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Your Community Press newspaper serving Colerain Township, Green Township, Groesbeck, Monfort Heights, Pleasant Run, Seven Hills, White Oak




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Dual-purpose levy being sought by Wyoming school district Kelly McBride


Superintendent Mary Ronan takes questions about Cincinnati Public Schools’ expansion plans.

BROKEN FORMULA: Schools make changes. Public reacts. No one is happy.

Hannah Sparling


The way Rick Blessing sees it, parents like him are important when they’re writing tuition checks. They’re important on Sundays when the offering plates pass by or when it’s time for a school fundraiser. “We are not important,” he said, “when it comes to having our questions answered or making decisions or having those decisions communicated to us. And that is frustrating.” Blessing is mad about a recently announced merger between Mother of Mercy and McAuley high schools on Cincinnati’s West Side, but his complaints about timing and communication echo those of other parents at other schools, mad about other decisions. Communication among schools and those they serve is a big deal in Cincinnati. Or, some would say, a big mess. You might remember when Cincinnati Public Schools kicked out top leaders at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Or when CPS switched to an online lottery for seats at magnet schools, axing the traditional campout system. Or when La Salle High School pushed out then-Principal Tom Luebbe. That all happened in the course of 13 months. Over and over, it’s the same story: School leaders announce a change, and there’s an outcry from parents and community members, asking why they weren’t told earlier or asked to give input. They hold protests and press con-

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Community members rallied during a raucous school board meeting in May 2015 after the top leaders were ousted at the School for Creative and Performing Arts.

ferences. They show up en mass at school board meetings. Officials acknowledge they could probably do better, but communication is a huge job. And at least some of the onus must be on the other side. “It’s not always possible to engage people every time, exactly when they want to be engaged,” said CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan. Sometimes, she said, “decisions are made, and the engagement comes later. That’s not necessarily ideal, but that is in fact what has ended up happening.” Legally, there are different requirements for public schools and private, but communication goes deeper than what a school by law must reveal. A school is the epicenter of its neighborhood. All sides agree that if a school is thriving, the neighborhood thrives with it. Houses are worth more. Businesses are attracted to the area, bringing jobs with them. If a school is struggling, the neighborhood struggles, too. Decisions that impact schools impact

everyone. So, the question is, who should get a say in those decisions? After the Mercy-McAuley announcement, tensions ran so high that some tossed out the idea of a ransom of sorts: Demand answers, and withhold church offerings in an escrow account until they get them. Blessing thinks that’s a bit farfetched. But the fact it was even mentioned, he said, is an indicator of how strongly people feel. He has a freshman at Mother of Mercy, and he wants details. He wants to know to what, exactly, he is committing his time, energy, money and daughter. “Take away the rah-rah-rah, and tell me what you’re going to do,” he said. “Give us the information that helps us make a decision.”

'We stubbed our toes' Here’s how it should work, said Jeffrey Stec, who runs Citizens for Civic Renewal, an East Price Hill-based nonSee SCHOOLS, Page 2A

It’s been a dozen years since they asked, but on May 2, Wyoming City Schools will call on residents to support a continuous levy that will raise $2.4 million a year. The 9.5-mill levy is dual purpose, with 8 mills for operations and 1.5 mills for permanent improvements. Operational costs will address salaries, wages, benefits, retirement, programming, utilities and building maintenance. Permanent improvements include long-term maintenance and refurbishment of buildings, equipment and technological infrastructure, such as HVAC units at Wyoming High School, and pavement and roof repairs. “This portion of the levy can only be used for property, assets or improvements with an estimated life of usefulness of five years or more,” according to Suzy Henke, director of communications for Wyoming City Schools. “The proposed levy is intended to pay for continued operations of the district,” Henke said. “As for staff pay, the current contract between the Wyoming Education Association and the Board of Education will expire in June 2017.” Contract negotiations are anticipated this spring. The owner of a $300,000 home in Wyoming would pay an extra $998 a year, in addition to an existing $3,914 a year, and a 1.25 percent income tax for schools. School Board President Todd Levy said the 12 years that have passed since the district asked residents for more money are significant. “We are proud that we’ve stayed off the ballot for an operating levy for 12 years when the state of Ohio school district average is every three-to-four years,” Levy said. “The operating portion of the levy is forecast to last four years but is dependent upon maintaining state funding at current levels and our constant vigil of conservative spending. “This operating levy will allow us to maintain the programs that our community values. The Board of Education, administrators and staff continually look for ways to save money to offset rising costs of educating Wyoming students.” The extra funding will cover items such as textbooks, technology, staff salaries and professional development. “Without a successful yes vote for the operating and permanent improvement levy, we would be forced to reduce programs,” Levy said, “and how we deliver the Wyoming education that our community cherishes.”

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