By Sue Botos
Although the renovation projects at Rocky River High School are expected to continue through the 2014 school year, the new science and music wings will be ready for tomorrow’s first day of classes. After students get settled in, it will be time for the public to take a peek at their tax dollars at work during a public open house scheduled for Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. until noon.
“We want to show what we’ve done. It’s still under construction and there’s more work to do, but we’re excited to show where we’re at. The people will be delighted with what they see,” commented Superintendent Michael Shoaf at the August Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where he gave a brief outline of the capital improvements projects going on at Goldwood Primary School and the high school.
Aside from some last-minute adjustments, work at Kensington Intermediate School, which included the remodeling of the old auditorium into a commons-cafeteria area, the former basement cafeteria’s transformation into classroom space and a new, secure office area, has been completed.
The work on the three schools was made possible by the passage of a capital improvements bond issue in May 2010. Funds generated from this levy are only eligible for building projects and not for school general fund expenses.
After reflecting on the district’s accomplishments of the past year, which include a grade of “Excellent With Distinction” by the state for the 12th consecutive year and the tapping of Kensington as a National Blue Ribbon school, Shoaf moved on to a more sober topic – the five-year financial forecast and the effects of a voter rejection of a 4.9-mill levy, which will appear on the November ballot, on the district.
A list that most districts would not want to top is taxation, and Shoaf stated that Rocky River is 10th of 14 area school systems in terms of tax rate. “We are competitive with other Westshore districts when it comes to taxes,” said Shoaf, adding that the schools get little funding from the state, placing the burden directly on taxpayers.
Referring to the failure of the 5.9-mill levy in March, Shoaf said that the community was asked what it would support millagewise. “The first thing they asked was that we tighten our belts,” said Shoaf, explaining how. the 4.9-mill amount was decided upon.
Some of that belt-tightening included, according to Shoaf, a savings of $800,000 due to employee health concessions, and an agreement with the teachers’ union for no base salary increases.
“The 5.9 would have allowed us to keep up to (last year’s) level,” stated Shoaf, adding that rejection of the 4.9-mill measure would result in a $942,000 deficit next year, and a $4.9 million shortfall in following year. Shoaf said this would result in, among other cuts, the layoff of up to 85 staff members, including classroom teachers, eliminating technology and instructional materials updates, further reductions in transportation and the cutting of extracurricular programs.
“We’ve cut around the edges and have done a lot of little things. We don’t want to make any more (big) cuts. The Rocky River schools will not look the same,” he said.
SIDEBAR: Assistant Superintendent Liz Anderson welcomed five new staff members to the school district at the August Chamber of Commerce luncheon. They will replace departed staff. They are:
Camille Talbert – tutor, Goldwood Primary School
Haley Browning – tutor, Kensington Intermediate School
Angela Bowman – tutor, Rocky River Middle School
Allison Paetz – music, Rocky River High School
Jana Randazzo – speech therapist
Tina Wasserbauer – nutrition services specialist