By Sue Botos
The updated district strategic plan, safety, finance and notably the upcoming 4.9-mill May levy were some of the topics touched upon by Rocky River Schools Superintendent Michael Shoaf during his annual State of the School presentation. This year’s address was the featured talk at the Feb. 27 Lakewood/Rocky River Rotary Club luncheon.
“The planning began about eight or nine years ago when our strategic plan priorities were identified. It was our mission to make it simple and impactful,” said Shoaf of the strategies and actions, which were most recently updated last year. Six different areas, including communications, curriculum, facilities, finance, human resources and technology were included in the study.
As stated in the action plan, under its number one objective, the district website is the primary source of information about events, student accomplishments, curricular and extracurricular. Redesigned in 2015, enhancements include a slideshow with links and a mobile version of the site. Shoaf stated the strategic plan can be found here (www.rrcs.org) as well as the district “quality profile” which, Shoaf said, highlights other student accomplishments aside from test scores.
Moving to the topic of enrollment, Shoaf stated a study was done two years ago by Future Think, which detailed variables such as birth rates, housing availability and income when predicting future class sizes. The number, which fluctuates around 2,700, is not expected to vary drastically, according to Shoaf.
Overall, Shoaf said administrators are pleased with the latest round of scores from the state report card. “We’ve learned to look at the data and see where our performance was strong and where we need to improve,” he said.
This year, he noted the district ranked sixth in the state and third in Cuyahoga County with a performance index of 107.09. This number takes into consideration factors such as standardized test scores and graduation rate. He showed a chart mapping the district’s progress in this area from 43rd in 2004.
“It’s important for us to continue to perform well. Our community expects it,” he stated.
Shoaf added that five years ago, the district had no National Merit Scholarship finalists.
“We took a look at testing and classes and since then we have had more and more students (qualify),” he stated. The district was also recognized for giving more students access to advanced placement classes.
Plans for the new preschool program, which will begin at Beach School in the fall, were also mentioned by Shoaf.
“It continues to grow,” said Shoaf noting the popularity of the program, which mixes special needs students with regularly developing peers.
Also new next year will be a robotics club at the high school. “This came out of student interest. With the help of a community sponsor, it will take off,” he stated.
On the subject of safety, Shoaf said in response to the strategic plan, several measures have been put in place over the past few years including the Safe Schools Helpline, which allows anonymous communication, ALICE active shooter training, and Safe Routes to School, a collaboration with the city.
Closing on a financial note, Shoaf told the audience Rocky River is second to last out of all Ohio school districts when it comes to annual state funding at $450 per student.
“We deserve the same money private and charter schools receive,” he said, adding St. Christopher gets $1,008 per student from the state.
Shoaf explained the levy, slated for the May 2 ballot, will consist of 4.4 mills for operating expenses and 0.5 mills for permanent improvements. In addition, Shoaf explained the levy will coincide with the retirement of the bond issue for construction of the middle school. When that is factored in, Shoaf said the net cost is about $8 per month for every $100,000 of property valuation.
In addition, he said the district is working on a refinancing project which could save the district about $600,000.
A levy information night for residents will be held on March 13 at 7 p.m. at the Rocky River Public Library.