Board declines to take stand on S.B. 5
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 10:56 AM
By CANDY BROOKS

ThisWeek Community Newspapers
The Worthington Board of Education officially steered clear of the fiery waters of Senate Bill 5 (S.B.5) on Monday.

Though board member Charlie Wilson chimed in with Abramo Ottolenghi's strong words on the damage that will be done if the bill is passed, the board did not entertain Ottolenghi's request for a resolution.

He wanted the board to officially oppose the proposed state legislation that would curtail the collective bargaining rights of Ohio public employees, including teachers.

A former board member who frequently shares his opinions with the board, Ottolenghi predicted that an end to collective bargaining would be detrimental to freedom and would increase work for school administrators.

"I think you will rue the day when you lose the ability to deal with the staff collectively," he said.

Wilson said he has testified against S.B. 5, an issue he believes is critical to the district, the state, and the future of democracy.

Teachers are discouraged and demoralized by the rhetoric emerging from the discussions surrounding the bill, he said.

"We've had excellent labor relations in Worthington," Wilson said.

Board president Marc Schare said the collaborative environment in the district will continue regardless of the outcome of the vote on the bill.

Board member David Bressman did not state his opinion on the bill, but made clear that no one has the right to speak on behalf of the board on the matter.

"If anyone testifies on this board, they speak as individual board members," Bressman said.

Also on Monday, the board heard a complaint about the increase in cost of K-plus, the all-day kindergarten program.

The district expects the state to pass a bill that will allow the continuation of the popular program next year. It also expects to continue to charge parents, with the cost increasing from $220 to $290 per month.

Amy Krohn of Cross Country Drive will have a kindergartner at Bluffsview Elementary School next year.

In speaking with other parents, she has learned of a concern about the cost increase. Some parents in her neighborhood may not be able to afford the new price, she told the board.

"Show me the math," she requested of the board.

Board treasurer Jeff McCuen said he would make the exact calculations available to her and anyone else who contacted him.

When the board approved the program several years ago, it was with the understanding that it would be cost neutral. Even with tuition at $290, that goal will not be met, said Superintendent Melissa Conrath.

Families that qualify for free or reduced lunch prices also receive breaks in the cost of K-plus, she said. That keeps the program from breaking even, she said.

When the state passed legislation to require all districts to offer free all-day kindergarten, it also made districts like Worthington not increase its cost to parents between the time the bill passed and went into effect.

Worthington had planned to increase tuition to $240 last year, but was forced to leave it at $220. It probably would have increased to $260 this year, but had to remain at $220, said McCuen.

A bill allowing Worthington to continue charging for its program has passed the House of Representatives and is expected to go to the Senate this week. Rep. Mike Duffey told the board he expects the bill to be signed by the governor by the end of March.