by Phil Keren | Editor
Silver Lake — Woodridge Local School District Walter Davis said the state of the district is “strong” in his annual address to the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce at Silver Lake Country Club Nov. 28.
Following three previous unsuccessful attempts, Davis noted the district on Nov. 6 passed Issue 71 — a five-year, 6.83-mll emergency operating by 963 votes.
“With each campaign, our levy committee refocused our message, providing the voters with information about the impact of proposed cuts, sharing information about property values, and explaining how their investment contributes to the long standing traditions of excellence that our district has become known for,” said Davis.
One of the district’s next challenges is re-negotiating the two employee union contracts which are expiring next summer. Negotiations for both the Woodridge Education Association and The Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 544 will take place during the winter, said Davis.
“The Board team has already begun work to formalize proposals for successor contracts,” the superintendent said. “These new contracts must address several key issues to ensure that we can be financially stable in the long term.”
Belt-tightening and cost-saving measures have continued, according to Davis.
Davis said the district has cut expenses by “implementing permanent personnel reductions of 44 full- and part-time positions. Administrative salaries have been frozen for each of the past four years and spending has been cut overall by $2.1 million over the past two years.”
For the 11th straight year, the district earned a clean audit and a recently completed bond refunding project saved taxpayers approximately $1 million.
Davis also recapped a successful year for the Bulldog sports program: the boys’ cross country team won its sixth state championship in the last seven years; the girls’ cross country team was a runner-up at the regional meet and placed ninth at the state meet; the football team had a 7-3 record and went to the playoffs; the boys’ soccer team finished with a 14-2 record and won the Portage Trail Conference title; the boys’ golf team won the Portage Trail Conference championship for the third straight year; the girls’ basketball team also won the Portage Trail Conference title; and the softball team won the Portage Trail Conference championship and lost in the regional semifinal to the defending state champion.
Davis noted the Ohio General Assembly is looking to implement new accountability measures for public schools.
“ … We … welcome some of the changes that are on the drawing board,” said Davis. “We welcome those that will help kids as we — the adults in the schools — figure out how best to meet their needs in response to the demands placed upon us.”
Davis discussed a recent newspaper article which noted “the real challenge” is to make the assessment of schools “meaningful.” He noted the writer of the story said schools deal with students “of widely varying circumstances.”
In acknowledging the challenges of teaching students who are faced with difficult situations, Davis suggested a different approach to assessing school performance.
“What if our accountability system focused solely on the impact of the school in helping kids do progressively better from year to year?” asked Davis. “ … Shouldn’t our real focus be on measuring the schools’ impact in taking students from where they are to some new higher level of achievement?”
In addition, he said he felt people should oppose school assessment changes that “only work to pit public schools against private schools – public schools against community or charter schools.”
Davis noted he felt that “only when all schools are held to the same measures of accountability … only then will the new school report cards be meaningful tools designed to address a noble purpose.”
On the latest state report card, the district was designated “Excellent with Distinction.”
“The supporting data reflects that our students made more than one year’s expected growth and that every subgroup of students achieved the goals set for them — with no achievement gaps,” stated Davis. “The district met 25 of 26 indicators — missing the last one by only 0.2 percent.”
The district opened a Biomedical Engineering and Technology Academy at Woodridge High School as part of a collaboration with the Six District Educational Compact. The Woodridge Foundation, and The University of Akron College of Engineering.
Work will be done during the holiday break to convert a high school classroom into a “state-of-the art laboratory funded entirely through a donation from the Woodridge Foundation,” said Davis
Davis urged encouraged Chamber members to become involved with a grass roots effort called Strong Schools, Strong Communities by visiting the website at www.strongschoolsohio.com, or the Facebook page or by visiting the “Community for Woodridge” Facebook page.
A total of 95 attended the luncheon at Silver Lake Country Club.