Conrath: Schools must 'refocus' to meet future challenges

Wednesday, February 9, 2011  11:39 AM

 

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Worthington City Schools' Superintendent Melissa Conrath speaks during the Chamber of Commerce's annual Groundhog Day Forecast Breakfast at Brookside Country Club on Feb. 2.
By Lorrie Cecil/ThisWeek
Worthington City Schools' Superintendent Melissa Conrath speaks during the Chamber of Commerce's annual Groundhog Day Forecast Breakfast at Brookside Country Club on Feb. 2.
The Worthington City Schools has a history of excellence and a future of challenges.

That was the message Superintendent of Schools Melissa Conrath presented to the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce at its Groundhog Day Breakfast on Feb. 2.

"We have to refocus what we are doing," she told the audience at Brookside Country Club.

Over the past year, the district continued to attain recognition for its performance. It was again rated "excellent" on state report cards, and graduates went on to study at nationally ranked colleges.

Last year's graduates earned $12-million in scholarships.

And 75 percent of high school students participate in extracurricular activities, she said.

In December, Phoenix Middle School teacher Tim Dove was named Ohio Teacher of the Year and Evening Street Elementary School teacher Kellie Ehlers was one of four finalists chosen from 1,000 nominees.

"A key to our success is our highly trained and experienced teaching staff," Conrath said.

But even high achieving school districts must adopt new programs to remain competitive in the 21st century, she said.

Among Worthington's new programs are International Baccalaureate programs being launched at Slate Hill Elementary School and Worthington Kilbourne High School; a leadership development program at Worthington Estates Elementary; the highly regarded Phoenix Middle School program; and specialized learning academies at Thomas Worthington High School.

"We also have to refocus how we manage tax dollars," Conrath said.

A 15 percent to 20 percent reduction in state reimbursement is expected next year, and the phase-out of the state tangible tax will cost the district $15-million a year when it is fully enacted.

"We can cut expenses or increase taxes," she said. "We are looking at making reductions where we can."

A state audit pointed to $2.6-million in possible reductions. The district requested the audit, and has made $1.5-million in reductions so far, Conrath said.

But even the full amount suggested by the audit is only one percent of the district's budget.

"It's not fun work, but we regard it as the work we need to do," she said.