In the direction of balance

Balance can be seen on scales, in sports and on spreadsheets. There are times when balance is easy to see and define. There are times when we have to work to achieve balance. For example, in our own homes we try to find a perfect balance between work and family. Although we can define the ideal, we rarely meet it.

With the Board of Education race in Springboro this fall, voters will look for balance. Some will argue balance means putting opposing sides together on the board. But the picture of balance needs to be bigger than that. Board of Education members are elected to represent the community in the school district.

The board is elected to balance the interests of students, parents, taxpayers, and employees.  Many school boards lack balance because they are comprised of people with more allegiance to maintaining a specific establishment than to the greater cause.

In Springboro, balance has been restored. With a new administrative team, the Springboro school district has adopted a mission to “accelerate student achievement and support qualified staff with a balanced budget.” These are not empty words: they summarize actions. Together, we have achieved a balanced budget. We are on the right course, but it has not been easy.

With Educate Springboro, we brought changes that forced many to rethink long-held beliefs. Anytime the status quo changes, there is resistance. Panicked petitions and hysterical headlines have made things feel” out of balance. So now, there is a slate of three candidates that want to return to the past – which “felt” balanced.

However, today we can see just how far out of balance we actually were under the previous leadership. Some of the imbalances of the past include:

  • Capping high school class sizes in the 20s, while other grades who most need teacher attention, had larger class sizes (often up to 30).
  • Teaching the majority to meet the proficient standard (proficient is a OAA test score in 8th grade >40), while our district receives a “D” in gifted education and a “C” for our more challenged, lowest 20%.
  • Ignoring the changing curriculum and testing standards for students.
  • Charging higher pay-to-play and school fees than were necessary.
  • Failing to plan for technology in our classrooms and then spending resources on wireless technology that was inadequate and required replacement.
  • Ignoring recommendations to improve the rigor of our high school academic programs by failing to promote college credit options for our students.
  • Reacting to circumstances and spending more than budgeted instead of planning to invest and keeping up our buildings, grounds and bus fleet.
  • Assuming the only solution was higher taxes and hoping for a new levy to pass.

These are symptoms of the status quo controlling a school district that lost its balance.

If there was any balance at all in the past, it was an eye for an eye. As this community said no” to five new money levies, district leaders failed to find levy alternatives.  The status quo threatened the community with cuts. Thankfully, many of those leaders have left, but some now would like to return to sit on our school board. 

This year’s record is easy to defend because it consistently demonstrates investing in Children First. From replacing the District’s aging computers, buses, to implementing new curriculum and raising expectations with new standards, testing – we have progressed!

Why would we give control back to those who slowed this district’s progress? Those who inflated budget forecasts? Those who ignored the capital needs of the District? Most importantly, why would we elect the same people who neglected to put Children First in our schools?

The Children First budget is navigating us away from the repeated failures of the past. Now, working in open, public meetings, asking tough questions, hearing all voices, using performance data and striving to find a balance that supports teachers, our community is achieving the goal to put Children First in every decision.

Balance is about consistent, sustainable, forward-looking leadership. Educate Springboro sees the bigger picture and leads in the direction of balance for our children, schools and community.  We’ll continue to be the voice that stands up for parents and the community, examining past practices, and making tough decisions – whether it is providing technology, more services for gifted students, raises for employees, or even a tax rollback – To maintain balance for the benefit of everyone.

We hope you will share this good news with your friends and neighbors.

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In the direction of leadership

The 2013 Board of Education campaign is taking shape in Springboro, and there is a clear theme emerging from three of the candidates. The opposition’s run for school board seems to be fueled by fear.  It is dark and angrypromising to bring calm to a storm.

The problem with their platform is that there is no storm.

If there is a sense of turbulence in our community, it has been manufactured by those who oppose change, wish to suffocate debates they would surely lose, and return to the days of endless levies, punitive actions against our citizens, and never ending financial emergencies within the district.

Why would our community want to do that?

An accurate look at the past reveals:

  • Five failed levies
  • Fees raised, busing cut, and staff reduced
  • Buses neglected compromising student safety
  • The district failed to purchase books, technology and buses
  • A technology plan that was an uncontrolled mixture of items that did not work together costing approx. $200,000 to fix
  • Waste of $170,000 in textbooks that were never distributed or used
  • Maintenance deferred to the detriment of district buildings, staff and children
  • The rigor of the high school program of studies was reduced (Education Service Center audit report)
  • Promotion of the failing euphemism “Proficient” as the standard to be attained by our children
  • Fewer students took advantage of AP and other early college credit opportunities
  • A “D” grade on gifted intervention from the state
  • A “C” grade on the lowest 20% in achievement from the state

Now, an accurate look at today reveals:

  • A balanced, children-first budget
  • Lower fees, busing restored, staff restored
  • “Efficiency” plans that directed resources to gifted and reading intervention for this year (before release of the state report card)
  • New curriculum designed to surpass state minimum standards
  • Additional teachers and aides hired
  • Opened preschool / early learning center
  • A/P courses expanded in areas that make sense
  • Dual Credit classes to be added at high school allowing students to gain college credit while in high school
  • New emphasis on PSEO program, which allows students to attend college while in high school for full college credit
  • Coordinated technology plan so everything works with one another
  • Wireless access for every building
  • New laptops to every teacher. More than 1,100 new computers throughout the district
  • Renewal levy set to a lower millage rate to give back more than $1.3 million per year to our community

Why would our community want to go back to the past?  We have sought to change the status quo, and that is difficult, but debate does not equal harm. The politically correct tenet that spirited discussion is harmful stifles new ideas.  When a blanket of suppression covers the conversation, the only sure losers will be our community and the children we serve.

Educate Springboro looks to the future–using the knowledge of the past, but with direction toward a goal. While the Board of Education has made missteps in the past year and a half, they were made in a public and transparent fashion.  This transparency allowed the community to engage and round out our actions to reflect their wishes and desires.  It produced better, more properly vetted ideas and actions, and our schools are better for it. When we work together and talk to each other about the issues, better solutions are developed.

Our leadership is navigating us away from the repeated failures of the past and toward a better future for our schools. We are leading with a goal to provide every Springboro child the opportunity to acquire all the knowledge and intellectual skills they possibly can.  It has been our desire to remove all barriers that might restrain them from their innate desire to inquire, explore, and absorb everything they can.  Looking to the past, copying failed policies, and fearing change does not remove barriers to improvement, it imposes them.

We’ve built a financial foundation on the principle of fiscal responsibility.  We’ll continue to make changes that make sense; for example, eliminating underutilized courses to fill needs in other areas.  We won’t propose new classes just to fill an employee’s schedule and avoid a difficult decision.  We won’t continue relationships with service providers that don’t provide the best value just because working with them has been past practice.  We’ll continue to demand integrity and ethics from everyone we work with from boosters to vendors, from students to administrators.

Common sense, ethics and sound financial decisions guide Educate Springboro.  Share this with your friends and neighbors.

The fear of change will not chase our community back into the darkness of previously failed practices.

Let’s stay on this new course and move in the direction of leadership for our children, schools and community.