By Jeff Gallatin
NORTH OLMSTED – Numbers are starting add up as the North Olmsted Schools prepare to host an education roundtable on school funding for districts in the 24th Ohio Senate District.
Officials have set the first roundtable for 7 p.m. Jan. 12 in the North Olmsted Administration Building, 27425 Butternut Ridge Road. The topic is “Preserving our funding in the next state budget.”
As of Monday, 10 districts had agreed to participate. They included: North Olmsted, North Royalton, Rocky River, Mayfield, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Berea, Olmsted Falls, Strongsville, Cuyahoga Heights and Westlake.
North Olmsted School Board member Terry Groden, who along with the North Royalton School board originated the idea for the roundtable, said he’s pleased by the positive reaction to the idea.
“There’s no question how to deal with school funding problems is an issue that’s going to be affecting all of us in the next few years,” he said. “The state is experiencing some pretty strong financial problems, so that’s going to affect how all school districts receive funds from the state.”
Groden said school districts will have to work together on funding and related issues in coming years.
“It’s good to open up a dialogue with each other now,” he said. “It will be helpful in coming years to have it already established.”
Groden said the format for the roundtable is still being developed, but will include prepared questions from participating school districts and possibly a question and answer session with the audience.
“It’s likely the format for the roundtable will change as we move forward with the concept,” he said.
Groden said they have gotten several people to agree to participate and be part of a panel of experts.
“These are people familiar with school funding issues and/or the legislative process in Ohio,” Groden said.
Participants include: State Sen. Tom Patton, depending on his legislative agenda and workload at the time of the roundtable; Zach Schiller and/or Amy Hanauer with Policy Matters Ohio; John Begala, executive director of Center for Community Solutions; Michelle Francis and/or Damon Asbury from the Ohio School Boards Association; Tom Ash, director of government development for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.
“It’s a pretty strong group of schools and we’re hoping to get more representation as we progress,” he said.
Rocky River School Superintendent Michael Shoaf said his district wants to make sure it is properly represented.
“Rocky River wants to participate because we want to make sure we’re advocating what’s in the best interest of our school community,” Shoaf said.
Groden said he anticipates additional meetings being set up after officials see how the first one works.
“It’s a new process for all of us,” he said.