Dear Shadyside & Mead Township Public:
As promised, here is my letter dealing with the Shadyside School levy by directly addressing the previous Letters to the Editor. Following are subjects and/or comments discussed or made by previous authors. My reaction follows the subject and/or comments.
Subject/Comment #1: Supreme Court ruled state school funding unconstitutional, but the state continues to ignore. Not a revelation to me. What have I been saying to the public for two decades? As a result, the state refuses to fund a student's education to a high quality standard. Instead of funding a child's education based on actual needs, the state, in simplistic terms, provides an arbitrary amount of money to the education budget and divides by 1.8 million students to determine the state funding per pupil. As a secondary result, to fund the education of our children to an adequate level, local schools are challenged to offer local levies to the public. There is just no other way.
Subject/Comment #2: Financial information in the newspaper. This can be done. However, the huge amount of information at several times a year, which converts to newspaper space, would be highly expensive. This is why this information is on web sites and in the Treasurer's Office of the school. It is all public information and you, the public, have every right to this information. Yes, you do have to activate a computer and/or make a visit to the Treasurer's office. All the information you would ever want is available expenditures, support information, salaries, retirement contributions, other fringe benefits, all operating expenses, coaches' and advisors' salaries. Now, if the information is not clear to you or you want additional information, all you need to do is ask. There is no conspiracy here. The Treasurer or Superintendent will give you all you need and more. Also, when you do consider the salaries and benefits of the "select group," please consider what other professionals make and the education requirements of a teacher. Also, coaches and advisors do not get health care and other benefits. In addition to all of the financial information available, I thought the levy brochure was also financially informative.
Subject/Comment #3: Consolidation. Please don't be misguided by the thought that consolidation = less cost. Back during my career as Superintendent I pulled data to compare costs of Shadyside verse local consolidated schools. I looked at three consolidated schools very near Shadyside. Their expenditure per pupil (the only way to compare apples with apples) was an average of about $1500 per pupil higher. This is an extremely limited discussion, but the only way to compare in aggregate is to look at "Expenditures per Pupil." Up-to-date information is available at the Ohio Department of Education. Secondarily, the parents and public were adamant with me during my tenure they wanted nothing to do with consolidation. By the way, considering the neighboring schools, you can't put together two or more poor schools and expect anything except one large poor school. In respect to Shadyside, I am venturing an informed assumption that if consolidated, Shadyside will pay more in local taxes and will have their expenses increased.
Subject/Comment #4: Fiscal responsibility. From my perspective, school administrators and the board have worked responsibility to manage expenses. During the end of my career we enacted more than $1.5 million in cost reductions starting in FY 2003 through and including FY 2005. Mr. Haswell recently quoted in a letter to the editor additional cost reductions applied during his early time as Superintendent. I have done several financial analyses of and for the school district. There is just very little room to make any additional reductions in expenditures. Additional open enrollment does bring additional revenue to Shadyside, but there is an equal or greater expense associated with each one of these students. The school has managed the situation as best possible and does not use "a band aid approach by just waiting to put a levy on the ballot." I believe they waited too long, but that was their choice being seriously sensitive to the public and the children. And "running schools like a business?" I here this all the time and am always am wondering what this really means. First of all, many businesses go into bankruptcy. Secondly, and certainly not lastly, schools cannot control their raw materials. Schools accept all students who come through their door. In contrast, business and industry does not have to accept the raw materials they receive.
Subject/Comment #5: Consulting Mr. Haswell before questioning. No, you are constitutionally not required to consult Mr. Haswell before publicly criticizing. I would, however, urge the previous authors and future authors to know your facts and don't fling out facts outside of the context of the total subject matter. I would urge you to be responsible and ask your questions to those that have the facts. I am confident you will get an appropriate answer.
Subject/Comment #6: United States no longer a leader in education, etc. Our public school system is not broken. Does it need to improve? You bet. Some of the comparisons are troublesome to me however. Some countries only test a select group in math and science. We have had the tendency in the past 20-years to change test content every few years before the curriculum can catch up. This is a very limited discussion on this subject.
Subject/Comment #7: Vote "NO" on the levy to make schools go to the state for funding. So, let me get this straight, if we vote the levy to fail, all the school needs to do is go to the state to get the appropriate school funding. Oh, if it was that easy! The state has refused to live up to their constitutional and court mandate for three decades, yet all a school needs to do is go to the state. I must have missed something during my time battling for fair school funding, including for the children of Shadyside.
I urge the public of the Village Shadyside and Mead Township to vote FOR the levy. It is a conservative amount for 5-years. Hopefully, at the end of this 5-year period we will have a governor and legislature who will do the right thing and address the true welfare of our children.
Best regards for the future of Shadyside.