Switzerland of Ohio schools in state of flux

WOODSFIELD – It is no secret that the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District is in dire financial trouble. In November, Switzerland will put yet another levy on the ballot.

Since the other levies have failed to pass, the board has had to take drastic measures which includes cutting insurance, cutting positions and adding on fees for athletes to play sports.

“We are the lowest paying district,” said Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Treasure Lance Erlwein.

According to Erlwein, the district will need a 7.72-mill levy to operate for the next five years.

For the district to stay afloat for the upcoming months, phases have been incorporated into the district. Phase one affected the insurance in the district, which consisted of higher deductions, co-pays and prescriptions. Phases two and three resulted in teacher and program cuts.

“We don’t want to do this, but we have to live within our means,” said Erlwein. “We got a one-time bonus check from Eclipse which was for $437, 839.50.”

The district has cut several positions as well as combined several. According to Erlwein, none of the schools have been sold or shut down. He stated that the district has lost a lot of state money due to the dwindling enrollment.

Recently at the July 25 school board meeting, the board and Superintendent Larry Elliott executed a Separation Agreement.

“The Switzerland of Ohio Local School Board and Larry Elliott executed a Separation Agreement at the regular board meeting on July 25, 2013, ending Mr. Elliott’s employment as superintendent of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District effective July 31, 2013,” said Erlwein. “After serving as district superintendent for over seven years, Mr. Elliott and the SOLSD Board mutually agreed that it is in the best interest of all parties that the superintendent’s contract be terminated. The board of education is moving in a new direction, and they are confident this will allow them to pursue a new vision for the future of the students, staff, and taxpayers of our district.”

The agreements the board and Larry Elliott have reached include:

  • Elliott’s current five-year contract was effective on Aug. 1, 2010, and was scheduled to end on July 31, 2015. The board shall fulfill its legal obligation to pay Elliott’s regular salary and benefits, minus normal payroll deductions, for five months ending Dec. 31, 2013, totaling $59,605.87.
  • Elliott agreed to release the board from the remaining 19 months of his contract from Jan. 1, 2014 through July 31, 2015 at no cost to the district. The total salary and benefits cost for these 19 months would have been $226,502.31.
  • The board shall deduct 70 sick days from Elliott’s sick leave accumulation. Those 70 sick days would normally be paid out as severance to Elliott upon his retirement. Elliott will no longer receive severance payment for those 70 days.
  • All costs of preparing the separation agreement were assumed by Elliott.
  • Effective Aug. 1, 2013, Elliott will assume duties relating to the transition in the superintendency and such other administrative matters of the district as may be requested by the board president. These duties will be performed off-site and will not result in any additional compensation to Elliott.
  • Elliott’s regular retirement benefits shall be unaffected by this Separation Agreement and the board and Elliott agree to release any and all claims they may now have or could have asserted against the other.

The board will hold interviews today for candidates for an interim superintendent and Beallsville principal. The Beallsville principal Micah Fuchs recently took a principal position in Barnesville. Clint Abbott, the Woodsfield Elementary principal, also took a principal’s position in Barnesville. The assistant superintendent position has been eliminated with former assistant superintendent Neil Ritchie taking the position of Woodsfield Elementary principal.

The next school board meeting will be held Aug. 15.

Van Dyne can be reached at kvandyne@timesleaderonline.com.