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Sept. 30, 2016

by Superintendent Tim Dettwiller 
Why is two-tier busing needed?
It feels like change is constantly occurring around and to us. We often feel as though we have very little control over those changes. Recently, Ohio released its report card of the state’s public schools. The results were not good. Superintendents, teachers, board members and our neighboring school districts all felt a sense of frustration as we have been working very hard to improve our educational services. The state increased the expectations of how well our students should perform. We had no control over this change, thereby leading to our frustration.

The Board of Education and I are now considering a change to how our students are transported to school. The district currently transports all students to school in one run, or tier, and takes them home in the afternoon in one run (tier). The change proposed is to move to two tiers for the 2017-18 school year.

Why make this change? Great question.

The answer lies first in the district’s financial condition. It would be much easier to just keep things as they are and try to simply improve our current operation.

In 2012, the district prepared a 10-year financial plan. In that plan, it was noted the district’s General fund would face a deficit at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year. The plan at that time was to reduce our payroll and insurance costs and to propose a new levy in 2016 for 2.5 mills. This plan would fund the district through the 2020-21 school year.

We did indeed reduce projected payroll and insurance costs through cost-cutting measures such as building consolidations, an early retirement incentive program, and insurance cap agreements with our bargaining units. These changes allowed us to “push” our projected deficit to the end of the 2018-19 school year. However, we are now just 33 months away from the General fund being in a deficit. It’s important to understand that in order to have additional funds prior to going into the red, we would need to pass a new levy in the preceding calendar year. That gives us just 27 months!

So how do we address this pending “financial cliff?” We continue to operate our district as efficiently as possible and seek out all funding sources prior to placing a levy on the ballot. That brings us to the current proposed change to our busing program.

Moving to a two-tier busing program would increase our busing miles dramatically. Yes, that would increase our operational costs. However, the increase in state funding would be dramatic because our transportation funding from the state is based upon how many miles we drive, not our actual costs. The increase in funding far outweighs the increased costs to the tune of more than $700,000 per year! If implemented, two-tier busing would bring a large financial benefit to the taxpayers of our community. One mill in our district would generate $340,000 annually. Two-tier bussing equates to two mills per year that we would not have to ask the taxpayers to fund.

Through all of our MPAC and Board meetings, newspaper articles, surveys and blogs we have tried to be transparent about the advantages and disadvantages of moving to two-tier busing. Aside from the financial impact, there are many other significant advantages to consider. All pros and cons are posted on our website home page for your review.

The Board, Treasurer/CFO and I take our responsibility for being good stewards of the funds provided to the schools by our community very seriously. In fact, our mission statement reads: As a partnership of rural, agricultural communities, the Madison-Plains School District will achieve excellence through quality educational resources to maximize student success. In order to maintain quality educational resources for our students we must have fiscal stability. This stability will ensure our students have the best teachers, computers, facilities and opportunities to maximize their success.

We value your input regarding this topic as well as all issues concerning our district. To that end, we have a survey going out to all email addresses we have in our database (512). The survey will solicit feedback about the two busing proposals currently on our homepage. Please check your SPAM beginning Tuesday Oct. 4 for the survey and reply by Oct. 9. The Board will vote on the proposal at its meeting on Oct. 18.

Report card points to more review
We are in the process of studying the results from the 2015-16 Local Report Card issued by the Ohio Department of Education. 

Media reports for districts across the state show dismal outcomes and steep declines. While no excuse for the performance, it's important to understand the state's reporting system and the tests have changed in each of the last three years.

The shifts make sharing information a challenge and comparisons from year-to-year impossible. With that said, we embrace high standards in Madison-Plains and agree we definitely have continued improvements to make.

The information from the report cards will help us measure progress made in the district, but is only one way we do that. We have a number of tools we use to monitor academic growth, including our Strategic Plan's specific targets that have been identified as important by staff members, the Board of Education and our community. As well as goals outlined in our current Madison-Plains Improvement Plan (MPIP).

Our scores are in line with other districts in the county — and higher in come instances. I also anticipate Madison-Plains is positioned to make the largest improvements in the shortest period of time. We have made significant strides the past three years toward meeting our goals from the work within the MPIP.

We will continue to share information about the report card and other measures of student progress with you here in Roll Call and on the district website as we have time to look further at the data.

Join us for continued analysis during the Madison-Plains Advisory Council meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 in the District Meeting Room located in M-P Elementary.
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