Facts are stubborn
To the editor: Lake Schools’ “priorities” are well established.
The Ohio Department of Education has awarded Lake the academic ratings of “Excellent With Distinction” and “Excellent” the last two years. These are the highest academic achievement ratings possible. In addition, these academic ratings were achieved with the district spending less per student than 80 percent of the other Ohio school districts.
Lake needed a teacher to fill a health education/physical education position and the position of head football coach. Bob Olwin was hired because he has a proven record of being an outstanding health/phys ed teacher and mentor and also as one of the best football coaches in Ohio. Moreover, Lake will pay Mr. Olwin substantially less than other area teachers who are also head football coaches.
The financial crisis at Lake Schools is because of a well-documented and ongoing reduction of funding from the federal, state and local governments. Just in the last two years alone, Lake’s funding has been reduced by an additional $1.6 million, including $425,000 less in local property taxes collected this year.
The net cost-cutting measures of $1.125 million taken by the board 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 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.
Ken Smith, a recent public critic of Lake schools, has not attended a board meeting for two years now. He was voted off the school board by the Lake Township voters in November 2009. Mr. Smith did not attempt to discuss his concerns with or get his facts straight from any of the administrators or current board members before writing his recent derogatory and misinformed letters to the editor.
Mr. Smith’s frustration, if not anger, over the recent cuts is misdirected toward school board members and administrators. We all voted in favor of the levy and worked diligently to get the levy passed so that these drastic cuts would not have become the harsh reality that they now are.
Mr. Smith concluded one of his recent letters by stating, “I guess we know where their priorities are.” That much is true. Lake’s priorities could not be clearer – achieving academic and co-curricular excellence at one of the lowest costs per student in Ohio. That is exceptional value for both our students and taxpayers. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the recent analysis of Lake’s finances and staffing levels by the Ohio Department of Education posted on the Lake website at http://www.lakeschools.org.
President, Lake Board of Education
To the editor: Recently, Ken Smith commented that the Lake School Board and administration put the education of our students second.
For the past two years, this district has been rated “Excellent.” To be fair, this rating can be credited to a collaboration among the board of education, our great faculty and the parents in our district who emphasize the importance of education to their children. This is all made possible by our community who has paid their tax dollars providing needed financial support to our school.
Smith notes the loss of all-day kindergarten, the elimination of eight teaching positions, a guidance counselor and the school nurse. These positions were eliminated as a result of two levy failures. As Smith should know, simple economics dictate that if you have a deficit, you need to increase revenue or reduce expenses. We were unable to raise revenue, so expenses had to be cut.
These cuts were necessary and were made with the best interest of our students in mind. Bob Olwin has been hired to fill a need for a teacher certified to teach physical education. We had only one to teach three grades.
Smith notes the closing of the Walbridge building. Would this district be better off maintaining this building for potential future use? All of our students will be at the main campus; will taxpayers want to spend money maintaining a building that is not needed? This building is an expense that this district simply cannot afford.
Smith notes the expense of the “extras,” which I assume he is referring to extracurricular activities. These activities (including marching band, the fall play, the spring musical and sports) make up approximately 2.3 percent of the general budget. These activities absorbed 5 percent of the total cuts. The budget from these activities was cut 18 percent for next year.
Mr. Smith voiced his displeasure with the cuts that were approved, but he did not offer his solution. I am interested to hear how he proposes to come up with the needed $1.2 million.
In closing, I would like to thank Ken Smith for his past service on the school board and for his efforts to pass the levy in 2006. I commend him for his volunteer work with the Ohio Reads program. With that being said, I take issue with his statements and insinuations that the board of education has placed the education of our students second.
Lake Board of Education
To the editor: It is extremely disheartening to me to read the letters of Ken Smith, a former Lake Schools board member and current volunteer within the schools, regarding Lake Schools.
It is a shame that a former board member and current volunteer within the schools, is representing Lake Schools in such a manner. Your combative and negative comments each time one of your letters is published makes my heart hurt. Currently, your actions are a part of the problem, not the solution. If you really are concerned and care about the future of our children’s education, you would be writing positive and uplifting letters so that we can increase “yes” votes.
Instead, you bash the school board and leave one questioning whether or not a “yes” vote is worth it. My husband, Brad Delventhal, is a school board member and gives his whole heart into decision-making. We have three children who are in grades kindergarten, third and fifth grade at Lake. Do you really believe that he as well as Tim Krugh who has grandchild at Lake, would make decisions that would jeopardize an excellent education for their own flesh and blood?
It saddens me deeply with all the cuts that had to be made and I feel for those families, but this choice has been decided by the community, not the board.
So Ken…I ask of you, for the sake of my children and many others, please be supportive of what this school system has been dealt. Be a voice of positive and encouraging words so we can get this upcoming levy to pass and be a community people are proud to be a part of.
1995 Lake Alumnae
More cuts needed
To the editor: It is appropriate for the Lake school board members and school staff to be given a word of praise for their latest efforts toward reducing costs. Closing Walbridge School, eliminating optional all-day kindergarten, increasing student-teacher ratios and curtailing the sports program were appropriate actions to reduce costs.
It needs to be pointed out, while significant cost reductions were achieved by these actions, more needs to be done. State funding reductions to the schools were based in part on requiring schools to eliminate the practice of using taxpayer dollars to pay for the administrators’ share of their pensions and having school boards require employees to pay 15 percent of their taxpayer-provided health care benefits.
According to the fiscal year 2011 district profile put online by the Ohio Department of Education, the average Lake administrator’s salary was $77,640, compared to $70,836 for a similar district average. The average classroom teacher salary was $51,520, compared to the median income of residents in the Lake school district of $32,389.
It’s interesting to note that in the fiscal year 2010 district profile, the average Lake administrator’s salary was $74,506 and average classroom teacher salary was $48,773, compared to the median income of $33,125 for district residents. It would appear that it would not be a burden on the employees of the district to pay more toward their compensation package when compared to the median income of taxpayers supporting the district.
It should be pointed out that in years past, school employees’ base pay was low in comparison to the general public. In order to compensate for this difference, school boards provided generous benefit packages, requiring little employee contributions for their benefits. The 2010 and 2011 school profiles show the reverse has happened.
Today, the general public’s base income is significantly lower and is dropping from previous years. Their benefit packages have been significantly reduced or in many cases, eliminated. School employees continue to see their salaries going up and maintain their benefit packages. There is justification for taxpayers to ask school employees to pay more toward their compensation package as a means of contributing to the reduction in state funding. A quality education at an affordable cost, as measured by teachers’ salaries and benefits, compared to the general public’s ability to pay, is a fair method of asking public employees to pay more toward their benefit packages before asking taxpayers for new revenue.
Editor’s note: Mr. Knudson is a former Lake school board member