By Charles Prince
HEBRON – Last month’s rejection of a $39.8 million Lakewood bond issue for a new K-5 school and critical repairs at the high school and middle school could cost property taxpayers an additional $6 million.
Lakewood School Board members unanimously approved the first steps Wednesday night to place the same $39.8 million bond issue on next May’s ballot. The term will continue to be 28 years; Ohio law allows a maximum term of 37 years. Increasing interest rates could increase interest costs by $6 million over the 28-year term. The district’s financial consultant had estimated a 4.5 percent interest rate on the bonds if voters had approved the issue in November. The consultant is now estimating a 5.25 percent rate for bonds sold in May/June. Rising construction costs are also taking a toll on the project. Board members will try to fund the high school roof replacement outside the bond issue to keep from having to ask voters for more money.
Board members wrapped up 2018 with a nearly three-hour meeting including extensive presentations on what the Class of 2019 has to do to graduate, a strategic book plan for elementary students and a revised policy on head lice. High school principal Kevin Krier explained there are both local and state requirements for graduation. Lakewood requires 22 credits to graduate; the state minimum is 20. The state has three pathways to graduation:
- State Tests: Earn at least 18 points on seven end-of-course tests with three points considered passing. The seven tests are Algebra I or Integrated Math I, Geometry or Integrated Math II, American Government, American History, English I, English II and Biology.
- Industry credential and workforce readiness: Earn at least 12 points by receiving a state-approved, industry-recognized credential or group of credential in a single career field and earn the required score on WorkKeys, a work-readiness test; or
- College and career readiness tests: Earn remediation-free scores in math and language arts either on the ACT or SAT tests. Krier said Lakewood students all take the ACT which requires an 18 in language arts and 22 in math to be considered remediation-free.
Krier said Lakewood offers several credential opportunities directly or via the school’s business partners. Lakewood teachers are seeking certification to offer additional ones.
High school assistant principal Jason Lee discussed new initiatives to promote soft skills based on Lakewood’s 6 – C’s – Committed, Communicators, Collaborators, Curious, Critical Thinkers and Character. Each of the four grades in the high school is considered a team. Teams earn points based on members’ attendance, tardiness, participation in other activities, Leaders and Learners cards submitted by teachers or other students, academics and other criteria linked to the 6 – C’s. Results are posted in real-time via monitors in the cafeteria and next to the Leaders and Learners Wall. Currently, grade 12 is in last place. Board member Jon Lynch asked Lee why the expected leaders are doing so poorly. Lee said attendance, tardiness and a lower participation in other events are responsible for the seniors poor showing. Lee said the competition is “a constant reminder that 6 – C’s are important.”
While Lakewood’s Innovation Center is still a work in progress, teacher Lindsey Fawcett outlined her new Independent Innovation Science class. Seven students are enrolled with each student designing a project, conducting research and presenting their findings. “It’s way more than just coming in and doing the lab,” she explained.
The Innovation Center is described as “a hub for unique programming that cultivates creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.” It will be comprised of three areas: the high school library as a R&D center and two currently unused rooms – one for information technology, marketing and human resources with business partnerships and the other as a design lab with design and fabrication equipment. A detailed proposal is expected by spring with a two-year phase-in.
STEM coordinator Dee Martindale explained that, “High school isn’t the end goal.” The goal is career-readiness.
In her report, Director of District Services Patti Pickering said the installation of the classroom door barricades was completed ahead of schedule. The district’s two school resource deputies helped train all staff members on how to use the barricades. She thanked State Farm Insurance of Newark for donating a large amount of furniture as its Newark offices are downsized. School Safety Plans have been completed for each building and have been sent to Homeland Security for review. Pickering added that road salt for the walkways and parking lots will be purchased from Licking Township this year at a considerable savings for the district. Her food service report said district-wide 44 percent of the students are receiving free and reduced lunches. The percentage is lower at the high school and higher at Hebron and Jackson. A grab and go line for lunch is being tested at the high school.
In her report, Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews said 85 percent of the Class of 2019 have meet the State Tests pathway to graduation. She also previewed a Strategic Book Plan for elementary students. Andrews said the plan wasn’t included in this year’s budget. Hebron Elementary Principal Nicole Henry explained that there aren’t enough age appropriate books in the school. “We don’t have enough.”
Henry is trying to address the 76 percent of kindergarteners that aren’t ready for first grade. She set a goal this year that 80 percent of kindergarteners will know their letters by Christmas break. She believes that goal will be met or exceeded, but kindergarteners introduction to reading requires more and better books. Henry added that getting Hebron students (K-2) reading at grade-level will create long-term benefits for the district.
The Plan covers three years with the first two focusing on instructional classroom libraries to support units of study, below benchmark classroom libraries for grades 3 -5, more “emergent” books for kindergarteners and more grade level and below grade level books for classroom libraries. The first year cost is $194,307 with $94,545 at Hebron and $99,762 at Jackson. The second year drops to $116,882 with $41,343 at Hebron and $75,540 at Jackson. Year # is $40,745 – $31,330 at Hebron and $9,415 at Jackson. The Plan includes $10,000 for each school in Year 4 and beyond.
Andrews suggested delaying the Jackson first year purchase to next year. Jackson Principal Carol Fields said the delay is acceptable. “The priority is Hebron,” Andrews explained. “Second half of this year for Hebron and Jackson for next year.”
“I have no idea how to fund this,” District Treasurer Glenna Plaisted interjected. “Glenna and I need to work through that,” Andrews said. “We’ve got to find a way to get this done.”
“I just want to know how we’re going to pay for it,” board member Bill Pollard said. Lynch, who was chairing the meeting in Tara Houdeshell’s absence, suggested that board members look at it again at their January meeting, giving Andrews and Plaisted an opportunity to discuss how to come up with the $94,545 for Hebron.
Board members unanimously approved a three year contract with the classified (non-teaching) employees retroactive to July 1, 2018. The new contract provides annual base salary increases of 3 percent, then 2.5 percent and finally 2 percent over the three-year term. Earlier this month, board members approved a three-year contract with teachers retroactive to July 1, 2018, providing annual base salary increases of 3 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.25 percent. Members of both unions will also receive a one-time stipend payment of $500. Any members hired after August 1, 2019, and eligible for health insurance, will pay 10 percent of the cost of a high deductible plan.
Board members also unanimously approved the purchase of two 78-passenger school buses for $92,758 each from Rush Truck. Payment will be due July 1, 2019. Approving the purchase contract now locks in the current price. “The cost just keeps going up and up,” Plaisted commented.
Board members heard the first reading of a long list of revised bylaws and board policies. Board member Brittany Misner raised some questions about a more lenient policy concerning head lice. Currently, students found with “nits” are sent home. The change would only send home students with live louse. Misner wondered if the presence of students with nits might negatively affect overall attendance.
School nurse Amy Morrison R.N. said most of the few students with nits are reoccurring. “It is more about educating the families,” she explained. Morrison said there is no effective treatment for nits beyond removing them from the hair and thoroughly cleaning bedding, carpeting and anything in contact with the hair. She said nits don’t fly or jump so it would take physical contact with an infected student or their headgear or bedding. “I really don’t think it will affect attendance,” she concluded. Andrews said they would look at a hybrid option before the policy returns for final approval in January.
Student recognition included the high school and middle school Ohio Music Education Association honor bands. High school members are Chase Deweese, Devyn Sowry, Connor Blaha, Christi Blaha and Nick Andujar. Middle school members are Maisy Bender, Savannah Velaso, Peyton Robey and Liz Qualls. Grant Thomas was recognized for being named Civil Air Patrol Cadet of the Year.
Board members also approved the following volunteer coaches:
- Andy Bowman – high school girls basketball varsity assistant;
- Michael Mays – 7th grade girls basketball assistant;
- Donnie Allen – high school wrestling varsity assistant;
- Kara Caton-Searls – high school freshmen boys basketball assistant; and
- Larry Thompson – 7th grade girls basketball assistant.
The board’s annual organizational meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, in the high school library. The regular meeting follows at 6:30 p.m.