Licking County News

State of the Schools address

Jennell: SWL officials must not resist change


Simply because something has worked in the past, it doesn't mean it should be repeated forever, especially in a rapidly changing society, said Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell in his State of the Schools address Jan. 31.

"We need to change, that's definitely a must," he said.

Jennell emphasized that promoting change doesn't mean the district is doing things incorrectly; rather, it means the district must be willing to advance with the times similarly to businesses, which are embracing technology and new management styles, he said.

In many ways, Jennell said, public schools are maintaining the same practices they had in the early 1900s.

"If we teach the same way we did in 1910, our kids are going to fail," he said. "Our schools have almost evolved to look like businesses. We're not far behind, but we need to continue in that direction."

Jennell said he wants to do everything possible to incorporate more technology into teaching.

"Why change?" said Jennell, noting that the district was rated as Excellent with Distinction this year. "It's something to be proud of, but it's a snapshot in time. It's easy to take the same kids and be excellent next year. I think technology and the inclusion of that is very important in moving forward."

Jennell said the idea behind education is to make students want to learn.

"We have kids who are eager to soak up that knowledge," he said.

Jennell said Southwest Licking must not resist change, and it's equally important for parents and community members to tell administrators that they'd like to see change.

"It's a powerful tool," he said.

Jennell said the district's expenses have outpaced its revenue for the past four years and the most recent five-year forecast estimates that trend will continue. He said the district would begin to accumulate debt in two years if nothing is done.

"The sooner steps are taken to stop deficit spending, the smaller the steps will need to be," Jennell said. "That's what I've been communicating to the board."

Jennell said school board members agree that it's important to stay off the ballot as much as possible and the district needs to make nearly $1 million in reductions to stay in the black through 2016.

He wasn't specific about what those reductions would be. However, he said, maintaining a balance through 2016 is contingent upon renewal of an emergency operating levy in 2015.

Additional cuts or revenue will be required before 2017 to avoid a deficit that year, but recommendations have yet to be presented to the board.

"We're working hard to keep ourselves off the ballot," Jennell said.

Jennell said it wasn't his intent to make it appear as though the district was in trouble or its students are underachieving.

"I think there's tons of potential here," he said. "I just want to move and shake things."