receive if a $250-million casino is built at the Delphi site in the Westland area.

Also at the meeting, board members heard a recommendation from a community advisory group and discussed possible changes to a public participation policy that new board member Karen Dover said is "somewhat of a P.R. issue."

Wise said if the Delphi site becomes a casino, it will be annexed into Columbus. Because of the "win-win agreement," the site would remain in the South-Western school district.

The win-win agreement was established in 1986 and keeps areas annexed by Columbus in the traditional suburban school districts in which they originated.

"We do believe (a casino) is mostly likely going to be additional dollars for the district, but to what extent isn't clear," Wise said.

He said the estimated $250-million Penn National will spend to build the casino won't necessarily be reflected entirely in property taxes. Things like desks, chairs and slot machines aren't factored into real estate taxes.

Wise said many factors are involved and he is not comfortable estimating how much additional tax revenue the school district could get.

"This will not be a windfall for the district, but it will likely mean some additional revenue," he said.

Steve Isaac, founder of a citizens community advisory group, said the group would like to be involved "to help articulate" the district's 2010 collective bargaining process to the community, without being a part of the actual negotiations.

The six-member group started meeting twice a month last August. Since then, Isaac said, the group has studied school district operations. Group members sent a letter suggested improvements to Wise and the school board Dec. 28.

The letter states group members studied the district's five-year financial forecast and found most district expenses stem from salaries and benefits.

"With the upcoming negotiations next year with the South-Western City Schools collective bargaining units, an opportunity exists to analyze this cost and perhaps achieve some overall savings," the letter says. "These areas are impacted directly by the negotiated agreements with each collective bargaining organization."

The letter of came with a 49-page document titled "A Better Bargain: Overhauling Teacher Collective Bargaining for the 21st Century" by Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute and Martin R. West of The Brookings Institution.

Isaac read a section of the document to school board members.

The document states collective bargaining contracts essentially are counter-productive to running an excellent and efficient school district.

"Union leaders typically greet this diagnosis with reflexive refrain: 'What is good for the teachers is good for the students,'" the document states. "In fact, the results of the collective bargaining process are too often incompatible with providing a high-quality education for all students."

Wise said delving into labor negotiations was not part of the community advisory group's mission.

"We never expected them to enter into the conversation of negotiations, to be very candid," he said.

Following the meeting, Isaac said the group was established to represent and help the community.

"As things move forward, things change," he said.

Wise said he thinks a planned performance audit will give more insight on the topic of negotiations.

Wise said he is unsure when the results of the audit will be released. In December, he said he expected they would be released this month.

In another discussion at the meeting, Dover asked if the board's policy committee would consider revising a change in the public participation policy that took effect in December, 2008.

She said while campaigning in November, she heard many residents express dissatisfaction with the policy.

Dover said most objections centered on the requirement that the public must register by 4 p.m. the Thursday preceding Monday meetings if they want to speak on non-agenda items.

Dover said she understands the policy was created to prevent the public from speaking on personnel issues, but most residents wish to speak on items not so sensitive.

"I think there might be some middle ground that might allow the community to feel like the policy was created for them to give input at these meetings," Dover said.

Former school board president Cathy Johnson is the board representative on the policy committee.

"I don't share your need to alter the policy," Johnson said. "It's been working well."

She said Wise calls all those who register to speak.

"I think that's extremely valuable," Johnson said. "I know of no one who's missed an opportunity to speak because of the policy."

Wise said he knew of two people who missed an opportunity.

Board member Jo Ellen Myers supported Dover's proposal to revisit the policy.

"I think you're just squelching free speech," Myers said.

Board member Mindy Garverick supported Johnson.

"I don't think we're squelching free speech," Garverick said.

School board president Randy Reisling, who cast the lone vote against the change 13 months ago, said he needs to see more objective information before he makes a decision.

While sitting in the audience, Isaac raised his hand, as if to say he wanted to speak.

"I'm sorry Mr. Isaac, but I don't believe I can afford you that opportunity at this time," Reisling said.

"That was my point. Thank you," Isaac said.

Reisling requested district staff brief the board in February on the implications of the change since it took place, and guidelines for public participation at other school districts.