When the Lake school board last month approved cuts in spending of almost $1.2 million, superintendent Jim Witt also announced the administration would be posting a link on the district’s website to address rumors that would inevitably make their way through the community.
It hasn’t taken long for Rumor Central to be up and running.
A woman via Facebook posted her concerns about the district’s finances, saying she’s heard the district is going bankrupt and the state is taking over the district in September. She wonders what will happen to students in the event of a state take-over.
The administration’s response emphatically says the state is not taking over the district in September and encourages the writer to visit the Ohio Department of Education website for “step by step” information on the lengthy process.
“Quite honestly, the kids probably won’t even notice if the State takes over,” the response says. “If you do some research on what happens when the State ‘takes over,’ you will find that it is much less intrusive than post people are lead to believe. And the State of Ohio is not going to shut down a school district. In fact, one of the first items on the agenda of a governing board will be to pass a levy. And, it will be a levy that will most likely be more significant in terms of millage than the two that were rejected by the voters.”
Jeff Carpenter, Lake treasurer, said last week the public often has misconceptions about what happens when a district is classified by the state as being in fiscal emergency.
“The state doesn’t come in with a pot of free money and pay for everything,” he said.
The woman also writes she’s heard Walbridge Elementary School is being closed because the school board lacks the funding for heating the 90-year-old building.
“Walbridge Elementary is being closed as a cost saving measure,” the response says. “…it is at the point where the maintenance and upkeep is a really high dollar amount and out students will be better served at Lake Elementary.”
Letters by Ken Smith, a former school board member, to the editor of The Press are also addressed. He questions the hiring of a physical education/health education instructor, who also will become the varsity football coach, in the wake of several classroom teachers who were retiring and not being replaced as part of an austerity plan.
Smith says the instructor/coach is being hired at an “inflated salary.”
The response says: “Lake needed a teacher to fill the Physical Education/Health Education position and Lake needed a new head football coach. Bob Olwin has a proven record of being both an outstanding Health/PhysEd teacher and one of the best football coaches in Ohio. Moreover, Lake will pay him less than other area teachers who are head football coaches.”
Smith also questions the priorities of the board, asking what is more important than the education of the youngest students, referring to the board’s decision to reduce the all-day, ever-day kindergarten program to a part-time program
Tim Krugh, board president responds: “The net cost-cutting measures of $1.125 million taken by the Board on March 21…were indeed severe and harsh, but were necessary to avoid a deficit of almost $1.2 million by the end of next January. Those 43 layoffs and other cuts, including the closure of the Walbridge school building and elimination of all day kindergarten, would have been unnecessary if the levy had passed last year. If an operating levy does not pass this year it will become necessary to make yet another (third) round of even more devastating cuts.”
A copy of the resolution approved by the school board that enacts the cost-cutting measures and the projected savings is also posted on the page.
Margene Akenberger, a former school board member, spoke during the board meeting when the cuts were announced and said the vast majority of people she talked to who voted against two recent levy requests did so based on incorrect information.
Board members have said there will probably be another operating levy request on the ballot this year, although the millage amount hasn’t been determined.
Superintendent Witt decided to have a “rumor control” web page after talking with other superintendents who said it was an effective way for addressing incorrect information in the community.