Bowling Green School District

BG school board searches for way forward after defeat at the polls

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s back to the task forces for the Bowling Green School District. The Board of Education, meeting Tuesday a week after voters went to the polls and decisively rejected a $72 million bond issue that would have changed the face of the district, addressed how it would move forward. And it got some words of advice from some of its critics. Board President Jill Carr said that “the community has spoken.” That leaves the district with a high school and two elementary schools in need of renovation or replacement. “The board is ready to move forward,” she said. To that end it will form two task forces, one to focus on facilities and one to focus on financing. Together they will conduct “a full exploration of our options.” Those task forces will draw from all segments of the community, Carr said. “Their work will not be rushed.” Later in the meeting one of the district’s harshest critics Richard Chamberlain said the district’s facilities needs were so urgent they had to be addressed immediately. HVAC problems are damaging the buildings. Noting the five-year forecast presented at the meeting showed the district had a $2 million fund balance, he said the district should use that. The use of those funds, however, would likely push the district to go to voters for more money sooner than the forecast indicates. Treasurer Cathy Schuller presented the forecast with the usual caveat: “A forecast is what we know today.” School treasurers say that as soon as a forecast is completed, it’s wrong. The numbers are based, she said, on “conservative estimates.” That means assuming the district will receive about the same amount of state aid as it is now, though there’s no way of knowing what the legislature will do in the next biennium budget. District officials can hope that as the economy improves, income tax revenues will grow. On the expense side, the district is at the mercy of how many students decide to take College Credit Plus courses and how many open enroll at other schools. The district, she said, loses more money per student for those going to charters, than it would get if the student stayed in BG. Superintendent Francis Scruci said the district will face an imbalance in kindergarten enrollments. The district has 70 kindergarteners signed up for Crim, 76 for Conneaut, and only 39 at Kenwood. That means that an additional class will have to be opened at Conneaut. The sensory room used to give kids with special needs physical relief during the day will be moved to the gym, which is not ideal. The music teacher will take to the halls in a cart. “Any kind of influx” in other grades “will cause a problem,” he said. “We’re topped out of space at Conneaut.” The board also approved establishing a Capital Projects Fund. This fund has no money in it now, but will be available to receive any gifts or other unplanned sources of revenue. That could be, Schuller said after the meeting, any payments related to the pipeline. Grant Chamberlain quizzed the board on the fund. He said the bond levy was hurt by the district’s lack of transparency. He complained that three records requests that he made have not been answered….

BG school board defends decision to go back on ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education was told Tuesday that the wounds from the last election haven’t healed. So rubbing salt in them by putting the same issue on the May ballot was not wise. Tuesday was intended to be a workshop for the school board to come up with levy strategies. Instead it turned into an opportunity for citizens to tell the board they need to listen to their voters. “The public just told you, ‘No,’” Richard Strow said. “Seriously. They looked you right in the eye and said, ‘No.’” “Show the public you aren’t tone deaf to them,” Strow said, suggesting the board slow down and look at other options. But the board and Superintendent Francis Scruci said they have to look in the eyes of students, who are still in crowded classrooms, still using modular units, still have inadequate heat and air conditioning, still lack technological advancements, and still don’t benefit from collaborative teaching. “We understand your frustration,” Scruci said to those in the audience who will be most affected by a property tax increase. But he defended the board’s decision. “We are convinced this is not only a good thing for kids, but it brings back benefits to the district. Their decision making is based on what is right for kids.” The board voted earlier this month to put a 5.7-mill levy on the May 8 ballot for bonds just under $72 million, spread over 37 years. The bonds would pay for construction of one consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an expansion to the high school. Due to increased property valuations, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $199 annually, rather than the $210 last time it was on the ballot. “All of us are convinced there is a need,” new board member Norm Geer said. “This is the only way to do it. In order to build the buildings, we need to have a bond levy.” Board member Ginny Stewart said she was just in one of the schools Tuesday afternoon, and the classroom was sweltering due to ongoing heating problems. She estimated that 90 percent of the district voters haven’t been into the aging schools for many years – or ever. “Once you go into our schools, you will see what the need is,” Stewart said. But one of the biggest objections from those speaking up against the levy was the lack of transparency by the board. Board member Paul Walker pointed out the number of public meetings that Scruci held in the months prior to the November levy. Steve Bateson said that kind of discussion “would have been great” prior to the board voting to put the levy back on in May. That meeting was held at 7:30 a.m. And Tuesday’s meeting was held at 5 p.m. The board was accused of taking action on the levy in the “dead of the night.” “I totally think it was not broadcast enough,” Bud Henschen said. “This community needs a cooling off period.” Walker defended the decision. “We didn’t take this lightly. We started this project two years ago.” But monthly public meetings that start at 5 p.m. are just not accessible to many people, Strow said. “For me to come to your…

School board ponders whether, what, and when of new bond issue request

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Back in November when the Bowling Green school bond issue went down in defeat, board members insisted that they would return with the same $72 million plan that would consolidate the district’s three elementary schools and extensively renovate and expand the high school. Early Monday morning, two months later, they met to discuss whether that was the best option. The workshop session was part post mortem of the election and part a free-wheeling discussion about what other options there may be to address the district’s building needs. In the end, the board seemed poised to return to the ballot, possibly as early as May, with the same plan. The board, which meets in regular session Tuesday, set another special meeting for Friday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 a.m. to further discuss the next step. It is possible a decision on whether and what to put on the ballot and when will be determined then. They must decide by Jan. 31 if the board is to put the issue on the May ballot. Board member William Clifford, who said on election night that the board would return with the same plan, asked Monday whether there was any way to trim the cost of the project. His fear, he said, was that coming back with the same amount would tell the voters they weren’t being listened to. “We weren’t asking for any more than we needed,” board member Ginny Stewart said. “We were so far behind we needed to catch up.” Norm Geer, who was elected to the board in November, said that those who voted against the levy weren’t “anti-education.” Many factors were at play, including the loss of neighborhood schools as well as the cost. “We have to convince people it’s money well spent,” he said. “It’s money that can save money in the future.” Superintendent Francis Scruci said that consolidating the elementary schools would save the district $100,000 a year in transportation costs, and eliminate three routes. That would mean the district would not have to buy as many buses. The new elementary would allow the district to bring some programs back into district property and save on rentals and the expense of having those students educated out of the district. The plan would be to move the central office, now in rental space downtown, into Crim Elementary. As it stands, Crim has a space crunch, Scruci said. Installing a modular classroom there would cost about $200,000, almost twice what it costs at Conneaut because Crim lacks the necessary utility hookups. The consolidation also would also have educational benefits by allowing teachers to collaborate more closely, he said. This would help the district continued the improvements it is making, such as the increase in third grade reading scores. That could be achieved by turning the three elementary schools into grade level buildings with all the students from a specific grade going to the same school – K-1 in one school, grades 2-3 in another, and grades 4-5 in the third. That arrangement, however, would greatly increase transportation costs. The consolidated elementary building, he said, was designed with the future in mind. There are currently as many as 10 classes per grade level. The new building will have room for 12. Board member Paul Walker…

BG School Board seeks levy millage and duration for building project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education made it official Tuesday evening by voting to ask the Wood County Auditor to determine the millage and the duration of a levy to pay for the district’s $72 million building project. The board voted at a meeting earlier this month to consolidate the three elementary schools into one centralized building, and to make major additions and renovations to the high school. That work will be funded by a bond issue. The board also agreed to build an addition to the middle school. That project, which will likely begin in September, will be financed through $4.6 million in permanent improvement funds. If the bond issue is approved by voters, the new consolidated elementary planned north of the current middle and high schools, could be completed by the summer of 2020. The high school could be completed by summer of 2021. The action taken Tuesday evening by the school board was the adoption of the necessity of the bond issue. The issue will appear on this November’s ballot. In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the board hired Alyssa Karaffa as the new principal at Crim Elementary School. Karaffa has been the assistant principal at the middle school. Her new position has an annual salary of $75,000. The former Crim principal, Melanie Garbig, was hired earlier this month as the district’s executive director of pupil services. Also at the meeting, Superintendent Francis Scruci said he and the transportation supervisor had made a busing decision that would save the district nearly $100,000 a year. By law, the district has to transport local students to private schools within 30 minutes of Bowling Green City Schools. For years, local students have been transported to St. John’s and the Toledo School for the Arts. But those schools are actually further than the 30 minute limit. So students will no longer by bused by the district to those schools. “We’re trying to utilize the tax dollars of our community most efficiently,” Scruci said. Also at the meeting, Scruci explained a Community Reinvestment Area agreement between the city and Moser Construction, which is building a facility in the Wood Bridge Business Park. The CRA allows the city to give the company a tax abatement, but also allows the school district to negotiate so it does not lose any tax revenue. “We will remain whole,” Scruci told the board. He recommended the district direct those dollars into the permanent improvement fund since most of that fund is being used to expand the middle school. In other business, Maria Simon and Michelle Raine of Wood County District Public Library were recognized for setting up e-cards for all students in grades 3 to 11. The cards allow them access to digital books. “We can’t thank them enough for doing that,” said Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator for the district. The library also created an instructional video for students, parents and teachers. A special report was given by Beth Krolak, the district’s technology coordinator, on technology improvements planned throughout the district this summer.