Dumpster diving superintendent shares his cost saving strategies

Clermont Northeastern Local Schools District Superintendent Neil Leist is spreading the word about how schools can stretch taxpayer’s dollars. He’s written a book called Superintendent Savings Strategies providing others with some of the creative ways he’s found to bring $3 million worth of computers, laptops, desks, office supplies, even a snow plow truck into his cash-strapped district.

The how-to book stresses networking, thinking “outside the box’ and sheer persistence. It’s also injected with plenty of down-home humor. Leist said several failed levies in the CNE district and the economy were the issues that propelled him into a rather unusual situation for a superintendent, scavenger hunter.

“That levy for a new school building went down with a thud so hard that those of us who had campaigned for it felt like an earthquake had ripped through our little town of Owensville, Ohio,” said Leist. “I knew asking for money wasn’t the answer in this economy. We had to come up with creative ways to improve education and opportunities for our students.”

Leist’s rather unusual foray into scavenger hunting began with an e-mail from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The e-mail was about the FAA’s move from Lunken Airport to Clermont County. The FAA didn’t want to move everything, so they were offering to donate non-tangible items like desks, chairs, and computers. They invited non-profit groups to check off items they wanted from a 20 page list.

“I was in a hurry that morning, so I checked the box that stated we would take everything,” said Leist. The FAA called back soon afterwards to make sure he wasn’t kidding. “I learned a lot from that first move,” he said. “It was much easier for business/agencies to donate to one organization, rather than have to split up all those items. Companies receive a 150 percent tax write-off for each donated item to a school or non-profit, and many pay to have these items removed. We can save them money by picking-up the items and giving them the tax help; we benefit by getting great items for our staff and students!”

“School districts need to spend tax dollars like they would spend their own money,” said the affable CNE Superintendent. As for how he got the nickname of the “Dumpster Diving Superintendent’? “We had just picked up some items from an office in downtown Cincinnati, when I saw some maintenance men pitching some nice looking office chairs into a dumpster. They told me they were cleaning out the floor of a building for a remodeling job and everything had to go. I asked if it was okay to climb into the dumpster and get some of the chairs. They said yes…so, I did!”

Leist eagerly hopped in and fished out the chairs, loading them into his truck that, by then, resembled the overloaded vehicle in the Beverly Hillbillies show opener.

A portion of the proceeds from the book will fund a CNE scholarship in honor of his wife Candy who found out she had cancer during the writing of his book. For more information about the book and his savings strategies, visit the website www.NeilLeist.org.