Superintendent Bruce Hoover told an audience of nearly 50 people gathered in the high school auditorium March 12 that he would use his "State of the District" address to tell the story of the Groveport Madison school district.
"Our goal is to tell our story about our district and make sure that everybody leaves here as a clear idea about what is being done to try to improve student learning, grow our community, create strong families and build a stronger school district," he said.
He noted that Groveport Madison schools have achieved an excellent rating in each of the past three years on the state report cards issued annually by the Ohio Department of Education. He also pointed out that school districts in Ohio are also facing many new programs being rolled out by the state, including the Third-Grade Guarantee, safety training, and changes in report card rankings from the current method to letter grades ranging from A to F.
"One of the things that will keep our students competitive with the districts around Franklin County is the addition of more alternative learning opportunities and more accelerated programs," Hoover said.
In the Groveport area, changes in demographics and population since 1997 also have brought changes to the schools, he said.
Approximately 7,000 students live in the district today, but only 5,900 are enrolled in the school system, Hoover said.
"That equates to about $9 million of local tax dollars each year going to someplace else -- that's a significant number," he said. "We have to offer additional opportunities and services to try and help those families make the decision that Groveport is the right place to be."
In 1997, he said, about 22 percent of families in the district were classified as economically disadvantaged. Today, 62 percent of district families are in that category, according to Hoover.
"All of these things contribute and add challenges to the daily instructional mission of the school district -- to provide an educational service that is competitive with our neighboring districts and provide our staff with the resources and students with the opportunities that they deserve to try to be competitive in the workforce upon graduation or be successful into getting into college or post-secondary experiences of their choice.
"We try to serve a lot of students on a limited budget," he added.
Hoover detailed problems that exist in the district because of aging facilities: collapsed plumbing, roofs in need of repairs, and trying to integrate new technology into buildings not wired or set up for connectivity and wireless upgrades.
Financial management will continue to be an important element of managing the district, he said.
"There is a tremendous amount of money being spent to try and upgrade our facilities, and if you only have $1 million in your permanent improvement fund to do that, you have to take it from somewhere else," he said.
"I think it is important that we all understand that new facilities offer the opportunity to do things in the classroom with our students that we are struggling to do with our existing space. It is also a cost-saving measure," he said.
"The bottom line in our budget is really pretty simple. We were able to close a $400,000 deficit this year through just cost-containment so that we were not in the red at the end of the 2012-2013 school year," he said.
"But we still have looming on the horizon in '14 about a $4-million cash flow shortfall," he said.
"Now with the reorganization of about $2 million and the support of a levy we have running this May, we believe that we will be able to close that $4 million shortfall and do something that we have not been able to do as a district: not borrow from next year's budget in order to cover this year's cost," he added.
Hoover said officials are playing a balancing act right now because they want to reduce class sizes without raising taxes significantly, but if the levy fails, the district will be forced to make about $2.5 million in additional cuts.
"I believe that is a risk factor for our students. Those positions that we would eliminate provide safety, they provide services to our students, and they provide options that we do not want to sacrifice," he said.
Hoover concluded his nearly one-hour address by saying Groveport is on a "narrow path as a community and organization where only planned and measured steps will provide our schools and community with the services and growth every parent and taxpayer deserves."