In the direction of truth

It’s October, which is an absolutely beautiful time of year. Of course there are cooler nights, falling leaves and temperate days.

And for those of us who enjoy politics and government, it is the only time of year when our communities engage in truly open debate. For those of us who like to discuss the issues, this is our time. Because it’s not just a few of us wrestling with a budget or debating the day’s headlines. Our entire community becomes engaged.

The signs are showing up on busy intersections and along well-traveled routes. Our neighbors are talking a bit more about politics—it’s less taboo than at any other time of year.

But there’s a strange thing that also happens in October. As there is more communication on the election—there seems to be less information. There are more words, but they seem to say less. As we get closer and closer to November, there is less time to check the facts. There is much being said about Springboro Schools, but how much of it is true?

Here is the truth.

  • We have achieved a balanced, children-first budget

  • We have lowered fees

  • We have implemented efficiency plans that direct savings back into our schools

  • We have hired additional teachers and aides

  • We have opened the preschool / early learning center

  • We have expanded high school A/P courses

  • We are promoting dual credit and PSEO to allows student to gain full college credits in high school

  • We have a coordinated technology plan with wireless access for every building, new laptops to every teacher and more than 1,100 new computers throughout the district.

  • We are exploring the data to understand the “proficient” standard and to set a higher bar for achievement.

These facts are indisputable. Still, we may see the truth differently.  In math, we have proofs. In science, we have theories to test. But in our schools, we see the truth as it affects our kids in the classroom, our teachers and staff whom we hired, our traditions, and our personal expectations. It is personal.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the prisoners can only see shadows. It is the only reality they know. It is theirs. It is known, comfortable, understandable and real. But when the shadows are revealed and the prisoners are asked to embrace a new reality of the light that casts the shadows, they resist it. Their truth was in the shadows that they had known for so long. This is like our definition of “proficient.” We thought proficient was good, until we learned what the raw scores are.

When someone asks you to look at things in a new way—to entertain the idea that the truth is not what you thought it was—it is normal to fight it. That is why this board made transparency and debate a cornerstone of all we do.

While the Board of Education has made missteps in the past year and a half, we made them in a transparent fashion.  This transparency allowed the community to round out our actions to reflect their wishes and desires. When we work together and talk to each other about the issues, better solutions are developed.

So, here in the month of October, let’s keep the discussion going. Let’s talk about the record. Let’s talk about the standards. Let’s talk about the facts. Let’s move together in the direction of truth. The truth is not in the online video from Olentangy United. The truth is not in rumors. The truth is not in the shadows of the past.

The truth is that we are using data to improve upon what is already a strong school district. If we only look at the shadows on the wall, we limit our own perspective, and we also limit the possibilities for Springboro students.

 

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.

Welcome Back to School!

Educate Springboro celebrates the first day of school and wishes students and families, teachers and staff a successful year ahead!

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
 –Chinese Proverb

This is the time of year when families and communities reflect on the treasure in our schools. It is not in the bricks and mortar. It is in the people. The treasure is in the promise of our children learning and carrying those lessons with them as they grow.

While the kids focus on mastering that new locker combination and where their friends are located, parents are more focused on checking off the back-to-school supply list.  Those without children in school merely note their commute got longer because the buses are back.

Educate Springboro is focused on assuring the necessities are provided for learning and teaching.

Careful budgeting, data-driven decision making, and efficiency plans from our central office staff have made it possible for Springboro to afford its back-to-school list. We have found ways to afford the necessities required and give money back the taxpayer has more money is left in their wallet at the end of the day.

Springboro’s 2013 back-to-school list includes long overdue capital improvements to building interiors, roofs and parking lots; more resources for reading and gifted education in the elementary grades; new curriculum to align with state standards; and more than a $1.1 million upgrade to technology in each and every building.

In fact, the following needs are ACCOUNTED FOR in the current budget through the 2017 budget:

  • over $2 million in text books and new adoptions
  • over $2.1 million for new buses
  • over $3.7 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance
  • over $1.5 million in technology
  • over $7.5 million increase for our staff in raises.

Our community’s school supply list is significant. We have found that it is affordable when we put children first. Just as Springboro’s families have to find ways to finance the back-to-school list within their budgets, our district must do the same thing to accomplish our goals within a balanced budget.

Many new faces will appear at the door and in the classroom to welcome our children back this year.  But not to worry, over 80% of our school staff is returning to start another year.  While this is slightly lower than our normal 87%, the reasons are quite understandable.

As changes in the state retirement pension program became evident, it behooved some of our employees to take advantage of the current, more generous provisions available now.  The result for our employees would be thousands of dollars less in lifetime retirement pay if they were to delay their retirement until next year or the year after.

Secondly, our district offered not one, but two early retirement buy-out plans to assist our senior teachers and staff who were close to requirements, but needed a little assistance on our part to make it work out.  While this did aid many teachers and staff in realizing their dreams and aspirations, it also freed up precious salary money to redistribute throughout the district to other employees.

Thirdly, uncertainty on contract negotiations played a role. Although our Board of Education invited the unions to open negotiations In January, but that open invitation was declined by the unions. This pushed negotiations, and the associated uncertainty of what the future held financially for our teachers and staff, well into the summer.  As a result, we lost more teachers than we normally would have as some sought a financial stability in their income flow that was not threatened by union activity that they had little to no control over.

We welcome our new principals, teachers, staff, students and families as they join our school community. This is a new year—one full of new opportunities.  It remains our fervent desire to see that each child in our system excels past the point of state minimum requirements and receives a real education filled with knowledge and well earned achievement. 

Welcome back to school!

Thank you for your support of this blog and Educate Springboro. The blog’s readership and distribution have grown significantly in recent weeks. Please keep it growing!  Share this with your contact list. And, if you can, please click on the right to donate to our group. Your donation helps to share information on public education, budgeting, policy, taxation and more matters that impact our entire community.

Educate Springboro is an organization created to research and share information on issues that impact our community.  This message paid for by Educate Springboro, 8786 Wildwood Pl., Springboro, OH 40566.      

 

In the direction of opportunity

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
–Winston Churchill

When we combine common sense spending with the strong performance of our schools, we can offer opportunities for everyone–our students, teachers, families and our community.

The 2013 campaign for school board has begun, and some candidates are calling for a nostalgic turn back to “the way it was.” The status quo says they want to go in a different direction.  Here is a reminder of our past:

• Instead of facing our challenges, they seemingly would retreat back in time.
• Instead of looking for opportunities to improve and innovate, they chose the way they always operated – raise fees, cut busing, reduce support staff, and increase class size to leverage parents.
• Instead of reallocating resources in response to a changing financial environment, they chose not to buy books, technology, buses, or to make needed capital improvements.

This summer a worker fell 20 feet (blessedly survived with only a broken elbow) while fixing the Clearcreek Elementary roof because the roof decking had been neglected for so long. If regular maintenance is performed, how much less might this repair have cost?

We see the status quo woefully ill equipped to meet the challenges that our school district faces.

Opportunity reaches past the status quo. Jim Rigano and I have brought a realistic perspective to our schools. As we look at district operations and use student achievement data, we are creating opportunity and directing more resources to where students need them most. We are funneling more tools to teachers and administrators that can be deployed at the point of attack on the issues facing our children.

Opportunity to redefine excellence
Those who promote the status quo placed great emphasis on many awards on the school walls. As a result many assumed that all was well inside those walls. But the awards only measure the past, and the standards are changing. Our schools have indeed scored well by state standards, but the term “PROFICIENT” is misleading. For example, a student taking the Ohio Achievement Assessment test in math in the spring of 2013 only needs a raw score between 35% – 59% to be deemed “PROFICIENT” in eighth grade math.  Then, if enough students score over 35%, a school is deemed by the state to be “excellent.”

Proficient is not enough. The time is now to bring forward new ways of evaluating our children that no longer grade on a curve to get the desired results. Our goal should be that every Springboro student score 75% or better on these tests.  Tougher, realistic standards upset the status quo, but deflated standards masked by positive sounding words rob our children of true achievement, potential, and a future.

We see the opportunity to set the bar higher and deliver a more honest standard for our schools.

Opportunities for success after high school
Our goal is to send Springboro High School graduates off to college and career better equipped for success. The district has purchased an audit of our high school, and the High School That Works Program conducted repeated biannual audits. For years the status quo ignored the High School that Works audit findings. We are supporting and encouraging our administrators to use these facts to improve.

The Springboro High School (SHS) program audit from Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) asserts the high school needs to “increase rigor, cut general education classes, and increase college preparatory courses, including Advanced Placement (AP)”.

The ESC audit and a report from the High Schools That Work program show that Springboro’s program of studies was neglected for years by the status quo. As new leadership is committed to rewrite the curriculum to offer a more rigorous, relevant course of study, we are encouraging our administration to improve college credit options to give greater opportunities for all students’ college and career plans by:

• Enhancing the ACT Preparation Class at SHS brought forth last year.
• Incentivizing college credit (while in high school) with more guidance towards Advanced Placement (AP), the Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO), and dual credit. These options could accelerate students’ college study while simultaneously reducing the significant college cost for families.
• Exploring STEM initiatives and hands-on learning in cooperation with local businesses will be key for our college-bound students as well as for those who are focused on their career after high school.

We see these as opportunities to accelerate student achievement, reduce student’s college debt, help parents spend less on college, and turn Springboro towards a 21st century learning environment.

Opportunities for students
The Children First budgeting approach and the Springboro central office team’s efficiency plans are already yielding significant savings in the first year. These freed up dollars are being reinvested in our students and their day-to-day learning through:

• Purchasing new curriculum and new textbooks where needed;
• Increased reading intervention support;
• Increased gifted services;
• Increased technology – 100% Wi-Fi across all buildings and computer equipment upgrades;
• Creating early learning opportunities for children;
• Using facts to track student achievement to allow our teachers and parents to track learning three times a year to better refine our teaching efforts and focus on the child’s needs.
• Reduced pay-to-play fees in a time when many of those districts around us are raising theirs. The result of this reduction has been a 12% increase in participation in our sports and band programs.

Opportunities for teachers
Jim Rigano and I encouraged more professional development. We did not cut it. When the levies failed, the status quo cut professional development, staff, technology, busing, and curriculum. Critics assert that the Children First budget ignores teachers. This is simply FALSE. This budget approach is providing every teacher with a raise, a new laptop while also installing more than 1000 new computers in our schools for children.

Taking a Children’s First approach evaluates and reallocates resources in other areas, making investment plans, and transparent budgeting also allows support for our curriculum team. The teachers’ professional development is a vital part of the implementation plan of the new curriculum and is critical to the success of our efforts as we strive to meet new standards this year.

Opportunity to rebuild trust in our community
The community’s call for more responsible spending echoes in our actions. We’ve built a realistic financial foundation. We asked for honest input from teachers, administrators, and support staff regarding spending and investment plans. We budget every item with a purpose to enhance our children’s educational prospects and explain it in public as well as in our financial forecasts.

Our budgeting is deliberate and thoughtful. With each dollar saved, we cheered—knowing we could now reinvest it in other opportunities within our Springboro schools. We are not spending less when it comes to your children’s education; we are spending more on our core mission with a focused approach that centers on advancing our children’s education.

But it cannot be all about money.  It should always be about ways to create more opportunity.  Opportunity for our new pre-school, for our elementary schools, for SI, for our junior high, for our high school, for our graduates, for our students – from struggling to average to gifted, for our teachers, and even for our standard of excellence.

In the direction of restoring confidence

In the direction of restoring confidence

con·fi·dence

noun: 1. full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing. . . .

Synonyms 
1. faith, reliance, dependence. See trust. . .

 Antonyms 
1. mistrust.

The opposite of confidence is mistrust. The central goal of the concerned citizens in Educate Springboro is to rebuild eroding trust in our community and schools. With each new money levy defeat in Springboro, frustrated levy proponents have searched for blame rather than answers.

As Educate Springboro sought to add its voice to our district’s board of education, we campaigned for confidence. More than that, we campaigned for the confidence for all stakeholders—the newly married couple in a starter home and farmer in Clearcreek Township; the parents who would to give everything for their child and the grandparents who watched their savings evaporate in the stock market; the employed and the unemployed; the alumni and the new resident; and so many others.

The idea of confidence is so simple, it was one of three promises Jim Rigano and I pledged during our campaign for school board in 2011:

Children First:  Budget for educational and support services for children first.  No holding parents hostage over things like busing and classroom fees.  Reduced pay to participate fees so more families can afford to pursue extra curricular activities.

                  PROMISE KEPT!

Rebuild Confidence:  Worked to make sure the strife and waste caused by 5 unnecessary levy attempts does not have to occur again by doing our committee and board work in a public and transparent fashion.  We turned the TV cameras back on so you can hold us accountable and see for yourself the workings of the board.

                  PROMISE KEPT!

Control Spending: While our opponents were focusing on the unnecessary pursuit of new taxes, we analyzed the budget presenting 12 concrete budget saving steps worth over $30mm.  The result: a $6mm surplus, lower P2P fees, restored services for children, and raises for all the staff.  All done without the necessity of new tax revenues or the contentious levy campaigns that accompany those requests.

                  PROMISE KEPT!

“When change is not happening at the top, a revolution begins at the bottom.” (Quote cite below).  Two years ago the community sent its recommendation to the board for its future and direction.  Two new board members were elected against a wall of opposition, both overt and covert, began the task of transforming a purported financially troubled district into one that is the envy of others.  With an administration that was transformed from moribund to an innovative and outstanding central office staff, we are employing efficiency plans. These plans are allowing us to reallocate resources and meet district needs, including an unprecedented investment in technology and curriculum to create a 21st century learning environment for students and teachers. We call these strategies and plans, levy alternatives!

Zero-based budgets and efficiency plans are not controversial – its just good business for the benefit of our children, their teachers, and the taxpayers who fund our program.  Updated technology and curriculum are not controversial – they are just good for our children’s future, their teachers, and the taxpayers who fund our program.  Buses that run and roofs that don’t leak are not controversial – they are just good common sense.  Putting children first is reasonable, rational, and the responsible thing to do.  It is quite simply the right thing to do.

So, where’s the controversy?

Do you ever hear anyone arguing against a balanced budget?  Anyone come out and say improving our technologic base is a bad idea?  Has someone really made a case against transparency in school governance?  Is it really a choice between paying our teachers more and our children’s transportation safety? 

The manufactured cries of anguish create false frenzy, carried over from earlier malicious political school board campaigns.  Already, we stand on the cusp of the next political campaign. Our voters will decide on a renewal levy that asks for LESS money.  They also will vote in November on three places on our board of education.

While our local newspapers write stories about school districts continually fighting for more new money, emotionally blackmailing & bullying parents by threatening to cut services, raise pay to participate fees, as well as a host of other onerous threats, we in Springboro enjoy FINANCIAL STABILITY in our budgets, LOWER FEES for families, LOWER TAXES for our taxpayers, and an education platform PRIMED TO EXCEL.  

There will be a call to change direction. Our recent blog posts have looked at direction we have proposed. Here is a quick reminder of the direction we have traveled together since January 1, 2012.

From In the direction of common sense:

“For too long, the district appeared to work very well, but it lacked clear direction. With no plan for textbooks, technology, capital improvements, buses and more, there was no larger financial plan charted for our schools.  By ordering and categorizing our priorities we were able to support our common mission all while not having to ask the taxpayers for more new money.  This common sense approach does not strip the district of our collective traditions or diversity.  It does not ignore its accomplishments and honors.  It simply gives us a unifying direction that extends beyond any individual, building, or year.”

From In the direction of fair:

“A year ago, our district faced a sort of ‘perfect storm’ with needs for everything from buses and books to technology and staffing coming to the surface at the same time. Through good management and some good fortune, our once rudderless ship emerged from that storm with clear leadership and direction. We recognize that there are still challenges, some seen and some no one as yet even recognizes, but we are continually moving in the direction of putting Children First.”

From In the direction of unity:

“Even after plans to invest millions in technology, curriculum, buildings and buses, and even after providing every employee with raises, we are financially prepared to give something back to the taxpayer – to give back to those who give to us, by reducing their tax burden. The renewal levy on the ballot in November will be set at a lower mileage rate to reduce taxes generated by that levy by nearly 15 percent.”  UNPRECEDENTED IN PUBLIC EDUCATION!

From In the direction of sustainability:

“While we are meeting and exceeding state mandates, there remains much room for academic improvement across the board. In as much, we are building a technology backbone, investing in computers, curriculum, buses and buildings – we are putting children first to move them further along the academic path than they were yesterday.  Most important, we are being honest about what is needed through 2017. This is reform at the local level, and this is working together toward sustainability.”

In a relatively short time frame much has been accomplished, yet there is much more that remains to be done.  For the first time in years, our district has direction.

With the help of our community we can make the Springboro School District the one district that is much imitated, yet never quite duplicated.

Thank you for joining Educate Springboro and sharing our message with your friends and family as we enter this exciting, uncharted time in the history of Springboro Community City Schools.

Portions of definition of confidence from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confidence

Quote: “When change is not happening….” attributed to New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera in World Magazine, August 10, 2013, p. 47 while addressing the upcoming city elections.

In the direction of unity….

In the direction of unity…..

With the first day of school upon us in late August, we enter into the comfortable routines of a new school year.  Each year begins with the hope and prayer of a fresh beginning on both sides of the fence, teachers praying for well-behaved students and children fervently praying for “nice” teachers.

The new year also brings with it new employment contracts with our support staff and our teachers. Combine that with the technology plan being assembled and implemented, new buses for our children’s safety, a sustainable facilities maintenance plan, a tax break for our taxpayers, and our district is in an entirely different situation from recent years when wave after wave of levy campaigns sought to raise taxes.

Circumstances may change; however, if we maintain our fiscal conservative spending patterns and husband our resources wisely, no new taxes are projected.

My place at the table is to represent the community—the taxpayer, the landowner, the voter. My fiduciary duty is also to this institution.  It is important to remember I represent the voice of those who pay for our local schools. Tonight, we step forward for our teachers and our community. In doing so, we are demonstrating that as our voices come together we can write a single, better, unified story. It is not a story of the past, always disregarding the needs of the district. It is not a story of teachers and staff holding out for more. It is not a story of higher taxes (in fact, just the opposite). This is a story where everyone wins.

Although we occasionally may disagree with the means to an end, the final goal is the same for all involved: a better education for our children.

Through Children First Budgeting, zero based budgets, sound leadership, plans that prioritize educational needs, infrastructure and our staff, it is possible and now proven that we can live within our means. These phrases imply debt or sacrifice, but that is not the case. Not only have we proven that we can live within our means, but now every stakeholder in this district—our students and families, our staff and teachers, and our taxpayers–will benefit from this board’s leadership.

First, our students benefit as we direct funds to textbooks, curriculum, new buses, technology, and we dedicate attention to supports for college and career—STEM, PSEO, AP courses and more.

I have stated in that past and it is worth repeating, that it is impossible to educate a child without skilled teachers and staff and without giving them the tools to be successful. With these new contract agreements, every teacher, every staff member, every employee, every custodian, and every bus driver of the Springboro Community City Schools will be paid more. They will be rewarded for their skills and commitment to our schools and our children.

In any negotiation, especially collective bargaining, each party must at least be willing to move forward knowing neither of us will get everything we want.  I am willing to make the commitment to pay our teachers as they requested and they are willing to take reformative steps in their salary schedule and health benefits that respect the values of our entire community.

This agreement with our teachers must be more than a promise that sits on the shelf. The agreement to establish a merit / performance pay committee and diligently work with the health care committee, will dictate actions that demonstrate accountability by both sides. We all must strive with our best intentions to make sustainability the priority—to work within our current revenue rather than insist we need more.

The community can see after just 18 months that Children First Budgeting works. It is transparent and inclusive, and it drives our attention and resources toward investments in facilities, technology and teachers. It is most evident in the new contracts.

But what will be most evident to the taxpayer is lower taxes. Even after plans to invest millions in technology, curriculum, buildings and buses, and even after providing every employee with raises, we are financially prepared to give something back to the taxpayer – to give back to our community by reducing their tax burden. The renewal levy on the ballot in November will be set at a lower mileage rate to reduce taxes generated by that levy by nearly 15 percent.

This reduction of almost 15 percent is equal to $1,353,800 per year ($6,769,000 over 5 years) that we are giving back to our community. That’s right, every homeowner in the Springboro Community City School District will receive a raise just like our staff!  Children First Budgeting makes sense and today everyone wins.

Steven Covey says that, “What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” So now we put the words—spun in social media, exclaimed in online petitions, threatening as well as entreating, angry as well as earnest—behind us. We’ve emerged stronger than before.

Congratulations to our board, to our central office staff, to our teachers and students, and to our community. All sides were heard – and the outcome is fair to all sides. All have gained ground. And that success can only continue if we act in good faith to work together to put Children First.

 

It’s Unanimous – School Board Adopts Children’s First Budget!

What is a child centric budget?  It’s a budget that provides all of the resources to educate children first, while investing in highly qualified staff at every level.  At every level, our administration and teachers strive for the highest standards of achievement and professionalism.  That is why a Children’s First Budget makes sense. 

It makes sense for teachers because we invest in the tools and equipment necessary to help them do what they do best – teach.  It makes sense for the taxpayer, because it allows a board of education to manage it’s taxpayer provided resources just like every person does in their homes.  But most of all, it makes sense for our students because it prioritizes what they most need, by targeting resources as necessary.  Why is this important?  It is important to assure public education in Springboro is supported and that it can achieve the highest grade possible.

Children First Triangle - Service mark copy

This triangle reflects the Children First Budget process which provides resources at every level.   At it’s foundation are this districts highly qualified teachers – they teach our children every day.  Moving up a level is where our operations, administration, drivers, custodial and other support services are funded.  And finally, we know our community will NOT accept a curriculum that meets state minimums.  This board is investing more in extras – curriculum, programs, training, and technology than ever in the history of public education in Springboro.  This allocates resources so that we teach your children in the broadest most advanced environment, while remaining fiscally responsible.  Why, because we have great parents (and taxpayers) in Springboro and we know you DEMAND IT!

Below, is the recommendation report presented to the Springboro Community City School Board of Education.  This recommendation report requested board approval of the May 2013 5-year forecast and it’s critical assumptions.  For the record, the board unanimously adopted the 5-year forecast and assumptions which was reviewed by the Committee and prepared by the Mrs. Tracy Jarvis, Springboro Treasurer.   The report reads as follows:

Budget & Finance Committee May 2013 5-year Forecast Recommendation & Comments
David Petroni, Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee.  Forecast and assumptions prepared by Tracy Jarvis, Springboro Community City School Treasurer
May 23, 2013

By unanimous vote, the Board of Education established and authorized the Budget and Finance Committee to review all matters of forecasting and finance.  A 5-year forecast and set of assumptions are required to be updated twice a year per the Ohio Department of Education.  It is within this authority and process that district finances are evaluated and vetted.  In Springboro, the May forecast is used by the administration and board as the next fiscal year’s operating budget, which begins July 1, 2013.  This committee of the board only makes recommendations.  The recommendations are then presented to the full board for their deliberation and approval.

Tonight, the committee is pleased to present a budget and 5-year forecast that offers respect to the taxpayer and employee, is transparent to everyone, and is, at its core, child centric.  This forecast is investing at unprecedented levels in curriculum and tools for educators, while remaining fiscally responsible.  The forecast also recognizes the uncertainty about ongoing negotiations with the Ohio Education Association, potential revenue increases provided in the Governors new budget, and the risks associated with asking the community to support a levy.  Changes to any of these three areas can impact the projected fund balance in either negative or positive ways.

With those aforementioned caveats in mind, this forecast and its accompanying assumptions establish policies of the board that in recent history have not been accomplished without attempting to raise taxes. Like in both forecasts adopted in 2012, this budget does not need new taxes.

The goals and investments of the budget are targeted & measured, and timed to fit within available resources.  This fiscal management philosophy is to assure everyone in Springboro clearly understands that the district is diligently working to live within the currently approved tax revenues.

Naturally, every school district in Ohio, claims that children are their first priority.  Today in Springboro, we not only claim it, we own the naming rights!  The adoption of this forecast is the evidence that public education is fully supported in Springboro by this Board of Education.  The proof is in the fact that we are investing heavily in our infrastructure, both physical and technical, in our curriculum, and the safety of our children and staff, while recognizing employee concerns that will remain open until completion of negotiations.

Since instituting child centric investment policies last year, the results are remarkably visible.  Putting our children’s education first is good policy, it is good for public education, it is good for professional educators, it is good for our students for it WILL continue to help attract the best and the brightest teachers.  As outlined and conditioned in the assumptions, this district has never been on firmer financial ground.

There are a few noteworthy changes since our October 2012 forecast in board policy, revenues, and expenditures as follows:
1.  The Rocky Express Revenue collected will increase $2.4 million thru 2017.  This is not a tax increase on our community, it is an intangible tax on the public utility.
2.  Like in 2010/ 2011, the board again offered an early retirement incentive plan for all employees which is projected to reduce expenses by $1.266 million in salary and benefits. 34 employees took this early retirement incentive, which will pay them each up to $40,000 over a fixed term.
3.  The board approved Mr. Petrey’s plan to start preschool next school year that will increase Personal Services (Salaries) and benefits and reduce Purchased services (previous preschool contract).  The plan projects to capture a slight expense reduction thru 2017.   There may be additional money for preschool and gifted services in the Governors budget.  Since the State budget process will not be completed until June 30, nothing has been projected.
4.  Mr. Petrey presented an efficiency plan to the board that is projected to be net – neutral in cost.  This plan re-allocates resources based on student achievement data.  The administration demonstrated to the board it is possible to manage existing resources by shifting them to address defined gaps.  This is projected to be at no additional cost while improving the quality public education and the high standards expected of Springboro Schools.
5.  The combining of our elementary school buildings this year accounts for an approximate $150,000 in savings thru 2017.  Due to the efficiencies of operating Dennis and Five Points as one separate but unified building, it allowed the administration to balance class sizes and maintain current staffing levels for the next school year.
6.  To the best of my knowledge, for the first time in Springboro’s history, a comprehensive capital improvement plan identified $5.8 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance.  Based on projected tax revenue last year, this plan was recommended to only be funded at approximately 50%.  This year, based on updated revenue projections, the committee is adopting the administration’s recommendation to increase this spending by approximately $1.3 million to a total cost of $3.7 which will be spread throughout this forecast.  The residual balance of $2.1 million has been identified as an unmet need and shall remain a goal of the district if we are to adequately maintain our facilities.  Immediate and full funding of this plan would reduce the projected fund balance (Line 12.010)
7.  Project 21, the district technology investment plan, is a $1.3 million initiative and a model for others to follow.  The technology plan created by our tech department outlines a long-term investment program that provides tools for our teachers and creates a 21st century learning environment for our children in every classroom.  This plan purchases over 1,100 computers, and assures every building in our district has wifi capability to support the expansion of the bring your own technology (BYOT) program.  The investment is also designed to meet the on line testing required by the State’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.
8.  Over $2 million will be invested in a transportation plan to assure our parents their children will be safe traveling to and from our schools and while in our care traveling to extra curricular events throughout the year.  The plan proposes to replace 21 buses thru 2017.  11 buses were purchased today through the utilization of tax exempt bonds, which also allowed Moody’s to re-evaluate our bond ratings.  Moody’s findings are included at the end of the assumptions in total.
9.  In August of 2010, that board authorized investing $2.470 million in new textbooks and new textbook adoptions.  To date $600,000 has been spent.  The forecast includes the remaining $1.8 million.  An additional $600,000 has been identified as an unmet need based on the curriculum department’s recommendation.
10.  There have been reports out of Columbus stating Springboro may receive 6%, or approximately $1.8 million more in foundation money under the budget bill.  Until the budget process concludes, no increase in revenue has been projected.  Counting your chickens before the eggs hatch is never sound thinking.

Let me pause here for just a moment to celebrate all of this success.

It would be an understatement to say that these are exciting times for our children, teachers, and our entire community.

Fiscally speaking, the district budget has been built to meet the needs of our students, supporting our teachers, while showing deference and respect to the taxpayers who have continued their support of public education in Springboro.  How we treat our children today will determine how our district is treated by this community.

Open items that require more diligence, discussion, and study are pay to participate, our relationship with all our support organizations that surround extra curricular programs, student enrollment trends, housing growth trends, employee contract negotiations, and specific plan development for several noted unmet needs.

The unmet needs list if fully funded would reduce our current projected surplus fund balance.  These are wants that are not currently prioritized into the annual spending plan until such time revenue projections support the additional investments because quite frankly, rational and responsible choices must be made in determining the allocation of scarce resources.  We are not the federal government, who can print money whenever the need arises, we are constrained by the revenue the taxpayers of the school district provide us.

A critical component of this forecast is the inclusion of $9.2 million from the expiration of an emergency levy established 5 years ago. Since May of 2012, the revenue from this levy has been included in the assumptions and fund balance.  We pray the taxpayers accept our recommendation and the research performed that went into its making.

Based on this forecast and specifics defined by each assumption, the committee is recommending placing a levy on the November 2013 ballot with the  amount not to exceed the $9.2 million the district will lose when the previous emergency levy expires.

The first deadline for making the November ballot is August 2, 2013.  It is our hope that the caveats and uncertainties in our budget forecast will be clarified by that time.

In summary, the budget presented reflects an increase in our district fund balance from $5.8 million to $7.2.  I wish to thank the administration and all of our staff for their hard work and accomplishments of the past year.

The $7.2 million net fund balance, includes the passage of the $9.2 million levy and excludes the $1 mm board emergency reserve (forecast line 12.010).  Based on advise from our legal counsel, the assumptions around compensation and benefits remain consistent with no change to specific employee concerns until mutual agreement is reached through the negotiation process.   This process should be permitted to reach it terminus before any actions are taken.

This 5-year forecast has been developed in the sunshine in open meetings duly attended by the public; the budget expenditures have been aligned with our revenues; it is transparent to the EVERYONE, and it shows respect to the taxpayers of this district who have supported Springboro Schools for decades.

If the children are our community’s first priority, then the philosophy of Children First Budgeting makes sense.  It creates plans and prioritizes spending so that the things most important to education and student achievement are funded first.  It does not allow one budget item to absorb so much that other critical items are left wanting.

The one unifying principal we all profess is that ” it’s about the children”.  If that is indeed true, then let us set aside partisan difference, and rally for the education of our children, because the children must be our first priority!

In closing, it is the committee’s recommendation that the board accept the financial forecast and assumptions as presented for submission to the Ohio Department of Education.

Children First Budgeting Works!!

On May 23, 2013, the Board of Education Unanimously adopted the recommendations of the Budget & Finance Committee. A budget that invests in our children’s education. To the best of my knowledge, never in the history of Springboro Community City Schools has so much been done without the need to raise taxes.

I encourage you to pass this message along to all of your friends and family. Please share this blog site with everyone, no matter what side of an issue they stand. It is time to rally for our children of this school district, it is time to rally behind our graduates that leave our care on June 1, and it is time to rally behind all of the success this year, such as maintaining an Excellent with Distinction !!!! Much work has been done, and each time, our team achieve their mission – they deliver!

Here is the entire message presented to the Board and our entire community. Please ask the Springboro School Treasurer, Tracy Jarvis (tjarvis@springboro.org) for a copy of the 5-year forecast and assumptions and thank you for taking the time and consideration.

Budget & Finance Committee May 2013 5-year Forecast Recommendation & Comments

David Petroni, Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee.

May 23, 2013

By unanimous vote, the Board of Education established and authorized the Budget and Finance Committee to review all matters of forecasting and finance. A 5-year forecast and set of assumptions are required to be updated twice a year per the Ohio Department of Education. It is within this authority and process that district finances are evaluated and vetted. In Springboro, the May forecast is used by the administration and board as the next fiscal year’s operating budget, which begins July 1, 2013. This committee of the board only makes recommendations. The recommendations are then presented to the full board for their deliberation and approval.

Tonight, the committee is pleased to present a budget and 5-year forecast that offers respect to the taxpayer and employee, is transparent to everyone, and is, at its core, child centric. This forecast is investing at unprecedented levels in curriculum and tools for educators, while remaining fiscally responsible. The forecast also recognizes the uncertainty about ongoing negotiations with the Ohio Education Association, potential revenue increases provided in the Governors new budget, and the risks associated with asking the community to support a levy. Changes to any of these three areas can impact the projected fund balance in either negative or positive ways.

With those aforementioned caveats in mind, this forecast and its accompanying assumptions establish policies of the board that in recent history have not been accomplished without attempting to raise taxes. Like in both forecasts adopted in 2012, this budget does not need new taxes.

The goals and investments of the budget are targeted & measured, and timed to fit within available resources. This fiscal management philosophy is to assure everyone in Springboro clearly understands that the district is diligently working to live within the currently approved tax revenues.

Naturally, every school district in Ohio claims that children are their first priority. Today in Springboro, we not only claim it, we own the naming rights! The adoption of this forecast is the evidence that public education is fully supported in Springboro by this Board of Education. The proof is in the fact that we are investing heavily in our infrastructure, both physical and technical, in our curriculum, and the safety of our children and staff, while recognizing employee concerns that will remain open until completion of negotiations.

Since instituting child centric investment policies last year, the results are remarkably visible. Putting our children’s education first is good policy, it is good for public education, it is good for professional educators, it is good for our students for it WILL continue to help attract the best and the brightest teachers. As outlined and conditioned in the assumptions, this district has never been on firmer financial ground.

There are a few noteworthy changes since our October 2012 forecast in board policy, revenues, and expenditures as follows:

1. The Rocky Express Revenue collected will increase $2.4 million thru 2017. This is not a tax increase on our community, it is an intangible tax on the public utility.

2. Like in 2010/ 2011, the board again offered an early retirement incentive plan for all employees which is projected to reduce expenses by $1.266 million in salary and benefits. 34 employees took this early retirement incentive, which will pay them each up to $40,000 over a fixed term.

3. The board approved Mr. Petrey’s plan to start preschool next school year that will increase Personal Services (Salaries) and benefits and reduce Purchased services (previous preschool contract). The plan projects to capture a slight expense reduction thru 2017. There may be additional money for preschool and gifted services in the Governors budget. Since the State budget process will not be completed until June 30, nothing has been projected.

4. Mr. Petrey presented an efficiency plan to the board that is projected to be net – neutral in cost. This plan re-allocates resources based on student achievement data. The administration demonstrated to the board it is possible to manage existing resources by shifting them to address defined gaps. This is projected to be at no additional cost while improving the quality public education and the high standards expected of Springboro Schools.

5. The combining of our elementary school buildings this year accounts for an approximate $150,000 in savings thru 2017. Due to the efficiencies of operating Dennis and Five Points as one separate but unified building, it allowed the administration to balance class sizes and maintain current staffing levels for the next school year.

6. To the best of my knowledge, for the first time in Springboro’s history, a comprehensive capital improvement plan identified $5.8 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance. This plan is recommended to be funded at approximately 50%. Based on projected tax revenue last year, This year, based on updated revenue projections, the committee is adopting the administration’s recommendation to increase this spending by approximately $1.3 million to a total cost of $3.7 which will be spread throughout this forecast. The residual balance of $2.1 million has been identified as an unmet need and shall remain a goal of the district if we are to adequately maintain our facilities. Immediate and full funding of this plan would reduce the projected fund balance (Line 12.010)

7. Project 21, the district technology investment plan, is a $1.3 million initiative and a model for others to follow. The technology plan created by our tech department outlines a long-term investment program that provides tools for our teachers and creates a 21st century learning environment for our children in every classroom. This plan purchases over 1,100 computers, and assures every building in our district has Wi-Fi capability to support the expansion of bring your own technology (BYOT) program. The investment is also designed to meet the on line testing required by the State’s adoption of the Common Core Standards.

8. Over $2 million will be invested in a transportation plan to assure our parents their children will be safe traveling to and from our schools and while in our care traveling to extra curricular events throughout the year. The plan proposes to replace 21 buses thru 2017. 11 buses were purchased today through the utilization of tax-exempt bonds, which also allowed Moody’s to re-evaluate our bond ratings. Moody’s findings are included at the end of the assumptions in total.

9. In August of 2010, that board authorized investing $2.470 million in new textbooks and new textbook adoptions. To date $600,000 has been spent. The forecast includes the remaining $1.8 million. An additional $600,000 has been identified as an unmet need based on the curriculum department’s recommendation.

10. There have been reports out of Columbus stating Springboro may receive 6%, or approximately $1.8 million more in foundation money under the budget bill. Until the budget process concludes, no increase in revenue has been projected. Counting your chickens before the eggs hatch is never sound thinking.

Let me pause here for just a moment to celebrate all of this success.

It would be an understatement to say that these are exciting times for our children, teachers, and our entire community.

Fiscally speaking, the district budget has been built to meet the needs of our students, supporting our teachers, while showing deference and respect to the taxpayers who have continued their support of public education in Springboro. How we treat our children today will determine how this community treats our district.

Open items that require more diligence, discussion, and study are pay to participate, our relationship with all our support organizations that surround extra curricular programs, student enrollment trends, housing growth trends, employee contract negotiations, and specific plan development for several noted unmet needs.

The unmet needs list if fully funded would reduce our current projected surplus fund balance. These are wants that are not currently prioritized into the annual spending plan until such time revenue projections support the additional investments because quite frankly, rational and responsible choices must be made in determining the allocation of scarce resources. We are not the federal government, who can print money whenever the need arise, we are constrained by the revenue the taxpayers of the school district provide us.

A critical component of this forecast is the inclusion of $9.2 million from the expiration of an emergency levy established 5 years ago. Since May of 2012, the revenue from this levy has been included in the assumptions and fund balance. We pray the taxpayers accept our recommendation and the research performed that went into its making.

Based on this forecast and specifics defined by each assumption, the committee is recommending placing a levy on the November 2013 ballot with the amount not to exceed the $9.2 million the district will lose when the previous emergency levy expires.

The first deadline for making the November ballot is August 2, 2013. It is our hope that the caveats and uncertainties in our budget forecast will be clarified by that time.

In summary, the budget presented reflects an increase in our district fund balance from $5.8 million to $7.2. I wish to thank the administration and all of our staff for their hard work and accomplishments of the past year.

The $7.2 million net fund balance includes the passage of the $9.2 million levy and excludes the $1 mm board emergency reserve (forecast line 12.010). Based on advise from our legal counsel, the assumptions around compensation and benefits remain consistent with no change to specific employee concerns until mutual agreement is reached through the negotiation process. This process should be permitted to reach it terminus before any actions are taken.

This 5-year forecast has been developed in the sunshine in open meetings duly attended by the public; the budget expenditures have been aligned with our revenues; it is transparent to the EVERYONE, and it shows respect to the taxpayers of this district who have supported Springboro Schools for decades.

If the children are our community’s first priority, then the philosophy of Children First Budgeting makes sense. It creates plans and prioritizes spending so that the things most important to education and student achievement are funded first. It does not allow one budget item to absorb so much that other critical items are left wanting.

The one unifying principal we all profess is that ” it’s about the children”. If that is indeed true, then let us set aside partisan difference, and rally for the education of our children, because the children must be our first priority!

In closing, it is the committee’s recommendation that the board accept the financial forecast and assumptions as presented for submission to the Ohio Department of Education.

It’s about the children, right?

On Sunday, a community member contacted me to let me know about a campaign in its infancy.  It was loosely titled, the “Red Ribbon Campaign” because red is being used to show support for Springboro Community City School teachers.  At first, I was uncertain on how to respond.  My wife Kim and I support our teachers.  She is a teacher, her mother was a teacher, and her father taught for years at a well know university and war college, which makes my family no stranger to the education profession.

When the purpose of the red ribbon was explained to me, my initial reaction was one of confusion.  Why do we need to rally behind the district’s teachers?  Yes, contract negotiations have started but we have not attacked anyone or showed disrespect for their work and profession.  On the surface, one may misconstrue this Campaign and action to be yet another attempt to create a divisive environment in our community, clearly under false pretense.  Perhaps just a knee jerk reaction because this school board and administration have made astonishing progress in defining and meeting the needs of our students with a focus to make our instructors as effective as possible.

Reflecting back to January 2012, it has been a busy, fulfilling, frustrating, and exciting year.  The accomplishments will not be forgotten!  Vince Lombardi said,”Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing – the result”.

With the drive of our current administrative team and teachers, the district has we made many collaborative decisions to increase professional development Ÿtraining for teachers; Ÿenhance our technology platform; invested in Ÿnew books; added Ÿnew AP classes; hired more  teachers; provided Ÿnew tools for teachers; invested in Ÿnew laptops for teachers; combined ŸDennis and Five Point Elementary; invested in Ÿsafer & newer buses for students; Ÿincreased investment in capital expenditures to reduce deferred maintenance; established community committee to Ÿevaluate our safety plans; Ÿbranded The Springboro Panther; Ÿcreated a more transparent budget and finance process; Ÿestablished effective board policy management; Ÿadvocated for stronger HR practices; invested in teacher training on data use; Ÿawarded an ‘A’ on the new state report card; advocated for transparency from all district support organizations; recovery of $439,000 from the athletic booster Ÿtreasurer; and the list goes on and on.   This does not even begin to touch on all the new Common Core and evaluative tools being worked on daily by the entire district.

It is not one person who can be lauded for these achievements; it took a unified vision, a determination and support of the board and central office leadership, and our teachers to execute the plan. We have a strong administrative team and faculty dedicated to student achievement, and as one board board member, I applaud the effort.

Mr. Petrey is using student test data to drive academic decisions, financial data to drive efficiency, his own and the expertise of outside consultants when needed, to meet the needs of all students.  He recently developed a “turn around cost plan” which used student test data to re-align and re-allocate resources.  This is a huge step in applying data to align money and human resources responsibly.

Our Central office and high school leaders have also committed to reevaluate our high school Course of Studies.  Drawing on our Superintendent’s experience at Lakota, the District is working to incorporate STEAM(M) into curriculum.  The board has been given a commitment from the administration to align our high school program of studies with the 21st century.  Without a supportive board and determined central office team, none of this would be possible.  I personally continue beating their drum for the good work they are doing and if you see Mr. Petrey, Mrs. Strittenberger, Mrs. Vincent, Mr. Madden, or Ms. Teresa Rohrer – tell them thanks for a great job!

Since Mr. Petrey’s arrival last August, he has gained a great deal of respect from the entire community.  Respect he has earned.  Both he and the District’s administrative team have been working hard to strengthen this district’s educational and operational foundation.

In 2013, the board voted to adopt a long-term technology plan.  The plan provides for new laptops for each teacher bundled with professional development to insure our teachers succeed.  It also brings Wi-Fi into every building and replaces over 1,100 computers.  The board’s decisions and vision in these areas are critical building blocks to transition our schools and teachers into a 21st century classroom environment.  This is cool stuff and is good for educators and education in Springboro.

2013 for me is focused on curriculum and student achievement.  To understand student achievement, one must understand how schools are ranked, what is the basis for those rankings, and finally, what does our raw data look like.  It is more difficult to argue where our resources need to be allocated when the data points you in a particular direction, so long as the data is not taken out of context.  That is why the raw data became so intriguing when making investment decisions for the classroom.

I am committed to make sure we remain fiscally responsible and do whatever it takes to protect our city, district community, and taxpayers who elected me to this humbling position – because that is good for educators and education in Springboro.

The district still has challenges as outlined in our May and October 2012 forecast assumptions.  Please seek them out at www.springboro.org.  There are critical assumptions that must be met, but until they are negotiated, it is impossible to prioritize needs.   As a school community, I believe we will work together and succeed, for failure is not an option.

As we attempt to negotiate from a reasonable, rationale, and responsible offer, my prayers are that the Ohio Education Association (OEA), the National Education Association (NEA), and ANY other EA (education association), respectfully,  check their agenda’s at the door and do what is right for our teachers.

The Red Ribbon displayed on our mailbox is displayed there as a sign of hope.  Hope that this community and OUR teachers – come together to conclude negotiations because we all want to do the right thing for our children.

Accelerating Student Achievement Through Innovation & Policy

The educational needs of our children must be a board of education’s first priority. The purpose of public education is to create educated citizens capable of thinking critically and standing on their own for the sake of all our futures.

Twice a year, every school district in Ohio prepares a Five-Year Financial Forecast. The forecast tell the district whether a financial surplus or deficit exists, as well as serve as a guide for decisions, such as new tax levies and strategic investments. These financial forecasts are built through a set of assumptions, so the assumptions are critical and must be thoroughly reviewed.

To assure teachers have what they need to be successful, we asked principals to prepare budgets for their buildings –another innovation and a first in Springboro. As a result, the principals purchased more smart boards, laptop carts, IPads, and supplies. Everything requested was approved because it was said adding these tools were needed to accelerate student achievement.

As a board this past year, our policies have focused on many innovative areas to advance student achievement. We put technology in the classroom and recently bought every teacher a new laptop computer. We invested in new curriculum for our elementary students and added AP classes at the high school. We are building computer network infrastructure that will enable teaching with technology, and we approved new investments in our bus fleet and facilities. Through policy, our administrators are preparing our teachers for the changes ahead. Most importantly, we’ve developed a unanimously approved budget that prioritizes the learning requirements of our children.

In the past, some of these investments above have been neglected. Most district computers are over 6-8 years old. The average age of our bus fleet is such that buses are often permanently removed from service. It has also been several years since the district adopted new textbooks, and even longer since our high school program of studies courses and descriptions have been evaluated or overhauled to keep pace with the 21 century needs of our youth.

Through a very diligent and innovative budgeting effort, a solid financial forecast was recommended to the board by the Budget and Finance Committee last October, then certified by Tracy Jarvis, our Treasurer. Simply stated, when we understand our budget, we can be confident in what investments and improvements we can afford.

You might ask how can a school district do all of this if we haven’t had the money to do it in the past. Let’s start by saying that we didn’t do all of it alone. Parents, PTOs, and private donors have played a role. However, this is also possible because we have a better understanding of our budget forecast.

Since last August, our new administration is working hard to catch our faculty up so they are prepared for the implementation of the Common Core. Our teachers have been provided ongoing professional development to accelerate their knowledge of all of these new standards.

Our new Superintendent, Todd Petrey, has brought a renewed focus on academics as well as innovative approaches to education. The new central office team is staffed with four former principals, and our building principals are now the “educational leader” of their building. Dennis and 5-points elementary schools were reorganized into single schools to improve academics and efficiency.

Improvement plans have been developed by every principal to raise the bar for teachers and students with emphasis on data. Now more than ever, principals and teachers are using test data to identify students who need additional help, and to accelerate learning for all students. This is on the heels of new principal and teacher evaluations of which a component will be based on student achievement.

With all that has just been said ——- it has been a very busy, rewarding year, and there has been a lot of change. At times, this change has not come easy. For me to do less would be self-serving. To do less, would hurt our children’s future.

Challenges lie ahead. One of our biggest for 2013 is successful negotiation with our unions. In addition, our forecast assumptions reflect the need to pass a renewal levy that expires December 31, 2013. These two challenges are a cause of stress among the board, administration, and district staff.

A few weeks ago the Board sent a letter to our teachers union asking to open negotiations. While there’s no obligation to begin negotiations early, the board initiated this request because we understand the stress it can cause. In doing so, we can explain our financial situation to taxpayers with firm knowledge and confidence. I feel it is a board member’s fiduciary responsibility to understand all costs before going to the taxpayers for any levy.

I know there are people questioning the School Board. My colleagues and I are working for the benefit of children. While there’s always going to be somebody questioning our actions, I want you to know our motives are to provide every opportunity possible for Springboro’s children. We are putting these words into action through our deeds and this past year’s accomplishments.