03 Nov 2013, Posted by admin in Packages, No Comments. Tagged Election 2013, Justin Schapker, Oak Hills Local School District, school levy
Proponents of the Oak Hills school district levy are working around-the clock to avert nearly $3 million in cuts.
Story by Justin Schapker
After greeting each other and sharing some pumpkin-face cookies, members of the Oak Hills Local School District levy committee take their seats and get right down to business.
Leading the meeting on this October evening is Emily Buckley, coordinator of development, public relations and communications for the Oak Hills Local School District.
The committee has been convening every Wednesday since August. As Tuesday’s vote nears, they know the stakes are high. If the levy fails, the district will face $2.9 million in cuts, and that will have a direct influence on academics.
“Teachers are going to lose their jobs. Class size is going to increase,” Buckley said. “You can’t deny that.”
According to a fact sheet from the district, if the levy doesn’t pass, Oak Hills High School will eliminate 20 teaching positions. Middle schools in the district will need to eliminate 24 teaching positions.
The district projects the cuts will increase class sizes at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
If the $4.82 million operating levy is approved, a person owning a home of $100,000 will pay another $14.06 per month, according to the district.
As a district employee, Buckley can’t do any pro-levy work while on the clock, other than discuss the basic facts and finances of the levy. So her pro-levy work begins after she finishes an eight-hour day working for the district.
“There is always a large to-do list after that,” she said.
Buckley’s fellow committee members put in the time as well.
Mindy Murphy, a committee member and an Oak Hills alumna, has made pro-levy efforts a priority.
“At this point I wake up answering emails about the levy. I go to bed answering emails about the levy,” she said. “So pretty much for me right now it is a good 16-hour day.”
Most of the emails that committee members receive are inquiries about levy signage, T-shirts and events. Some offer ideas for helping get the levy passed. Others are from people interested in volunteering.
Sarah Caito, another committee member and Oak Hills alum, said the committee’s work doesn’t stop with meetings and correspondence.
“The last three weekends before the Nov. 5 election, we will be having people going door-to-door, reminding people that Election Day is coming, letting them know where they’re registered to vote, where their polling place is,” she said. “We will also be at the polls on Election Day.” listen
Caito and Murphy have children in the district. Murphy sees the levy has vital to students having the same privileges she had in school.
“I think our schools are the most important thing we can spend our money on,” she said.
When asked about the amount of time and effort she has put into the levy, Buckley said, “There’s really no set amount of hours. I tried tracking them, and it was actually scary, because it’s around-the-clock.” listen
And, in fact, Buckley is the last one to leave the meeting.
Justin Schapker is a student at the University of Cincinnati and on the staff of the New Media Bureau of UC’s journalism department.
By the numbers:
The State of Ohio has cut $6.8 million dollars in funding to the Oak Hills Local School District’s budget since 2009.
- Oak Hills Schools cut 30 percent of administrative staff since 2009. All administrators have been on a pay freeze for three years.
- The average cost per pupil and administrative costs at Oak Hills are lower than state average. Oak Hills has the third lowest school taxes in Hamilton County.
- If the November levy does not pass, another $2.9 million in cuts must be made, including:
- Eliminating 20 teaching positions at Oak Hills High School.
- Eliminating 24 teaching positions at middle schools.
- Increasing pay to participate fees by $75 per student, per sport with no family cap.
- Eliminating one administrator at the high school.
- Eliminating one school psychology assistant.
- Cleaning classrooms less frequently.
- Increasing class sizes at elementary, middle school and high school levels.
- Because the levy did not pass in May 2013, the district had to make $1.3 million in cuts in June affecting this school year. These cuts are in addition to the $3 million in cuts made in the 2012-13 school year.
- Oak Hills has not had a levy increase in 16 years.