Everyone living in the Big Walnut Local School District has been waiting for the board of education and district administration to decide what to do, and when, after the November General Election failure of the district’s $133.9 million, 8.3-mil bond issue with a roughly 54 percent to 46 percent margin.
At two board meetings since the election, district superintendent Angie Pollock has said that options for going back on the ballot, and when, were being explored. During last Thursday evening’s board meeting (Jan. 19), Pollock ruled out placing a bond issue on the May Primary Election ballot.
“We decided not to rush something back on the ballot in May,” Pollock said. “A May election would cost us $50,000, but we’re not pushing it back because the need has gone away. We just need more time to weigh our options, and decide whether we’ll shuttle kids or put them in modulars.”
Later in the meeting board members approved a motion to hire Fallon Research & Communications. Pollock said Fallon Research would provide survey services before the school district makes any decisions about what bond issue configuration Big Walnut voters would support.
“We want to make sure we’re getting accurate information from our community,” Pollock said. “We’re excited about what they will be able to do to get us some valuable information before we move forward.”
Board members also approved a motion to hire Allerton Hill Consulting for communication services.
“This is in line with our goal of improved communications,” Pollock said. “We don’t have a newspaper that goes to every home in the district anymore, and this district is so much different than it was eight years ago. It’s important for us to communicate with the community. This firm works very closely with schools in multiple districts. They’ll help us navigate through this new trend that we’re living in.”
During the board members items of interest portion of the meeting, board member Allison Fagan said she disagrees with President Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education.
“I have multiple concerns about his choice,” Fagan said. “She has no understanding about basic education philosophy, it’s very clear she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She would not protect money that should go to public schools; she would allow private online schools. Betsy DeVos has no experience whatsoever in public education.”
Fagan said area residents who are concerned about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education should call Ohio Senator Portman and Senator Brown’s staff to express their concerns about the nominee.
Fagan said Senator Rob Portman’s local office number is 614-469-6774; Senator Sherrod Brown’s local office number is 614-469-2083.
Board VP Brad Schneider said he’s concerned about the lack of conversations about managing college funding at the state and federal levels.
“I would like to see more discussions about the money we’re throwing at two and four-year colleges as part of our state’s biennial budget,” Schneider said.
Schneider also said local small businesses need to explore the area’s talent pipeline.
Board president Andy Wecker agreed with Schneider, adding that more emphasis needs to be placed on high school graduates going directly into the work force. He said the current philosophy seems directed only at college bound students.
“We prepare students for going to college and the military, then there’s everybody else,” Wecker said.
In other business, Pollock noted that Kindergarten registration is starting soon.
Students must be age 5 on or before August 1 for parents to enroll them in Kindergarten. Pollock said the district is piloting online registration for Kindergarten and typical peers preschool students for the 2017-18 school year.
All-day Kindergarten fees will be lowered for the 2017/18 school year, Pollock said. This year the all-day Kindergarten fee was $225 per month, next year it will be $175 per month.
“We’ve seen real gains in our kids in full-day Kindergarten,” Pollock said. “We’re seeing more growth in reading. Though it’s hard to do a comparison, overall there are gains with all-day. Our goal is to transition across the board. We’re trying to do it incrementally; we want to be affordable for families.”
Pollock reminded district parents that if they qualify for free lunches, the fee for all-day Kindergarten would be waived; for families that qualify for reduced lunches, the all-day Kindergarten fee would be reduced by 50 percent.
“Those fee reductions are in line with all of our other fee reductions,” Pollock added.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.