Reynoldsburg News

State of the Schools

Dackin says he wants to keep district off ballot for 10 years

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

In what he called "a bold and audacious" statement, Superintendent Steve Dackin said during his annual State of the Schools address he wants the district to stay off the ballot with a levy request for 10 years.

Speaking to the Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Feb. 7, Dackin said the district will continue to guard residents' tax dollars.

"I'm going to target a 10-year span before we go back to voters -- which is a bold and audacious statement, but I know we will do everything we can do to stay off the ballot," he said.

He said the school district has managed to keep annual per-pupil spending low, at $9,300.

"I think we are a pretty good educational bargain," he said. "We will also be in the black financially through 2016."

Dackin provided chamber members with information compiled by KidsOhio.org that listed 14 Franklin County school districts, including Reynoldsburg, that earned an A or A-plus on the state report card. All the districts, except for Hamilton Local Schools, had higher per-pupil costs than Reynoldsburg.

"Revenue is down, but fortunately, we passed an operating levy in 2010," Dackin said. "Unfortunately, after a re-evaluation of property and a loss of tangible personal property taxes, our revenue is $3.5 million less than when we passed the levy."

Voters approved a 9.9-mill incremental levy in May 2010, designed to raise taxes in four phases, with 6.9-mills collected in 2011 and an additional 1 mill every year for the following three years.

Voters had previously turned down three district levy requests for operating dollars.

Dackin said the district will be in the black through 2016 -- two years longer than promised -- because it "got creative."

"We negotiated fair contracts with our labor employees and continued to look at our personnel costs," he said. "We reduced $1.3 million last year through attrition because we did not fill vacancies or filled them with less costly employees."

Dackin said Reynoldsburg schools improved academically over the past few years, despite an increased number of economically disadvantaged students from 26 percent in 2007 to 38 percent in 2012.

"Only 8 percent of Ohio districts with 38 percent or higher poverty rate met all the state indicators on the state report card," he said.

Dackin said Reynoldsburg has the fourth-highest rate of economically disadvantaged students among the 14 Franklin County districts who rated A or A-plus on the state report card. Groveport Madison, Hamilton and South-Western school districts were also rated A and had higher rates of poverty.

He said the district met all 26 indicators on the state report card in 2011 and 2012 and improved its Performance Index Score from 96.9 to 101.3 over the past five years.

"We are pleased that we made progress from last year at this time and pleased with our A-plus on the state report card," he said. "We did that with a lot of hard work by students and talented teachers.

"But that is not good enough," he said. "We need our kids to be stretched further. We will see higher standards and a new system of accountability from House Bill 555. We also have a new third grade reading guarantee, but frankly, I'm a little embarrassed that we had to pass a law to make sure third-graders can read."

Dackin also talked about school choice and the fact that Reynoldsburg students may choose among four high school academies, including state-designated STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) schools, such as eSTEM Academy and HS 2 Academy, which recently became a state-designated STEM school.

He said parents may enroll students at two other district STEM schools: STEM at Baldwin and Summit STEM Elementary.

"We are also opening a STEM elementary school at Herbert Mills in the fall," he said. "We have a waiting list for Summit STEM and I don't like waiting lists. I want to give parents what they want, which is school choice."

Dackin said by aligning the high schools into four academies that follow career clusters, students will be ready to go directly into careers or on to college.

He said partnerships are making it possible for students to take college classes along with high school classes, so students could potentially graduate from high school with an associate degree.

Dackin said college and career readiness should be essential for high school success.

"We need to stop thinking of school as a noun and think of it as a verb," he said. "I have a group of kids at eSTEM taking college online courses at Stanford University. With our online capabilities and the relationships we have with colleges, our students will be college- and career-ready."

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