July 23, 2016

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School levy backers raise $60K

Loren Genson and Kiera Manion-Fischer | The Gazette
Supporters of all three school levies on Tuesday’s ballot in Medina County raised more than $60,000 to support their campaigns.

Brunswick levy supporters raised $34,155 for their district’s two-year, 4.9-mill levy.

Citizens for Excellence in Brunswick Schools received several large donations from local businesses, including a $10,000 donation from Jason Gillis, president of Cradle Gear, a local firm that sells athletic wear. Gillis declined to comment on the donation. Other funds raised came from smaller donations from residents and Brunswick schools staff.

In the Medina district, supporters raised $23,325 since April to help fund a campaign to pass a five-year, 5.9-mill levy.

According to a pre-election campaign finance report filed with the Medina County Board of Elections last week, Kids First Medina raised $8,679 at the September fundraiser featuring the Harlem Wizards, and the Medina Athletic boosters supported the campaign with a $680 donation the day of the game.

The campaign also received a $5,000 donation from Medina residents Brandon and Tracy Worley, who promised to match funds raised from the Wizards game up to $5,000.

“For us, we believe in a strong community and we believe in strong schools,” Brandon Worley said. “The schools are one of the reasons we moved to Medina four-and-half years ago … it’s disheartening to know if we don’t pass the levy what’s going to happen.”

He and Tracy have two children.

Interim Superintendent Dave Knight has said the district would have to make

$3 million in cuts over the next five years if the levy fails.

The school board and Knight came up with a plan that would save $1 million. It calls for closing Heritage Elementary School, cutting sports and extracurricular activities at the middle school, and restricting electives at the high school.

For Brandon Worley, a “no” vote on the levy would leave him and other parents with few options for a quality education for their children.

“We’ll have to send our kids to a private school or move to a new district,” he said. “We won’t have our kids go to a substandard school, which is what I believe Medina would become.”

Brandon Worley said he was in a position to help, so he made the donation. He said he was pleased that Kids First Medina has worked hard to educate voters on what the levy vote means.

“By spending these dollars, you’re investing in kids and the community,” he said.

Brigid Turritin, co-chairwoman of Kids First Medina, said the group was thrilled with the support from the Worleys and other parents who have stepped up to donate time and money.

“We’ve been able to buy all the signs we need. We put ads in the paper, which we couldn’t afford to do before,” Turritin said. “I definitely think the money was well used.”

The campaign also received support from teachers and administrators in the district, including automatic payroll deductions from nine employees over eight pay periods for a total of $441.

The campaign for Cloverleaf schools’ 10-year, 8.3-mill levy has drawn the least financial support so far, reporting about $2,636 in contributions.

School officials said the levy will restore high school busing and half-day, every-day kindergarten, along with other programs that had been cut.

A fundraiser selling T-shirts raised $550 for the campaign and several school administrators used payroll deductions to contribute to the Cloverleaf Pride Committee.

Superintendent Daryl Kubilus, high school Principal Bart Randolph and Middle School Principal Jamie Lormeau contributed a total of $198 over 11 pay periods.

The practice of payroll deductions has been controversial in other communities in Ohio.

Earlier this month, the practice of deducting levy campaign donations from employee paychecks was questioned after the Cincinnati Enquirer published reports that nine school districts in southwest Ohio did so.

School district officials in those districts have said state law allows public school districts to use a portion of the contributions to help pay for the cost of creating the payroll deductions. After the Cincinnati story, two prosecutors in southwest Ohio vowed to look into the deductions and one declined to do so, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to payroll deductions, employees of Medina Schools have donated in other ways, Turritin said.

“In the schools, teachers can buy a ‘jean day’ and wear jeans to work,” she said. “We’ve even had some principals match the donations of teachers. They’ve been really supportive.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.
Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.

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