At a time when the Westerville City School District was about to lay off many bus drivers until serious safety concerns ...
To the editor:
At a time when the Westerville City School District was about to lay off many bus drivers until serious safety concerns about children traveling along dangerous busy roads surfaced, did you know that (according to information from the district in response to via public records requests) six top paid administrators were receiving bonus checks? More than $26,000 to be exact.
And while many district employees are losing their jobs and our children face state minimum education services (for premium tax rates already), did you know that 72 in the administration pay nothing into their pensions, costing taxpayers nearly $700,000 per year? Doesn't this strike you as a little wrong to say the least?
The board of education got a major wake-up call from voters last November on the reforms that need to be made in this district to break the cycle of their asking for more money every two years. State cuts aside, everyone knew those were coming, along with reduced property values. Well, everyone but our school board and administration that did not heed the calls for restraint the past few years in order to prepare.
And while we are making some progress by, for example, their agreeing to have their administration start paying into their health insurance recently, issuing bonuses and not addressing the free pension rides at a time of fiscal crisis and layoffs is incomprehensible. More work needs to be done before we vote to give them more of our money on March 6.
If you agree, please contact our board members and superintendent Dan Good or speak at an upcoming board meeting. For background information provided via public records requests, please visit levyfacts.com.
To the editor:
On Jan. 15, I had an opportunity to witness my grandson perform in the Honor Band at Ohio State University 31st annual Honor Band Concert.
My grandson created with his band director, James DeFrancesco, an audition tape that was submitted for evaluation. He and three other Westerville South Band members were accepted for this weekend at Ohio State Music Department.
There were 56 schools represented from all across Ohio. It was a great honor to be accepted to perform for this event. As I waited for the doors to open, I got into a discussion with a parent and a grandparent about auditions for scholarships to various colleges for their 12th-grade children and how all these extracurricular activities enhance the opportunity for their child.
When I had time to think about this, my heart grew weary. With the elimination of music from Westerville schools, my grandchildren will be at a disadvantage in applying for scholarships. My grandson will lose his senior year which is vital for preparation in applying for a college scholarship. My two grandchildren have attended Westerville schools their whole academic life. They began learning about music in the fifth grade, and continued through middle school into high school.
I do not understand the voters of Westerville. Do they really want to destroy what we have in our school system? We have a wonderful school system. The vote against the schools was a vote against our children, our public schools and our community.
Did they think about the 15,000 students that depend on the school system to give them the exceptional education that Westerville provides? Last year, the class of 2011 earned more than $25 million in scholarships for higher education. We are the 12th largest district in Ohio. We have a state report card with "Excellence with Distinction." Whether we have family members in the school system or not, as responsible citizens owe our next generation the best education possible.
Did they realize that Westerville spends less per student than other school systems in this area but provides an exceptional opportunity for an education that will open doors for the future of the students? The cost at Westerville per pupil is $10,086, $485 less than the state average of $10,571. Most school districts within our area have a higher cost per pupil, for example, Dublin with $13,013 per pupil. The record for Columbus 2007-2008 was $11,919. How can anyone say that our board is not being fiscally responsible?
Did they vote thinking about the financial crisis caused by the severe reduction in state funding and the decline in property values with the resulting loss of tax revenue? We are giving less to our schools and expecting them to maintain the quality that is present without additional funds.
Did they think about the property resale value without a first rate school system? Who would want to move to Westerville? As our schools deteriorate, families will select another community that provides the best education for their children. They will select a system maintaining the programs that are being cut from our budget. Parents want music, the International Baccalaureate program, sports, theater and magnet school selections. Businesses also want strong schools in their relocation process. People wanting to sell their homes will be at a disadvantage. They will sell for less, which in retrospect will decrease the money going into the school system, which, in turn, will weaken our school system and our community even further.
Let's look at this further. We have the opportunity to write off property taxes as a tax deduction. If we invest in our schools, our property values remain higher because people will want to relocate to a community that has a strong school system. A strong school is a strong community. A strong school system determines property values. Plus, when we provide an academic environment that enriches our children, they will go forward to make a sound future for all.
Please think of the children as you approach the voting process in March. Think of our community, our property values, the decline in state funding, devaluation of property values, and what is best for Westerville including attraction of businesses and families. We have so much to lose.
To the editor:
On March 6, the Westerville community will be going to the polls and I urge you to vote no on Issue 10.
Before you send out a posse to try to change my mind, please remember that in this district, we have a cycle of levy, spend, levy, spend. When a levy does not pass, the board of education and the various bargaining units hold student transportation, programs and extracurricular programs over our heads. They tell us if we vote no, we are against the kids, our property values will go down.
Well, I am all for the children in this district. We need to teach them the value of fiscal responsibility and sustainability. The BOE has asked us to make sacrifices; however, the district and its employees have not made sacrifices. We still pay for the lunch period of all employees, we still pay the WEA's president's salary.
Will the four bargaining units wait until March 5 to step forward and say, "we will make concessions if you vote for the levy tomorrow?"
It has been two and a half months since 61 percent of this community said no. All we have received is the BOE giving us cuts in service and programs. We have not seen any substantial reductions from the administration and employees.
Why is it that just the taxpayers have to pay?
To the editor:
I think that many would agree that we live in a great school district with a lot of wonderful parents and staff. It's this combination that keeps the magic alive in Westerville. We are a community that is passionate about the environment in which we live and raise our children.
This passion is most evident when looking at the controversial issue of school funding and the March levy. There are many different arguments that both sides have made, but the bottom line is that our belt has been tightened so much that it going to be made into a miniature dog collar soon. The well has run dry and the state is leaving it up to the local level to fill it.
I encourage you to look at the facts. Westerville is a huge school district with more than 15,000 students, and spans more than 50 square miles. (In fact, about 1,000 new students have been added into the district over the last 10 years.)
Our district boundaries were set over 150 years ago and are not about to change anytime soon. Since 2009, Westerville's total percent of state revenue dropped from 26 percent in 2009 to 18.7 percent in 2012. Between state reductions, tax depreciations and delinquencies, the districts revenue has dropped 13 million and the district will continue to lose revenue into 2016.
Contrary to what certain salary calculators would have you believe, our teachers' compensation package ranks 13th out of the 16 school districts in Franklin County. Yes, our teachers average compensation is about $62,000, but our teaching staff has an average of 16 years of experience and 60 percent of them have master's degrees.
The Westerville teacher salaries have increased 9 percent over the last 10 years. This is the lowest in Franklin County. This is much lower than that of Dublin 50 percent. Hilliard 64 percent, Worthington 49 percent and New Albany 56 percent.
We can continue to point fingers and make demands, but do we really want to do this on the backs of our children? Do we really want to lose core programs such as reading intervention, AP high school courses, music, art and physical education. These are courses that we all had the opportunity to explore in school. Shouldn't we allow our children the same opportunity?
Whether you own a home, own a business, or have children in the Westerville City School District, we all share a common goal. We all want to see our community flourish. A flourishing community draws, business, invites new residents (which translates to increased property values) and breeds success.
Let's breed success for our children and vote "yes" on Issue 10.
To the editor:
Those who voted "no" on the last Westerville schools' levy are not out to wreck the system, deprive the students nor abandon its achievements. Nor, in my view, are those who voted "yes" on the levy simply rubber stamping the school system, or unaware of the implications regarding the escalating costs of education especially in a slumping and staggering economy. No, I chose to believe that both sides of this debate want a thriving educational system with opportunities for all constituent students.
I know that in this political climate, many of us engage in blaming those in Washington, because they can't seem to work together and seek solutions for our nation's ills.
Further, we rail against those who occupy state-level positions, for failing to strategically and vibrantly address our state's current economic, ecological and educational ills. I have not found a single person who does not believe the state of Ohio's funding process for public schools is broken and desperately in need of fearless state-level leadership (regardless of personal political costs).
My concern is that the community I have grown to love and value is slipping into the same "blame the other side" mentality. Let's be different. Why can't we model to the state and nation how to discuss and come to consensus?
Let me share with you three reasons why I will vote "yes" on the March 6 levy, and ask you to consider doing the same.
First, my children (ages 10 and 7, fourth grade and second grade) are receiving a stellar education. My wife and I could not be more pleased with the effort of their teachers, the administration of their school, the academic depth, or the sense of community being built into their lives. Yes, this makes me biased, but I am also a front-line observer and recipient of the "product" the schools are producing.
I am experiencing first-hand the benefits of a school system that is achieving demonstrable academic results. Because of the broad-based education they are now receiving, my children are thriving in a school and system that is challenging them to become productive and engaged citizens. Their school is doing the job all of us expect it to do.
Secondly, the "Excellence with Distinction" rating the school district received was not reached easily nor overnight, but with diligent, long-range, consistent effort. However, the gains acquired over the past several years, can dissipate in a very short period of time.
Maximizing taxpayer dollars must not subordinate excellence in education.
Finally, I will vote "yes," because I believe the personnel within the school district are (again, with personal observation, as my bias), simply not working as little as 7.5 hours in a day, as some websites would have us believe. I have not observed a single teacher, administrator or staff person working only 7.5 hours in a day.
You may legitimately believe that person X or position Y within the district "makes too much money" for what they do. Fine. No one wants to take away your right to that opinion. But let's make our decisions, and take appropriate actions, based upon data from comparable districts, achieving comparable results, educating comparable student socio-economic constituencies, and then form our opinions and voting actions. Simply saying "they make too much money," is too easy and too subjective.
We currently have a system in Westerville that is doing far better than most schools systems, nationally and statewide. To dismantle that system, with its broad-based educational opportunities, in the legitimate pursuit of fiscal fitness, seems to be taking the medicine away from the patient, even as say we seek to save his or her life. This is an educational and economic concern in our community, my friends. Bob Cook, a sports blogger on the Forbes website, has this warning: "... the reputation of Westerville schools is going to take a hit, and so is the reputation of the community. The idea that people would move to Westerville for the schools is going to be a thing of the past. How could it not be, when the situation is so unstable?" I refuse to believe that either "side" of this debate wants that result.
The need for an educated citizenry, rigorously versed in the foundations of academics, and supplemented with multiple broad-based opportunities, is too important to let politics divide us in the Westerville community. I suspect we all agree on the importance of the task.
Rick A. Vilardo
To the editor:
We continue to see news reports where Westerville schools Superintendent Dan Good calls for taxpayers to pay more in "emergency" school taxes so we can prevent good from cutting the music, special ed, sports, transportation, etc.
Has Good taken time to examine the very real "emergency" faced by so many of the taxpayers in the district?
Has he reflected on the under-employment in our school district as taxpayers face the very real danger of five more years of economic depression in our country?
For his reference, we recommend that he visit www.Zillow.com.
Doing a search on Westerville, and using the "for sale" and "more filters" will identify foreclosed single-family Westerville district homes, focusing on only the most extreme emergencies, the tip of the iceberg. Look at the map filled with little red house icons.
Do you really think people who are having financial "emergencies" paying the mortgage can afford the luxury of caring about your emergency need to give the teachers step increases?
For further research, be sure to check out pictures of individual houses. Notice that many are empty.
Do you think empty houses are going to pay school taxes? Perhaps a discussion with Mayor Michael Coleman or a visit to Detroit will help expand your research.
The first house on our search was a bank-owned home for only $69,900, in Westerville. A bargain until seeing the property taxes of $3,603 per year. Quite an emergency in its own right.
I believe the real emergency in Westerville schools is the total disconnect between the spenders and taxpayers.
What part of a 61 percent to 39 percent "no" vote suggests voters were just seeking another election?
It is time to think of the "taxpayer emergency" and call an "emergency time out" on school tax levies.
Roy A. Wagner