Kiera Manion-Fischer and Loren Genson | The Gazette
For the first time since 2005, Medina Schools voters said “yes” to a new levy.
The 5.9-mill, five-year issue on Tuesday’s ballot passed by a wide margin, 58 percent to 42 percent, according to unofficial final results from Medina County Board of Elections.
“It means a lot to the kids in Medina City Schools,” said Lisa Jackson, co-chairwoman of the Medina Kids First levy campaign. “The results could not have happened without the support of the entire community.
“I’ve worked on the last four levy campaigns and I’ve never seen this level of involvement.”
School officials have warned that without passing a levy, they would adopt a “banded elementary school” concept for the 2014-15 school year, meaning students would attend a school based on their grade level, not on the proximity to their home.
The plan would have closed Heritage Elementary School and eliminated funding for extracurricular and sports programs at the middle-school level.
Tracy Givelekian, who has a first- and third-grader at Sidney Fenn Elementary, helped lead the levy campaign in the Fenn neighborhood.
“We felt it has a strong reputation in the Northeast Ohio area,” she said. “We really didn’t support the banded schools concept.”
Tuesday’s victory, which followed five failures, capped a tumultuous year for the district that saw the ouster of Superintendent Randy Stepp amid a public uproar of the school board’s approval in January of a new five-year contract that provided an $83,000 “retention” signing bonus.
Stepp was placed on paid leave in April, pending a special state audit. Earlier this month, the school board voted to begin the process of firing him after state auditors issued a preliminary report that found Stepp owed $4,121 for money spent “illegally.”
The school board in April named Dave Knight, a retired elementary school principal, as interim superintendent.
School board member Tom Cahalan said much of the credit for the levy victory belonged to Knight.
“I think the hiring of Dave Knight, his leadership and the way he conducts himself is what brought everything together,” Cahalan said. “It’s a win for the community, a win for the students, the teachers, the administration and parents.”
Traci Linn, a third-grade teacher at Heritage Elementary, agreed that “a lot of the success tonight is due to the direction of Dave Knight. He’s worked really hard with the teachers association to let us know what’s going on and he’s done the same with the parents.”
Knight thanked the community for their support, saying he felt “very uplifted.”
“There’s so many people to thank — parents, staff, everybody in the community,” he said. “I want to reassure everyone that we will provide great value for the dollars that we spend as we bring back new programs.”
Not all districts fared as well as Medina. Voters defeated levies for Brunswick and Cloverleaf schools.
In Brunswick, voters raised $34,155 to support a two-year, 4.9-mill levy.
Brunswick school board members decided to ask for a two-year levy after they pulled a nine-year, 5.9-mill levy from the May ballot in February. The levy was expected to bring in an estimated $4,956,000 each year for the two years.
Superintendent Michael Mayell thanked campaign volunteers for their hard work.
“Although we are disappointed by the results of today’s election, their passion for our schools and this issue never wavered,” he said.
But Mayell warned that the failure likely would mean some changes for the district and the programs they provide.
“In the coming months, we will begin examining our school programs and services and deciding where changes will need to be made,” he said. “These will be tough decisions that will impact the quality of education our schools provide, and will not be taken lightly.”
Cloverleaf’s 10-year, 8.3-mill levy failed 3,225 votes to 2,587 votes, according to unofficial final results. The district is in fiscal emergency, meaning a five-member commission oversees its finances.
Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said the commission likely will hold a special meeting and may consider additional cuts.
“As upsetting as the defeat is, when I reflect, I feel fortunate to work with such a great group of teachers and staff who have endured several defeats, yet continue to do so much for the education of our students,” Kubilus said. “We are going to be back on the ballot in 2014.”
Any levies approved in 2014 will not be collected until 2015, he said.