Updated: November 30, 2017
During the past two weeks, the topic of district reconfiguration has generated discussion and questions within our school community. In an effort to keep the lines of communication on this important topic open, below is an update on our progress with this critical work. In this communication I will address some frequently-asked questions that have arisen regarding this process.
Q1. Is the district looking at reconfiguration because Issue 26 failed earlier this month?
A1. NO. The Enrollment/Reconfiguration Task Force was formed in September 2017 to begin exploring options for possible restructuring of the school district that would lead to improved operational efficiency and even stronger educational outcomes for students. This task force began meeting before the result of Issue 26 was known.
During the 2014-15 school year the district undertook an extensive process to develop the current Strategic Plan - Vision 2020. The plan was approved by our Board of Education in November 2015. The plan, available on our web site, contains five vision statements and implementation strategies to achieve our shared vision for the Chardon Schools. The document continues to guide our work today with many strategies being accomplished since approval of the plan.
During the development of the Strategic Plan, the Curriculum and Instruction and Resources working groups both reviewed enrollment trend information (See below) for the school district and recognized that the steady decline in enrollment combined with a projected continuation of that trend meant that we needed to consider steps to operate as cost-effectively as possible. As a result, the strategic plan included the following:
Resources. Chardon Local Schools will maximize capacity, effectiveness and efficiency of all of our current and future resources.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY 4
Study, staffing, enrollment, building capacities and grade level structure for recommendations to improve programmatic effectiveness, operational efficiency, and fiscal stability.
In addition, the Curriculum and Instruction work group recognized that as enrollment declines it becomes more difficult for fewer teachers in a particular grade level to work together to plan instruction. We also see more variability in class size from school to school with some having larger classes while others are smaller due to uneven enrollment patterns. Finding ways to bring more teachers of the same grade together by consolidating buildings provides instructional benefit for students and also offers a better opportunity to balance class size for all students.
Q2. Is this really going to happen, or is this simply a threat to gain approval of a future levy attempt?
A2. The simple answer is that our Board of Education and school district would never resort to threats of action to gain approval of an operating levy.
The longer answer is that the Enrollment/Reconfiguration Task Force must complete its important work before any determination is made by our Board of Education to move forward with a restructuring plan. The Task Force is comprised of at least one parent and two teacher representatives from each building, and district and building administrators. While the significant planning work is being completed by district personnel with particular expertise in various areas of our program (transportation, special education, curriculum, etc.), the parent representatives serve as a valuable sounding board, offering important questions and feedback to inform the process.
Among the tasks that must be completed are the following:
Determination of building capacities to meet the space needs of our current/projected enrollment.
Consideration of curricular options that may become available as a result of restructuring.
Evaluation of school starting times.
Revision of transportation systems to safely and efficiently move students to their destination.
Evaluation of staffing needs under a reconfiguration plan.
Evaluation of overall cost savings as a result of reconfiguration.
Logistics of implementing the reconfiguration option.
These are just a few of the many complex tasks that will need to be completed if the district implements a reconfiguration plan.
it is important to understand that with the failure of Issue 26, the district will not see additional revenue during 2018 to offset the continued loss of revenue due to cuts by the Ohio Legislature. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to explore opportunities for cost-effective operation of our schools.
Q3. If the Board of Education places another operating levy on the ballot in May, and the issue passes, will that end discussion of reconfiguration?
A3. No. Our long-term enrollment projections indicate that we need to take action to continue operating our schools as cost-effectively as possible while achieving the high quality education our residents have come to expect from Chardon Schools.
We know that all public school districts continue to be on a fixed income and many (like Chardon) are seeing significant cuts from the Ohio Legislature. Districts continue to return to their communities on a regular basis for additional property taxes as operational costs increase. If reconfiguration results in greater operational efficiency, the school district will be returning to the voters less frequently. This is a win-win for the community.
Q4. When can we expect the Task Force to have a recommendation and what will be the next steps when it is ready?
A4. The target to have a recommendation from the Task Force is February of 2018. Assuming that is accomplished, it is possible that the Board of Education would consider the reconfiguration plan during a public meeting in February. If the Board approves the reconfiguration plan, we would then begin the roll-out process to our entire school community.
This being said, a strong line of communication is always our priority. Any statements of “fact” in the community that a particular school is closing, or that certain actions are being taken is simply not accurate at this time. We are continuing to explore the feasibility of reconfiguration and carefully evaluating the cost/benefit of implementing a plan that is right for our district.
Between now and February, I am committed to continuing to sharing information as it becomes available to assist our stakeholders in understanding where we are in the process. We are always available by phone or email to respond to questions as we move through the process. The best and most accurate source of information is to contact the school district directly and we will be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you for your continued support of Chardon Schools and Go Toppers!
Michael P. Hanlon, Jr., Ph.D.