COVENTRY TWP. One of the plans Josh Hostetler had when he got elected to the Coventry Local Schools Board of Education was to create a strategic plan.
During a special board meeting Feb. 7, Hostetler presented his plan, which focuses on several aspects of the district. Board President Chris Davis said it was nice to see some initiative by Hostetler, but added "This is not a district plan or a school board plan."
Davis also voiced some frustration with the way the plan came out and the way the teachers found out about it.
Hostetler said the plan is a starting point for the district as he wanted to look at what the the schools will look like three, five and even 10 years down the road.
The objectives, he said, are improved educational facilities, fiscal solvency, exit strategy for detrimental contracts, funnel more resources toward education and set capacity limits.
Hostetler is proposing to sell the Lakeview Building and move the administration offices to Coventry Elementary School in 2018. He would also like to see the current elementary school be sold in either 2022 or 2023 and move those students to the middle school. The middle school would then likely undergo a renovation and the administration offices could also be moved there. The middle school would then house grades K through 7, with eighth graders being moved to the high school.
He said he heard a lot of concerns in the community about the elementary school not being an appropriate building for a school. He said it is an aging facility and air handlers need to be replaced.
Hostetler said if the building is set up properly, he doesn’t see an issue with having kindergarten through seven in the same building.
"There are quite a few districts in Ohio that have made the decision to convert to a one building district," Hostetler said. "Versailles district converted to one K through 12 building in 2011, and one board member I spoke with cited 30 percent operating cost savings. Additionally, Carlisle Local Schools are in the process of building a new facility for K through 12 and Woodridge Local is building a unified campus for K through 12. Converting Coventry to a two-building district is not that radical of an idea."
Hostetler wants to create a path out of Fiscal Emergency, by having a positive cash balance in the fifth year of the five-year-forecast. His plan would reduce annual operating expenses. Hostetler anticipates a positive cash balance of $4.3 million by 2022.
"If you've followed the recent history of the five-year-forecast, you know that the cash balances in the out years have varied substantially by millions in recent months and years," Hostetler said. "A positive cash balance in year four does not mean that we are operating at optimal efficiency or providing the best education we can for our residents, it simply means we have a positive cash balance. We, as a district, owe it to the community and the tax payers to provide the best education we can for a reasonable price."
One contract Hostetler wants to address is the contract with Peterman for busing. The contract is expected to cost the district $737,000 by 2021, he said. His plan calls to purchase buses in 2022 for $900,000 and exit the contract.
He estimates between $250,000 and $350,000 in annual savings would occur.
More resources for education
Directing more resources towards education is another area he plans to focus on. In his plan, he calls for a 22 to 1 student to teacher ratio for grades kindergarten through three; and 25:1 for grades nine through 12. He said the updated facilities plan would save 15 to 20 percent in operating expenses, which would result in a positive cash generation for education programs.
Hostetler also wants to focus on setting capacity limits. By setting these limits, it would limit the number of open enrolled students the district would take in.
This school year, the district has 1,274 resident students and 673 open enrollment students. By the 2022-23 school year with capacity levels set, he estimates there would only be 179 open enrolled students. Under his plan, the district would not accept open enrollment students in grades kindergarten through two by the 2022-23 school year.
"To be clear, my goal is not to eliminate open enrollment, but to utilize it responsibly so it is a benefit to our residents," Hostetler said. "If we had classroom capacity with the teaching staff in 2022, I would have no problem with allowing OE students in kindergarten through two."
Fewer students would mean fewer teachers for the district under his plan.
"If we right-size our student enrollment, staff reductions would be necessary," Hostetler said. "However, the positive cash balance created in my plan actually facilitates more or improved programs, not reductions."
He also said based on some research, a reduction in open enrolled students would result in more residential students over time.
"I'm basing this on the academic study from Columbia University analyzing school choice (OE) programs," Hostetler said. "Basically, the study supports the conclusion that reducing open enrollment will encourage families to move to Coventry so they can send their kids to the schools, leading to an increase in enrollment over time."
Superintendent Lisa Blough said some of the goals outlined in the plan, the district can get behind.
"Our big plan is to develop a strategic plan for Coventry Schools," Blough said.
She said she wants to see a committee form to take a look at what a strategic plan would look like. She doesn’t want it to be just a plan prepared by herself or the school board. She wants to see the community involved.
In other business Feb. 7, the board:
- Heard from Davis, who read the obituary for Issac Stover. He reminded everyone that someone is always there to talk to if someone is struggling.
- Approved a purchase order for the band trip.
- Approved the Coventry Education Association contract, which includes no base increase only step and longevity increases. The contact will add $160,000 to expenses and is reflected in the December five-year-forecast. Davis this has been going on for a long time and it is nice to finally see this come to an end.
- Approved a contract for Coventry Middle School students to attend a two day trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trip is being funded 56 percent by a grant with the interested students paying the remaining cost.
The next Coventry Local Schools board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Lakeview Administrative Offices.