Saturday, February 21, 2004

State rating an issue in levy ballot

Winton Woods asking for money for operations and for strategic plan

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FOREST PARK - Some residents of the Winton Woods City School District are scrutinizing the district's "academic watch" rating as they consider their vote on a combination operating and improvement levy March 2.

About 50 people attended an "Ask the Superintendent" meeting this week at Winton Woods Middle School, where they learned more about the 7.95-mill operating levy and the 1-mill permanent levy.

If approved, the two would raise about $4.4 million annually and cost $274 on a $100,000 house.

Residents pondered giving more money to the district of 4,160 students, in light of student test scores and its 78 percent graduation rate. Superintendent Camille Nasbe said she understood their concerns.

"I'm appalled by our district rating, because it doesn't reflect the talent of our students, and it doesn't reflect the talent of our teachers," she said.

The district is addressing academics, she said. Every teacher has materials to allow them to teach to state standards. Students are frequently assessed on subject matter. Those who need more help get individual attention. A new alternative program helps at-risk students graduate.

There's more to a district than state report card ratings, Nasbe said, including the district's excellent music program.

The levy is needed, she said, to continue current operations. Inadequate state funding, no inflationary growth in voted taxes and $1.1 million in state funding cuts over three years have forced the district onto the ballot, she said.

The levy would also pay for the district's strategic plan, which would be implemented this fall if the levy passes. The plan, which had input from 685 residents, includes 24 items designed to improve the schools.

To balance the budget, the board will cut $1.6 million for next year, including cuts in printing, telephone and postage costs, scheduling of classes and staffing ratios. Some positions vacated by retirement will go unfilled.

If the levy fails, the district will have to cut another $2.1 million, but it has not outlined specific reductions.


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