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District balances per-pupil spending, populations
The state of the schools in Reynoldsburg is a balancing act for administrators with the second lowest per-pupil spending in central Ohio at $9,313 and one of the most populace metropolitan areas in Franklin County.
Superintendent Steve Dackin delivered his annual message on Feb. 2, citing completion of a decade-long Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) construction/renovation program as one of the highlights of the year. He addressed his remarks to the local chamber, outlining changes in education and funding.
“When it comes to K-12 education, the rules have changed,” Dackin said. “We need to look through a different lens.”
The superintendent said the world is now in a knowledge-based economy and school districts can no longer afford to write-off drop-outs. He emphasized the need for an educated workforce.
“They need to know how to take information and make a critical analysis,” he said. “We have a good message. We have a good story. But good is not good enough.”
For the first time, the district hit 26 out of 26 indicators on the state report card - earning an Excellent designation - and registered 100.3 on the performance index, which reflects student achievement and includes all tested subjects, grades and untested students.
More students are scoring at the advanced level and the eSTEM Academy ranked in the top 22 statewide.
“Look at how much we’re spending per pupil,” Dackin said. “We’re second from the bottom in Franklin County, but not one above us hit all 26 indicators. We do a great job with the money we have.”
As the $167 million OSFC endeavor comes to an end, the superintendent said every child in the district will enter a new or renovated building. Not splitting the district into two different high schools allowed Reynoldsburg to save on building separate athletic facilities, and a favorable building climate helped contribute to a $10 million savings.
The savings enabled the district to give taxpayers a break by taking a 35-year-old permanent improvement levy off the books when it expired at the end of 2011. By not renewing the two-mill levy, the owner of $100,000 in property valuation saw a $39 reduction in his annual tax bill.
“Not a lot of districts can say they’ve reduced taxes,” Dackin said.
The majority of the district’s funding is derived from state foundation money, followed by real estate taxes, income tax and property taxes. However, with the economic downturn, Reynoldsburg City Schools anticipates losing $1 million in tax appraisals.
“We have to change our business model,” Dackin said. “External forces are compelling change and parents want a choice.”
Dackin foresees a future marked by a greater emergence of online and blended learning and greater emphasis placed on college and career pathways. He said minimum standards are not good enough and need to be raised.
“We have to tap into, what are their inspirational goals? What are their passions? You’ll hear a lot more from us about applying what they learn,” Dackin said. “It will be a major focus.”
The superintendent said every child should leave school with a job-ready certificate, a two-year degree, or significant progress toward a four-year degree. With the steep rise in the price of post-secondary education, Dackin says school officials need to help figure out how to bring down the cost and reduce the growing need for remedial courses in college.
In addition, Dackin also stressed the importance of developing partnerships, which, he says, provide a role for businesses and the community in the economic vitality of the school district.
“We forged a partnership with BalletMet and bartered space for labor,” Dackin said. “It’s a good bargain. Mt. Carmel is opening a primary care office and we’re establishing a partnership with Columbus State for a satellite campus on our Livingston Avenue campus. We can’t do this alone anymore.”
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