The following letters were submitted by ThisWeek's deadline but did not appear in print because of space constraints.

The following letters were submitted by ThisWeek's deadline but did not appear in print because of space constraints.

Voters urged to do research

To the editor:

I have been reading the letters to the editor, web blogs and the like on the upcoming Westerville school levy. I for one am in support of the levy because I have done the research myself and not taken someone else's word on it. I am growing concerned the way some of the correspondence has been, unprofessional and personal attach responses based on providing incorrect, little or no facts.

We cannot allow people to influence others into not voting. That happened last election, with not as many total levy votes (yes/no combined) as there were for other things such as the library levy or the mental health option. They left the voting booth without voting one way or the other on the levy.

Also, there are groups that claim the last levy was soundly defeated by 61 percent. Well, that was 61 percent of those who voted. It was only 39 percent of the registered voters. Think about it, we let 39 percent of the people decide for the community.

Source for above statements can be found on the Franklin County Board of Elections web site http://vote.franklincountyohio.gov/archive/2011.cfm

These are the real levy facts that can be confirmed by anyone that will take the time to look at this web that is independent. So do your own research and then get out and vote.

Scott Jones
Westerville

Levy approval 'vital for the schools'

To the editor:

I am writing in support of Issue 10, Westerville City School District's five-year, 6.71 mill emergency operating levy on the March 6 ballot.

Since November, the board of education has approved $18.5 million in staffing, program and service level reductions to balance the district's budget. The approved reductions consist of, among other things: the elimination of all extracurricular and cocurricular activities, including athletics; the reduction of related arts programming, such as music and art specialists; and reducing the number of elective courses that high school students can schedule.

Approval of the levy would begin to generate new revenue for the district in January 2013 and allow the district to restore some of the cut programs and services.

This levy is vital for the schools and community. The Ohio School Boards Association urges all Westerville residents to vote for Issue 10.

Jeff Chambers
Director of communication services
Ohio School Boards Association

Ignoring schools 'short path to decay'

To the editor:

I'd like to encourage all of my fellow neighbors in Westerville to support passage of Issue 10 this March.

I understand that this is a subject that stirs great passions in all of us, both for and against. So let me state as plainly as possible why I think it's important to pass the school levy. Simply put, a community is only as good as the investments we make in each other. A town that lets its schools atrophy is one that is on the short path to decay. Westerville has a long history of excellent schools, and it would be tragedy to throw that away. Please join me in ensuring that our kids are ready to make Westerville even better. Thank you.

Mike Doel
Westerville

'Cuts are being made' at schools

To the editor:

A major complaint of people who are against the March levy for Westerville schools is that 61 percent of people already voted "no" in November and that the board of education's decision to go back to the ballot again means they didn't listen that spending cuts need to be made. But cuts are being made.

The board of education has been working with the community to find alternative means of funding such initiatives as International Baccalaureate and the magnet program in order to cut that spending from the budget.

They are also taking input from community groups on alternative ways to support athletic and non-athletic extracurriculars. Administrators and teachers have made concessions since November including increased benefits payments and wage freezes. Westerville's cost per pupil is one of the lowest among "Excellent With Distinction" school districts, but the board of education will be making major cuts for next year.

The March levy will not generate enough revenue to maintain the same budget as the current school year. Two of our best performing schools will be closing and there will be $7 million in spending cuts needed even with the passing of Issue 10. The $7 million in cuts that will follow a "yes" vote on Issue 10 will be painful, and it will be a challenge for the board to make sure those cuts are made in ways that are fiscally efficient and have the least negative impact on our students. If the board is up against a "no" vote and cutting $23 million, they won't be facing a choice of what to cut and what to save.

Gifted programs, reading intervention, busing, sports, music, clubs, and more will all have to be cut in order to maintain a balanced budget. Taking away those opportunities would be devastating to the quality of our children's day-to-day life and the future of Westerville.

The board of education will continue looking for ways to save money, but a public school district can only thrive with the proper support from its community. Please vote "yes" on Issue 10 to support a quality education in our district.

Ran Flasterstein
Westerville

Schools need 'sustainable solution'

To the editor:

Seventeen years ago, my husband and I chose Westerville in which to live and raise our child. Today, as she stands on the brink of adulthood, we couldn't have chosen better.

Our schools have provided the opportunity, in a diverse environment, for her and her friends to participate in education and programs that engage and excite them and most of all prepare them to be productive adults. While we are personally heartbroken about the failure of the levy in November, it provides our community a catalyzing opportunity to come together and create a sustainable solution for the schools.

Our community and our schools are inextricably linked. Ensuring that our children have the opportunity for a rich, quality, well-rounded education with opportunities for expanded learning is the responsibility of the community, as is ensuring performance and financial accountability of the system.

Our community is at a crossroads. While the levy campaign has strengthened passions on both sides, the debate threatens to tear our community apart. Our best hope, as a community, is that we work together to solve the problems we face. This means, if you are a "no" voter, don't just send letters and speak up at meetings. Seek to join a community committee charged with identifying and creating sustainable ways to offer extracurricular activities, athletic and nonathletic, and sustain our quality programs and education within the parameters of fiscal responsibility.

If you are a "yes" voter, engage in meaningful dialogue with the "no" voters to identify their underlying concerns and problems so that they can be productively addressed.

Let us find a common goal and work toward it. The community's need to support high-quality education won't go away and the economic situation will not right itself overnight. We cannot create change on newspaper editorial pages, Facebook pages, through yards signs or even in the voting booth. We must be actively and positively engaged in person.

My vote is "yes" because I believe we cannot compromise the quality of education and programs while we address these issues.

I encourage every voter to vote "yes" on March 6 and become actively engaged in creating a sustainable solution for our schools and community.

Stephanie Henderson
Westerville

Teachers 'do a stellar job'

To the editor:

The issue of school funding in Ohio has been a complex problem for a long time. In 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state's public school funding formula was unconstitutional. While this likely was the correct decision, it did not make the solution to the problem any more clear or straightforward.

Expenditures in the Westerville City School District in fiscal year 2010 exceeded $136.6 million, 82 percent of which went toward personnel costs. That means that, after covering the district's personnel costs, only 18 percent was left for tools and resources within the school to teach the students. The teachers in Westerville do a stellar job of preparing our students for the future, but with the reality of tighter school budgets, it is critical that we continually look for ways to keep as much money as possible directly in the classroom.

Therefore, during the coming year, the state legislature will hold hearings throughout the state, inviting parents, teachers and administrators to share their thoughts and insights as to how the system can be improved. It is important that we not rush this process, which could result in even bigger problems down the road.

I trust that the input from people throughout our schools and communities will help us confront, and ultimately solve, Ohio's public school funding dilemma. The time has come for us to finally address these issues, and I am committed to working with community members and local school officials to reach the best possible solution. Our focus, however, cannot be on finding the quickest fix possible, but rather on gathering substantive input and information so that no aspect of this problem is overlooked.

Anne Gonzales
19th Ohio House District
State representative

School levy 'a small price to pay'

To the editor:

Voting yes on Issue 10 will affect our home financially, because we are homeowners who pay school taxes. I will still vote "yes" on Issue 10 because it is a small price to pay to ensure that our children will continue to have choices in education, quality in education, reasonable transportation, and consequently, a competitive edge to enable them to excel and succeed.

When purchasing our home 24 years ago, there were no children even in mind. A selling point to me was "Westerville schools." I knew (as most know) that a desirable school system would attract a good community of people.

Now we have children who are in the schools. One will graduate from Westerville Central this year. It is her first full year at the high school. She loves being a Warhawk. Our daughter recognizes and appreciates all that her teachers do and have done to help her succeed. She also is benefiting from extracurricular programs, such as theatre. She wants her school to be the best and understands that with cuts, the opportunity to be the best will be thwarted.

I have read the concessions and facts from pro-levy supporters, and I have read why some anti-levy supporters feel that more concessions need to be made. My conclusions after reading both is I will vote "yes". Our schools need our support now, and our children do as well.

Pamela J. Clegg
Westerville

School teachers 'are not overpaid'

To the editor:

Westerville City Schools, its staff and its teachers have taken quite a few hits recently in letters to the editor. Here are a few facts that cannot be denied.

Yes, we pay Westerville city teachers to eat lunch. We also pay them when they come to work ill, early, and stay late. We pay them when the children in their classes aren't prepared, are disruptive, and when the room is overfull. We pay them to meet the needs of each student and every student. We pay them to eat a granola bar while they grade papers and to grade papers while they sit at their own child's ball game. We pay them money that they spend on crayons, writing paper, copy paper and scissors. Because we have tightened the budget so hard, they do not have district funds to buy these supplies. We pay them money they use to buy food to send home with their students. We pay them money that they use to buy coats, hats and mittens for the children in their classes that have no heat at home.

If teachers in our district were to send the district a bill for services rendered we would need a levy much, much greater than 6.9 mills. We should be grateful teachers aren't hourly workers, for if they were, the bill we would face is one we would never finish paying off.

Our teachers are not overpaid, they are priceless. The programs in our district will only ever be as good as the teachers that staff them. We should be grateful, not critical, of the teachers we have, for they are excellent with distinction. Please vote for Issue 10 on March 6. In the meantime, take a moment and thank a teacher.

Katy Coffey
Westerville

District teachers 'put in long hours'

To the editor:

In 2005, the Westerville school levy failed. The district made cuts to programs, such as family consumer science, computer technology, industrial technology, some physical education courses and others. They increased fees for extracurricular activities and limited the number of courses students could take. Cuts were also made to the staff. The public was informed of the cuts before the election. They were not threats, they were a reality. Many of these courses were never reinstated. Parents have shared with me how they wish these courses were still offered, but we have not been able to bring them back.

When my program was cut, I thought about getting out of education altogether, but the love of working with students made me choose to go back to school to get recertified in special education and teach at an elementary school in Westerville. I love my job. I put in long hours each week, usually 50 to 60 hours, preparing unique experiences for my students. I am not alone. Teachers in our district put in long hours to provide the best education for our students. If this levy fails, academic options will be limited and extracurricular programs that teach leadership, teamwork and hard work, skills that colleges and businesses look for will be cut. Many teachers will be cut and class sizes will rise.

Do we want to repeat what we had in 2005? It took several years to recover from those cuts and we were never able to bring everything back. Westerville has been doing more with less. We have made cuts and will have to make more if we don't receive the support of our community. The state has eliminated some of our funding and now expects communities to make it up.

Times are tough for everyone, but the students need your support. Please support Westerville City Schools and help our community maintain Money Magazine's ranking as one of "America's Best Places to Live."

Mary Ann Cunnigan
Westerville

Community's future 'is at stake'

To the editor:

When I read letters like the one from John Satala last week, it reinforces how poorly understood the Westerville Schools financial situation is in the community.

Satala claimed that the Westerville school district is flush with cash because he sees capital improvements being made at his neighborhood school. What he clearly does not realize is that the capital improvements fund is completely separate from the operating fund, and was approved by the community in a separate election. The district is legally forbidden from using capital improvements funds for operating expenses.

The Westerville school board is asking for community support because of a perfect storm of financial calamities, not because of fiscal mismanagement. In the past year, the following outside factors have reduced revenue significantly in the school district:

Home values have decreased as a result of the bursting of the real estate bubble in 2008 and subsequent property tax revaluations. This has impacted the district by $5.5 million. The state of Ohio had planned to phase out business inventory tax from schools. Instead of a plan to do this over a number of years, the Ohio Legislature made the phase-out immediate. This change cost our school district about $8 million. The Ohio Legislature approved a plan for charter school funding that subtracts money from the home district for every charter school student. When students and families decide to re-enroll in the public school district, no funding is provided for that student until the following fall.

Regarding claims of fiscal mismanagement, consider these facts about the Westerville school district:

Westerville schools have maintained an "Excellent with Distinction" rating two years straight despite having the lowest cost per pupil of the 7 similarly rated school districts in Franklin County. Our cost per pupil is 25 percent lower than the average of the other six highest rated districts in Franklin County.

Westerville schools administrator per pupil ratio ranks as the 578th lowest in the state of Ohio, out of a total of 609 districts. Westerville teacher pay ranks 11th out of 16 central Ohio school districts.

The school board has listened to the community and has implemented immediate cost-cutting to help sustain programs throughout the remainder of this 2012 school year.

Finally, let's consider the financial impact of a levy failure to the Westerville community. Aside from the devastating impact this would have to our students, levy failure would have personal financial impacts to every homeowner in the district, whether or not they have children in school.

Using the South-Western City Schools as an example, citizens of Westerville will expect an immediate 15- to 20-percent reduction in home equity. For the owner of a $150,000 home, that would mean wealth reduction of roughly $25,000.

Anyone trying to sell a house in Westerville will have a very difficult time doing so. As one of our leading Realtors recently stated, "It doesn't matter what value you assign, homes will not sell in this community."

I urge every citizen to visit http://www.ourcommunityourschools.org/Information.html to get the facts about the school district, and to vote for the levy in March. The future of our community and our schools is at stake.

J.R. McCullough
Westerville

Next cuts 'will be to the bone'

To the editor:

On March 6, residents of the Westerville School District have a choice. Do we want:

• "Excellence with Distinction" or somewhere near state minimums?

• Sports, band, drama, arts, physical education and more, or not?

• To give our district - our students - the funding to maintain our high-quality programs or to force our students to get by with four classes a day in sixth grade and five classes in high school?

• To maintain the programs that have helped make Westerville a desirable place to live, or to become a district that is known for failing levies?

For me, the choice is obvious because I value education and all that it provides for our children and our community. The choice is obvious because voting "no" forces $23 million in cuts that will be more than superficial, cuts that will be to the bone.

On March 6, please vote "yes" on Issue 10, for our children, our schools and our community.

Katie Lesmerises
Westerville

Principals 'highly qualified'

To the editor:

Westerville community, please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our kids in advanced classes to prepare them for a global marketplace in the 21st century.

Please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our kids engaged in school through the arts, music, and sports. Please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our kids in classrooms with highly trained and experienced teachers. Please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our kids involved in after-school activities and clubs.

Please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our kids on full day high school (more than five classes) and middle school (more than four classes) schedules.

Please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our kids in schools managed by experienced and highly qualified principals and assistant principals. Please vote "yes" on March 6 to keep our schools, businesses, and community "Excellent with Distinction."

Nancy McFarland
Westerville

Levy is about 'integrity of our town'

To the editor:

I love Westerville. I love the strength of our community. I love our Uptown atmosphere and businesses, our strong parks and community center, our library and our neighborhoods.

I love our schools. The common denominator in Westerville is strength. We are "Westerville strong."

I encourage you to vote "yes" on Issue 10 to keep Westerville strong. This levy is no longer about my kid playing football or the kid next door in the band. It is no longer about art or honors classes. It's about much more. It's about the integrity of our town. I'm not asking you to invest in my kids or "the future" (although I'd appreciate it). I ask you to invest in your town, your local businesses and your neighborhood - to invest in yourself. You are worth it. Westerville is worth it.

I'm an average Joe, just like you. I work hard, taking one day at a time. I'm trying to make ends meet and I'm thankful when they do. I'm a mom who prays that I'm raising my children to be thoughtful, kind-hearted, productive citizens.

I work, play, shop, live and worship in Westerville. I'm proud to be part of a community that aims high, strives to complete in the 21st century and that has schools that are rated "Excellent with Distinction." I'm willing to invest in my city. Westerville is worth every penny.

You know, we don't do life alone. We do it together. I'm thankful for the partnership we've had in raising our family with the help of amazing teachers and coaches. They willingly give their time and talents and it blesses my family and upcoming generations.

I'd like to thank the education community for enriching our city and creating a diverse, well-rounded environment for all of us. Strong schools, strong community; we are Westerville Strong! Vote "yes" on Issue 10.

Jenny Nickel
Westerville

Schools are 'heart' of community

To the editor:

The Westerville school district is the beating, thumping, rushing heart of our community.

We sense it beating in the background when we read about school partnerships with local community businesses. We sense it when we meet families who have moved here expressly for the great schools. We sense it when our seniors graduate and go on to earn scholarships. We sense it when our students complete their community service hours in Westerville, picking up trash in Alum Creek, stuffing backpacks with donated supplies, or working with WARM to collect food. We sense it when we meet a teacher who is using her free time to develop an exciting new project on wind turbines for her class. We sense it when we hear that our schools are ranked "Excellent with Distinction" time and time again.

This past December, groups of parents, community members and district personnel devoted countless hours, at a very busy time of the year, in service to that big thumping heart. They researched thoughtful solutions to preserve the magnet, International Baccalaureate and extracurricular programs in the face required of budget cuts. Those committees were models of how groups could work together with kindness, passion, and respect in service to Westerville schools. That rushing, pulsing, pumping drumbeat was ever-present in those meetings.

Our Community Our Schools launched a campaign designed to allow businesses, parents, community members and teachers to show their support of our schools. OCOS has promised a campaign of inclusiveness, and this is exactly what the I Heart Westerville Schools campaign is all about. You heart Westerville Schools. You hear the beat of that heart. That drumbeat of passion for our schools. That pulsing, compelling beat that brings us back here again and again to protect our schools and make them even better.

This campaign is about the schools. So all proceeds from the I Heart Westerville Schools campaign will be donated back to the Westerville School district. To date, OCOS has donated $3,200 to the district as a result of this campaign.

We have homework to oversee and children to hug and library books to return and bills to pay. And yet, we are listening and thinking and speaking up and writing in support of Issue 10. We make these unusual choices because at some level, we hear a thumping. A pounding. A rushing. A rhythm. We do these things because what we do gives life to the beating heart of our community. To Westerville Schools. We are here to keep that heart beating strong.

Please join me in support of that big beating heart. In support of Westerville Schools.

Amy Raubenolt
Westerville

Levy is 'essential' for extracurriculars

To the editor:

My son has participated on Westerville North's mock trial team for two years.

This extracurricular activity has enabled him to learn about courtroom experiences. The students are given a court case to argue and spend hours practicing to compete against other teams in Ohio.

The sponsors for the mock trial are an attorney who has volunteered his time with students for 16 years, and also our school media specialist, who spends many hours preparing students for competition.

Both sponsors serve as wonderful mentors to mock trial students. Last year, Westerville North's mock trial team finished in first place at the regional level, and fifth at the state level. Mock trial is one of many clubs and activities that have been eliminated in our schools without additional funding. My son is one of many students who find a niche in high school through participation in clubs, sports, marching band and other extracurricular offerings.

My son currently is looking at colleges. Everywhere we visit, college admission representatives tell us that they want to see participation in extracurricular activities on high school students' applications because colleges are looking for students who engage in their high school community because these students are likely to take that same participation level to college.

We are happy that we can add mock trial to my son's list of high school extracurricular activities. But we are concerned that in the future, extracurriculars will not be offered to our two younger children. The opportunity for my kids to participate in mock trial is just one of many reasons that I love Westerville schools. The March 6 school levy is essential for restoring all extracurriculars as well as other valuable programs to our schools. Westerville voters, please vote "yes" for Issue 10.

Makayla Sampson
Westerville

Levy will affect 'community value'

To the editor:

A lot of people are talking about how property values are affected when a levy fails. What about the community value?

My family has attended Westerville Central High School football games for years. We haven't had a player on the team, or even a teen in the high school, but we've gone. We sit there with dozens of neighbors, young and old. We've cheered on the volleyball team when they made it into their first post-season.

We joined Central for their Game Day 5K. We were able to experience the Chinese Festival. We cheer on Ben Buchanan and the Buckeyes and take special pride in the fact that he went to Westerville schools. All of these things are what makes a community strong.

Westerville City Schools are more than just sports, music and art; they have service and learning clubs. The students volunteer all over the community, holding food drives and working the community gardens to donate food to WARM, visiting retirement homes, doing community cleanups, raising money for various charities, etc.

These, too, will go away if all extracurricular activities are cut. School activities are connections with our teenage neighbor "Congratulations on the big game!" or "making the school play" or "the band sounded great tonight" or "how's track going?" Would you prefer to have thousands of teens out on our streets with nothing to do? Do you think a levy failure won't affect you? Passing this levy means more than paying for someone else to play sports. It means giving our community so many reasons to be proud. Our schools give us so much to celebrate and rally behind. I am proud of Westerville. I am proud of our schools. I hope you will help keep our community strong by voting "yes" on issue 10.

Karla Line
Westerville

Westerville schools 'widely admired'

To the editor:

I am a lifelong resident of Westerville and proud of it.

Westerville's history of providing excellent schools for our kids is solid and enduring. I have had the unique opportunity to witness excellence in action as a student, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a student-teacher supervisor. Each of these perspectives has reinforced to me that Westerville schools' quality is widely admired.

Yet the recent cuts passed by our board of education will change that quality from one that brings accolades to another that brings pity. We cannot sit back and allow that to happen. Out of the ashes of that past levy failure, an amazing sense of resolve arose to save Westerville's quality of life.

I have seen our community work together in ways that few municipalities can duplicate. Why? Because when times are tough, we do not turn in on one another. We know our schools are a foundational piece to Westerville's vitality, and we work together to save them. I am proud of how our community has come together in ingenuity and shared sacrifice. I love Westerville Schools, and I will vote "yes" on Issue 10. I invite others to as well.

Leslie Thompson
Westerville

Voters get 'good return' on investment

To the editor:

I read letters to the editor and my frustration grows.

As a parent, as someone who has come to love this community that is now my home, and as a small business owner who wants to make a successful career here, I think we are all "in the weeds." We are all focused on this cost area, or that program cut, but we're losing sight of the big picture.

Are we a community that wants to have good or great schools? Or are we OK with state minimum academics, and pay-to-play extracurricular activities. In other words, are we a community that passes its levies, that supports their schools, or not?

Unfortunately, the way Ohio's public school funding is set up, supporting our schools means taxes and levies. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't mean passing levies blindly, but rather passing levies responsibly and with proper due diligence.

In recent months, I have attended many meetings and read countless research presentations, and I have come to understand that the situation facing our schools is largely out of the administration's control and that a levy is the only viable option.

The only option that keeps our schools "Excellent with Distinction," a status our children and our community enjoy today, and I, for one, want to keep.

Earlier, I used the term "good" schools. But, this is misleading because that phrase has really come to mean "great" - a level of quality reserved for the top 14 percent of schools in Ohio. Anymore, "good" schools is not a label given to schools rated as "Effective" (40 percent) or "Excellent" (36 percent). "Good" schools are those that have earned the highest rating of "Excellent with Distinction" (14 percent). "Excellent with Distinction" is a status we've enjoyed here in Westerville and a status that WCSD has delivered with one of the lowest cost per pupil in northern Franklin County.

The term "good" schools is tossed around a lot; by realtors, by parents, by companies looking to relocate or expand, but what does it mean?

It means schools that are "good" relative to their neighboring communities, not "good" relative to a mean across the state or in the overall Columbus area. So for us, nothing below "Excellent with Distinction" will keep us on even playing field with our neighboring communities.

It means "good" schools with opportunities that are above and beyond: magnet schools/programs extensive AP offerings and International Baccalaureate degree in high school, a wide range of sports and activities with equal opportunity for all students to participate. It means "good" schools that offer security for their students, families, and perhaps most importantly their teachers and staff. Security in the sense of I can move to WCSD and feel secure that the high quality schools we enjoy now will sustain, because our community will continue to find value in their success.

Because a district that can do that will keep the best teaching staff. I am confident speaking for many other parents when I say that Westerville has already managed to attract fantastic, well qualified and experienced teachers, and the statistics show that they're not doing it with money. Westerville teachers are not the highest paid teachers or even average paid, yet they are delivering a product in the top 14 percent of quality ("Excellent with Distinction"). I'd say that's a pretty good return on our investment.

Without this levy, we will not have any of this. This is not just a parent issue, It's a community issue. I want to be part of a community that values education as something that can make a real difference for our children. A community that uses the term "good" schools, but really demands nothing less than great - "Excellence with Distinction" great. Let's not take this for granted.

Erica Wares
Westerville

'Yes' vote on levy 'is an investment'

To the editor:

Ten years ago, my husband and I began looking for a community in which to raise our kids. After researching various public school systems, it became clear that Westerville City Schools were a perfect fit for our family.

We've had the privilege of attending Westerville schools for 10 years now and we are grateful every day for the decision that we made to move here. We have been blessed with passionate, caring, kind and loving teachers who spend many hours beyond their work day planning a curriculum that enriches and inspires our kids every single day.

The Westerville school board kept its promise to sustain the district through the 2011-2012 school year with the funds from the 2009 operating levy. As most know, our district recently lost $13 million in funding from the state in conjunction with loss of tax revenues, which has put us in a dire situation. We are now in need of money to maintain the consistent and high quality of education that Westerville schools have given us with for so many years.

The idea that a five-year emergency levy is on the March ballot has stirred up a lot of discussion, emotion, heartache and animosity among our community.

I have been fueled by the passion that I have witnessed in this community and couldn't be more proud to be a resident of this wonderful city.

In my opinion, I see a "yes" vote as an investment not only in our schools but, most importantly, in our children. We have an eclectic, dynamic and talented group of kids in Westerville that deserves to feel worthy of our interest and investment. They need the tools to go out into this competitive world in order to be productive, creative, successful and compassionate citizens. They deserve it and I feel that we owe that to them.

I value education deeply, and strongly urge you to vote "yes" on issue 10 on March 6.

Together, we can make one of the greatest investments of our lifetime.

Linda Weiler
Westerville

November vote was 'loud and clear'

To the editor:

I love Westerville schools.

We moved to Westerville 12 years ago before we had school-age children. We did our research and decided that in Westerville, you got the best value for your money. Fast forward to six years later when we were ready to upgrade from our starter home. Having experienced first-hand the excellence in Westerville schools, we decided that our new home would also be in Westerville. We've had children in system for nine years and have been very impressed with the teachers, the administrators and most importantly, the opportunities.

Most of us had the chance to participate in sports, arts, and music in school and I want that to continue for my children and the children of the community. These "extras" provide students with a sense of accomplishment, self-esteem and a sense of community, and for many students, it is what keeps them in school. What motivates one child may not be the same thing that motivates another child. For one, it might be football. For another, it might be the arts. Private lessons and activities will not provide the same benefit. Many parents cannot afford them and students will fall through the cracks. You lose the important connection to school and the extended sense of community.

We need issue 10 to pass so that all students can have opportunities. Vote "yes" for Westerville Schools.

Ellen Stadler
Westerville

'No free lunch' for students

To the editor:

I'm not one who usually writes a letter to the editor, but after reading the opinion of Mackie Mantenicks in the Feb. 9, I felt compelled to write.

In response to Mackie's question "Didn't you have the option to play sports, take orchestra or band?" The answer is most definitely yes. However, there was a major difference. If we wanted to be involved in any of the extracurricular activities that our school offered, the responsibility for paying for those activities was our parents', not the entire community's. My parents would have moved heaven and earth to ensure that my siblings and myself had the ability to be involved in any activity that we chose.

Mackie and all of the Westerville students need to realize that there is no free lunch in this world. It's not the responsibility of your neighbors, with or without children, to fund your activities. So, to all the students who are placing blame on the residents of Westerville, you need to turn that attention to your parents.

Parents of Westerville students, along with the school board, need to realize that enough is enough. Perhaps if the same amount of effort being used in trying to pass this levy were placed in to different methods of fundraising, parents wouldn't need to steal from the rest of the community to pay for their own kid's activities.

The residents of Westerville spoke loud and clear in November. Please respect that decision.

Melanie Strayer
Westerville

'Fiscal responsibility' shown by district

To the editor:

I write as a parent and resident of Westerville to offer support for the Westerville City School District levy and urge other members of our community to support the levy and vote "yes" on Issue 10.

My reasons for supporting the levy are simple. I support the levy because I support the kids and want to provide all children in the district the opportunity to excel both in the classroom and in those extracurricular activities where they might shine.

Now I know that some suggest that advanced education opportunities, alternative educational opportunities and so-called "extras" like arts, sports, music, and theater are somehow not for the greater good of the community. But such thinking is short-sighted. Indeed our kids, our district, and our community benefit in the greater good by providing these opportunities to allow each child the opportunity to find their niche so each of them might benefit the community.

Offering more, not less, educational opportunities provides the community the greater good. Supporting the levy is merely paying it forward to help educate the leaders of this community for generations to come. That benefits the greater good.

This district understands and continues to address the challenges facing the community. And to that end, the district administration and other employees are making shared sacrifices by offering concessions to shoulder a portion of the financial challenges facing the district. These shared sacrifices help ensure that our district and our community may continue to move forward to remain one of the best places to learn and live in Ohio.

Supporting the levy is merely paying it forward to do your part. That benefits the greater good. Please support the real greater good of the community and vote "yes" on March 6.

Jon C. Walden
Westerville

'Families will leave' if levy fails

To the editor:

I am writing to urge passage of Issue 10 and dispel some myths and misstatements surrounding this, the most important of issues facing Westerville.

Westerville's schools lost $13 million of expected state funding and local tax revenue. If that gap is not bridged, Westerville's schools will, in the school year 2012-13, be forced to reduce educational programming to state minimum levels which includes but is not limited to: reductions in class offerings at the high school and junior high school level; eliminating almost all elective course work, major reductions in art, music, physical education, technology and health; elimination of high school busing and reduction to two-mile nontransport boundaries for elementary school children; and elimination of funding for sports and all extracurricular activities.

Westerville's school district has received the state's highest rating each of the past two years. All three of Westerville's high schools have been rated by US News and World Report as being among the top 6 percent in America. Westerville's teacher's salaries rank 11th of 16 central Ohio school districts. It should be noted that although Westerville's teacher's salaries rate below the median compared to their professional peers throughout central Ohio, 74 percent of Westerville's teachers possess master's degrees and 58 percent have more than 10 years experience.

Of the eight central Ohio school districts earning the state's highest rating ("Excellent with Distinction"), seven of them spend more money per student than does Westerville.

Of the 609 school districts throughout Ohio, Westerville employs fewer administrators per student than all but 31. Westerville's administrators' salaries rank 13th among their peers in the 16 central Ohio school districts and are more than $7,000 less per year than the average school administrator's salary in Franklin County.

When placed in its proper comparative context, it becomes clear that Westerville provides the highest quality education at a fair price.

Further, commensurate with these hard economic times, Westerville's teachers, staff and administrators have undertaken a number of specific, additional cost-saving efforts. This year alone, administrators and nonunion staff have increased their health care contributions more than $3,500 annually. This amounts to a 10-percent salary cut for staff earning $35,000 and a 5-percent salary cut for those earning $75,000. This change saves the district $300,000 per year.

In addition, salaries for administrators and nonunion staff have been frozen. The district has reopened contracts with all employee unions to seek wage and benefit concessions. Recently WESSA - Westerville's schools support staff members union - agreed to a wage freeze and to forgo step increases. Westerville's teachers returned $1.4 million in concessions in 2011-12.

Please understand that Issue 10 is not the same request as the November levy. It is a five-year, emergency operating levy that is 25 percent smaller than the one in November. It is for property tax only and has no income tax component. Please understand also, that this levy is to apply to existing programming only. There will be no district initiated new spending or new programming.

Westerville has always been a "destination community." It is a place where businesses thrive. It is a place where first-, second- and even third-generation Westervillians have come to establish their homes and raise their families. If a top quality, well rounded education cannot be achieved in Westerville, can we reasonably expect this to remain a "destination community?" No. Families will leave. Businesses will follow. Property values will plummet.

The plain, unvarnished truth is that the opportunity to achieve an "Excellent with Distinction" education for their children is what attracted so many to this wonderful community. Let's keep families and businesses here. Now is our opportunity to invest in the future of our children, the future of our homes, and the future of our community. The need is there. The excellence is there. The fiscal responsibility is there. Westerville and its schools need you to be there and vote "yes" on 10.

Michael Wander
Westerville

Westerville voters 'must pass this levy'

To the editor:

One option those in opposition of the levy have touted as viable if the levy is defeated is a pay-to-play system for extracurricular activities. With more than 30 percent of Westerville students receiving free or reduced lunch, how could we conceivably expect those students to also pay for their own extracurricular activities?

Studies have shown that the odds of attending college are 97 percent higher for students who participate in school-sponsored activities for two years than for those who don't participate.

Unfortunately for many students, when you remove the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, you also remove a pathway to receive a higher education.

We cannot allow these possibly life-changing opportunities to be removed from the lives of so many students in our wonderful school district. We must pass this levy. Vote "yes" on Issue 10.

Lori Wilson
Westerville

Schools are 'backbone' of community

To the editor:

I have been a Westerville resident for 18 years. My husband and I moved to Westerville for many reasons, one of them being the reputation of the schools. Our oldest child was just starting her school career at that time. Fast forward 18 years, we have one Westerville Central alumni ready to graduate from Miami University and our other child will graduate from Central next year, ready to start her college career.

Our children have experienced a multitude of wonderful events throughout their school years here in Westerville. I believe that is due in part to the many citizens before us who made the conscious decision to pay it forward when our kids were young. We believe the public school system is the backbone of any community and we are ready to pay it back for all the young children just starting out.

I have watched numerous community members come forward since the last levy to not only support our schools but to volunteer their time and talent to find ways in which to move our district forward, to think outside the box and create new and innovative ways to solve the dilemma that not only Westerville faces but other surrounding school districts, as well.

Please join me in support of our schools for children now and the children of the future. Vote "yes" on March 6.

Christy Thorp
Westerville

State gives district 'only two options'

To the editor:

I remember thinking when the South-Western City School district didn't pass its levy and had to cut all extracurricular activities, "Wow, I'm sure glad I live in a community that values its schools!" Now I am starting to wonder if that is still the case.

When I was growing up, I had lots of extracurricular activities available: soccer, swimming, band, choir, etc. I could choose from many different types of classes, including four different foreign languages, honors and AP classes and even home economics and woodshop.

I had a wonderful, well-rounded education and it helped me develop into the person I am today. I was hoping the same would be true for my children.

When my oldest daughter was in seventh grade, the first levy failed. She sat in two study halls every day because they had cut all the nonessential classes. That's the year they cut middle school health and technology. Health never came back. We paid hundreds of dollars for her to participate in sports. Fortunately, the community came together and the next levy did pass. However, many courses were never reinstated. In high school, my daughter was able to take AP classes, even completing AP Spanish 5. She served as an editor for the school newspaper, and continued to participate in band and athletics. She graduated last year and is doing well in college.

I still have three children in high school. Yesterday, they brought home their scheduling information for next year. Instead of having eight periods a day, they are now only going to have six. There is no more Spanish 4 or 5. Health is going to be offered as an on-line course. There is no more yearbook class, no more school newspaper, very limited art and music classes, only enough so that each student can complete their one year of mandatory art credit.

If a child has an interest in a particular subject, like science or history, they are not allowed to take two classes in the same subject area. My son, who will be a senior next year, and has an interest in continuing his Spanish education, is looking into taking an on-line AP Spanish 5 class. Doesn't that sound like fun, learning Spanish on a computer instead of live interaction with a class and a teacher?

To all the naysayers out there, please think of the children. I don't want to pay more taxes, either, but I will do it to ensure my children and the rest of the children in Westerville have an excellent education.

You can blame whoever you want, the district, the teachers, etc. But the truth is Ohio's system for funding education is flawed. When the state government's contribution to local districts remains flat or falls, a district has only two options to manage rising costs. It can cut employees or services, or it can ask the voters to approve an additional tax.

Please vote yes on March 6.

Emily Sandvik
Westerville