In her first State of the Schools speech since becoming superintendent of Groveport Madison Local Schools, Garilee Ogden touched on the usual subjects -- academic achievement, district goals and new initiatives -- and shared details about a combined bond issue and levy on the May 7 ballot.

Speaking March 5 at the new high school, Ogden said the district's mission is "to build a community of learners, leaders and responsible citizens."

She said the district has launched several "new initiatives," including a new website, a larger social-media presence, a bus-tracker app and a safe-schools hotline.

She also spent some time talking about the district's overall grade of C on the 2018 state report card issued by the Ohio Department of Education.

"Some of you might think that's a low grade, but when you consider that more than 40 percent of Ohio's 612 school districts earned a C on last year's report card, it's nothing to scoff at," Ogden said.

She pointed out the district received an A again this year in the value-added category that looks at how much students have learned from one school year to the next.

The Ohio Department of Education looks at progress grades for gifted students, students in the lowest 20 percent in achievement and students with disabilities.

"Other than Groveport Madison, only one other Franklin County school district (New Albany-Plain Local) earned all A's on their value-added state report card ratings," Ogden said.

She also mentioned that Groveport Madison improved its previous grade of F in gap-closing to a B. According to information on the ODE website, gap-closing measures how well schools meet performance expectations for the most vulnerable students in English language arts, math and graduation. It also measures how schools are doing in helping English learners to become proficient in English.

"There is no question that we still have a lot of room for further improvement," Ogden said without specifically mentioning the three D's the district earned on the benchmarks of achievement, graduation rates and improving at-risk K-3 readers or the F it received in the prepared-for-success category.

"But we know we have a plan that's working, and we're showing positive results," she said.

Before closing her remarks, Ogden stressed the district's need for a combined operating levy and bond issue on the May 7 ballot.

The operating levy is a renewal that will expire at the end of the year. It was last voted on in 2014 and if approved in May, would not increase property owners' taxes, she said.

The levy generates about $5.694 million each year.

"Without passage of the upcoming levy, we will not be able to sustain the level of support and programs that we have today," Ogden said.

"Very possibly, we will be back where we were five years ago -- but this time, we have 400 more students to serve and nine overcrowded schools that are obsolete and costing more and more to maintain with each passing day," she said.

She said the bond issue would help fund construction of three new elementary schools to serve students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and one new middle school for grades 7-8. The new buildings would replace six elementary schools and three middle schools.

"With each passing rainstorm, it becomes all too evident that we have significant school facility issues in our elementary and middle schools," Ogden said.

"These are issues that can't be resolved by adding more modular classrooms, patching the roof for the sixth time this year, repairing broken and leaky toilets, or tearing up underground sewer lines to determine why raw sewage and obnoxious smells routinely creep into our kitchens."

The district is asking taxpayers to approve the bond issue to cover 47 percent of the cost of the new buildings, she said. The state would pay for the remaining 53 percent of the "base building" expenses for the new schools.

Ogden said the bond issue would cost taxpayers of a home valued at about $100,000 "less than 50 cents" more each day.

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