Westerville News & Public Opinion

2013: a year in review

Leadership, other changes affected schools

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Westerville City School District will end the year much in the way it began: with major changes.

As the district ushered in 2013, the board was searching for a new superintendent to replace the retiring Dan Good.

John Kellogg was hired for the head post in February and officially stepped into the role in July.

Also in 2013, a longtime school board member announced her diagnosis with a terminal illness in June, half of the existing board of education was replaced in the November election, the district launched a strategic planning process and a proposed elementary school realignment launched serious debate.

 

Kellogg chosen to lead district

Kellogg, formerly the South-Western City School District's assistant superintendent of curriculum, was selected as the district's new superintendent in February. He assumed the post July 1.

The board of education launched its search for a new superintendent in December 2012, after Good announced his plan to retire from the post at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Kellogg was one of 20 applicants for the position.

Kellogg began his career in education in 1984 as a teacher and has worked in administration since 1994.

He served as principal of Grove City High School from 1997 to 2002 and as principal of Bexley High School from 2002 to 2010, when he was hired by South-Western as a district administrator.

Kellogg holds a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in education from the College of William and Mary, an education specialist degree in educational administration from George Washington University and a doctoral degree in educational administration from Ohio University.

 

Crowe diagnosed with ALS

Longtime school board member Cindy Crowe was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, in late March. She went public with her fight in June, after the disease confined her to a wheelchair.

Crowe has served on the Westerville Board of Education for more than 13 years and has been active in Westerville Education Challenge, Rotary and the Ohio School Boards Association.

ALS affects the brain and spinal cord, causing the neurons to degenerate and then die, over time making it impossible for the brain to control muscle movement throughout the body.

Crowe's disease has progressed significantly since her diagnosis, but she has continued her service on the board. She also has participated in clinical trials for ALS treatments.

Since her diagnosis, the school community has rallied around her, forming a nonprofit, Crowe-Wentzel: Winning the ALS Fight with Cindy. The foundation is raising money to help ALS patients participate in research studies to fight the disease.

 

New board members elected

Three of the five faces on the Westerville Board of Education will change come January, following the outcome of the November election.

Board members Kristi Robbins and Denise Pope chose not to run for re-election after serving eight and five years, respectively, on the board.

Board member Kevin Hoffman was defeated in his bid for a fourth term.

Assuming seats in January alongside current members Crowe and Carol French will be Nancy Nestor-Baker, Tracy Davidson and Rick Vilardo.

Nestor-Baker, who led the election with 18 percent of the vote, served on the board for 14 years before stepping down in 2005. She works as senior assistant vice president for the United Way of Central Ohio.

Davidson is a professional tutor who also volunteers with the district. She has three children in Westerville schools.

Vilardo is the lead pastor of NewSong Community Church. He volunteers on the district's Community Engagement Committee and has two elementary-aged children in the district.

Nestor-Baker, Davidson and Vilardo defeated Hoffman, Jim Burgess, Luke Davis, Robert Edwards and John Sodt.

 

Strategic plan under way

With new leadership in place, the district launched a strategic-planning process in the fall intended to give the board of education and administration direction in the coming years.

Over the summer, administrators began working on elements of planning they would like to focus on and started working with OhioHealth's planning team, which volunteered its services.

The planning team and administration titled the plan "Creating the 21st Century Student" and identified six "dimensions" for the plan: Every student achieves academic success; learning and working environments are safe, nurturing and efficient; student learning is driven by recruiting, developing and retaining highly effective and skilled staff members; community, parents, students and staff are engaged as partners; financial resources are maximized to support academic success; and resources are provided to support student development and well-being.

In November, the district brought in 180 stakeholders, people involved in different areas of the Westerville community, to weigh in on the plan.

This month, elements of the plan were posted on the district's website to solicit feedback from the community.

The administration is expected to present a final plan to the board of education early next year for approval. That would allow the administration to prepare changes for the 2014-15 school year.

 

Elementary realignment nixed

For the first three months of 2013, the realigning of elementary school attendance boundaries dominated meetings of the Westerville board of education.

The discussion began as the board sought to even out attendance numbers within the district's 14 elementary schools, seven of which were over capacity while others were dramatically under capacity.

A realignment committee was assembled, and community members and the board discussed how elementary school populations should be organized.

A focus on neighborhood schools was discussed, as was a focus on creating schools whose racial and socioeconomic diversity mirrored the district's overall enrollment.

After three months of intense debate, which included hours-long special meetings, the board ultimately called off the realignment and left boundaries in place for the 2013-14 school year.

 

Magnet program continued

Despite a vote to close the district's four magnet schools -- Hanby, Emerson, Longfellow and Central College -- in the 2012-13 school year, the four magnet programs continued operating in the Hanby and Emerson buildings this school year.

The magnet program originally fell victim to budget cuts made by the board following the failure of a levy in November 2011.

Longfellow and Central College schools were closed for the 2012-13 school year, but the board of education created a "bridge year" for that school year, allowing students in the magnet program to remain and operating all of the magnet schools from Hanby and Emerson.

The schools remained open for the 2013-14 school year, operating for grades three through five, because of the board's decision not to redraw attendance boundaries.

The boundary realignment was meant to help absorb magnet students into the general elementary school population.

Administrators said those students could not be sent to other schools without realignment because it would have created serious overcrowding issues.

 

District spends less in 2013-14

The board of education approved a 2013-14 budget allocating $5.3 million less than the district spent in the 2012-13 school year.

The majority of the savings came from lower salaries and benefits expenses.

There were 27 pay periods in the last fiscal year, rather than the usual 26, and the cost of salaries and benefits did not rise because the 2013-14 fiscal year is the second year of a two-year wage freeze agreed upon by the district's four unions after the November 2011 levy failure.

In all, the district budgeted $3.4 million less in salaries and $311,725 less in benefits this year.

The total budget approved for the 2013-14 fiscal year was $142.9 million.

 

Building security beefed up

In the fall, the district increased security measures at all 22 school buildings by locking all doors during the school day and adding cameras to main entrances.

The decision was made to spend $75,000 to add the entry systems after the state announced money would be available for schools implementing such systems.

With the new systems in place, multiple entryways are open to each school during arrival and departure times.

During school hours, all doors are locked, and visitors must be "buzzed" in at a main entrance.

With the installation of the camera systems complete, the district will apply for funding from the state to cover the cost.

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