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Opinion

Resident suggests small districts should merge

4/25/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

In a conversation last week with the past superintendent of a large school system I got a history lesson. School districts like Coventry, Norton, Manchester and other small programs were at one time part of a county school district that had administrative oversight and cost sharing. By contrast, the large districts were independent because their enrollments justified their economic scale.

I didn’t ask permission to quote the person so let me paraphrase what he went on to say: Ohioans are known to be pretty independent-minded people, and over time the small districts decided they could do a better job on their own too. For a while it worked well. Now as enrollments drop, the difference in student experience is not working well. The large districts are able to maintain quality programs by spreading costs efficiently, and small ones like Coventry and Manchester and Norton, which may have to cut into the meat of the very education that produces well-rounded students, are in serious trouble. I asked if there was any governance group that would force school districts to merge, but there is not. Local districts must voluntarily choose to combine resources. Failing that, it’s up to voters to continue to fund the costs of education excellence in their districts or not.

Coventry is a wonderful program. The education is hands-on, value-driven, neighborhood responsive and college-track. Given the costs to operate, the proposed funding is needed, and the teachers, coaches and staff are extremely deserving. However, is this the only alternative? I am troubled that merging into an adjacent district seems to be constantly off the table. I think the levy will fail. Again. Are the administrators really going to go to the mat and determine that Coventry students will have to do without rather than consider alternatives like combining districts to get the advantages of scale?

As a taxpayer and registered voter, I can’t support more taxes when there used to be a method to share the costs through the county that was abandoned, and there could be merger talks if districts voluntarily agreed to do so that would help solve their cost problems. This levy will add an amount that is not trivial to our property tax bill each year. I’d pay it if I thought it was smart money because I believe in education and I believe in our kids. What I don’t believe is that we need so many small school districts trying to make a go of it when they could merge. 

Ellen Perduyn, New Franklin 

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