Citizens For A Better Norwood

Monday, April 28, 2008

Part I: Superintendent Collier explains downsizing, seeks input

We want to thank NCS Superintendent Steve Collier for sitting down with our school reporter Lisa Bauer last month to discuss the specifics of why the school district needs to downsize and to explain the options being offered to the community during their five “Planning for the Future of Norwood City Schools” informational meetings (see this 4/18/08 blog for the schedule.) Input from community members is key to decision making, so both Mr. Collier and board of education members will be checking in to see what our readers have to say about the two options. Part II of this 3-part series, the K-6 Option, will be published tomorrow, and on Thursday, we’ll publish Part III, K-6, Grade-Specific Buildings. Of course, attending one of the informational meetings will provide the best avenue for understanding the two options. Following is Part I:

Filed by Lisa Bauer

Since the end of Spring Break and over the next few weeks, Norwood City Schools Superintendent Steve Collier will be meeting with parent and community groups to get input on making some tough decisions about Norwood City Schools. Collier explained that downsizing needs to take place in order to be financially responsible to taxpayers. He noted that for the past few years, Norwood’s enrollment has been shrinking by about 50 students per year, but that the lost revenue was handled by cutting school staff.

“We’ve been doing it for the last five years,” Collier said, adding that when staff members resigned or retired, they were simply not replaced. “You haven’t heard about it because nobody lost their job. We are shrinking our staff.”

At this point, Collier said, the district needs to expand its cost-cutting efforts and that looking at how it uses its buildings makes the most financial sense. And that’s where his attendance at community meetings fits into the equation.

Collier said he will be presenting two options for downsizing to the community. The first option involves making all grade schools K-8, and using the Middle School as one of the K-8 buildings. The second option involves housing different clusters of grades pre-K through six in four different buildings and continuing to use the Middle School and the High School in the way they are currently being used.

“I don’t want to convince (community groups), but to show them the options and get feedback,” Collier said, noting that each option has advantages and disadvantages to be considered. He emphasized that school officials have no particular preference for one option or the other. They and the School Board simply wish, he said, to have community input on the decision before School Board members vote.

Collier said area architects are evaluating the cost-effectiveness of operating each of the five Norwood elementary school buildings, Sharpsburg, Williams Avenue, Allison, Norwood View and North Norwood, which hasn’t been used as an elementary school by Norwood in several years.

“North Norwood is open for discussion,” said Collier, adding that the building is in good shape and that the architects said it might be the most cost-effective building to use, given the fact that it would be easiest to install an elevator there. “We want to make it a very logical decision based on current repairs, future repairs, and the geography based on current enrollment of students.”

In any event, Collier said, closing one elementary building will save the district money by eliminating the need for support staff and food service. “Most of the teachers you’ll still need, though,” he added. “You’ll still need them because the students are still there.”

In addition to feasibility studies of buildings, Collier said that school district officials were researching and visiting schools in the area such as Winton Woods, Finneytown, Deer Park, Mason, Madeira and Lebanon that have grade-level buildings rather than K-6 buildings. “Educationally it’s sound, but we’re concerned,” Collier said, explaining that both school administrators and the School Board are aware that parents and the community may not be happy to have neighborhood schools eliminated.

Collier said that gathering community input and taking time to make a decision that weighs all the factors means that no changes will be made until 2009-10. However, he said that he hoped to have the decision about what building to close made by summer.

“We’re pretty much status quo for next year, but there’s a lot to do to make changes, he said.”

Explaining the details of each plan being considered to redistrict Norwood’s elementary school students would take up more space than one blog posting will allow. Therefore, in the next few days, individual postings covering both plans will be posted on the CBN Blog. Readers are encouraged to post their opinions of the plans. Collier said he and School Board Members would be interested in seeing the reactions of CBN readers, so be sure to consider the option, click on “comments” and let us know what you think.