April 20, 2014

Hazy moonlight

No Medina levy, no traditional elementary schools

MEDINA — Failure to pass a Medina City Schools levy in November would mean drastic cutbacks, including closing Heritage Elementary School and grouping grade levels at each building.

That’s the message interim Superintendent David Knight presented the school board Monday night.

Interim Medina Schools Superintendent David Knight, left, laid out plans for what would be cut if a November levy fails, including the closure of Heritage Elementary School. Board member Bill Grenfell sits at right. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

“We need to cut one million dollars if we’re going to continue to operate in the black,” Knight said.

The board agreed to a resolution to place a five-year, 5.9-mill levy on the Nov. 6 ballot. The board must still approve a second resolution at another meeting.

If passed by voters, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $181 a year. The levy will generate about $6.6 million a year in revenue.

Even with the $1 million cut, the district would still face a 6.2 million deficit in fiscal year 2017, Knight said, and a future levy would still be needed.

In the 2014-15 school year, the district would go from a neighborhood elementary schools concept to a “banded elementary school concept,” Knight said.
That would mean two of the district’s elementary schools would be pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, two would be grades two and three and the remaining two schools would contain grades four and five.

The new system would allow personnel cuts in a principal, teachers, custodial and support staff, and increase costs in transportation, with an estimated savings of $605,000, Knight said.

Cindy Grice, principal of Ralph E. Waite Elementary School, said academic research has shown this is not the best model for student success.

“Increasing the number of transitions from school to school will negatively impact student achievement,” she said.

Knight said other cuts would be need.

“Middle school sports and would be eliminated,” resulting in a savings of $240,000, he said. “Pay to participate will not be an option. Children will have to wait until high school to participate in school sponsored sports and activities.”

Reducing central office staff and budgets will reduce spending by $140,000.

High School options and electives will be further reduced, saving $105,000.

Knight also laid out what would be brought back if a levy passes.

Busing would be brought back to a one-mile radius from all school buildings, if the levy is approved. Busing is now at the state minimum of two miles, and there is no high school busing.

“It’s hard to teach a child if we don’t get them here,” Knight said. The levy would also provide funding for more school resource officers.

Knight said levy revenue could pay to bring back various programs and services that were cut in the past, including a reading intervention teacher at each of the elementary buildings, gifted services, counseling services, and more art, music and gym classes at the elementary level.

The programs would be brought back in the 2014-15 school year. The levy would also allow for more choices of electives at the high school and middle school levels.

Ohio is requiring a teacher evaluation system next year, and the levy would help with that. “This is an example of an unfunded mandate,” he said.
Five levies have failed since 2008.

Knight was named interim superintendent April 23 after the board placed Superintendent Randy Stepp on paid leave pending the outcome of a special state audit into his use of district money from a carryover account held by the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center.

Stepp has sued the board and other school officials for violating his contract after members voted to rescind it after pressure from the public.

During the community comment portion of the meeting, Lori Berger, a special education teacher at Heritage Elementary School, urged the board members who voted for Stepp’s contract to resign.

“As a Heritage employee, on behalf of my students and on behalf of my son, I ask you to please step down and resign so we have half a chance to pass this levy,” she said.

In response, Robinson asked the community to consider how the board has responded to the controversy.

“The reason that I have stayed on the board is that I have weighed two competing issues — one of which is the need to continue the operation of this board at the highest possible level, in order to continue to serve students, and the other is the community’s dissatisfaction with some of the choices that we have made and the mistakes we have made collectively and I have made individually.”

Robinson apologized to the community.

“I am so sorry that we have had a controversy take attention away from our students. I am sorry for the decisions that I have made that have been in the wrong.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.

  • Smp917

    Please don’t close my kids school, heritage is the reason we moved in the neighborhood. I do vote for the levy every year. We need to get this passed for these kids regardless of what idiots are on the board. I have 3 kids and they are saying all 3 will go to different schools because they are in different grades and tat means kids are going to be waiting for parents to pick them up while the parents are stuck in another traffic jam at another school. Instead of closing the school why don’t they shorten the days like they were going to before. May be go down to 4 days even and let summer break begin at the end of May.

  • Jethro

    Looks like we’ll be gettin’ back to da good ole days of home skewlin’!

  • Tarkus398

    So I assume the Board has a plan in place to address the overcrowding with the influx of Heritage students. . .I seriously doubt it.

  • heritageFamily5

    This community does not deserve this insanity. If you want to keep a thriving community that produces great kids with terrific educations, stop this nonsence. All school board members that are reponsible for the Stepp contract dibocal need to get out of the way and resign if our kids are even going to stand a chance. This is Not about you anymore, its about the kids that don’t deserve this. And to all the selfish poeple out there that have vowed to vote no on the levy regardless, shame on you. Next, you will all be complaining that the education is lacking and blaming everyone else

  • KKmommy

    One reason my husband and I moved to medina was the school systems. We didn’t need them right away but now with a 1 year old it’s sad to see what the schools system is going to be like when she’s ready. What a mess this is.

  • adwriter825

    I’m not sure that you should be saying “shame on you” to voters for caring enough about the school system to say that business needs to be put in order before they are willing to hand over any additional money. It appears that the line has been drawn in the sand and it is time to stop sweeping things under the carpet and get to the root cause of the problems within the system and make corrections. Sometimes it is painful to do so, but in the end there is an opportunity to correct past mistakes, not just continue to cover them up and hope the voting public will forget about them. I’ve read many many comments from voters indicating it is time to quit saying “it’s about the kids” as a way to get voters to say yes to a levy that will probably not pass given the current circumstances within the school system.

  • heritageFamily5

    No one , including myself, is implying that you should vote blindly. What I am saying is that there are, and have always been, people that vote NO REGARDLESS. Yes, things need fixed and the community as a whole IS angry. The school board needs to STEP ASIDE and let new trustworthy minds into the situation. It IS about the kids as well as your tax money. But, do not tell my kids that your NO vote is cast purely because you care about Medina and want to ‘send a message’. I am glad that its ok for my kids, as well as countless others, to be in the schools as these mistakes are corrected in your “painful” manner. Everyone loves to boast about the ranking of this fine city on lists of “Best Cities….” That will not last if the turmoil continues to disrupt what is great here. This is a Great town with great kids and Fantastic educators. Lets keep it that way. Lets fix this! Lets not throw this away.

  • 9

    New board + Restored trust = Passed levy

  • medina

    its funny, hit up the super… he owes a quarter of it.

  • Silent Majority

    “What I am saying is that there are, and have always been, people that vote NO REGARDLESS.”nnThose aren’t the people that need reaching as, as you say, vote no regardless. The people you need to reach are the ones who have stopped voting yes. The community of this school district has historically supported levies, it’s only been in the last few years that it has not. Much of that has to do with the economy and the private sector’s incomes not keeping up with the demands of the increasing salaries and benefits of the school district’s employees which comprise 85% of the operating budget.nnBut let me ask you this, what about the ones who have voted YES REGARDLESS. These are the ones who won’t ask for ANY accountability from our educators and don’t want to hear any criticism of any policies, decisions, or curriculum or questioning of spending from the community at large.nnAlthough I am disgusted that the Stepp debacle has happened at all, in a way I am GLAD it came to light. Finally, it has woken many of these same people up, but let me tell you, the cheerleaders who keep their head in the clouds and still put blinders on to the many problems this district has, do NOTHING to bring this community together in voting for a levy. Their willful ignorance and blind support are painfully obvious and further alienates them from the recent years majority who may think things have been less than stellar and want to see real change, beginning with the school board.nnIt’s the “Outragers” that will be the bridge between the school district and the rest of the community. Those who adamantly oppose their efforts most certainly perpetuate the mistrust this community has in this district.nnI will be supporting the levy, but the Stepfords best get out of the way and let the Outragers do their job in helping to restore our schools. There is one who has recommended to the board various committees for oversight which would go a long way in accomplishing this goal. In having these committees, I think it would help in getting a levy passed despite Vlcek and Robinson refusing to resign at this time.

  • Medina retiree

    Suuuure, it’s all Stepp’s fault that in 2017 the district will have $6.2 mil deficit.even if levy passes.nSarcasm aside, it’s up to Medina voters to keep funding those insane unionized perks and benefits. And the teachers need to come off their high horses – average householdincome in Medina county is just over $70K annualy, and we all know that private sector doesn’t offer anything close to union benefits. So, unless teachers agree to start getting paid as average Medina resident (mediocre salary with pitiful benefits and no retirement beyond 4% match of 401K))- screw them, no levy.

  • OhioGuy10

    I believe, as in most elections, there are people who votenyes and no automatically. The theory is it is about 33% each of a typicalnpopulation. They people you really need to reach are that other 33%. It is theirnvote that will decide if the levy passes or fails. I do believe the school willnhave a tough time passing anything until the Stepp situation is settled. Thatnmight be some time. The undecided voters will remember the issues involving Steppnand the board for a while. The cleansing of the board needs to be accomplished tonmove on. Stepp was not an angel and does not deserve to work for the schoolnagain but it was the board that put Medina in this mess. They need to gonincluding the two that are holding on. They can claim ignorance or whatever butnthey were on the job when this happened and they failed. To reach the undecidedn33% we need answers, transparency, trust and common sense. I see lots of bashing and strong emotionsnrunning in social media with just plain miss-information and half-truths. Thisnwill continue until Medina has a board that can be trusted. Until they resignnthey are making the situation worse just by being here and it will be the kidsnthat suffer. I did miss this lastnmeeting but I think Susan was speaking about our u201cpots of Moneyu201d at the one before that and beforenthey pulled the last levy stated nothing would be cut because we had u201cthese pots ofnmoneyu201d. I know she mis-spoke and did not comprehend what she was saying butnthat is one of the many reasons she has to go. We need answers and trust and Inreally do not think she has any of those. We need new leadership for the kids.nIt is the only way.

  • tiredofitall

    Unfortunately, Medina is becoming a less appealing place to live. The school system is a mess and raising taxes is becoming the norm. Since moving here 10 years ago, we have raised the local income tax, sales tax and passed a school levy. Now, we are talking about closing schools when we used the sales tax increase to build two new ones. Makes absolutely no sense and shows no planning for the future was done at that time. The district needed money before the schools were even built. It is time to move…..

  • Ohiowoman

    It’s sad yet true. Unfortunately the time has come to realize that the city once known for it’s manufacturing jobs then, turning it into a service city for medical and education now losing the great educational programs is now just a city of medical and dare I say you still need to go to another city for better hospital care. It’s been spiraling downhill for some time now. Bringing the attention of money misuse causes yet again the children to suffer. Yes, I agree that raising taxes will not solve the ongoing problem but create a greater issue. The facts are there. Look around the corner of the streets. If they are not overcome by potholes or water damage then look at the houses with the notes on the window. (Empty homes) Heritage Elementary School could be just like that 1950′s home you see abandoned everyday driving to work or to the store. To those who say, “I’ve been here for 40 years and it’s a great city.” I dare you to ask the children once they reached a rightful age, ask them, “What do you think of Medina city?” You’ll be shocked with the answer you receive.