Bowling Green City School District

BG school board eyes options – may try 2 levy renewals this fall

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Remember story problems? Three old trains are barreling toward Bowling Green, while two new trains are headed toward the same location at the same time. Only this story problem doesn’t ask which train will arrive first at the station. The question behind this story problem is – which trains will voters get on board and support at the polls. Bowling Green Board of Education spent another long Saturday work session going over its options for dealing with a potential five tax issues going before voters in the next two to four years. It appears the board may be narrowing its options to possibly putting two renewal levies on the ballot this fall. David Conley, the district’s financial consultant from Rockmill Financial, used the train analogy so the board could visualize the three existing tax issues coming due in the district. One option, he said was merging two of the trains onto one track – or in this case, combining two tax levies into one issue. While the plan to reduce tax requests on voters was attractive, some board members were clearly leaning toward biting the bullet and asking instead that voters to approve two existing levies for a continuing period of time. Where does BG stand right now … Here’s a refresher on the levies coming due for the school district: 4.2-mill current expense levy, generating about $2.4 million a year, which expires in 2020.1.6-mill emergency levy, generating about $1 million a year, which also expires in 2020.0.5 percent income tax, generating about $3.2 million a year, expiring in 2022. Those add up to $6.8 million a year. Failure to renew those would hit the district hard, Conley said. At the same time, Bowling Green needs new money (those are the new trains barreling toward the station). Those options include: New operating levy, with an undetermined source of income or property tax revenue.Funding for new facilities, which Conley estimated will be anywhere from $30 million to $50 million. Again, the source of these funds may be income tax, property tax, or combination of the two. To figure out the story problem, Conley said the board must identify its priorities. “Your priorities will help us figure out where you go from here,” he said. The board identified the following priorities for the district: Preserve the existing rollback, which benefits local taxpayers.Try for levy renewals – but turning them into continuing levies, rather than sticking with the five-year terms.Don’t wait till the last minute to try renewing the levies that expire at the end of 2020 – possibly going on the ballot this fall.Make more income tax a part of future school funding. Whether that is traditional or earned income tax is yet unknown.Identify sources of new money that will be needed by the district for operations. Board member Paul Walker also expressed his feelings that the board needs to look at cutting costs as it looks at new funding. Why rescuing rollbacks is so important … The board seemed in agreement that keeping the rollback benefits for taxpayers is important. In 2013, the state decided to stop paying 12.5 percent of school levies – leaving the entire bill for taxpayers to foot. The state will continue paying that percentage on any levy amounts approved prior to 2013. So if the millage is kept the same, and voters approve a renewal, they will still benefit from the rollback. “It seems like we should take that into consideration,” Geer said. So while it may be appealing to just put one levy on the ballot, if the…


BG school task forces start search for solutions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green task force members put their first drops of sweat equity into the future of their school district Tuesday evening. They gathered in the hot high school cafeteria to take the initial steps toward a school building solution that two bond issue attempts failed to solve. “This is a great opportunity for the community,” said David Conley, a financial consultant hired by the school district to help find a solution. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to restart the clock.” Approximately 130 citizens signed up to serve on two task forces – one focused on school facilities, the other on school finances. When done with their work, the task forces will make recommendations to the school board of how to proceed on building issues. “You drive the train on this,” Conley said. “You can conclude that there’s no need for anything.” To help the facilities task force decide the future of Bowling Green school buildings, Conley introduced three members of Fanning Howey, a firm of architects, engineers, planners and former school administrators who specialize in schools. The firm has assisted more than 100 Ohio school districts, including Eastwood, North Baltimore and Northwood in Wood County. Three members of the firm are volunteering their time to work with the Bowling Green facilities task force. Architects Steve Wilczynski and Dan Obrynba, plus former school superintendent Tim Hamilton made their pitch to the citizens. Some citizens expressed skepticism about the firm’s motives for volunteering. Obrynba explained that this is the first time for them to volunteer on a job – however, he added that if they do a good job, they will have earned themselves a chance to work on whatever building project the district decides is right for Bowling Green. Others questioned their objectivity when it comes to deciding on renovating old buildings versus constructing new ones. Hamilton said he has been involved with the whole gambit – from fixing up and adding on, to full renovations and building new. Wilczynski estimated 60 to 65 percent of the firm’s work is new buildings, with 35 to 40 percent being renovations. “The reality is, it’s your solution,” Obrynba said. The three men said they approach each project with open minds. “We’ve not intentionally tried to find out a lot about your school district,” Wilczynski said. The task force process will work like this – the group will collect goals and visions from task force members, connect with the community, create options, then complete a plan. The process is not a straight line, Wilczynski warned. “We don’t have any idea where this is going to go – but we can help you get there,” he said. The task force will look at the physical conditions of the district’s buildings, plus determine their education adequacy. “Is the building in the way of teaching,” Obrynba said. The members will tour the schools, and talk about future possibilities. “What do you want your kids to have,” Obrynba said. The group will study enrollment history and projections, plus examine the economic issues facing the community. Above all, the task force must address the “multiple elephants” in the room – which all districts have, Hamilton said. “We will flip over every rock and stone, and figure out what’s under there,” he said. Retired teacher Roger Mazzarella said of the “elephants” that needs to be discussed is the fact that fewer than half of the district’s residents voted on the last two bond issues. Hamilton said his firm could help with that. “We can pick apart your voter analysis for Bowling Green,” he…


Facilitators found for BG school building task force

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A school architecture firm has been selected to help Bowling Green City School District residents determine the best solution for aging school buildings. The firm of Fanning Howey has identified three individuals with expertise in community engagement, school building renovation, school building construction, community-centered visioning, and the State Classroom Facilities Assistance Program, to guide the efforts of the school facilities task force. The three – Steve Wilczynski, Dan Obrynba and Tim Hamilton – will be at the first joint meeting of the task forces on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. The men have some experience working with school districts in Wood County. Wilczynski worked with Eastwood, North Baltimore and Northwood. Obrynba worked with Rossford. “They are very experienced in community engagement to identify the desires of the community,” said David Conley, a school finance consultant hired by Bowling Green Board of Education to help with the community task force process. Conley will act as facilitator for the finance task force, which has at least 64 members from the community. The Fanning Howey employees will facilitate the school facilities task force, which has at least 94 members from the community. According to Conley, the facilitators are knowledgeable about school building renovations and new construction – which was vital since the Bowling Green district is divided about the need to renovate existing sites or build new schools. “That’s going to be instantly beneficial to the facilities group,” he said. Fanning Howey has worked with many school districts around Ohio, and was one of the earliest firms to work with the State of Ohio on state funding programs, Conley said. “They can provide some real immediate feedback to the task force,” he said. Fanning Howey is volunteering to provide this service to the residents of the district at no charge. The firm is aware that the district is not under any obligation to retain them for any current or future services. According to Conley, the facilitators are also aware that they must report to members of the community facilities task force – which reserves the right to terminate Fanning Howey’s involvement in the process at any time. “They understand the dynamics of the community and they are willing to fill this role,” Conley said. Fanning Howey describes the three facilitators as follows. Wilczynski is a planner, who specializes in the planning and design process that links needs of the client with the vision of the larger community. Obrynba, a community engagement specialist, has experience passing bond issues and creating community-centered visions. Hamilton, a former school administrator, has successfully completed complex community engagement and school construction projects. The facilities group will study the condition of the district’s buildings now and consider future curriculum requirements. Ultimately, the group will decide if the district should renovate old buildings, build new schools, or a combination of the two. The facilities task force will take guided tours of the five Bowling Green school buildings, hear from state experts about facilities assessments done on the buildings, and visit other Ohio districts that have renovated old buildings and constructed new schools. The task force will work with the district’s architect on proposals and come up with cost estimates. That information will then go to the financial task force, which will figure out how to pay for the building proposal. The financial group will look at all forms of funding – earned income tax, traditional income tax, property tax, state funding, corporate contributions, and even go-fund-me sites. The financial task force will also consider how much the community can afford, and could possibly…


Presentations to BG school board accentuate the positive

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Meeting for the last time of the school year, the Bowling Green Board of Education had a lot of students to recognize. A few will be among the 217 seniors who will graduate Sunday at 2 p.m., and others are in the early stages of their school careers. The recognition started, though, by recognizing four professional women who volunteer with the Girls Who code program. Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator, said this was the club’s first year at the Middle School. It encourages girls to explore computer and other technology careers. Lexi Marshall, Sarah Beamer, Jami Sunday, and Laura Johns were honored for spending 90 minutes a week working with middle school students and being role models as women with careers in technology. Next up were the participants in the model UN introduced by Mary Kern, the club’s advisor. Members recognized were:  Hannah Bowlus, Kerica Bucks, Alison Cramer, Bob Walters, Matthew Fyfe, Jesse He, Dawson Wohler, Cameron Froemming, Eddy Becker, Elijah Poetzinger, and Dana Kleman. The team competed in three conferences, including sending eight members to Harvard for an international event. The team took the top prize at a Model UN event at Ohio Northern, and did very well in the concluding event at Ohio State University. Seventh Grade science teacher Paula Williams introduced four students who decided to activate their learning. Adam Brian, Jacob Baumgardner, Benjamin Bates, and Zachary Hartman were part of the class that went out to test water on the Portage River. Afterward, they wanted to do something to promote water quality. Jacob and Adam designed t-shirts to promote the issue. Ben and Zach decided, since plastic shopping bags are seen as a scourge on the environment, to design and sell reusable shopping bags with the school’s mascot on them. They even had them for sale at the meeting. Williams also presented seventh grader Emma Ferguson who created an award-winning billboard design in a contest sponsored by the county Solid Waste Management District. Her billboard urged people to be clean water superheroes. Seven students from the Penta DECA program and the marketing class taught by Cara Maxey were recognized for qualifying to attend DECA’s International Career Development Conference. That included Sean O’Donnell and Jake Stucker who took second place at the conference for their idea for a water filtration system. (See story. http://bgindependentmedia.org/bg-deca-students-runoff-filtration-idea-cleans-up-at-international-conference/) Five other students competed at the international conference including Makai Ruffin, Kloe Atwood, Alyssa Lang, Trisha Stichler, and Ayla Arrington. Ruffin, the BG DECA president, said that traveling to Atlanta for the international conference was a great experience because they got to meet people from around the country and around the world. Maxey said 50 percent of 46 students from BG who competed at the district level earned a trip to the state conference. Laura Weaver, coordinator of gifted services, had the largest group. She introduced 26 students in the P.A.C.E. Enrichment program who participated in the Perennial Math Competition that takes place November through February. Students must do more than compute. They have to use logic to dissect a problem to figure out how to come up with the answer using algebra and geometry. The tests are given in three levels: rookie, for 3rd and 4th graders; intermediate for 5th and 6th graders; and advanced for 7th and 8th graders. Because some students compete in teams above their grade level, they can be on multiple teams. Students are honored based success within the field of more than 14,000 students worldwide. Gold medalists perfect scores or top scores for their grade level were: Rookie – Arianna Chung,…


Voters reject BG School’s bond issue for buildings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education was left bruised and battered Tuesday evening – from both a bitter levy campaign and a biting defeat at the polls. The district’s second attempt to pass a 5.7-mill bond issue for 37 years went down by a bigger margin than its first loss. The unofficial total on Tuesday night was 2,845 (40 percent) to 4,218 (60 percent). That compares to November’s vote of 3,471 (46 percent) to 4,021 (54 percent). “We are very disappointed,” school board President Jill Carr said late Tuesday evening. “We’re so committed to getting our facilities back to the high quality they were,” Carr said of the $72 million plan to consolidate the three elementaries, plus renovate and add onto the high school. “We wanted the best for students, teachers and community as a whole.” But many did not like the plan – either because of its effect on their pocketbooks or because it meant the end to “neighborhood” schools. Steve Bateson, one of those leading the opposition to the levy, issued a statement after the election results were in. “The voters joined together and spoke, defeating the bond issue for a variety of reasons. Some voters believe neighborhood schools are important, others felt that the additional tax was unfair,” he wrote. “This bond issue has been defeated twice and we hope the school board respects the decision of the voters and moves forward with a new plan that all members of our school district family can support for the success of our students and community,” Bateson stated. But finding a plan that all members of the district can support may be difficult. The school board brought in a school taxation expert who said the board’s request for a property tax was the best decision for the majority of the district residents. Principals at the schools offered Saturday tours to the public so show the poor condition of the buildings. But it wasn’t enough to convince the majority of the voters. “We are just going to have to step back and try to figure out what the next steps are,” board Vice President Ginny Stewart said. “Obviously the community wants something different.” The board will continue to work with school taxation expert David Conley to find a funding solution for the district. Critics of the bond issue has suggested that the $72 million price tag is too much, and could be reduced by renovating the 60-plus-year-old elementaries rather than building one centralized building. The opposition has also criticized the reliance on property taxes, which greatly affect the agricultural community. Supporters of the plan said the only way to provide equity in education for all elementary students was to build a consolidated school. They backed the property tax as the best way to achieve that goal. Superintendent Francis Scruci has repeatedly said that the board tried the bond issue again after its defeat in November because it was the best solution for the students, the teachers and the community. But if the voters won’t support it, the board will have to try for something less than the best, he said. “The board is going to have to make a decision,” Scruci said. “In the next couple weeks we’ll have a better idea.” Scruci said he has never experienced this type of nasty levy campaign in his previous school districts. “We’ll have to regroup and see what we’ve learned from this,” he said. “We feel very strongly that we did everything we could,” Carr said. “We know we have our work cut out…


BG district scrutinizes safety after Parkland shooting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In response to growing violence at schools across the nation, Bowling Green City Schools had each classroom equipped with a “Boot” last year. The “Boot” was created by Rob Couturier, of Michigan, after his daughter was the victim of a violent attack. The “Boot,” is a rectangular-shaped plate of quarter-inch thick industrial steel. Secured by two steel pegs, the plate can withstand 16,000 pounds of pressure and keep doors closed to intruders. The safety mechanism has been installed in more than 100 public schools and 18 private schools in the region. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci rests a little easier knowing every classroom in the district has a mechanism to keep an intruder out and keep the students safe inside. However, Scruci also realizes nothing is completely safe. “Anytime we’re talking about student safety, there is always more you can do,” Scruci said Thursday, the day after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed at 17. “We want to make sure kids are safe. But we can’t with 100 percent certainty,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to make them as safe as possible.” But in the case of the Parkland shooter, who reportedly went door to door to classrooms, the “Boot” would keep him from entering rooms. “That’s the beauty of the ‘Boot.’ He’s not getting in there,” Scruci said. In addition to the “Boot” on classroom doors, the Bowling Green school district also relies on students and staff to point out troubled students, hold training drills at the school, and work with local police on responding to threats. By law, every school must hold a lockdown drill at least once a year. “We just had a meeting and discussed that we need to do it more often,” Scruci said. “We don’t ever want to think this is a new normal, but we want people to be prepared.” Of course, the school district can’t prepare for every possibility, he said. The accused shooter in the Florida school pulled a fire alarm first, reportedly to have easier access to students leaving their classrooms. “Regardless of how many times we practice, you don’t know what to prepare for,” Scruci said. “We could prepare for 100 scenarios, and there would still be another 100 other scenarios we didn’t think of.” The school staff is also trained in ALICE, which urges people to leave the building safely if they can. If they can’t escape, they are trained fight back with anything available. At the suggestion of Couturier, the district’s hallways and classrooms have improved signage so police can more easily identify areas of the schools. Police are aware of the lockdown drills and have floor plans for all the schools. “We can’t say enough about partnering with our police department,” Scruci said. The police and sheriff departments also have one “Boot” installed at each office so they can train on it. Special keys coded for each building allow law enforcement to access rooms barricaded by the “Boots.” At least 60 percent of the “Boots” were purchased with donations from the community. Couturier has also said if the district renovates or constructs new buildings, his company will reinstall the equipment at no charge. Each school also requires visitors to be buzzed in at the building offices, but there are still some gaps due to the aging buildings. “We do have some challenges,” Scruci said. None of the schools are equipped with metal detectors. The school district also emphasizes the need for students and staff to report troubling behavior in students. “We’re still trying to…


BG school levy fails; board ponders next attempt

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green school officials were disappointed but not dissuaded by Tuesday’s defeat of the 6-mill levy for school buildings. The levy was rejected by a vote of 3,471 (46 percent) to 4,021 (54 percent). “I feel bad for the kids. I feel bad for the staff. I feel bad for the community,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said as he stood surrounded by levy supporters as the election results came in. But Scruci and the school board don’t plan to waste much time moaning about the loss. They have some decisions to make. Do they go back on the ballot in May or November? Or do they try to patch up buildings with permanent improvement funds and add more modular classrooms? “We’re not going to stop doing what’s right for kids,” Scruci said. “We’re disappointed this is 20 months of work that came down to one day,” he said. The 6-mill levy, lasting 37 years, would have raised $72 million for buildings. The plan was to consolidate the three elementaries into one centralized building, and to renovate and add new sections to the high school. The levy failure was not due to lack of communication, since Scruci made nearly 100 presentations on the levy and building plans since September. However, in the last couple weeks, opposition to the levy came out with “a lot of misinformation” that didn’t help, he said. The superintendent had said that if the levy failed, the district would come back next year with the same proposal – since it is the best plan to meet the needs of the students. The school board members seemed to support that plan. “We will go back and see what we need to learn from this,” board member Jill Carr said. “I personally believe in what we put out there.” Board member Ginny Stewart said she was saddened for the students and teachers. “This is a blow to the community. This is a big need. As long as I’m on this board, and the rest of the board is willing, I’m ready to fight for this.” Board member Paul Walker said perhaps the district needs to make the current building deficiencies more clear to voters. “There’s an obvious need. Anybody who voted ‘no’ needs to come through our buildings.” Walker said the board decided on the levy and building plans after a great deal of studying and after conducting a community survey. Board member Bill Clifford agreed. “This is based on needs, not wants. What we presented was the best option,” he said. Clifford and other board members were disturbed by the conduct of some vocal opposition to the school levy. “I don’t mind opposition,” Clifford said. “But quite frankly, I’m very disappointed when I see the social media and the personal attacks.” Scruci said the district will now look at where the levy did well with voters and where the school’s message didn’t resonate. “This is the first attempt,” he said. “Maybe there’s more to be done. Obviously we didn’t hit the right people.” Scruci again stressed that he currently has no plans to scale back the levy request. “Nobody likes taxes. I get that,” he said. “But until the state comes up with another way,” the district has no other options. The district’s needs are not going to be solved with Band-Aid solutions. “Six, eight, 10 years from now it will be a $90 million project. The cost isn’t getting any cheaper,” Scruci said. Scruci emphasized that the loss of the levy was not a statement about the district’s staff. “This…


Scruci joins other districts questioning state report cards

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The state may need a refresher course on how to do testing. Once again, Bowling Green City School District scored low in some areas on its state report card. But according to Superintendent Francis Scruci, that may say more about the tests than the school district. In the area of “achievement” – which represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well they performed on them – Bowling Green scored a D. The sting from that grade is lessened a bit by the similar grades earned across the state, Scruci said. Of the 607 districts scored, only 22 got an A, 15 scored a B, 22 got a C, and 58 earned a D. The vast majority – 490 – earned an F. “As educators we know when we create tests for classrooms, there should be a bell-shaped curve,” Scruci said. The fact that most districts failed, raises “obvious questions.” “This is a pretty good illustration that this system is not working,” he said about the state grade cards. Scruci is not alone in his harsh opinion of the state tests. Many Wood County superintendents share his criticisms. “Everyone is frustrated with the system itself,” he said. “The system is flawed. If a teacher were to give a test and get scores like that,” they would do it again. In addition to the “achievement” area, the other grades given to Bowling Green schools include: D for gap closing. This shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable populations of students in English language arts, math and graduation. C for K-3 literacy. This looks at how successful the district is at getting struggling readers on track to proficiency in third grade and beyond. A for progress. This looks closely at the value-added growth that all students are making based on their past performances. Bowling Green scored A in all the areas of overall, gifted, students with disabilities and lowest 20 percent in achievement. A for graduation rate. This looks at the percent of students who are successfully finishing high school with a diploma in four for five years. C for prepared for success. Whether training in a technical field or preparing for work or college, this component looks at how well prepared the students are for future opportunities. Scruci was particularly pleased with the value-added progress for the district. “From a superintendent’s standpoint, that’s what we want to focus on. We’re seeing a lot of growth,” he said. “We’re never going to be content, but we’re certainly seeing growth.” “We’re happy that pretty much across the board we’ve improved in every area,” Scruci said. He noted the added efforts by teachers to make improvements, including many of them doing additional training in the summer. “Our teachers are trying to make a difference,” Scruci said. In a letter sent out to staff Friday morning, Scruci noted the “F” given to the district in the “indicators met” category. “Please do not allow that to define you,” he told the teachers. “As you can see there is a flawed system that has been created,” Scruci wrote in his letter to the staff. “Far from the bell-shaped curve that we as teachers were always taught to be an indicator of a ‘fair’ test.” Scruci suggested that the staff take note of the positive progress the district made.   “Focus and be proud that under ‘Value Added’ we received all A’s and this is the area that I am most appreciative of the work you did,” Scruci wrote. “It…