Two weeks after a victory at the polls, Columbus City School district Supterintendent Gene Harris assured voters the district will continue fiscal responsibility.
Voters passed Issue 75, a combined 7.85 mill permanent operating levy and $164 million bond, on Nov. 4 by 62 percent.
At a board meeting held Nov. 18, Harris outlined the district’s promise to voters as passed in a resolution in August, and thanked voters for their support.
"These are very difficult times, and you said yes to us," Harris said. "Not really to us, but to the students, staff and to progress. You believe we will continue to provide high-quality teaching and leading."
The district, according to Harris, has a large population of special needs students and students who speak English as a second language. More than 70 percent of the district’s student population is considered to be economically disadvantaged.
"It is our pledge to move each student forward as rapidly as possible toward that 95 percent graduation rate," Harris said.
With the passage of Issue 75, Harris said, the board has pledged to make the levy money last until at least 2012. However, even with the passage of the issue, the district will face $76 million in cuts between 2008 and 2012, including closing six buildings due to a decrease in enrollment.
The district is looking forward to reinstating an extra period in the school day for all grades beginning fall 2009, opening four college-prep or theme schools and reducing class sizes in grades K through third by at least 3 students.
The issue has also allowed the district to begin planning on updating more than 8,000 outdated computers, adopting new textbooks, replacing old buses and the construction of new buildings through the Ohio School Facilities Commission. With the bond money, the district is expected to begin the third segment, which would include the construction or renovation of 10 buildings. The district will also renovate science labs and equipment, in order to meet Ohio Core requirements.
"Many of those things will begin to happen next fall," Harris said. "All of the levy promises are on the time line and we will make sure we are following them and report back to you."
To continue gaining the voters’ confidence, the district will continue to build private sector partnerships and increase reporting to the community. As December approaches, the district plans to have community meetings in order to address the plans of the district.
According to Harris, the district will have a time line for the implementation of the bond and levy money by the holidays.
In other business, Board President Terry Boyd announced the search for a new board member will soon begin. Board member W. Carlton Weddington recently won a seat as state representative for District 27, and will resign from his position before the end of the year. The announcement for those interested in becoming a board member will take place soon, Boyd said.