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Levy committee wants to continue momentum

HEBRON – Lakewood School Levy Committee members Holly Graham and Jill Campen believe the committee’s energy and positive momentum can continue beyond last November’s passage of an 8.9 mill levy. They presented their ideas to school boards members March 9.

“Jill and I realized as levy committee members that our community, while maybe not supporting higher taxes, supports Lakewood students,” said Graham. She said they realize that $1 million in budget cuts were made ahead of the levy passage and the state is bound to cut school funding significantly. “We need to be proactive and help the district find other ways to support our students so they can become productive, selfsustaining adults,” said Graham. “We need lots of people to help.” Many parents and volunteers pulled together during last year’s levy campaigns and Graham and Campen believe a similar group could accomplish great things outside of a levy campaign.

Graham and Campen outlined three ways that such a group could help. First would be a college awareness and access program to educate students, parents, and community members about the need for higher education to earn a living wage. They proposed formalizing a program to help students navigate the college application process, financial aid forms, track students and scholarships, and create a mentoring program to help students stay in school.

“How do we make any kid see they have college potential,” asked Campen. She and Graham displayed a chart showing that as of 2009 a high school graduate earned an average of $626 per week, a person with a bachelor’s degree earned $1,025 per week, and someone with a master’s earned $1,257 per week.

Graham said Lakewood is very proactive with interventions for students who need assistance, however, she’s concerned that the students who “hold up the standards” may require help understanding the value of higher education and navigating the admissions process.

Graham and Campen suggested helping the district raise money for more technology classes and equipment. Graham said jobs requiring mathematic or technology backgrounds are expected to grow twice as fast as the average for all occupations in this economy. “Our students need to have more access to computers and innovative courses,” she said.

Thirdly, Graham and Campen want to promote leadership development for students. “The students are assets to the community and we need to give them the skills to take us forward,” said Graham. She said businesses would locate in communities with an educated workforce. Citizens benefit because they have the skills to apply for positions at these businesses. “It would be really cool if we received a grant to help with adult education; grants are out there,” said Graham.

Graham and Campen hope to gain support for the Lakewood Education Foundation from students, parents, staff, community members, and businesses in any way they can offer help – time, talents, business services, or donations. “We are in the process of meeting with the Licking County Foundation to set up a fund with them,” said Graham. “While most funds start with an endowment, we’re rolling up our sleeves and writing grants.” The grants require 25 percent matching funds from the community in either in-kind services or money. Graham said anyone wanting to contact the foundation should use the following email:

Graham said the college awareness and access program is already under way because a grant was available. “We’re going for it; we’ll see where it takes us,” she said. Graham said some teachers and community members are interested in Project Lead the Way – Ohio’s premiere STEM program-and plan to visit a school that has the programs in place to further Lakewood’s science and technology curriculum. Campen is working on the leadership aspect.

In other Lakewood news:

• Fairview Addition resident Angela Dorans asked board members if her neighborhood’s school bus could stop four times within the addition instead of two. She said she has young children who, in her opinion, are walking too far to their bus stop. The bus used to stop at nearly every home within the Fairview Addition, but this ended when the district slashed $1 million from its budget, which included cutting five buses. All bus routes were changed.

After that, the bus just picks up all the children from a stop on Ohio 13. . When several parents complained, the bus began loading children from two stops within Fairview Addition. Dorans said she doesn’t expect the bus to stop at every house like it did, but she’d prefer four stops.

“From our perspective, we met what was requested,” said Superintendent Jay Gault Tuesday. Parents asked to move the stop off of Ohio 13 and that’s what was done. He said he and Transportation Supervisor Mike Whittington looked at 87 bus stops where changes were requested and made changes. All Lakewood bus stops, Gault said, conform to strict state safety regulations.

Gault said there are two reasons why it’s difficult for the district to add bus stops to a route. First, stops were cut to reduce costs when state aid was cut and now more cuts are expected. Also, he said buses must complete their afternoon routes between the times that the high and elementary schools dismiss their students. It would be unacceptable to force the elementary students to wait long periods for their buses home. “That’s where the congestion falls,” said Gault.

District resident Bill Gulick, during the March 9 meeting, suggested parents accompany their children to the stops or drive them there and wait in their cars until the bus arrives. “Everybody has to be rational about this,” he said.

Board member Joe Bowman, Jr. believes bus route issues can be resolved. “Who’s losing in this whole deal? The kids are,” he said.

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