Traditionally, Rocky River’s school district has asked taxpayers to reach into their pockets and support an operating levy every three years. The last levy was passed in 2008; however, due to careful planning, Superintendent Michael Shoaf has announced the district will not place a new measure on the ballot in 2011.
During his State of the Schools presentation last week, Shoaf explained the district will extend the current 5.9-mill continuing operating levy one more year. He pointed out a number of positive fiscal decisions which made this possible, including participation in a health-care consortium, and purchasing diesel and unleaded fuel from the city.
Shoaf also told the audience of about 100 – which included school and city officials, as well as citizens – the district had obtained Qualified School Construction Bonds and Build America Bonds. Schools’ treasurer Greg Marcus explained these two bonds will amount to about $1 million in rebates for school improvements for each of five years.
Reductions in staff have also helped trim expenses. Shoaf said, noting that a librarian at the middle school had been replaced with an educational aide. He said, however, that cuts in faculty would try to be avoided at all costs. In fact, responding to a parent’s concern over the size of a math class, Shoaf stated the district is in the process of hiring a new math teacher.
Passage of the 3.2-mill capital improvements in May of last year was a major boost, according to Shoaf who said that now money that would have been spent on repairs to aging buildings could be repurposed.
“Instead of repairing an old roof, money from the bond issue will pay to have the roof replaced. The ultimate goal of the bond is to put the buildings into a state which can take the district ahead into the next 25 to 30 years,” Shoaf said.
These improvements to the facilities were detailed by Shoaf, and included the demolition of the current administration building. The space will be used either for a new kindergarten wing or office space for Goldwood Elementary, depending upon whether the state mandates all-day kindergarten.
“I’m starting to believe the governor will say yes to the half-day kindergarten,” predicted Shoaf. The school board had recently asked the state board for a waiver from the current all-day kindergarten mandate, citing budgetary constraints.
Administrative offices will be moved to the Beach Education Center, continued Shoaf, adding that it would have taken about $3 million to renovate the present offices. The cost of updating Beach is $2 million.
“If we didn’t do something, it (Beach) would have been razed,” he said.
Shoaf said that of the $42.9 million price tag for the renovations, $30.5 of that amount will go toward work at the high school, which will include new science and music wings, as well as a better flow.
“We’re going to make it a more efficient, green building,” he stated.
Much of the improvement work at Goldwood and Kensington Intermediate School would be done during the summer, Shoaf explained. The high school will be a three-year project, beginning with the track and stadium parking area this year.
“We’re going to have to be very thoughtful,” Shoaf said, responding to questions from parents about conducting classes during the construction.
Shoaf also stated during his presentation that Rocky River students average around or above the 90th percentile in standardized tests for math and reading, and perform high above the national norm for SAT and ACT testing. The district has also earned the top rating from the Ohio Department of Education for the 10th year in a row. Shoaf continued that all these accomplishments have taken place while spending $12,649 per student, which puts the Rocky River “in the middle of the pack” when compared to similar districts such as Westlake, which spends $12,880 per pupil, and North Olmsted, at $12,662.
Above all, Shoaf said, the uncertainty of state funding is always a concern.
“We get $1.2 million from the state now. The challenge is that there is a good chance there will be a reduction in state funding. We’re waiting to hear, and we’re anticipating cuts. This is a scary time for schools,” Shoaf said.