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Woodridge waives pay-to-participate fees for one year

5/22/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

Two years ago, when the Woodridge Local School District was having trouble getting an operating levy passed, the Board of Education approved participation fees for athletics and other extracurricular activities.

The April 2012 resolution stipulated the policy was only for one school year, was not connected to any levy success or failure and would be reviewed the following spring. Last April, the board voted to continue the fees but with an annual cap of $375 per family.

At the Woodridge Board of Education meeting May 15, the issue was up for re-evaluation again. Superintendent Walter Davis brought up the subject as one “filled with emotion and debate” for the board.

Board members all seemed to prefer not to charge for sports and activities since the fees may be a hardship for some families, but they acknowledged the district needs the revenue.

Davis said the fees brought in about $90,000 the first year and about the same last year, even with the family cap. He said the supplemental contracts for coaches and club advisers cost the district around $400,000 per year, so the participation fees help pay for those.

Board member Linda Ocepek said they needed a cost-benefit analysis for the program, noting that it didn’t make sense to charge students to be members of National Honor Society.

“We struggle with this and are the stewards of your tax dollars,” said board member Tammy Heffernan, who favored keeping but tweaking the program.

Board President Jan Flasco said she favored doing major fundraising to replace the pay-to-participate fees.

Board member George DeBord suggested waiving the fees for next school year and trying to collaborate with the booster clubs, parents and business community to raise at least the $90,000 the fees have brought in.

“If it doesn’t work, we can reinstate the pay-to-participate,” he said.

His motion to waive the fees included “with the intention to organize ongoing fundraising efforts to fund supplemental contract costs.”

The vote to waive the fees for the 2014-15 school year was 4-1, with Heffernan opposed.

DeBord volunteered to head up the fundraising efforts, and Ocepek, who has had fundraising experience as the former Woodridge Middle School principal, offered to help.

Board member Marilyn Hansen asked whether they could designate any proceeds from the casinos to go toward paying the supplemental contracts.

Treasurer Deanna Levenger said she was not sure how much they received from the casinos but she and Davis would look into it.

The board then thanked the coordinators of the Issue No. 8 levy campaign, the 10-year renewal levy that passed May 6, for their hard work. Jeff McHugh and Scott Karlo in turn thanked all who helped them and the community for passing the levy.

“It was a great turnout,” said Karlo.

In other business, the team in charge of the district’s master facilities planning presented the board members with an extensive summary report of its findings and recommendations.

Chas Schreckenberger, of Braun and Steidl Architects, said the planning committee has been working for about six months gathering data, studying demographics, determining the needs of each of the buildings and soliciting community input through surveys and community dialogue meetings.

Davis summed up the report’s recommendations, which closely mirror the results of the votes of community members who took part: to build a new elementary school building on the same Quick Road campus where the middle and high schools are now; to renovate the middle school; and to renovate the high school and add on to it.

The report also includes recommendations on technology, safety and security, and making the facilities available to the community when the schools are not in session, he said. The report will be put on the district’s website, woodridge.k12.oh.us, Davis said.

The board would like to get more community feedback on the report and plan, Flasco said, and has scheduled a combined board workshop/community forum for June 4 at 6 p.m. at the Woodridge High School library, 4440 Quick Road. The public is welcome to discuss the buildings or other topics, she said.

Also during the meeting, the board approved hiring Beth Harrington as the principal for the primary school. She replaces Karen Sykes, who is retiring. Harrington was given a three-year contract effective Aug. 1.

Also hired was Jeff Decker as the head football coach at the high school. Decker, who is also a math teacher, will replace Eric Ervin. His contract also begins Aug. 1.

After the public forum June 4, the board’s next meeting is set for June 17 at 6 p.m. in the library of Woodridge High School, 4440 Quick Road.

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