Thursday, August 28, 2014

Letters to Editor
October 31, 2013 | No Comments

Thanks for Support

During the week of Oct. 14, Chagrin Falls Schools participated in National School Lunch Week, which is designed to encourage students to purchase healthy, nutritious food that the district offers.

In order to promote this cause, the Chagrin Falls PTO Nutrition Committee used prizes and raffles during lunchtime to reward students for their participation. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support the district received from the community.

We would like to specifically thank the following businesses and individuals who so generously donated to our cause: Arborwear, Burntwood Tavern, Chagrin Falls Dads Club, Dazzle, Living Lean, Mountain Road Cycles, Pam Spremulli, Paninis, Parkside Grille, Step-In, The Golf Dome, The Pond and Yours Truly.

The Nutrition Committee is very grateful that the community was able to work together for the benefit of Chagrin Falls students.

CF PTO Nutrition Committee
Caroline Brosnan & Kim Johnson
Co-Chairs

School Board Dilemma

This is Tax Levy season. Its also school board budget and dilemma time. They have both a financial and moral dilemma, somewhat connected.

The financial part of the dilemma is somewhat like running an airline or being a cruise ship operator. It cost an airline or ship operator almost as much to operate 80 percent as 100 percent full, thus the last minute discounts, deals they have to fill the plane or vessel. It cost the school board almost as much to operate 80 percent as 100 percent full.

On the revenue side, however, things are a little different. For the cruise ship no passengers, no revenue. For the school district (West G, for instance) about 50 percent of the needed revenue is from local property taxes and is there if the schools are only 80 percent. The school board depends of the state largess for the other 50 percent. This is our income tax going to Columbus and our begging to get it back.

So, if the schools are only 80 percent full, the revenue is 90 percent of what it would be if they were 100 percent full (the 50 percent from property tax and 80 percent of the 50 percent from the state). But the cost to operate the schools is almost constant. The school board can raise the additional 10 percent revenue by either going into debt (isnt this Ledgemonts problem), raising taxes or, the low profile way, bring in paying students from other districts. This exacerbates the other districts finances but that doesnt seem to be a concern.

This is where the moral dilemma appears. Is it worth it financially to our kids to bring in kids from other districts that may have poorer standards and morals than ours? With the drug problem growing in the county do we really want to encourage connections with bigger drug problems from communities to the west? Good questions and a lot of Geauga residents think the answer is no. But there are at least two answers to this dilemma.

The first is the most obvious, cut expenses to meet revenue. This is what a businessman would do but politicians and others who spend other peoples money dont think that way. Their first and seemingly only choice is to somehow increase revenue to match expenses. By cutting expenses threatens re-election. But there are some other ways to cut costs. School boards mandate should be to keep kids safe and educate them. All else should be on the table.

Do school boards really need to be in the transportation, bus maintenance, food service, building cleaning and maintaining business? Good questions to be asked. All this could be out-sourced and by doing so the school board could scale back on these services if enrollment drops. School boards should be prepared to answer these make or buy decisions.

The second answer to the revenue dilemma is to turn the school district into a Quasi-Private school. If the school district is so desirable that parents from other district want their kids to go there, why not charge tuition and have them apply. Those residents who have objection to open enrollment could be on the acceptance committee. Make the tuition high enough to only attract the serious student. This is not an unheard of situation. It happens in some of the New England states.

As in many dilemmas, there may not be an answer that will satisfy everyone.

Doug Ralston
Chagrin Falls

Prosperous Community

Over 20 years ago, when we lived in Broadview Heights, I took a taxi from the airport to our apartment. The taxi driver talked about his parents being trapped in a bad neighborhood in Cleveland. They had purchased a home for $20,000 nearly 50 years previously. Since their purchase, the middle class had fled the Cleveland schools but his parents had stayed in Cleveland. Over the years, their neighborhood had become rundown and violent, and they were now stuck there because after 50 years their home was still worth $20,000.

Next month, we have the choice whether to vote for the Chardon Schools levy. When we, as a community, vote for a school levy, we are voting for much more than the levy. We are voting for rising property values and a more prosperous community.

Our levy results determine whether young families with children find our community a desirable place to live and so choose to move here. I personally know families who chose to not purchase homes in surrounding school districts because their school levies were failing and they didnt want to move into a district with declining schools.

After our last school levy failed, I heard families talking about getting out of Chardon. They didnt want to be stuck in a community that was declining. They talked about how much time they had before they needed to be out of Chardon. They dont want their children in mediocre schools and they dont want to be stuck in a home where the property value never rises.

I will vote for the Chardon Schools levy because I love this community. I want to see it remain a prosperous community that attracts young families. I want to see the business community prosper. I want Chardon to remain on the list of 10 best communities in which to live in the United States.

We have been a desirable community and we can maintain that by passing the school levy.

Karen Klozenbucher
Hambden Township

Like Running an Airline

I favor open enrollment, and stand in disagreement to the paid ad, and earlier comments of Joe Miller.

For starters, his use of dollar figures. He states that it takes $12,000 to educate one student and the state only gives us $5,700 per outside student, leaving us the other $6,300 to pay. Nice use of figures, except it may not tell the whole story.

How much of that $12,000 is fixed cost? None of it? Half of it? Did he ever think to factor that in? No.

How much of the $12,000 is for infrastructure and maintenance? For busing, busing our open students apparently dont even use? For heat and light?

Hello, folks, those costs are ours, whether we have 1,000 local students or 1,000 local plus 200 outside students. So take that portion off the table, because it simply doesnt matter.

There still may be a differential, but it likely wont be what Miller and others have made it out to be.

Facts have to tell the whole story, not just the part that makes your point look good.

If, outside students cause a rise in teacher-student ratio, then, and only then, would I agree thered be a valid concern.

That said, it can be a two-way street. Say, for example, you are trying to hold a 25:1 ratio. You have 75 third-graders. So you have three teachers. What do you do if your numbers drop to 60? Ideally, youd say three classes of 20. But economic reality may say, drop one teacher and have two classes of 30. Is that better than admitting 15 outside students and having three classes of 25? Adding those 15 student would add $85,000 to the mix, probably close to the cost of that third teacher with benefits.

Id say you were better off in all ways with three at 25 than two at 30. Wouldnt you?

I am most troubled by two of the comments, attributed to Mr. Miller (as reported in the 9/18 CN) raised in opposition to OE.

First, that somehow OE creates safety issues read-behavioral problems. How so? Are all our local kids little angels while all outside kids are troublemakers? Youll have a hard time selling that one.

In my years around this school district (many), Ive known more than my share of home-grown kids I wouldnt trust as far as I could spit. But as with any group, they were the exceptions, not the rule.

Second, and most troubling, the expressed fear that open enrollment might cause an effect on our academic scores. Explain that one. What was he insinuating with that? And be careful, its treading on really shaky ground making such a comment. Further, what would be said if (gasp) academic scores went up?

Id like to think that we are more likely to have kids that care participating in OE. Id like to think, that despite some political figures decrying that subjective notion West G is only 40th and not fourth, that others see us a pretty solid school district, one desirable and likely to be to their advantage by attending. Id like to think these kids could be looked upon as an asset, not a liability.

Id also like to think, from a business sense, the $1.4 million that OE will bring in this year will take some of the pressure off local homeowners and their tax burden.

Its like running an airline. You have the plane, fully fueled; you have a pilot and crew. It makes more sense to sell the last seats, even if at a discount, than to fly the plane only 90 percent full.

I do not see this as the bugaboo that its being made out to be. I think the board has acted very responsibly in welcoming open enrollment.

Hugh Marshall
Chester Township

Resignation

In 2011, I ran for the position of fiscal officer solely to make a positive difference in this community, not because of the salary provided.

I have a full-time job and a business that offer me both better financial return than that as fiscal officer.

My ultimate compensation for this was the satisfaction in making a difference. I embraced all three trustees and, realizing they did not see eye to eye, hoped that I could be a conduit to bring peace between them.

Due to the agenda of a small group of citizens, this was not possible. This groups campaign of negativity and hate has only increased over the last few months. I hope the citizens of Chester agree that I have made a positive difference. However, my township duties are done with great personal sacrifice. Its significant time away from my family and my personal business. Its early mornings, most weekends and often nights.

This non-elected group of residents whose goal is to run Chester Township their way, have taken any and all personal satisfaction I could possibly gain from this job by blatantly spreading and printing lies and misreporting as much information as they can. They are not going to go away either. Chester Townships business is their Super Bowl. They have nothing else in their lives of significance beyond their politics to turn to.

Happily, I can report that I do. At this point, those other things appeal much more to me and I have, therefore, decided to step down as fiscal officer as of Nov. 30, 2013. I just dont want to be a part of the shame and embarrassment these citizens bring to this community each and every day.

I choose Nov. 30 to give the board time to appoint a new person and make sure I have time to work with them and train them. I will make myself available as long as needed after the 30th as well to assure a smooth transition.

I hope the residents of this town understand my decision and realize how difficult this was for me to make. I am sorry if there are those that feel I am letting them down, but I must put my family first. I just could not find a reason to continue to expose myself or my family to the unnecessary drama these observers bring to our town when I have so many other positive things to turn to.

I implore the voters of this town NOT to elect anymore of this group s friends or buds to the board this coming election. I know personally three candidates Mike Petruziello, Judy Caputo and Mike Joyce and they wont allow their decisions to be dictated by this pathetic group of residents. I suspect the others will.

Michael Stark, Fiscal Officer
Chester Township

Support Remias for ESC

Educational Service Centers (ESCs) having been making a difference in Ohios schools for the past 95 years.

ESCs were established in 1914 through an act of the Ohio General Assembly. The law created 88 County School Districts and charged them with the task of elevating the states system of education to a proper standard.

In the 1930s, they began assisting districts with fiscal and purchasing services. Later in the 1960s, their responsibilities expanded again as they began operating special education programs and increased professional development and technical assistance for schools.

In 1995, Am. Sub. H.B. 117 changed the role of the County School Districts by redefining their responsibilities, and renaming them Educational Service Centers. ESCs are a vital and necessary component of Ohios educational system.

Ohios Educational Service Centers (ESCs) are dedicated to providing school districts with professional development, technology, support, planning and administrative services that help improve student learning, enhance the quality of instruction, expand equitable access to resources and maximize operating and fiscal efficiencies.

I share this information because I want people in Geauga County to know that candidate, Steve Remias, of Bainbridge, cares about our kids and our communities. Steve not only served our country in the Navy, but he also has taught criminal Justice at both Geauga Kent State University and Cuyahoga Community College, and was a police officer for both Burton and Middlefield.

Steve Remias is a man of integrity and faith. He has worked with my son, Ti, for the last several years assisting him with community integregation and Special Olympics programs. He is a good listener and great communicator. I know the dedication and the commitment he has shown my son will transfer to the development of sound cost effective strategic plan for our local Geauga Educational Service Center.

I think Geauga deserves better communication from its ESC to the community about their programs. Steve Remias is a life long resident of Geauga County. He cares about education for all children, he knows educators need good professional development to support their work and he understands that school districts need regional supports that allow for shared cost savings to assist local taxpayers.

Please join Ti and me on Election Day (or in your absentee ballot) and vote for Steve Remias.

Terri McIntee Larenas
Burton

Matter of Priority

Thompson and Montville neighbors, I think we can all agree that schools are underfunded in Ohio. There are a lot of schools in financial trouble and our legislators do not seem to be making any changes.

However, voting NO on any school levy does not right that wrong. Voting out elected officials who are not correcting the problem is the answer.

Meanwhile, as a Ledgemont community, we have a very important decision to make regarding the future of our school district.

Ledgemont will have another levy on the Nov. 5 ballot. They don’t have an option, as they are required by the state to continue to work to obtain adequate funding from their residents.

The proposed levy contains two parts The first part is a continuation of the existing 1.25 percent income tax that we have been paying the past several years. This money is needed for operating expenses. In the past, voters approved this taxation method and thought an income tax was fair for everyone because it is based on ability to pay. Don’t you wish you could buy a car based on your ability to pay?

The second part of the levy is a 12.5-mil property tax for a limited period of five years that will mostly be used to repay loans used to cover budget shortfalls when previous levies were not passed.

For years, as property owners, we saved money on low taxes and got away with paying a minimal amount much less than neighboring communities. This property tax may seem like a lot of money, but, in reality, it is money we should have been paying all along.

Please do not reduce this issue to the financial question, “Can I afford this or not?” It is an important issue of priority, not dollars and cents.

Is a local education important to parents, alumnae and this community? Sure, the extra tax will be a little bit of a hardship for many, including my family, but when I save and set aside a few extra dollars each week, we will barely notice. I am willing to make this sacrifice for five years to have a school district in my community. Remember, it’s all a matter of priority.

Thinking of voting NO? You must not understand the value of a Ledgemont education. Our teachers are second to none. These caring individuals bond with their students as role models and mentors to form lasting relationships.

If you believe it takes a village to raise a child, in which village do you want this to occur? In these troubling times, isn’t it comforting to know your child’s friends and their parents in your own neighborhood?

Many opportunities exist at Ledgemont to excel, and if your children are not taking advantage, please help them become involved. Ledgemont produces wellrounded young men and women as a result of numerous opportunities, including academic, athletic, community service, leadership, and the arts.

One of the many benefits of a small school district education is that no tryouts are required and all are welcome to join. Larger schools cannot offer this opportunity and select only the most talented to participate, leaving others without the ability to grow and learn.

Ledgemont graduates are well prepared for careers as doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, accountants, businessmen and a wide variety of others. You will find graduates working in the military, public service, medical field, service industry and the trades. A solid foundation provides our graduates with unlimited opportunities for advanced education and training to become productive members of society.

Please do not dismiss the importance of a local education by merely checking a price tag. I think you will find the price tag to be similar in any community. There is no such thing as a free education, whether it occurs in your community or another nearby.

The truth of the matter is that with the current Ohio education system funding method, the burden of financing public school education lies with the residents or property owners within each school district.

Please support Ledgemont on Nov. 5.

Nancy Niehus
Thompson Township

Be a Responsible Citizen

There is very little that we, the board of education, can add about the financial state in which Ledgemont finds itself in yet again.

I say yet again because Ledgemonts financial constraints and problems are not new. I went to Ledgemont for 13 years and graduated in 1979, and throughout those 13 years there were numerous episodes of money worries.

So, some of you may think that this is more of the same and that things will be okay in some distant future. I am sympathetic if that is what you believe.

This time, however, there are some details which are very different from past decades, and I can categorize those details into two big categories:

1. First, the requirements of schools grow longer and longer each and every year. Each decade of the 20th century saw a new fad, a new idea, about education and with those ideas came new requirements for public schools ?new requirements about what must be taught and who is going to do the teaching, how students are to be tested and by whom, new services to be rendered, additional items to be inventoried and listed and then reported, more requirements about busing and health and buildings and services.

While one could venture to say that any of these requirements is defendable and indeed laudable to push forward in the formation of better informed citizens in our democracy because that IS indeed the role of public schools: to form citizens in a democracy ?there has never ever been a comprehensive approach to how these requirements fit together and how, especially in the State of Ohio, how public schools are supposed to pay for those services.

And, worse yet, although there are new requirements each and every year, and this year is no exception at all, there has not been, to my knowledge, any housekeeping of these requirements and a subsequent effort to get rid of those requirements which do not make sense and are not working.

I dont know of any requirements that have been lifted, removed or otherwise done away with. So, that is one way in which Ledgemonts situation is different now from that in the past 20, 30 or 40 years what the school is permitted to do or not do is highly regulated. That means that there is no wiggle room and the school board and administration are tightly constrained with what we can and cannot do.

2. Second, at the state level, the lawmakers are not really interested in public education. And we, the voters, have not required them to focus their attention on public education.

In the State of Ohio, as far as I can tell, lawmakers are really more interested in pushing the agendas of public interest groups and the interests of for-profit organizations which call themselves schools.

What that means, practically speaking, is that there is no attention paid to funding for anything. There is no attention to how to pay for that long list of requirements, which I mentioned a minute ago. There is no urgency associated with the deplorable and antiquated and inadequate situation of public school funding in the State of Ohio.

Although this current state of affairs has been in existence since 1853 when the system of public schools was established in the State of Ohio I really feel that it has reached an all time peak of neglect right now.

So then, we have two big details staring us right in the face:

1. The list of requirements and constraints that has grown longer and longer and more and more expensive, and,

2. The fact that concern for public education at the level of elected officials is at an all time low.

What does this mean for Ledgemont right now?

It means that what happens to our wonderful school district is up to us and us alone. The state will not bail us out. We are a fly on their windshield. We are an annoyance for them.

The commission does not have the power to absolve us of our debt or to put it off indefinitely and indeed the commission has very little power at all; its mandate is to have the school pay back the money we have borrowed and thats it.

The school also has very little authority to change the course of events; we are very limited in what we can cut or cut back on. We are not permitted to levy taxes to support schools. We are not permitted to simply dissolve the school district. We are not even permitted to join with another school district without jumping through a veritable mountain of regulation and red tape.

It means that our community has a duty a historical, a legal and I would add a sacred duty to provide for the public education of our future citizens. There is no way around it. We, the people of Montville and Thompson, are responsible for our Ledgemont School District. We must support our schools. No one else is going to do it for us.

We cannot plan for any future ?for the restoration of services, even for a partnership with another school district should we decide that is best for our kids, if we do not financially support our schools.

I am asking you to please vote YES on Nov. 5. If you consider yourself a responsible citizen, there is no other choice.

Cathleen Hadley-Samia
President, Ledgemont BOE

Tipping Point

If you are one who believes that public schools are an integral part of your community, but expect them to act in a fiscally responsible manner before giving your vote of approval for financial support, then Chardon Schools has earned your vote.

Chardon Schools has worked with their staff to control the cost of salaries and benefits. Chardon Schools is one of the few school districts in the state in which all new employees are covered by a high deductible Health Savings Account. Employee health care contributions have increased from 6 percent to 15 percent and the schools have enacted an early incentive retirement incentive program that has resulted in significant savings.

Teachers salaries have been frozen for five of the last eight years and the average teachers salary is below the state average.

The administrator to student ratio is 286 to 1, the highest in the county and nearly twice the state average.

They have worked to reduce transportation costs, secretarial and custodial staff, and performed in-house repairs to create additional cost savings.

They have contracted with energy contractors to increase energy savings, which has resulted in over 20 percent reduction in gas and electric utilities and all six of their schools have now earned Energy Star certification from the EPA.

They changed Workers Compensation providers to help resolve settlements that has resulted in a cost savings and have also saved on telecommunications.

Due to this cost containment, Chardon Schools is below the state average in cost per pupil which demonstrates their fiscal responsibility.

However, these savings have not been enough to prevent the reduction of valuable student programs that have been eliminated or reduced and impact the ability of our students to compete in the future. Math, technology and art classes have been reduced at the high school as well as the elimination of the business program and woodshop program.

The middle school has seen the elimination of the family and consumer sciences program, the foreign language program and literacy support.

While the elementary schools have seen the reduction in class time for music, art, physical education and reading tutors as well as the elimination of the Academically Talented program.

The students have also taken on increased fees for pay to participate as it has doubled to $450 per student.

Chardon Schools face a projected deficit of $200,000 in fiscal year 2014 and $1.5 million in fiscal year 2015. Chardon Schools is at a tipping point in which the students will continue to lose valuable programs and face a downward spiral. Lets not allow this to happen.

Please vote YES on Chardon Schools Issue 31 so we can give our students a strong school system and a strong community. Chardon Schools has earned it.

Jeff Shive
Hambden Township

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