Licking County News

Wagner: 2014 will challenge Licking Heights

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Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner expects 2014 to be challenging, he said, even though the district is in solid financial shape.

"I'm in my 23rd year in education and I can't remember of a time when there have been more moving parts," he said.

Wagner expects much time to be devoted to the new Common Core State Standards, which dictate what is expected of students at each grade level, and dealing with the state's third-grade reading guarantee policy that requires third-graders to be held back from fourth grade if they aren't reading at grade level. There are aspects of the latter policy with which Wagner disagrees.

"Personally, I'm not in favor of the way the law is written," he said. "Retention is not an intervention."

Wagner said Licking Heights officials also will search for a new treasurer this year.

The school board voted Oct. 31 to allow former treasurer Jennifer Vanover to accept a new assistant treasurer's position so she could devote more time to her personal life. In the meantime, former Granville schools treasurer Margaret "Peg" Betts is the interim treasurer.

District officials also must address the expanded enrollment each year brings, said board member Brian Bagley.

"One of our biggest challenges continues to be the rate of growth in our district," Bagley said.

He said in the fall, the district had a much higher than anticipated enrollment, especially in the younger grade levels.

"A solid community and an exceptional school district is very attractive to those moving into the area," Bagley said. "We have been discussing ways to meet that challenge head on and we are excited about some of the opportunities ahead."

Board member Richard Wand agreed, saying the district's biggest challenge in 2014 will be "solving our space issues."

"We're overcrowded in every building we've got," Wand said.

He said the problem must be solved before the overcrowding affects the educational process. For example, he said, district officials cannot split the same grade between two buildings as has been necessary in the past.

"We have to find out how to do that," Wand said.

He said the district is working to solve the issue without asking voters for more money.

Another challenge, Wand said, is a shortage of bus drivers, which many districts and even cities are experiencing. He said the oil boom in the eastern region of the state is to blame.

"They're being recruited to drive oil trucks," Wand said.

However, he said, the bus driver issue is rather minor and overall, he's counting the district's blessings for 2014.

"Right now, we're in pretty good shape with the district," Wand said.

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