Vandalia-Butler to close elementary school

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 6:54 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 6:54 PM

Vandalia-Butler City School District officials announced Tuesday they will close Murlin Heights Elementary School regardless of whether voters approve an additional 6.99-mill levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The earliest the 60-year-old school on North Dixie Drive would close would be next school year. It is part of the second phase of the district’s two-year, $7 million cost reduction plan, spokeswoman Bethany Reiff said.

This latest phase cutting $3.5 million follows early cuts totalling that amount announced in April.

Officials called the planned closure a “financial necessity” due to the high cost of operating the school for grades K-4 as well as additional planned cuts to teachers, support staff and administrators.

A second school that has not been identified also “could be closed” if the levy fails, Reiff said.

Superintendent Christy Donnelly could not be reached for comment.

Meegan Brady, who has three children in the district, including a 9-year-old son at Murlin Heights, was saddened to learn the news.

“To take it away completely, it shocked people,” said Brady, who volunteers at the school. She worries about the jobs of the staff and how the 406 students will be impacted. “Where are all those kids going to go?” she asked.

The district, which has about 3,300 students, plans to reconfigure district grade levels as part of the reductions aimed at balancing the budget. It provided a bullet-point list of what would happen depending on election results.

If the levy passes: $3.5 million would be cut and up to 15 positions of teachers, support staff and administrators eliminated. Busing that already has been reduced to the state minimum would be reassessed for 2013-14. There would be additional cuts to extracurricular activities.

If the levy fails: An additional $3.9 million would be cut and up to 60 positions eliminated. Student programs would be eliminated, compensation and benefits reduced and there would be $800,000 more cut from co-curriculars and athletics.

This is the third straight attempt by the district to get voters to approve a 6.99-mill operating and permanent improvement levy, which would generate about $3.9 million annually. Two earlier levies were defeated in November 2011 and last month.

District officials first warned voters last November that failure would result in $7 million in cuts. The first wave, identified in April, involved eliminating 32 positions, including 13 teaching positions. The district laid off 22 people.

Administrators said at that time the cost reductions were necessitated by a budget deficit of $18.3 million that resulted from $10.5 million in state funding cuts and a $7.8 million loss in property taxes.

This latest phase of reductions calls for reconfiguring district grade levels, likely next school year, in an effort to manage large class sizes.

Reiff said the reconfiguring “will definitely occur whether or not the levy passes” but said officials will not make a decision on what it would look like until there is more certainty about the budget.

Today, the district has 33 fewer teachers, 6.5 fewer administrators and 19 fewer support staff than it did in 2009, officials said. Remaining employees have taken a pay freeze and pay more for insurance.

Murlin Heights Principal Connie Strehle said it was sad receiving the news that the school she has led for a decade will be closing its doors for good after this school year.

“We were sad but we also realize we have a job to do this year,” she said. “We are going to provide our students with the best education we can.”

Sink or swim test for students at Lakota cardboard regatta

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 5:02 PM

Dozens of high school students risked getting dunked Friday as they put novice engineering skills to a watery test of racing mini-cardboard boats.

The Lakota East Freshman School students paddled, splashed and floundered in the Lakota YMCA swimming pool.

They walked away wetter but wiser in the ways of structural engineering and teamwork.

“We learn the entire engineering design process from start to finish,” said Ken Kinch, instructor with the Butler Tech engineering program at Lakota East’s Freshman and high school school.

BUTLER COUNTY SCHOOL TREND: Outdoors can be the best classroom

“They had to brain storm solutions … and as a group they had to put that solution to work and build their canoes out of only corrugated cardboard and duct tape. And they are learning about team work and how to be a graceful winner and a graceful loser,” said Kinch standing pool side next to some of the soaked teen participants who took a spill.

The annual event is a popular one at Lakota because it incorporates a rare tactile engineering experience as the teens — and their cardboard boat projects — either sink or swim.

The two-person boat teams have to paddle against another boat by paddling the length of the indoor pool and back with the winner moving on in the competition.

EXCLUSIVE: Butler Tech turns away hundreds of students

The students constructed 31 boats. Some worked and some didn’t, either sinking, collapsing or capsizing.

Regardless, said Lakota freshman Serena Clark, it’s a fun way to learn.

“A lot of teams doubted us because our boat was big and fat. And we have our repairs all right here,” she said motioning to a couple of rolls of duct tape adorning her forearm.

“We’ve been watching other people’s boats and how they messed up and how they are sinking and paddling and turning” and learned from those, said Clark, whose all-girl team was among the finalists in the races.

The Butler Tech engineering program is part of an extensive satellite system of classes offered by the career school inside high schools throughout the county.

MORE: Ross High School students among national finalists for school security app

Most recently a Butler Tech class in computer science saw a group of teens at Ross High School earned honors for inventing a mobile device app for school security, winning $50,000 in computer and digital technology for the school as national finalists.

Michael Beauchat, spokesman for Butler Tech, watched the cardboard regatta and said “I never cease to be amazed by what the teachers are doing with the students.”

“They are doing so much with technology and careers, it is just inspiring to see what the students are getting out of this. And the students love it,” said Beauchat.

School district recognized for excellence in finance

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 12:13 PM

Eric Beavers

The Vandalia-Butler City School District Treasurer and CFO Eric Beavers has been recognized for excellence in financial reporting.

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarded Beavers and the district a Certificate of Achievement for the district’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).

»Related: Vandalia plant expansion expected to create 35 high-paying jobs

This recognition is Beavers’ third and the district’s tenth year. 

“I am proud and grateful that we have received this award. I accept this award on behalf of our District with gratitude and appreciation because I could not have accomplished this without the support and commitment for my fiscal team, administration, and staff,” said Beavers. 

This award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.

Butler student wins MVCTC scholarship

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 11:58 AM

Vandalia-Butler's Hannah Walters was awarded the MVCTC Foundation Agriculture Department Scholarship.

The 2017 Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) scholarship winners were announced at the Senior Recognition Ceremony at the Wright State Nutter Center on May 12. 

Vandalia-Butler’s Hannah Walters, a Veterinary Science student, was awarded the $500 MVCTC Foundation Agriculture Department Scholarship. 

»Related: Career Tech Center has year to convince voters to OK bond issue

The ceremony recognized 645 students who received their Career Passports, which is awarded to seniors who successfully complete their career programs. The Career Passport compliments the diploma all students earn from their partner school while at MVCTC.

Middletown to interview 3 superintendent finalists

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 12:37 PM

The search for a new leader for Middletown Schools is down to three candidates and includes a top district official from nearby Lakota Schools.

The original 12 applicants for the Middletown superintendent job has been narrowed to three candidates who will be interviewed Thursday by the city’s school board members, according to documents obtained through a Journal-News public records request.

MORE: Middletown superintendent leaving

“We are targeting board action to hire a new superintendent on May 22,” said Middletown Board of Education President Chris Urso.

Marlon Styles, executive director of curriculum and instruction at nearby Lakota Schools, is among the three finalists for the Middletown job.

Joining Styles are Gabe Lofton, assistant superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and Carl Metzger, assistant superintendent of South-Western Schools in Franklin County.

“The process has gone very well,” said Urso. “The board values the input that has been received from a good number of people who want what is best for the Middletown school district.”

Current Middletown Superintendent Sam Ison is retiring from his position with Middletown and has since accepted the top job with Wayne Schools in Warren County.

MORE: Outgoing Middletown superintendent lands new job

Under Ohio law, school boards hire district superintendents and treasurers. Traditionally, superintendent contracts begin on Aug. 1, but Middletown board members are seeking to have their new district leader start earlier.

“While the new superintendent’s work year normally begins on August 1, we are hopeful for an earlier start date for the successful candidate. We are pleased with the quality of those we have interviewed, and we are confident that we will have an effective new leader soon,” said Urso.

MORE: Middletown asks stakeholders what they want in school leader

In March, the board hired the K12 Business Consulting search firm to assist in developing a superintendent search profile and to recruit potential candidates.

School officials offered online surveys to city residents and held a series of public input meetings to formulate a candidate profile and the qualities district officials, school employees, residents, business and city leaders were seeking in a new superintendent.

In recent years the 6,400-student Middletown schools have been one of the lower performing school systems in Southwest Ohio, according to some categories in the state’s annual district report card.

VIDEO: First tour of new Middletown High School campus construction

Work is continuing on a $96 million transformation of the Middletown High School campus that includes the building of a new middle school and a massive renovation of the adjacent high school.

The two schools will be connected by a new gym and athletic center. The two projects are scheduled to be completed in 2018, though some high school classroom spaces will be opened this spring.