Worthington City School District Superintendent Melissa
Conrath wants to "connect with the community" in 2011 as the
school district faces financial challenges caused by the
uncertainty of state funding.
"The biggest and overarching challenge this year will be the
same as many school districts: focusing on delivering a
quality education in light of addressing our budget
challenges," Conrath said.
Conrath said Gov. John Kasich has indicated there could be a
15 percent to 20 percent reduction in state funding for
schools in the state's new budget.
"We'll also be losing our reimbursement for the business
tangible tax as it is phased out, so we have to plan for
that loss," she said.
Treasurer Jeff McCuen estimated the school district could
lose up to $15 million a year when the reimbursement
"The target date for the phase-out of the reimbursement is
2014, but there has been discussion that it may be phased
out earlier than that date," Conrath said.
The district's financial picture lightened somewhat with the
middle school restructuring last year, which saved nearly
$1.2 million, she said.
That savings could keep the district off the ballot until
2012, McCuen said last month.
Perry Middle School was consolidated into McCord Middle
School as part of the restructuring, leaving only Phoenix
Middle School in the Perry building.
"We are looking at all aspects of our budget and trying to
find ways we can reduce expenses," Conrath said. "We'll look
at how we can best use the Perry building to see if there is
a way to use that facility to capture any inefficiencies and
discover a greater economy of scale."
She said the state also will adopt new state standards this
year, along with new academic assessments.
"We have to look at our curriculum and adopt the new
standards and assessments while continuing to look at
renewal efforts in our elementary buildings as well as the
high schools and middle schools," Conrath said.
She said Worthington Kilbourne High School will begin to
offer an International Baccalaureate program this year, and
Thomas Worthington High School is exploring an expansion of
its learning academies.
One of Conrath's major objectives for this year is "to help
develop a shared understanding of the district challenges
and initiatives as well as get feedback from the community
as to what they see as important for the school district."
Conrath said she hopes to get that feedback through a series
of "community conversations."
"We want to be invited into homes and schedule meetings at
community centers and libraries where we can sit down with
groups and talk about what we have on our plate for this
year and beyond," she said. "We want to hear community
opinion and reactions to school issues."
Conrath said she wants to share issues that are important to
the school district.
"We'll talk about everything from the new standards to where
we are on the bond issues to our efforts to reduce our
expenditures," she said. "We'll talk more about the results
of the performance audit and share where we are on those
suggestions and give people the chance to ask questions."
The district has four community conversations scheduled so
far: at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Old Worthington Library, 820
High St.; at 2 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Old Worthington Library;
at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Northwest Public Library, 2280 Hard
Road; and at 7 p.m. March 1 at Lazelle Woods Community
Center, 8140 Sancus Blvd.
"All in all, it is an exciting time to be in education right
now, but it will take tremendous effort and skill to
maintain the quality education we have now while addressing
the budget challenges we and many school districts face this
year," Conrath said.