Lakewood honored for efficiency
GRANVILLE- Whenever school districts run into financial challenges, it seems like the faculty and classrooms are at the highest risk for cuts, said Michael Harlow, public policy consultant with Ohio Education Matters. Harlow met with Lakewood, Granville, and Licking Valley superintendents Tuesday after noon at the Granville School District Administration Building to recognize them for their districts’ non-instructional efficiencies.
“We’re not impacting the classrooms here,” said Harlow. “We want efficiency to be something looked at on the state level.” He said school districts should consider other means of cutting costs then cutting staff and programs, and the state should look at how much districts spend for services when determining funding.
Harlow said Lakewood is a leader among rural, moderateincome districts in providing food service. Lakewood’s cost is $1.92 per meal, making it the most efficient of its peer districts. This compares with similar districts that spent as much as $5.88 per meal. Licking Valley was recognized for its $2.41 meals.
“Obviously, we’re very ecstatic about this,” said Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault. He said that six years ago, Lakewood’s food service was operating in the red. “We made some changes.” Gault gave much of the credit to Lakewood Food Service Supervisor Mary Jennie, who was also present to accept the honor. Gault said Jennie is a certified nutritionist, meaning that Lakewood’s meals don’t sacrifice nutrition for cost effectiveness. Gault said one of the food service’s issues when he began as superintendent was overstaffing. Streamlining personnel saved a lot of money.
Granville was recognized for being the most efficient among its peer districts in two categories. It spends $1,684 per student in maintenance costs, compared to $4,472 per student in similar districts, and Granville spends $330.98 per student in providing school-level administration, compared to similar districts that spend up to $979.50 per student.
Harlow said that the Strickland Administration was aware that Ohio schools were going to experience huge cuts in state funding and asked Ohio Education Matters – a statewide policy research organization – to focus on operational expenses to offset cuts to districts’ staff and curricula as much as possible.
“These districts have shown they can deliver quality services at lower cost than most other districts in the state,” said Andrew Benson, Ohio Education Matters executive director, in a press release. “The taxpayers and residents of these communities should be proud that their district takes seriously the best use of resources to benefit children.”
An Ohio Education Matters study identified 135 Ohio school districts that seem to get more for their money in central office administration, school level administration, food service, student transportation, and building maintenance and operations than other similar districts.
“School districts that are not as efficient as these best in class districts should look to them to learn how they are doing more with less,” said Benson. “By spending less in these non-instructional areas and still meeting minimal quality standards, these districts are ensuring that more dollars are getting into their classrooms to help support students.
“We think it’s reasonable to assume that if this best in class district can achieve these kinds of efficiencies, so can other districts that are similar,” said Benson. Ohio Education Matters researchers are spending time with the best in class Ohio districts to learn how they achieved their efficiencies and what other districts may do to emulate those best practices.
“The state should be highlighting these efficient districts and rewarding them by protecting them from deeper cuts in state aid than less efficient districts,” said Benson. “That will encourage others to make changes that will make them more efficient in delivering noninstructional services, which frees up more dollars for the classroom.”
According to the release, across the state, Ohio school districts could save nearly $1.4 billion per year if they were able to emulate the best practices of the most efficient districts in the state-a savings that approximates the cuts the state is seeking in primary and secondary education in the next biennium.