Village School District
I know ladies are supposed to hide their age, but I am willing to admit that I have been an educator since 1972. I mention this because I can tell you first-hand that I have witnessed many, many changes to our legal system and our funding system for schools during that 39-year period of time. And some of those changes were equal to or greater than the incredible state of flux that we are now experiencing in Ohio.
For instance, when I began teaching it was illegal for any public employee to strike. There was a law called the Ferguson Act that gave school boards the right to fire certified or classified employees if they went on strike. I remember the Southpoint Schools Board of Education firing all of their teachers because they chose to strike. Remember, this was the same era that saw President Reagan firing all U.S. airport traffic controllers for the same reason.
When I began teaching there was no Collective Bargaining law for any public employee group. Each year the president of our local teachers’ association met with the Superintendent to discuss what the district could afford to give us in terms of a raise.
In my first year of teaching, that was $100. So, my $6,400 salary jumped to $6,500 in 1973. In 1974, Governor Rhodes felt so sorry for educators that he got the legislature to pass a supplemental appropriations bill that granted every teacher a one-time bonus of $480. Since my husband was also a teacher, we took our $960 and used it as a down payment to build our first house.
That was then, and this is now. Was it better back then? I guess the answer to that question depends on which side of the fence you reside. Here is what I know - there is one constant truth that held true back then and still holds true today: Schools must do the best they can with the resources they have. We have no other choice. As long as people have kids, those kids will need to be educated.
And Ohio’s public schools have been given the responsibility to do that educating. When times are good and we have adequate financial resources, we can provide a first class education next to none. And please, do not compare the education Carrollton kids receive to the poor level of education the media keeps harping about. The media focuses on the majority of our population, and the majority of our population lives in the city, not in the country.
Our cities, with all of their urban social-demographic problems, have always struggled. But we truly live in God’s country, where families have values, and the vast majority of kids come to school to learn, and where teachers teach, they don’t baby-sit. So, Carrollton kids do receive a high-quality education.
The question becomes, what will happen to that high-quality education with what is coming down the pike? I think most people are aware that Senate Bill 5 will basically take away many of the principles of Collective Bargaining and turn the clock almost all the way back to 1972. I think most people also know that the state of Ohio is billions (not millions) over budget. Perhaps you also know that schools have been told to prepare for a tremendous reduction in state and federal funding next year, a reduction that will cost Carrollton Schools in the neighborhood of a million dollars next year. Add to that the fact that Carrollton has not passed a local tax increase in 33 years, and we have a recipe for disaster.
Now, here is the tough part. Public education is a “people business”. Over 80% of our annual budget goes to paying salaries and benefits for the people who work for Carrollton Schools. So, cutting supplies or textbooks or a bus really only results in trimming a portion of our budget. That is the proverbial “drop in the bucket”. The only way to make major cuts, the type of cuts necessary to keep our doors open, is to cut into the 80% part of our budget - our staff.
Trust me when I say that I take no pleasure in the steps that I will be forced to recommend to the Board over the next months and perhaps years. We have worked so hard to build one of the best school districts in eastern Ohio, and it will just kill me to begin to dismantle it.
I know that the incredible high quality education kids have been receiving up to now might not be so incredible in the future. I also know that my dedicated staff will all work extra hard to minimize the negative impact, but as the saying goes, “You can’t always make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
So, we do what we must do. It does no good to complain about it. We have made our concerns clear to our elected representative over and over again. We don’t have to like it, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
As your Superintendent of Schools, I have no recourse but to operate our school district with the resources at my disposal and to play by the new rules (SB 5) that have been handed to us. We will keep our school doors open and provide a safe environment that is conducive to learning. For everyone involved, teachers, support staff, students, parents, administrators, Board members, and citizens on the street, the time has come to buckle-up our chinstraps and persevere, hoping for better days ahead. We have no other choice.