School notebook
Efficiency, excellence: top priorities for school district
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 10:57 AM

Melissa Conrath is superintendent of the Worthington school district. She can be reached at
How does a community measure success for its school district? Academic achievement and high quality educational opportunities for students remain at the top of this list. Thanks to the support of parents and residents and the hard work of our staff, we are successful. But there are other ways to measure success beyond the work in the classroom. In Worthington, we are committed to operating in the most efficient and effective manner possible without sacrificing educational quality. Strong fiscal management plays a vital role in the success of our schools and community.

In the over 5 years that I have served as superintendent, the district has worked to make reductions and tighten its belt so that we can be as efficient as possible. The district has eliminated more than 40 certified and 25 classified positions since the '05-'06 school year. Teachers agreed to a 0% base pay increase for the 2011-12 school year.

We are constantly looking at ways to maximize staffing levels and have made reductions in overtime and substitutes to reduce our budget where it makes sense. The recent middle school restructuring has saved over $1-million this school year.

In 2006, the district changed to a high-deductible health plan and we have been able to keep health care costs in check. In fact, as other school districts faced significant increases in health care costs, this year will be the first time that Worthington will spend more on health care premiums since 2005.

We are also leaders and innovators in realizing the need to pursue proactive cost-saving measures. Worthington was among the first of Ohio school districts to be approved for self-insurance for workers' compensation. In the first year of this change, the district realized more than $800,000 in savings. The district also aggressively participates in purchasing cooperatives for utilities and consumable supplies to maximize savings.

Our work doesn't stop there. We are also studying and analyzing operations to save money in areas such as transportation, staffing, and health insurance. Worthington schools sought out third-party input into our operations and finances with a Performance Audit. This is a rigorous process that few school districts are willing to go through. This is part of the district's ongoing commitment to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Academic achievement and strong fiscal management remain as keys to success in our schools and community. In the past several years, we have made significant changes and reductions to our budget that are in step with the tough economic realities of today. We will never lose sight of the need to be responsible and efficient with taxpayer dollars while maintaining the best educational opportunities for our students.