So, who is the levy? You are, we are, and "I am the levy," as many of our kids' t-shirts read.

So, who is the levy? You are, we are, and "I am the levy," as many of our kids' t-shirts read.

It's no secret a 9.9-mill emergency operating levy will appear on the May 5 ballot in the Northridge Local School District. I'm happy to report that the campaign to pass it is receiving far more support than any other in recent memory, as the number of kids and adults sporting "I Am the Levy" shirts illustrates. I'm sure the reason is it's sinking into everyone how important this levy is. Its passage affects all of us.

Our district has cut personnel programming over the last two years only to face what could be its demise if the May levy is unsuccessful. We'll be forced to cut 15 teachers and several vital programs such as vocational agriculture, foreign language, family and consumer science, elementary art, music and physical education, just to name a few.

Our students' opportunity to participate in athletics and the arts, extracurricular and co-curricular activities will be permanently cut to balance the budget for 2010.

Still, despite all the support the levy is receiving and the painfully obvious need for it to pass, I believe the levy's largest obstacle is our own state government. Gov. Ted Strickland says he has a plan to help bail out Ohio's school districts, nearly all of which face extreme financial challenges. While the state's efforts are welcomed, by the time any state plan is debated, voted upon, and approved, it'll be far too late for Northridge.

My biggest fear is that reports of Strickland's plan are sending the message that it's a substitute for passing levies. This is simply wrong. No government plan can save the Northridge School District without the support of the May levy.

With this in mind, I formally invited Gov. Strickland to visit Northridge and witness what we do each day to make a difference in a child's education. He's visited other Ohio districts and I think it's time for him to visit ours. Funding starts at home and I believe the governor should be directly involved with helping local school districts pass levies.

There's always plenty of doom and gloom about what will happen if a levy fails. Should this levy pass, we'll be able to provide today's students with what you had -- the opportunity to compete. We will maintain fundamental staff and programs; update textbooks (some of which are more than 20 years old); update technology; restore sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities; maintain current class sizes; hire state mandated high school math and science teachers; and make much-needed repairs to facilities and grounds.

In other words, passing the May levy will bring the district back to the bare minimum of where it should be.

The May levy's passage is the first step of a larger four-step plan for the Northridge district. The second step, planned for next school year, is renewing the existing income tax established in 1997, followed by passage in November 2010 of a bond issue to build a new kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school on the main campus and update the existing buildings. The fourth step is opening the new elementary school in 2013, completing the Northridge campus and fulfilling a goal established 50 years ago.

I hope Gov. Strickland accepts my invitation. His visit would be great for Northridge.

Also, I invite all community members to review the many ways in which the Northridge School District has demonstrated a record of fiscal responsibility, from starting a community-led finance and oversight committee, to saving $71,105 in utility costs in 2008 compared to 2007, and eliminating $61,583 per year in administrative costs, among numerous examples.

The T-shirts say "I Am the Levy," but the levy affects all of us as children, parents, and community members. We are the levy.

John T.

Shepard