Despite support for MRDD, program is endangered
I write today with a heavy heart. Our county is being forced to take a truly great MRDD program and slash it to the point where it will create an inferior and unsafe environment for our special needs citizens of this valley. These cuts will not only affect the youth at Leonard Kirtz school, but also the MASCO workshops in several locations.
The real insult to us, the taxpayers, is we were not given options. We can say we controlled our county's destiny when we approve or deny levies and issues on election day, yet this is not the case. We the people have supported the MRDD levies for at least the past 20 years. We know how important it is to give those special needs children and adults a quality education, with a caring staff of real professionals.
MRDD is governed by the county. A board of seven citizens controls MRDD. The board is appointed by the probate judge and our commissioners. The board has the power to hire and fire a superintendent. The board gives the power for many decisions to the superintendent. MRDD has many funding sources including profit producing workshops. One source of income is the federal government, which, in this case has changed a particular program which has left about a $4 million temporary loss of income next year. The board has given Superintendent Duck the power to do whatever he feels he needs to do to keep MRDD fiscally responsible. Mr. Duck's decision to make dramatic cuts is his and his alone. We have 88 counties in Ohio and I do not know any that have laid off MRDD staff due to this funding allocation. It is my understanding that this funding has been an issue for quite some time, and we should not blame the federal government too hastily. I understand that this program will be replaced with a similar one, and the income loss may be a small fraction of what Mr. Duck claims now. The funding in question has only been in place for 13 years and MRDD ran well without it for many years prior to its allocation in Mahoning County.
The union representatives worked hard during contract talks last summer. The staff accepted Mr. Duck's concessions in order to avoid a strike. At the same time Mr. Duck knew then about this funding problem and chose to accept these contract concessions (which were meant to keep everyone working) knowing that he soon would be slashing jobs. So much for job security.
Bravo Boardman Orchestra
On May 18, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the spring concert of the Boardman High School Symphony Orchestra. I was so overwhelmed at the performance of these young musicians I felt compelled to write this letter.
My purpose is threefold:
*To congratulate the Boardman High School administration and faculty, especially the conductors, Frank Dispensa, Michael Vari and Ron Ryan.
*To congratulate the parents of these students.
*To congratulate the students themselves. I especially wish to congratulate the two senior soloists that evening, Ryan Silvestri and Jenna Agnew.
Youngstown is very proud, as it should be, of the national championships earned by the YSU football team. In my opinion, the Boardman High School Orchestra has accomplished a feat of the very same caliber in the field of music.
Although I am far from being an accomplished musician myself, I have dabbled enough to know the difficulty of the final composition the orchestra performed that night: Finale from Symphony #4 by Tschaikovsky. They did a magnificent job.
Let's get some civic recognition for these "national champions." Bravo Boardman.