Money matters, test scores and school safety were among the top issues that Canal Winchester schools and its new superintendent faced in 2013.

Money matters, test scores and school safety were among the top issues that Canal Winchester schools and its new superintendent faced in 2013.

Superintendent Jim Sotlar took over Jan. 1 from former superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith, who retired at the end of 2012.

He began his first year at the helm of the district by setting three goals.

At the board of education's first meeting of the year on Jan. 14, Sotlar said the safety and security of the students and staff, preparing the students for the future by offering "quality learning environments" and making sure the district is a "good steward" of taxpayers' money were his top priorities.

Security changes

On Feb. 11, district officials began discussing several new security measures for the district.

Projects approved in May and put in place over the summer included changing the high school entrance doors to prevent visitors' direct access to the entire building and replacing old security cameras with new ones that operate under a single operating system and that have a wider range to survey the doorways and parking lots.

Funding for the added security measures came from the district's permanent improvement accounts, which can only be used for the improvement and maintenance of facilities.

In March, the board gave a thumbs-up to the purchase of new bleachers for the high school auditorium.

Farnham Equipment Co. of Columbus was paid about $133,370 to tear out the 35-year-old bleachers in June and install new ones in July.

State report card

In August, the district released the "dashboard" indicators that it received from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for the 2012-2013 state report card, which will be phased-in over several years.

The revised report card that will be used by the Ohio Department of Education now uses a letter-grading system to measure and rate the performance of schools and districts.

While the overall district grade will not be included on the report cards until August 2015, Director of Curriculum Janine Taylor said Canal Winchester schools met 22 of 24 achievement test indicators to score a 91.7 percent or an A.

Its performance index score, which shows how many students have a minimum or proficient level of knowledge, was100.3 out of a possible 120 points for a B grade.

Open enrollment

In March, the school board reviewed an inter-district open enrollment policy for the first time; a "limited, restrictive" open enrollment plan was passed on April 15.

"One of the things that we have to look at from a school point of view is how can we increase our revenue without increasing our expenditures and be good stewards of taxpayers' money," Sotlar said.

Under the proposal, students already attending schools in Canal Winchester received top priority for open enrollment, followed by the children of district employees.

Previously enrolled students and then new students were next in line for consideration.

The policy caps the number of students who open enroll into the district at 75.

District finances

In October, Treasurer Joyce Boyer outlined several financial scenarios for the next four years that take into account enrollment and tax projections, a levy that will expire Dec. 31, 2014, the elimination of Ohio's tangible personal property tax and a decline in property values in Fairfield and Franklin counties.

The forecast showed expenditures are expected to exceed revenue by $2.3 million in fiscal year 2015; $6 million in 2016; $7.2 million in 2017; and $8.6 million in 2018. This would eat away at the district's reserves so that by fiscal year 2017, the district would be looking at a $5.3 million deficit. That deficit increases to $13.9 million in 2018, according to Boyer's information.

In November, the board of education reviewed its levy options and narrowed down six potential scenarios to two.

The six scenarios presented included taking no action, renewing the existing $5.83-million emergency levy at the current rate; reducing the rate of the existing levy by $1 million or $2 million; waiting to renew the present emergency levy until 2015; and placing an $8 million emergency levy on the ballot in 2015 to generate the same amount of money the expired emergency levy would have brought in.

Ultimately, the board decided in December to send three resolutions of necessity to the Franklin County Auditor's Office for a $5.83-million substitute emergency renewal levy.

Each resolution is seeking the same dollar amount, but the levies would be in effect for either five years, seven years, or for a continuing period of time.

The board of education will decide in January which one of these resolutions, if any, to place on the May 2014 ballot.

Personnel changes

In January, Cyndi Toledo, a former principal, assistant principal and administrator for Licking Heights and Groveport schools, was named the new principal at Winchester Trail Elementary School.

In March, the board approved the appointment of Tracie Lees, an assistant principal at the high school, to succeed retiring middle school principal Cassandra Miller, effective Aug. 1.

In November, voters re-elected school board members Brian Niceswanger and Michael Yonnotti for another four years but chose newcomer Jonathan Metzler over incumbent Debra Jackson Waites for the third available seat.