November 20, 2014

Medina
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Medina superintendent: Levy failure means trouble for schools

MEDINA — Superintendent Randy Stepp said Monday night his satisfaction over the district’s recent “excellent with distinction” rating was tempered by the possibility of program and staffing cuts if a 11.7-mill operating levy fails on the Nov. 3 ballot.

“This is going to be one of the more difficult addresses for me to give to the board of education because at the tail end it has some things that as a superintendent, I hope never to have to do to a school district, especially one that’s performing as high as ours is,” Stepp said during Monday’s school board meeting.

Enrollment figures show a 51 percent increase since 1989, reflected in the 48 percent increase in staff and the construction of five new schools to accommodate pupils, he said. Since 1995, the district opened A.I. Root Middle School, H.G. Blake Elementary School and Medina High School, constructions funded through property-tax bond issues. Two additional elementary schools, Eliza Northrup in Medina and Ralph E. Waite in Montville Township, were constructed using sales tax revenue.

“This is one reason we are always asking for operating funds,” Stepp said. The expenditure per pupil is $9,977.

To increase the financial challenge the system is facing, it must add all-day kindergarten next year as mandated by House Bill 1, he said, which will mean additional staffing and operating costs totaling $1 million. The district currently has half-day kindergarten classes.

With the district facing a projected $9.2 million deficit by the end of 2010, Stepp outlined recommended reductions if voters reject the 11.7-mill levy, which would be phased in over three years.

Cuts would include guidance and prevention counseling programs and co-curricular contracts not mandated or subsidized at the elementary, middle and high schools, the gifted program and reading intervention specialists for elementary and middle school students.

Music programs across the board also would take hits, including the fourth- and fifth-grade strings and fifth-grade band program, plus reductions in middle and high school programs. Elective class offerings also would be reduced.

High school transportation would be eliminated, with the rest of the district at the state minimum — no busing for students who live within two miles of their school.

A number of staffing positions, including central office, technology, custodial, maintenance, special education and paraprofessionals, would be cut.

Stepp said there would be an increase in pay-to-play for athletic programs and performing arts activities fees at the middle and high schools based on program costs and number of participants, with no associated caps. Even if the levy passes, he said, the recommendation would be a $200 athletic pay-to-participate fee at the high school and $100 for middle school students, with no caps.

Other moves being considered are transforming elementary schools into grade level buildings to best use personnel, closing facilities to public use at the end of the school day and placing high school students on an adjusted schedule — early release and/or late start for students on track with graduation credits.

The new funding formula presented by the state will not benefit local schools, Stepp said, adding the state considers Medina a wealthy school district.

“Essentially, they’re saying we need to take care of our own school district,” he said.

Contact Judy A. Totts at (330) 721-4063 or jtotts@ohio.net.