Cuyahoga Falls -- In the first of a series of meetings, leaders of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District asked members of the community for input on "Building Our Future Together."
Melvin Brown, the school district's deputy superintendent, kicked things off in the high school auditorium Aug. 24 by explaining the meeting was not a levy committee meeting, nor was it a formation of the Building Our Future Together team. The group will eventually have a name, he added.
"Ultimately, we want as much community input as possible," Brown said, "so that we, not me or anybody else on the administrative team, but we as a community can look at what we want for our kids for our future."
Brown said the aim of the group is "to build, to collaborate, to create whatever it is we want for our community / it's important that we put some of the things that have happened in the past, some words that have been uttered in the past, behind us and start to build something from today forward, and do it together."
Everyone at the meeting -- the attendance of which was between 106 and 115 -- was handed a blank card and a Black Tiger Pride pen so they could write down questions and comments and then hand them back in. Brown said every card would be read and the concerns would be addressed at a future meeting and/or on social media.
Following introductions of those members of the Board of Education who were in the audience, Brown provided an overview of the district's strategic plan. He said the plan has specific focus areas: college and career readiness, culture of excellence, community engagement and facilities and resource leveraging.
"What I try to do every day is walk that talk," Brown said, "to do whatever we can to do those things in our community for our kids, and we're hoping that we can all collaborate and do those things."
Brown said in addition to deciding if a bond is needed to build new buildings, the group must realize the importance of a renewal levy that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
"That is completely separate from anything associated with a bond or new buildings," he said, adding revenue generated from that levy would "not be new money."
District Treasurer David Hoskin explained how the state funds new construction projects. He said the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission started by ranking 600 school districts in Ohio "and the poorest ones got the most money." Last year, when the district unsuccessfully tried to pass a bond levy, the state was offering to pay for 27 percent of the project, Hoskin said. The district has not lost its chance to use that funding. In fact, Hoskin said, this year the state's share has increased.
Cuyahoga Falls is now in the bottom third of the list, Hoskin said, and eligible for 30 percent funding from the state.
"The district I came from was property wealthy / and we would've gotten 5 percent. [Cuyahoga Falls City Schools] would never build a building where the state said we would get 5 percent and then control [how it's built]."
He said a building would cost the district more than 5 percent of the total project just following OFCC rules.
Hoskin compared the state discounts to coupons received in the mail from a department store.
"You know," he said, "you get 15 percent and you say, 'Ehh, 15 percent?' You get 20 percent, you're like, 'Hmm, 20 percent, maybe.' / But 30 percent is a deal."
During a short question-and-answer session, questions were raised about the state report card, property values and state testing.
Brown said the school was graded on a different scale last year from the year before and got a lower grade.
Hoskin said better schools, more so than new schools, increase property values.
A teacher in the audience said up-to-date technology is needed to hold students' attention and get through an online test without the computer crashing.
Brown said this meeting was only the beginning and the group that is forming is in its infancy. He said the group will meet the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, and the next meeting is Sept. 14.