By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci reacted to two ends of the school facilities spectrum at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
First, to Richard Chamberlain’s request that the district not ask voters for any more money until it gets rid of unmandated programs, Scruci said cutting school programs would result in a race to the bottom for Bowling Green City Schools.
And second, to the task force members who have voted for elementary consolidation as the top school building option, Scruci said as an educator he agrees. However, as a superintendent who needs to get a building issue passed, he asked the task force to reconsider.
“While I believe that’s the best proposal, our community said ‘no’ to that,” Scruci said. And they repeated that “no” a second time when the bond issue was tried again..
“Consolidation is not what this community wants,” Scruci said.
The superintendent also responded to some task force members’ disappointment that the high school portion of the overall building plans has been put on hold in effort to get community support for new or renovated elementaries.
Scruci agreed that the high school is in great need of work, but the elementaries are running out of space. So the elementaries must either have overcrowded classrooms or add more modular units.
“Space is a tie breaker for me,” he said.
And Scruci reinforced what the district’s task force facilitators have been saying – “the longer we kick the can down the road,” the more expensive it will be.
As for Chamberlain’s suggestion that the district reduce costs by cutting out unmandated programs, Scruci said that would leave English, math, science and social studies. That would mean the end to agriculture education, athletics, band, theater and many, many other programs, the superintendent said.
“This board has been fiscally responsible,” Scruci said, noting that the district has not asked for new funding for nine years.
The district has to provide unfunded mandates from the state, such as busing to private schools, ACT testing prep, and College Credit Plus programs, which allow students to get college credits with the district footing the bill for tuition and textbooks.
Those unmandated programs and unfunded mandates may drain money from the district’s budget, but they also benefit the students, he said.
“Cuts are an easy solution – but I would ask – at what cost?”
Schools that cut athletics often see a mass exodus of students to other districts.
“I would caution against that,” Scruci said.
Schools that cut staff and increase class sizes risk negatively affecting learning.and employee morale.
And the impact goes beyond high school. “They are disadvantaged when applying for schools of higher education,” he said.
Bowling Green City Schools had earned the state’s “Momentum Award” for the last two years, recognizing the district’s improvements.The district is continuing to make improvements, but cutting programs is not the way to do it, Scruci said.
“Making cuts would drive us to mediocrity,” he said. “And the negative impact will be felt for years to come.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board agreed to focus on the elementary buildings, and wait on the high school. The board also voted to rehire financial consultant David Conley, of Rockmill Financial Inc., to continue working on the district’s taxing structure and building issues.
Also at the meeting, Scott Slater donated $25,000 to help revive the high school hockey program. Jamie Ruffner has been hired as hockey coach by the district.
(Another story from the school board meeting will follow about how citizens can help out at Bowling Green schools.)