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Board has concerns about budget plan

2/16/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Scott Kriska

At the Highland Local Schools Board of Education meeting Feb. 8, board members voiced their opinions on a proposal regarding the makeup of school boards in Gov. John Kasich’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

Board President Dr. Norman Christopher explained he and other members of the board reviewed recent news from the Ohio Department of Education regarding proposed changes to district budgets. He explained a proposal in the state budget recommends districts add three nonvoting, nonelected business members to each board of education.

Christopher said all school board members are held accountable because they are all elected and he opposes the idea of appointing nonelected members.

Vice President Robert Kelly said he sees this as “more PR [public relations] for the governor than anything else” and said he believes charter schools must be held to the same standards as public schools.

“Highland has already lost a couple of million dollars to charter schools,” Kelly pointed out.

Superintendent Catherine Aukerman also weighed in on the matter, and said Highland is following a curriculum based on Ohio’s standards and questioned why Kasich would want to disrupt that.

“I think the board represents this community very well and we could not have better business people on the board,” she said.

In other business, Aukerman reported several sessions will be held throughout February so community members can provide feedback regarding the district’s aging facilities. She said current options are to maintain the elementary schools’ current facilities, to replace each elementary school building with new ones, to replace three schools with two schools or to consolidate all elementary schools into one larger building.

Aukerman said the sessions, facilitated by an impartial, third-party moderator, will take place Feb. 21 at Sharon Elementary School, Feb. 22 at Hinckley Elementary School, Feb. 23 at Granger Elementary School and Feb. 28 at Highland Middle School. She said two sessions will be held each day — one at 4 p.m. and another one at 7 p.m. Aukerman encouraged community members interested in attending any of these sessions to contact Burgess and Burgess at 216-261-3737. The groups are limited to 15 participants, according to the district’s website.

Board member Diane Thomas added if all of the meetings get filled up, more will be added.

Treasurer Neil Barnes discussed provisions of a proposed community reinvestment area (CRA) agreement with Akron Medina Corporate Park II, which applied for a tax abatement for a new building being constructed on Medina Road in Granger.

Barnes said a 50 percent property tax abatement for 15 years was requested and said the school district would benefit from this new addition, as Akron Medina Corporate Park II has entered into a $5,000 per year compensation agreement for 15 years, for a total of $75,000 for the district.

After discussion, the board approved the agreement.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the following:

  • amendments to appropriations for the 2017 fiscal year;
  • authorizing the treasurer to choose an architect to develop specifications to resurface the Highland Middle School track and to advertise and accept bids;
  • an out-of-state student trip for the Highland High School Robotics Team March 15-18;
  • various donations to Sharon Elementary, Granger Elementary, Highland High and Highland Middle schools;
  • the use of school facilities for various functions and waiving of associated fees;
  • contracts and agreements with the Medina County Educational Service Center and College Credit Plus; and
  • various personnel items.

The next board meeting is scheduled for March 20 at 7 p.m. at the Media Center in Highland High School, 4150 Ridge Road.

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