SHADYSIDE- Superintendent John Haswell hosted a town hall meeting at the Shadyside High School band room Monday night to discuss the impending school levy.
It was the second meeting held (the first was in September) and was open to the public with the intent of making sure Shadyside residents are aware of facts about the levy. Haswell expressed disappointment that he saw only one new face in the room since the last meeting, though he encouraged attendees to speak as much as possible about the levy to friends and neighbors.
Haswell addressed letters written to the editor which have expressed negative attitudes.
One letter stated, "if the public school systems were operated as a business the outcome would be a better product with less cost."
Haswell, Special Education teacher Jim Amato and business owner Dominic DeFelice all disagreed with this sentiment.
Amato stated, "We're not a businesswe have to treat each student and their ability to learn differently, so because of that you can't run schools like a business." Amato added, "We're addressing issues we've never had to address before, because of societal changes", and DeFelice noted that "They don't understand, you can't get the revenue [of a business]."
Haswell also addressed a suggestion that the district consider consolidation, and said, "I can't disagree more."
The natural choice for consolidation due to proximity would be Bellaire, but Bellaire Schools are also in a fiscal crisis. Haswell stated that combining two districts that are both suffering financially does not make sense.
The final topic addressed from letters to the editors was pride.
One writer suggested in his letter to the editor that it is "time to put pride aside" and address the state about providing equal funding for schools. Haswell argued, "If you don't have pride in your school and community, what do you have?" and also stated that if state funding were an option, he would not refrain from asking for it.
Another issue discussed was rumors spreading false information throughout the community, namely that the school district is sitting on possible money from gas and oil companies while waiting for the levy to pass. Haswell confirmed that he was approached by a Gulf Port Energy Co.representative, who offered to pay $7,000 an acre. However, the representative disappeared after being fired from the company, and Haswell was not approached again until recently. He said that a one time chunk of money will not fix the ongoing problem of funding for Shadyside schools, however.
A second rumor dismissed was the notion that Shadyside gained 92 open enrollment students from Switzerland of Ohio district this year. In reality, 86 students had previously been attending Shadyside through open enrollment, and only six students were gained. Haswell stated they did not receive "half a million" as rumored in funding for these students.
Haswell explained the difference between a general fund and a permanent improvement fund; the first pays bills like utilities and salaries while the second deals with making the school better for students. Upgrades to the school building come from the permanent improvement fund. Haswell also shot down the idea that he received a "double salary" when he took over as superintendent in addition to being the 7-12 principal, and stated that in the last three years Shadyside schools have had to let seven and a half positions go unfilled due to lack of funds.
Finally, Haswell got down to hard facts about how much the levy will cost. The average resident will pay $137.15 per year, or $11.42 per month.
On the positive side, Haswell noted that some supportive letters have been written to the editor, signs are placed on lawns throughout town, and a literature drop is planned for the community. The levy will appear on the Nov. 5 election ballot.
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