Crowd rallies for school programs
It was standing room only at the Jan. 27 Reynoldsburg school board meeting in which the crowd turned out to voice their support of school programs.
In the wake of budget issues, parents and students voiced their support of maintaining art, music and physical education in the lower grades as well as keeping German as a foreign language option.
Superintendent Steve Dackin addressed worse-case scenarios and the challenges in the planning process to balance the budget.
Over the past three years more than $6 million in cuts have been made. After the November levy failed, an additional $387,000 was cut immediately with additional cuts of $9.7 million set for the 2009-2010 school year.
Now, with the current economic downturn affecting state and federal budgets, the district is bracing for a possible 25 percent decrease, approximately $6.75 million, in current state funding.
Dackin delivered the news that without a successful levy in May, it is possible the district will have to reduce education and support services to state minimums, something that as far as he is aware, no other district in the state has done.
Currently, the board is facing a Feb. 19 deadline to establish details of the May levy - specifically, how much to ask for without knowing how all of the outside forces will come together.
Rhonda Eberst, Reynoldsburg Support Staff Association President, asked "how are we going to fix this?"
Eberst committed the support of her organization to support the upcoming levy, to do what has to be done to "fix this and do what's right for the kids."
Reynoldsburg resident and parent Bonnie Titus voiced her support to spare specials, especially music programs from proposed budget cuts.
"We are entrusting you, our school board, to propose a plan to use our school tax dollars to provide a well rounded education for our children," she said.
Taylor Road art teacher Karen Parcell-Kill outlined how art, music and physical education specials enhance academics and are imperative to providing a well-rounded education to a well-educated student.
Parcell-Kill offered study results showing that "children involved in art and music develop their self-esteem, critical thinking and problem solving skills."
"Students participating in the arts are four times more likely to win an award for attendance, three times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, and students involved in the arts have increased SAT scores," she said.
Nichole Nightengale, Hubert Mills music teacher, added that the cuts that are being considered "will so drastically impact these programs for our children that it would look nothing like you anticipate."
High school student Erika Davis impressed the room as she presented her case for keeping German language classes an option for district students. Davis ' statement included recognition that Spanish has a higher enrollment but that can be traced to the fact that only Spanish is offered at the junior high level and most students who participated in Spanish at the lower level feel locked into that language choice in high school.
To address the budget concerns of continuing to offer German, Davis pointed out that it is possible to reduce the Spanish faculty by one if all high school Spanish classes maximized their potential for full enrollment. There would then be enough capacity to service all enrolled students and still be able to maintain German without additional cost to the budget.
Davis' argued that the German language is important for students planning to go onto college and university work.
A number of residents also stood up to support the board, saying they recognize the work of the board and emphasized the need for communication.
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