CCS accelerates academics

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The Columbus City Schools Board of Education has made a promise it doesn’t intend to break.

At a regular meeting Aug. 19, board of education members passed a resolution pledging to use monies raised through a $164-million bond issue and 7.85-mill permanent operating levy to "accelerate academic achievement."

The pledge follows a similar commitment the district passed in 2004, according to board member Gary Baker II.

That promise vowed to make the last operating levy last until 2008, operate within 3 percent of an annual expenditure ceiling, expand the audit and accountability committee and issue a quarterly fiscal report card. The district meet all four expectations.

"The resolution identifies our expectations and show how we intend to be good stewards of public money," said board President Dr. Terry Boyd.

If voters pass the two issues – which were combined into one issue early August, to be placed on November’s ballot – the district has identified nine elements which would benefit, including opening four new college preparatory schools, the purchase of new computers, textbooks and buses. Additionally, the commitment would include adding security staff and monitoring equipment, entering into partnerships with the business community, and the continuation of key partnerships with the audit and accountability committee and the Neighborhood School Development Partnership.

The board has also vowed to increase reporting to the community and has again vowed to make the bond and operating levy money last until at least 2012, in part by making $76 million in cuts over 2008-2012, including closing six buildings. The district will also look at ways to maximize efficiency in the transportation and food services departments.

Before passing the resolution, board member W. Carlton Weddington expressed his opinion.

"I think this is a good start and hopefully, it will lead to the support of all entities interested in seeing us move toward putting this on the ballot," he said.

Weddington pointed out the difference between this commitment and the last one.

The 2004 commitment entailed an expenditure cap, giving little wiggle room for administration.

"This is an opportunity for the district as they see fit," he said. "And for the administration to have some flexibility. When we look at the whole resolution, it speaks to all of the things the district wants to do as an attempt to gain the support of voters in November. As a resolution, they can see all things we want to do."

Baker also believes the pledge is "critically important," in passing the upcoming issues on November’s ballot.

"It’s important because everyone wants to make sure the board and staff are accountable," Baker said. "In order to be held accountable for that, we have to make sure there is appropriate oversight."

Seniors to Sophomores

In other business, board members met 10 Columbus City School district students who will participate in the dual enrollment program Seniors to Sophomores.

Announced by Gov. Ted Strickland in his 2008 State of the State address as a way to increase the number of college graduates in Ohio, the Seniors to Sophomores program will enable qualified high school seniors to get a head-start on college.

According to the governor’s Web site, students who meet academic standards can take college level classes that will transfer to public colleges and universities in the University System of Ohio. Those students who choose to take a full load of college courses in their last year of high school can then enter college as a sophomore the next year. Tuition for the year is free through grants, and a total of $4 million has been set aside for the

program.

According to Columbus City School district’s Superintendent Dr. Gene Harris, 21 students represent the district in the program’s first year by attending one of six colleges and universities in Central Ohio. Ten high schools in Columbus City School district are represented. Out of 600 districts in Ohio, Harris said, Columbus City School district is one of six that has been identified as "early adapters" of the program. The program now has 45 districts in the program.

The application process was difficult, Harris said. More than 100 students applied and 60 advanced through the first screening. The next screening was more difficult and judged based on recommendations, grade point average, essays and more. The average GPA a student in the program holds is a 3.6 GPA.

As Harris read off the stats for the district’s representation, she paused.

"I feel like a really proud mother up here," she said.

Harris recognized instrumental players in the program as well as the parents in the audience, commending them on their support of their children.

"And you did excel, you did listen to what your parents had to say and now, you have this unique opportunity," Harris said, turning to the students.

Boyd also commended the students.

"This is a huge step for Columbus City Schools and you are pioneers, stepping out there for future students to travel," he said. "We stand behind you but we know you have to do all of the work. But we’re confident that you can get the job done."

Board members also appointed interim Treasurer Michael McCammon, who is one of three assistant treasurers, effective Aug. 20, as the temporary replacement of Michael Kinneer, who resigned, effective Aug. 19. Kinneer will become the financial director for the city of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. While in the position, McCammon will receive a prorated annual salary of $120,000 plus benefits.

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