On April 15, the Auditor of State released London City Schools from “fiscal watch.”
“I think this is an exciting day for London City Schools,” said district Treasurer Britt Lewis at the April 21 school board meeting.
When school districts struggle with cash flow, the state puts them on fiscal watch or, if their financial outlook is especially bleak, fiscal emergency.
London was placed on fiscal watch in 2004. Since then, the state has monitored the district’s cash flow on a monthly basis. The discontinuance of that oversight is due primarily to the voters’ passage of an income tax levy in February 2005 and to an audited five-year forecast that is solid.
“One of the things you have to do to get off fiscal watch is prove in your forecast that you have three to five years of positive cash flow,” explained Lewis, who said the state approved the district’s forecast with minor changes related to the business model for the district’s alternative school, London Academy.
Lewis was quick to note that the positive change in fiscal status does not mean the district is flush with cash.
“We still have to be very fiscally conservative,” he said.
Superintendent Steve Allen reported that the London Education Association (teachers’ union) and the school board have reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract.
The new contract includes adjustments to the salary index and raises each year for the next three years. Contract language issues also were addressed.
Allen said the details of the contract will not be discussed publicly until the LEA votes on the draft and the board votes on the resulting proposal. The proposed con-tract will be effective for the 2008-09 school year through the 2010-11 school year.
Allen said the bargaining process has been one of the smoothest he has experienced in his career.
Contract negotiations with the district’s non-teaching employees will begin on May 13. Allen and school board member Eric Schooley will meet with the district’s maintenance and transportation supervisors.
High School Course Offerings
The high school staff has rewritten some of its curriculum and renamed some courses to aid students in the competitive college and workplace environment.
According to guidance counselor Kay Scofield, colleges have become more selective, looking for students with certain types of courses and course loads on transcripts. Also, jobs that once required no education beyond high school, now do.
The words used to label and describe a course are important, said counselor Maureen Henry. When reviewing applications, college administrators want to know exactly what a student has studied in high school. To that end, the high school staff has changed the names of its math and science courses. Instead of Math 1, it’s Algebra I; Science 2 is now Biology 2; etc.
Beyond changes in wording, the high school also added to its offerings. Next year, students who need remediation in math can sign up for an algebra or geometry lab. The labs are taught by different teachers using non-traditional methods that apply math to everyday life.
The math labs will prepare students for the Ohio Graduation Test and provide them with additional course credit.
“This is just the beginning,” said Principal Tim Keib about changes that will help students now and after graduation.
London Chosen as Model
The Ohio Department of Education is implementing its first round of Personnel Development Grants, starting with 16 districts including London. The program helps districts to implement systems for continuous improvement at all grade levels.
Allen informed the school board that London will serve as the model district for the program’s first round. The district recently completed its own academic strategic plan, putting it ahead of other districts in the first round.