Fifth time may prove charm for Bellaire schools

TUESDAY CANNOT come and go soon enough.

This election has been marked by the nastiest and ugliest mudslinging in my memory. It featured negative campaigning at its worst, starting with the presidential race and trickling down to the grassroots level.

With that said, this election does feature some intriguing races and issues in Eastern Ohio.

Being a Bellaire resident, the one issue that is front and center is the school district’s 8.7-mill levy request. The district’s financial plight has been well documented. This is the fifth attempt in the last few years to open up a new funding source at the polls.

Undoubtedly, this levy has a better chance of passing than the four previous tries. For starters, the millage is much lower than the initial levy.

But much of the optimism is the result of all the positives taking place within the district.

Superintendent Tony Scott has championed the cause of the levy in relentless fashion. He noted the following:

  • The Bellaire School District is again rated excellent with distinction, marking the second time in three years the district has been rated excellent, encompassing all three schools. Prior to Scott’s arrival, now in his fourth year, the district had never gained such honors.
  • He said academic success is being done with “one hand tied behind our backs,” as the district is trying to erase a $3.7 million deficit. He said that is a tribute to the entire organization, including the board of education, students, teachers and administrators.
  • Scott pointed out the sacrifices made by the district’s two unions and administrators. The teachers’ union and OAPSE both agreed to a wage freeze and accepted a new insurance program that saves the district major money but costs more for the individuals. Moreover, Scott said the number of administrators throughout the district has been reduced by 50 percent.
  • Scott said that, in the midst of celebrating success of student achievement, the district also has demonstrated fiscal responsibility, turning the corner on deficit spending. He said they are cutting into the debt, but the levy is needed to totally eradicate it.
  • Scott added that everyone is pulling in the same direction and “our kids deserve this.”

Scott has a three-point plan to implement, should the levy gain approval.

First, he wants to put programs and staff back in place; Secondly, he says technology is lacking in the three schools and he wants to provide Bellaire students a level playing field in that regard; Thirdly, he wants to address busing and transportation issues. Scott said all three areas cannot be done at one time, but they need to work in all three phases.

IN THIS column last week, I noted that all the success realized by the Bellaire football team this season will generate voter support at the polls. Jose Davis and his staff have made Big Reds’ football relevant again, re-igniting pride throughout the community. The Bellaire football wins this fall and a playoff berth will yield more levy support Tuesday.

MEANWHILE, I can easily see a split decision in the U.S. presidential race. With two days to go, President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a virtual deadheat. Romney could win the popular vote but still come up short to Obama in the Electoral College. As always, Ohio looms large in that outcome.

Belmont County Senior Services has been in the limelight for months. I do not believe seniors in the county receive all they should. The levy is needed and I think will pass without much difficulty.

Both the Belmont County commissioners and Western Court judicial races are intriguing. I hazard to guess on either, other than I expect close outcomes in both, as is the case with the Bill Johnson-Charlie Wilson Congressional rematch.

Meanwhile, in the sheriff’s race, conventional thinking says that if you beat a Democratic incumbent in a Belmont County primary, you should do well in November. That should bode well for Dick Flanagan, who soundly defeated Fred Thompson this spring.

One contest I do not think will be close is the Ohio Senate matchup between Lou Gentile and Shane Thompson. I have noted many times that Gentile is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He should breeze on Tuesday.


WE WISH the best for Rob Caldwell. The former River High grid star hung up his coaching whistle in winning fashion Friday, as he led Tyler Consolidated past Bishop Donahue. Caldwell is retiring as the Knights’ head grid coach after a long and successful career. The Powhatan Point resident always handled himself and program in class fashion.

THE FOREST Hills Community Association in West Bellaire will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the former community center. At that time, the association will announce its scholarship dispersal plans for Bellaire and St. John Central high schools. The meeting commences at 7 p.m.

CONGRATULATIONS TO St. Clairsville on its opening-round OHSAA playoff triumph Friday night, remaining unblemished after 11 weeks. I will be shocked if the high-octane Red Devils aren’t eventually 13-0 and playing in the Division IV state semifinals.

THE SALVATION Army in the Ohio Valley received a nice financial shot-in-the-arm this past Tuesday. All the local Burger Kings on both sides of the river donated $1 for every cini-bun sold that day. As a result, more than $2,000 is now headed to the Salvation Army. We salute the King for such generosity.

THE NEW YORK Marathon was scheduled to unfold today. Superstorm Sandy, however, unleashed massive damage, triggering much discussion and debate whether the race should still be held. The powers-to-be made the right decision by calling the race off. You cannot go wrong by erring on the side of safety.

WVU grid fans must be in disbelief. Preaseason hopes of grandeur have evaporated into 5-3 mediocrity.

Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader