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Woodridge officials discuss governor’s funding proposal

2/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

“It’s a shell game at this point,” said Woodridge Local Schools Treasurer Deanna Levenger, who was assessing the new state education funding formula proposed by Gov. John Kasich recently.

Levenger offered a summary of the effects the new funding would have on the district at the Board of Education’s Feb. 19 meeting. She also acknowledged things could change before the bill is finally approved by the Ohio legislature.

Levenger, who was in attendance in Columbus when Kasich presented the proposal Jan. 31, said, “What I heard him say isn’t at all what we’re finding in the details.”

The district is expecting a small increase in funding, she said, but that’s only because of its increasing enrollment, not new money from the state. The number of pupils in its four schools has increased 19 percent in the past 12 years, she said.

The governor’s plan guarantees every student the same education dollars — $5,000 per student — although that amount is a combination of state and local funds, Levenger said.

“No one runs a school on $5,000 per student,” Levenger said.

In addition, the state’s per-pupil foundation payments to Woodridge have decreased nearly 26 percent since fiscal year 2004, she added.

The two houses of the Ohio General Assembly are discussing the bill, and it is likely to be changed before it is approved, Levenger said.

In other business, Superintendent Walter Davis’ monthly recognition was on student-athletes. The room was packed with families to honor 82 of the stars of what Davis called “the immensely successful season we had last fall.”

High school football coach Eric Ervin introduced senior kicker Hunter Niswander by saying, “Woodridge made the football playoffs for only the second time, and Hunter was a big part of that.”

Niswander made 111 consecutive extra-point kicks, which set an Ohio high school record, Ervin said. He also made several field goals of more than 50 yards, which is “unheard of in high school,” Ervin added.

The Woodridge Middle School seventh-grade football team was also honored for going undefeated this year, and the middle school cross country runners, both boys and girls teams, won the Portage Trail Conference championship, said Chris Sieber, Middle School athletic director and assistant principal.

The high school cross country team also had a successful season, according to coach Jeff Howard, with the girls winning the league for the eighth year in a row and the boys winning the state championship for the sixth time in the past seven years.

Also during the meeting, the board discussed proposed changes to the Finance Committee. A group of community members who met throughout the district’s recent attempts to pass a levy asked the board to revamp its Finance Committee to include more community representation. This and having the committee meetings out in the community would get more of the residents involved and likely to support levies, it was believed.

The board, superintendent and treasurer have hoped to get more community involvement with finances both for levy support and because of the apparent misinformation that was circulating about the district’s finances at levy time, according to district officials.

The board members had just received copies of a compromise proposal on the structure of the Finance Committee the day of the meeting. Board member George DeBord complained that after months of discussions about how to get the community more involved with district finances, board members had no time to study the proposal before being asked to approve it.

They hastily read it and voted 4-1 to accept the new committee structure, with DeBord opposed.

The new Finance Committee will be comprised of two school board members (DeBord said he thought any board members should be allowed to attend and speak), the Woodridge treasurer and up to 10 people who live in the Woodridge district and have some knowledge of finance/business. The chairperson will be a community member.

Committee meetings will be advertised and held quarterly. Discussion will be confined to matters such as the five-year forecast, financial reports, levy needs, audits and financial questions from the community. Committee members will be able to make recommendations to the board.

District residents who would like to be on the Finance Committee should call the treasurer’s office at 330-928-9074, ext. 591212, to apply.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for March 19 at 6 p.m. in the Woodridge High School Library, 4440 Quick Road in Peninsula.

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