Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Francis Scruci said the implementation of all-day kindergarten next school year is a step in the right direction.
The school board on Feb. 13 approved all-day kindergarten effective with the 2014-15 school year.
Although adding all-day kindergarten is a positive step, Scruci said, it can't stop there.
He and other central Ohio superintendents listened to a Feb. 12 presentation by state Superintendent Richard Ross, who said he's committed to early childhood literacy.
"That's his passion," Scruci said. "He said there were 24,000 dropouts in Ohio last year. If kids aren't ready by grade 3, the likelihood of them dropping out grows exponentially."
Scruci said third-grade tests are a top priority, so any needed intervention should start as soon as possible.
"Adding all-day kindergarten isn't enough," he said. "There has to be a commitment to grade levels. We have to attack it as a district and a board. We don't want to be part of the statistic of 24,000 dropping out. We have to focus on the children in this district and make an impact."
Board vice president Lew Griffin said the typical class size in G-J kindergarten classes is 25.
"That's too much," he said. "We came to a consensus that we are going to add alternative instructors (as needed) to kindergarten classes. We felt that's to bring excellence. We need to put resources in kindergarten through third grades."
Board member Matthew Campbell said the feedback from the community was outstanding regarding full-day kindergarten.
"I heard from dozens of people on full-day kindergarten," he said. "I thank the staff concerning valuable feedback. We wrestled back and forth. I think it was an exciting process to be a part of."
Scott Schmidt, executive director of elementary education, has said the district's full-day kindergarten was started as an extended-day program.
District officials heard from parents who wanted to send children to full-day kindergarten, so tuition was implemented for it. The district currently has two full-day sections at every elementary building.
Schmidt said 355 students are enrolled in the all-day kindergarten program this school year.
The cost is $250, but not all of the families pay because some qualify for special services and/or free or reduced-price lunch. The district waives or reduces their fees.
Another 122 students are enrolled in the half-day kindergarten program.
Schmidt said 70 percent of current half-day families selected half-day classes because of a lack of finances, and 77 percent of them would choose full-day classes if they were free.
During the superintendent's report, Scruci said the administration is working on a strategic plan.
"I'm not ready to share specifics," he said. "We're developing what will shape the direction we're going so stakeholders will understand where we're going and what we want to do. By the end of the school year, we will present for your perusal. We won't use the term, strategic plan. It will be the 'Gahanna Way.' That will set us apart, being a leader instead of a follower."
In other board action, the following board committee assignments were approved for 2014: legislative liaison and Gahanna-Jefferson Education Association/classified liaison, Jason Phillips; parks and recreation and business advisory council, Jill Schuler; board policy review committee, Campbell and Windy McKenna; Gahanna City Council liaison, Phillips and Schuler; Jefferson Township and GJEF, Griffin; student achievement liaison, Campbell; metropolitan educational council and Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, McKenna.
Phillips also was appointed as a delegate to the Ohio School Boards Association's annual business meeting, with Campbell as alternate.