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Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 6:54 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 6:54 PM
VANDALIA — 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.
Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 11:47 AM
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 5:13 PM
HAMILTON — Butler County’s only Catholic high school is expanding this year to better handle its growing enrollment.
This week, officials at Badin High School released more details about the school’s first campus expansion since 2006, including a $1.8 million construction project that will add a new “Student Development Center.”
“The new Student Development Center is another example of Badin making effective strides to enhance our facilities,” said Dirk Allen, spokesman for Badin High School.
“We’re very excited about it. Classes, facilities, opportunities for students, all of that comes together to create an outstanding educational experience for the Badin student body,” said Allen.
Construction on the new, one-story, 8,000-square-foot center will begin this summer and is projected to be done by Christmas.
Allen said the new center “will feature a student commons for use before, during and after school meetings, group projects and a much needed study space. The guidance office will vacate a classroom in the school building and will move to the new Hamilton Community Foundation College and Career Center – a state-of-the-art facility with computer work stations and a meeting space for colleges to meet with students.”
“Our enrollment continues to grow. We were at 449 students in 2009-2010, (and) our enrollment has grown every year since then. We are at 575 this year and expect to be over 600 next year,” he said.
“The building project will be very helpful (and) students will no longer have to walk outside between the main building and the Pfirman Center in inclement weather.”
The new center will also allow two former classrooms - converted into office space - to return to instructional spaces.
Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 11:12 AM
MASON — A racist, social media message sent to some African-American students at Mason Middle School prompted school officials to send a notice to school parents.
The Snapchat message was received this week by a handful of black students in the Warren County school and it comes in the wake of a recent racial incident where a Mason teacher at the same school was suspended for telling a black student his classmates “lynch” him if he didn’t complete his class work.
In a notice sent Tuesday to Mason Middle School (MMS) parents, Principal Tonya McCall wrote: “Today, we received a tip that several African-American students received an offensive Snapchat message. We reported the message to our School Resource Officer, and will continue to investigate who might have sent it.”
“As many of you may be aware, an MMS teacher recently made an offensive remark to an African-American student. We know that there is no explanation or defense that would make such a comment appropriate. We are working to do what is right — apologize, make amends, and take steps to be better.”
McCall continued and wrote: “We know that racial incidents don’t just hurt the students of color in our schools — they hurt all of our students and staff. We believe that our diversity strengthens our school and community.”
On Saturday Mason school officials announced Middle School teacher Renee Thole would be suspended for her December remark to the black student in addition to being reprimanded and ordered to take cultural sensitivity training.
The incident drew national attention and Mason district officials have responded with promises to re-new its exiting efforts and programs to improve racial sensitivity in the predominately white school system of 11,000-students.
Mason Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline sent a message to “Mason City Schools Families” on Saturday with the subject line “Mason Schools Response to Teacher’s Comment” after the story about the teacher gained national attention.
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 2:12 PM
DEERFIELD TWP. — The story of racist basketball jerseys that drew national media attention continues to shake up the Kings school community with Tuesday’s resignation of a school board member, setting up a scenario for a new member joining the district’s governing board.
Former Kings Board of Education Vice President Kerry McKiernan did not attend the final public meeting of his term where fellow members voted 4-0 to accept his resignation.
McKiernan had earlier cited his own failure in stopping some of the boys on the recreational league basketball team – not affiliated with Kings — from wearing jerseys with names that appeared to slur African-Americans.
Kings officials promised at their meeting Tuesday that major changes are coming to improve racial and diversity awareness among the 4,300-student district in southern Warren County’s Deerfield township.
Here are five things you know about where the controversial issue stands:
Changes are coming to Kings: Kings Superintendent Tim Ackermann told this news outlet Tuesday that systemic - but not yet detailed - changes are coming to Kings to better foster racial and other diversity sensitivity for students, school staffers and the community at large.
Controversy has caused change to the board: By no later than Feb. 9 - more likely Jan. 31 - the four-member Kings school board will have a new member filling McKiernan’s seat. The board Tuesday went into executive session - as allowed under Ohio school law’s provisions for school boards pertaining to personnel matters - to discuss their interview questions for applicants.
Applications are due Jan. 24 for the school-board seat: The board has decided to interview all eligible candidates who file an online application for the board seat. The application is expected to be posted on the Kings website later today. The deadline for filing an application is 4 p.m. Jan. 24.
How the new member will be chosen: Applicants must be at least 18 years old, residents of the Kings School district and registered voters. The board’s choice of a new member will be made during a public vote on Jan. 31, and the chosen applicant will serve out the remainder of McKiernan’s four-year term to December 2019.
Diversity committee will work with officials: An existing Kings diversity committee, whose members include some minority school parents, will work with district officials in formulating new programs and activities designed to improve racial sensitivity in the school system.
Published: Friday, July 15, 2016 @ 3:30 PM
Updated: Friday, July 15, 2016 @ 3:30 PM
Our reporters closely watch your tax dollars. For past stories on Wright State University and other I-Team stories see MyDaytonDailyNews.com.
Columbus — Wright State spends less per athlete than any Ohio public university offering Division I sports, but paltry revenue totals have caused its athletic department to operate at a deficit for nine straight years.
The Dayton Daily News examined the athletic budget in the wake of the financial struggles that are causing the university to cut nearly $20 million from its two-year operating budget.
>>> RELATED: Wright State trustees approve cuts, tuition hikes
Some faculty members have called on the administration to scale back its commitment to the athletic programs, which have received subsidies from the university totaling $104.6 million since 2002.
Enough is enough, says Rudy Fichtenbaum, a retired WSU economics professor and current president of the American Association of University Professors, the faculty union.
In a letter to WSU Vice President of Finance Jeff Ulliman, Fichtenbaum said: “It is absolutely an outrage that the administration is cutting positions that are going to directly affect the quality of the academic programs that we offer to students while continuing to shovel money into the bottomless pit known as intercollegiate athletics.”
>>> RELATED: WSU pleads for help in raising $8M debate tab
Wright State administrators defend the spending on athletics, saying it’s a huge benefit to the university.
“We’re very responsible in terms of budget,” said Dan Abrahamowicz, WSU Vice President for Student Affairs. “The athletics program brings so much to this university that is hard to quantify with dollars and cents. The value goes well beyond the cost, it seems to me.”
Subsidies are common
The practice of subsidizing college athletics through student fees or general funds is not unusual. In fact, Ohio State is the only self-supporting university in the state — and one of just two-dozen across the nation — that operates without subsidies, according to a USA Today database of athletic finances at public universities.
But the boost Wright State provides is significant. About 78 percent of its athletic revenue comes from the institution, according to WSU’s most recent annual report, and in the last decade those subsidies have increased by 34 percent.
Statewide, only Cleveland State University sports are more reliant on cash infusions from the administration. Wright State doesn’t have football, which drives revenue — and spending — at many schools.
Not everyone wants to cut the athletic budget, which this year is $10.3 million. That’s less than what it was two years ago.
Professor emeritus Lawrence Prochaska chaired the University Athletic Council for three years and headed up a committee that reviewed the athletic department budget last year. He said Wright State compares favorably with fellow Horizon League members and other Ohio universities when the expensive sport of football is taken out of the equation.
“We told the academic senate that we thought the (budget) overrun is due to under-funding of athletics,” Prochaska said. “It’s not due to capricious financial expenditures.
“We concluded that they should give (WSU athletic director) Bob Grant a hard budget and make him live with it. They have to decide what that budget is.”
Other Ohio schools
All the athletic programs in the state are dwarfed by Ohio State, whose $167 million athletics program is carried on the backs of its football and basketball teams. OSU is part of the so-called “Power Five” conferences that enjoy lucrative television contracts. Even after OSU spent $9.8 million on team travel, $1.9 million on recruiting, $28 million on coaches’ salaries and $27.6 million on support staff in 2015, it still made enough money to send $38 million back to the university’s general fund.
But it is a different story elsewhere in Ohio. The state’s other 10 Division I college athletics programs collectively received about $160 million in university subsidies in 2015, according to state audits. The University of Cincinnati had the lowest percentage of revenue coming from its administration — 41 percent of the $52.5 million it took in.
The University of Akron provided the most money to athletics — $22.1 million — followed closely by Cincinnati ($21.7 million) and Miami University ($21.2 million).
The University of Toledo operated at a deficit in 2015, going $3.8 million in the red. Toledo and Wright State ($985,520) were the only Ohio Division I schools to report deficits.
Value vs. cost
Wright State did match OSU in one respect: It was the only other Ohio Division I school to shrink per-athlete spending, cutting expenses by 4 percent since 2009 and spending an average of $38,747 per athlete in 2014.
WSU offers 16 varsity sports.
Wright State’s athletic budget was about $10.7 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2015, the most recent figures available from the state. That accounted for about 3 percent of the university’s total budget.
An NCAA report released two years ago found that non-football Division I schools spent, on average, 6 percent of their overall budgets on athletics.
Abrahamowicz said last year’s athletics budget was $10.2 million, and the proposed budget for the fiscal year that began this month is $10.3 million.
Grant points out that WSU’s 300-some student-athletes paid $1.3 million in tuition to the university last year. Only athletes in men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball receive full scholarships.
“From the time I took over eight years ago, my charge has been to spend as little as possible while delivering as successful as possible a mid-major program as we can,” Grant said. “I think we’re doing fine. We want to do better; we need to do better.”
Martin Kich, president of the faculty union at Wright State, said there is a double standard at the school, with the academic units asked to cut their budgets while athletics is merely pressured to not overrun its budget.
“That’s ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “You’re sending the message that athletics is more important than academics. Very clearly.”
The push and pull between those who want more athletic spending and those who want less is not unusual for a mid-major school like Wright State.
Abrahamowicz said the university needs to define exactly what it wants from its athletics program, and fund it accordingly.
“Certainly, athletics overspends its budget, and something’s got to be done with that in the long-term,” Abrahamowicz said. But, he said, “There is no sentiment around here to not be Division I, except among some who aren’t happy with athletics.”
Koty Johnson, a WSU senior majoring in accounting and finance, said Division I sports are crucial for students seeking the quintessential college experience.
“Me and a group of my buddies go to just about every home basketball game and try to make it out to a couple of soccer games and baseball games each year,” said Johnson, vice president of the Wright State student body.
He acknowledged, though, that he isn’t aware of the cost: “I’m not 100 percent sure, honestly, about how much of my tuition goes to intercollegiate athletics.”
Grant is counting on new men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy to provide a revenue boost for the university, saying, “Our best chance for success financially really starts and ends with men’s basketball.”
Men’s basketball ticket sales, donations and corporate sponsorships accounted for more than $600,000 in 2015. That did not even cover the cost of the team’s scholarships and its $275,000 travel tab.
While the Nutter Center seats 10,500, on average just 4,355 fans attended the Raiders’ home games this past season, which is slightly below the national average of 4,744 for Division I programs.
WSU fired its coach, Billy Donlon, after the season and hired Nagy away from South Dakota State, paying him more than twice what it paid Donlon.
‘Day of reckoning’
University administrators and boosters often insist that sports programs drive enrollment, add to campus life, provide valuable opportunities for student-athletes, and help fundraising and marketing, said Ohio University Associate Professor of Sports Administration B. David Ridpath.
But athletic success can both be fleeting and expensive, said Ridpath. Perhaps the worst scenario is to be the Cinderella team in the NCAA basketball tournament because boosters, fans and administrators believe that such success can be repeated and pressure mounts to spend and build more, he said.
“That’s what drives a school like Wright State. They tend to think that being a Division I program and having that chance of getting on the cover of USA Today and being on ESPN will somehow enhance the entire university,” Ridpath said. “Really, research is pretty clear that while there might be some short-term gains in enrollment, fundraising, brand recognition, it usually trickles off after a year or so.”
Because of the costs involved, Ridpath believes the “day of reckoning” is here and more schools will do what the University of Idaho did and drop out of Division I.