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Bellaire school officials to map levy campaign

February 24, 2013
By MIKE HUGHES - Times Leader News Editor , Times Leader

BELLAIRE Monday night, officials with the Bellaire Village School District will host a planning meeting to discuss the plan of action in drumming up support in another attempt at getting village residents to pass an emergency funding levy.

For those keeping track, this is the district's sixth attempt during the last three years.

The first two, similar to the 8.23-mill levy voters will vote for against in May, were property levies. The third and fourth attempts came in the form of an income tax. The most recent attempt in November, an 8.7-mill levy, fell to defeat by 600 votes.

It's not that Superintendent Tony Scott and district officials lack the ability to take no for an answer.

But the district's financial woes are such a point that further counts are not possible while still maintaining the quality of educational services and opportunities currently available.

"We thought we had a good chance of it passing last time," Scott said. "At this point, no doubt the people understand the need.

"But we need to get the community to rally around us."

That's the premise around Monday's organizational meeting inside the high school cafeteria which gets under way at 6 p.m.

Scott said the purpose will be to form sub committees that might each tackle different avenues of getting the word out and impressing the importance of the levy's passage.

"We're looking to form committees for fund raising, voter registration, sign making, possibly a student committee and door-to-door campaigning and information.

"A group to work with the newspaper, make letters of support and design a signature ad and other flyers and pieces of information.

"Plus, figure out any other ideas that we can come up with to branch out from our steering committee and get other people involved."

Scott noted that if anyone wished to be involved in the campaign but is unable to attend the meeting that hey can call Scott at his office.

The district has certainly done its part.

The last three years, in order to tighten its finances, the district has eliminated four administrative positions, 36 teaching positions, the school resource officer and 16 classified positions for a savings of nearly $4 million.

These moves were necessary because the district hasn't had an operating levy pass since 1976, then a continuous 8 Mill levy.

The next closest in terms of length of time since the last levy was passed is Shadyside in 1992. All other Belmont County school districts, along with Harrison Hills in Cadiz, have had one, some even two, levies pass.

The levy will generate $976,000 in funding that will provide a huge boost to the district's finances.

While still in fiscal emergency as designated by the state, the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching. However, reaching that light is nigh impossible without support from the community.

Scott said it's not just about injecting additional funding into district coffers. It's about providing the level of educational opportunities that the district's students deserve.

The district has been rated excellent two of the last three years after receiving the scores back from its state testing. Technically, the students appear to be doing fine without the money. Why is more money then needed?

To Scott, that's a fair question.

"We want to give our kids more opportunities," Scott said. "Yes, they are performing well on test scores but what's coming down the pike is the new curriculum that will change the entire ball game the common core curriculum which is a nationwide approach for all kids.

"Part of the testing will be dependent on the kids utilizing computers. If we don't have the computers that work or the opportunities for kids to get on them, that will put them at a disadvantage.

But that's just a small part."

The district also wants to return offering full programs in physical education, music and arts, especially in the younger grades. Currently, those are offered, but in diminished capacity with regular classroom teachers instructing the specialized content areas.

"We're doing the best we can, but you wouldn't want an art teacher of a physical education teacher teaching your children reading, writing and math. You'd want certified, highly qualified teachers and those avenues, art, music and physical education, are important for kids," Scott said. "Different kids respond differently to different interests that they have. One may enjoy and excel in social studies. But another may excel and enjoy art. That's where they may shine and where their creativity comes from.

"We want to make sure we can educate the entire student."

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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