SIGNATURE VICTORY: Petition drive helped keep $35.5M project off ballot

By Evan Goodenow -

Joan Webster

Joan Webster

Sandra Redd

A petition drive that gathered 280 signatures in less than a week helped defeat a proposed $35.5 million pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school project.

Oberlin board of education president Ken Stanley said Monday that the fact many of the signers were longtime school district supporters impacted board members’ decision to not put the proposal on the November ballot.

“When you have that many people sign, you have to think about that seriously,” he said.

The petition drive was organized by Melissa Ballard, Lorrie Chmura, Debbi Walsh, and Joan Webster. All have children who attended Oberlin Schools.

They said they strongly support the school district. All have been active in the district — Ballard served on the school board from 1996 to 1998 — and say they’ve always voted for school levies.

They said they respect board members and believe they have a tough job. However, they said the board needed to cancel the proposed levy because not enough effort went into exploring consolidation and renovation instead of building new.

They said the cost of the project was too high.

“A lot of people that we’ve spoken to are fearful that new families won’t even want to move here and people might move out because our tax base is so high,” Walsh said Friday.

The petition asked board members to seek more citizen input about consolidation and renovation and explore whether grant money was available before proposing a levy. It noted Oberlin has the highest per student expenditure in Lorain County and it exceeds the state per student expenditure average by about $4,000.

Besides cost, the petition said going from four buildings to one would “significantly alter” the “small community feel” of the district. It also questioned how future technological changes might de-emphasize building-based education.

Petition organizers praised board members for their response.

“Especially today, when it seems elected officials turn a deaf ear to the concerns of the population, this is really refreshing,” Webster said.

Petition signer and frequent board critic Sandra Redd said she still thinks money could be more wisely spent by board members, but she praised their decision. “I am really glad that they finally listened to us,” she said.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNewsonTwitter.

Joan Webster Webster

Sandra Redd Redd

By Evan Goodenow