The Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge Local School districts had a challenging year in 2008, both of them contending with failed ballot issues.

The Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge Local School districts had a challenging year in 2008, both of them contending with failed ballot issues.

J-M , however, had reason to celebrate in August with a rating of "excellent" on the state report card. That rating represented a two-level improvement from 2006-07, when the district was in the continuous improvement category.

"We are pleased to see the district report card reflect the dedication of each and every member of our community of learners and the steadfast determination of our staff to succeed," said superintendent Damien Bawn.

The district was rated excellent based on meeting a specific member of state indicators, a performance index score, adequate yearly progress and value-added measure. For the second consecutive year, J-M High School was rated excellent, meeting 12 of 12 indicators. Adams Middle School improved from effective to excellent. Oregon maintained its excellent rating for a third consecutive year, while Searfoss continued an effective rating.

Northridge maintained its "effective" rating on the state report card.

Superintendent John Shepard noted that Northridge was one of only two Licking County districts to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

AYP requires several student subgroups to be at or above annual goals or to have improved over the previous year.

Northridge High School improved its rating from effective to excellent, meeting all 12 indicators. Northridge Middle School maintained its effective rating.

Despite academic success and improvements on the state report card, both districts end 2008 with uncertain futures as a result of looming financial deficits.

Northridge treasurer Felicia Drummey described the times as unprecedented and tragic before the board voted in late November to eliminate four classified positions, spring sports and extra-curricular activities in an effort to balance the district's operating budget.

Even with approximately $242,300 in reductions, the district is left with a $42,000 operating deficit and expenses exceeding revenue by $25,000, Drummey said.

A group of boosters and parents are working on a plan to keep spring sports and extra-curricular activities alive.

The J-M board heard from Roger Hardin, assistant director at the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) Office of School Funding and Fiscal Support Services, on Dec. 15. He painted a picture of what happens when a school district runs out of money.

Treasurer Tammy Woods estimates J-M will will have a hard time making it through fiscal year 2010-11, probably running out of funds in May 2010.

The new state budget in June could move that date closer if state funding is reduced, she said.

Hardin said the state does not come in and take over funding a school district in trouble. At the point a district is placed in Fiscal Emergency by the Auditor of State, that district has access to an advance on its allocated state foundation money. But that money has to be paid back.

During meetings next month, both school boards are expected to discuss what kind of tax issue they will put it before voters in 2009, and when they'll do it.

The J-M board will meet in a retreat at the end of January to review its present financial situation and to consider reductions and revenue options.

An organizational and budget meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 12, with the board's regular business meeting following at 7:30 p.m.

The Northridge board will meet beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 5, for its reorganizational meeting. A special meeting will immediately follow, with boosters and parents presenting a proposal to save spring sports and extra-curricular activities. The board's regular January meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.