With the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections official recount completed and the 7.9-mill operating levy officially passing by the same pre-recount margin of 56 votes, North Olmsted School District officials are ready to make changes.
District Superintendent Cheryl Dubsky said Friday some changes were planned, pending the passage of the operating levy. Those include eliminating the pay-to-participate program for middle and high school athletics and extracurricular activities. The district will also refund the fall fees collected for the program. In addition, district officials also are working on plans for putting the student transportation back to the one-mile limit in early January, instead of the state minimum it was reduced to after the levy was defeated earlier in the year.
Dubsky said the earlier pay-to-participate and busing decisions were to help combat the tight financial state of the district.
“Following the failure of the operating levy in May and August, the district faced a serious decision regarding the elimination of extracurricular activities for its 4,300 students for the 2010-11 school year,” she said. “Despite making $4.5 million in cuts to staffing and programs, the projected deficit was still close to $7 million for the next school year.
“During the summer, the board approved a pay-to-participate program for sports, clubs and activities as an emergency stopgap measure. The fees were steep and implemented following parent and community input and allowed more time for the passage of the operating levy in November,” she said. “The board’s promise to return those fees if the levy passed in November in no way changes the serious financial picture of the district and our commitment to control costs. The $4.5 million cost cuts are permanent reductions. Plus, pay-to-participate fees are increasingly becoming the norm for school districts across the state and country.”
Dubsky said the district may still consider using fees on a smaller scale than the ones implemented for the fall.
“In continuing conversations with parents and community members, many have expressed a willingness to pay moderate student participation fees to offset costs,” she said. “That input will be provided to the board as part of the comprehensive review of all district operations for the 2011-12 school year. We will stretch the monies provided as long as possible and have heard loud and clear that our community wants us to do more with less.”
She said they are working on final details for getting the busing levels back up again.
“It’s not just a matter of snapping your fingers and starting all the buses again,” she said. “We have to put the proper planning in place to make sure it goes smoothly when we get it moving again.”
Officials have scheduled the start of the revitalized busing for Jan. 10, after the Christmas break.
Dubsky emphasized she and members of her administration have already met with building principals and will meet with the staff members at each of the district’s buildings in coming weeks to discuss the district.
“There’s going to be change within the district,” she said. “It won’t always be easy. There will be times it will be stressful for all of us, including staff members. But we will put in positive change and show that we deserve the confidence that members of the community have in us.”
In addition, Dubsky said they will be out in the community.
“We’re going to continue to have cofffees with people and groups in the community,” she said. “We’re going to listen to what people think we need to do to make the district better. We’re going to see what they think we need to be doing in the schools. That’s a part of the educational process.
“We want to make sure people understand it’s not business as usual for us,” she said. “The community showed a great deal of faith in the district by passing this levy. We know it is very hard for people to do this. We also understand why some people felt they had to vote against it. We want to justify their faith in us.”