Conrath, Duffey expect state to rescue Kindergarten-plus program
ShareThisWednesday, January 26, 2011 10:46 AM

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School superintendent Melissa Conrath believes that the new Ohio legislature will save Worthington's all-day kindergarten program.

She believes it so strongly that on Monday night she convinced the Worthington Board of Education to table a resolution to seek a waiver that would give the district options if the lawmakers do not come through with House Bill 30.

Applying for the waiver would take up valuable staff time and, if the bill is not passed, the waiver can be brought back before the board later, she said.

HB 30 would repeal many of the educational reforms approved under former Gov. Ted Strickland. Among those is a requirement that all districts offer all-day kindergarten free of charge.

That would mean that Worthington's eight-year old K-plus program would no longer be legal because the district charges parents a fee. About 80 percent of the district's kindergartners attend the all-day program. The rest are in the traditional half-day program, which charges no fee.

Unless HB 30 is approved, the changes will go into effect next school year.

For now, the district is carrying on as if the bill will become law. Kindergarten parents are being told to expect to pay for the all-day program next year.

"We are optimistic the legislation will pass," Conrath told the board. "The sooner we know the better."

Kindergarten registration begins in early March.

State Rep. Mike Duffey said the bill should be passed and on Gov. John Kasich's desk for signing by mid-March.

If it does not pass, the board is expected to bring the waiver resolution off the table and send it on to the Ohio Department of Education for approval.

The waiver would allow districts to forego offering all-day programs to all children for no fee. Worthington could opt to offer the program to a few students, or to none. It just could not charge a fee, even with the waiver.

To offer the program to all students without fees would cost approximately $1-million a year.

All districts are also gearing up for cuts in state support of education that will show up in the biennial budget expected to be unveiled in March.

Duffey said he did not know how much of a loss Worthington should expect.

"I would say budget conservatively," he told the board.

Also on Monday, the school board approved the resignation of Jeanne Paliotto, who has been an administrator with the Worthington Schools for the past 19 years.

Her most recent assignment was director of human resources. She has also been principal of McCord Middle School and director of secondary education.

She will become executive director of the Office of School Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education.

The board also voted to sanction bowling clubs at both Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high schools. [See related story on Page B1.]

The move was necessary to allow the clubs to participate in Ohio High School Athletic Association events.

The clubs are organized by volunteers and there is no cost to the district.