Cutting spending and improving the learning experience at the Oberlin Schools were the key issues last Tuesday in superintendent David Hall’s State of the Schools address.
Speaking to the Oberlin City Club, he highlighted areas that need enhancement, the district’s financial picture and upcoming levies, a kindergarten-through-12 grade academic plan, athletics, and community engagement.
Hall wants to improve Oberlin’s four- and five-year graduation rates. Right now, just 85 percent of students graduate in a traditional four-year window. The rate rises to 91.9 percent when students are given an extra year.
The superintendent is also interested in enhancing the district’s kindergarten-through-third grade literacy program. The state gave Oberlin a D grade in this area on the state report card in January because only 40 percent of students achieved basic literacy.
Low enrollment has presented challenges, but Hall said Oberlin is not the only district facing that problem. Nearly every Lorain County district has seen a drop in students.
Oberlin has 984 in classrooms as of the end of January. Something must be done to increase that number, Hall said.
He is also determined to keep Oberlin students from paying to play sports, even as nearby districts have begrudgingly forced athletes to pay.
Slashing away at spending is a top priority for Hall, who said a closer partnership with the city of Oberlin, the Lorain County JVS, and Oberlin College could help.
“I’m working with the city right now to share a maintenance person,” he said. Hall’s also discussing sharing other services and personnel with the city to help cut cost for both entities.
Oberlin College’s new athletic stadium is one resource Hall would like high school students to use more. In the past two years, a limited number of football and boys soccer games have been played at the college.
Hall has also been reviewing the cost of each vendor the district uses and comparing it with competitors. “We have to shop around and try to find other vendors,” he said.
Here’s an example of a cost-saving measure Hall already made: JVS students now perform tune-up jobs on the Oberlin school system’s vehicles. The district pays for parts, but the labor is free.
He also put together a vehicle replacement plan and the first car on the list is a school bus. He wants to replace any bus older than 16 years.
More college credit courses will be offered to high school students. “Anytime our students can receive college credits at the high school level, it’ll help them,” Hall said.
He’s even looking into offering such courses to middle school students who qualify by taking a college entrance exam. Potentially, seventh- and eighth-gradesr could take college-level courses at Langston Middle School.
Hall said some OHS graduates have so many credits they already have an associate’s degree or close to it. “It almost gives them this hunger to finish college,” he said.
Every employee in the school district from the cafeteria workers to principals, teachers, and bus drivers are going to receive professional development.
He’s also interested in providing more mentoring and tutoring programs to each school.
This year he launched the 100 Men of Lorain County program at the high school and now Hall hopes to expand the program to students at Langston.
Students involved in the program talk about their goals, what they want to be when they get older, and listen to community members talk about their life journeys.
Two other educational goals: Hall wants to hire a full-time curriculum director next year and recruit the most qualified teachers.
The Oberlin Schools have a part-time curriculum director this year but Hall believes the district must have a full-time person. “The curriculum is so important,” he said.
Hall has been visiting local colleges and universities, talking to graduating students about openings the district will have next year and conducting interviews.
“Oberlin deserves the best teachers,” he said.”I don’t want anything less than what I want for my kids.”
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT & ATHLETICS
Hall has partnered with athletic director Ty Stillman to find ways in strengthen Phoenix athletics and help teams win.
A new head varsity football coach has been hired pending board of education approval, and Stillman plans to start the search for a new volleyball coach soon.
Hall wants the athletic department to improve youth programs and fundraising opportunities, put more students in the weight room, and sponsor study tables and an athletic mentoring program.
Off-season athletes should be in the weight room working out, he said.
Hall wants to offer additional summer programs to keep students and residents involved in the district and athletics. “(Students) need to be active over the summer,” he said.
The district has created new posters explaining why students should come to Oberlin.
“We need our parents to choose Oberlin Schools,” Hall said. “I truly believe in our school system. The community offers a lot for all our students.”
Two renewal levies will appear before voters on the March ballot.
Issue 25 is a 5.05-mill emergency levy that will generate $940,000; Issue 26 is a 2-mill permanent improvement levy that will generate $371,064.
They are expected to cost $175 and $70 per year respectively for every $100,000 worth of property you own —and since they’re renewals, they won’t raise taxes.
Cash from the two levies are used for staff, replacing buses, day-to-day operations, athletics, academic programs, and building repairs.
He said if the emergency levy does not pass, that’s roughly 14 percent of the district’s operating budget that will then have to come from the general fund.
If the PI levy doesn’t pass, that will deeply hurt maintenance projects.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Superintendent David Hall gives a State of the Schools update to members of the Oberlin City Club.