Johnstown Independent

New year, new challenges

Johnstown-Monroe's Bawn hopes to manage the 'facilities cliff'

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

As Washington faced its so-called fiscal cliff, Johnstown-Monroe Superintendent Damien Bawn said his district faces a "facilities cliff" in 2013.

He, the school board and the community must decide what to do about the district's aging infrastructure and overcrowding this year, he said.

"Those are still there," he said. "We kind of have a facilities cliff that we have to address."

Bawn said the district and the community must decide whether to return to the ballot for income to create new facilities or try to work with what exists.

Bawn said the Johnstown-Monroe district has among the lowest per-pupil expenditure in the state.

"We've been good stewards," he said. "The staff stretches a buck." But there are times when all organizations require an "injection of capital," and 2013 might be the year Johnstown-Monroe requires such an injection, Bawn said.

Johnstown-Monroe school board member John R. Davis II said he thinks a new building would be the preferred approach.

"I predict that the community will be looking for the district to build some type of new facility for our students," Davis said. "A facility that incorporates better technology, more modern lab rooms, more advanced security and overall a facility that will give our Johnstown students the best possible chance of being successful in today's global society."

Board president Roger Montgomery said the decision lies with residents as to what they would want in any new construction.

"Citizens need to determine what the district needs for facilities," Montgomery said. "The community's been very supportive of the schools."

He said the decision ultimately would come down to "what's good for kids."

He said he hopes 2013 isn't full of tough decisions for the board, but he believes the board is ready to make them if necessary.

Bawn said the district also would face the same challenges that all other Ohio districts face this year as changes are made to teacher evaluations, the state report card and Common Core exams. Moreover, Ohio schools will face a new state budget and funding formula.

"A lot of things are being turned on their heads," he said. However, he said, he believes Johnstown-Monroe is very well-equipped to handle these changes, particularly because the district already was working to implement some of the new standards even before the state required it to do so.

"The state is catching up with where schools need to be," Bawn said.

Looking back on 2012, Bawn said, the district's major accomplishments that stood out to him were the "Excellent with Distinction" report card and the Johnstown Johnnies football team making it to the regional championship game for the second consecutive year.

"There's so much that goes on in the district, but those two rise to the top," he said.

Davis said one of the highlights of 2012 for him was the renewal of its 1-percent income tax Nov. 6, with 2,515 votes in favor to 2,225 opposing.

"The community has always been supportive," he said.

The district was challenged last year to address the expenditures related to transporting students who live within the Johnstown Monroe district but attend nonpublic schools.

On Nov. 19, board members decided by majority to continue transporting those students, but routes that currently have no riders were discontinued indefinitely.

"I think we did the right thing," Montgomery said.

Bawn agreed: "When we all work together, we can come to a consensus. I'm very pleased we could do that."

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