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School has town-hall meeting



Published: Tue, October 13, 2009 @ 12:05 a.m.

The superintendent was present to answer any questions on the bond issue.

photo

SUPER MODEL: Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca, right, explains to Rich Klena, left, the model of the proposed campus-style layout for the school district if a 2.9-mill bond issue passes next month. In the center is the Rev. Rick Stauffer, pastor of Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where a town-hall meeting took place. If passed, the bond issue would fund the 53 percent local share of a $50 million expansion project.

By Jon Moffett

AUSTINTOWN — If Vincent Colaluca and the Austintown school board haven’t answered questions about the upcoming bond issue, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.

Colaluca stood patiently behind a table at a special town-hall meeting to answer any questions and discuss community input on the bond issue Monday evening at the Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Raccoon Road. In front of him was the conceptual model for the new buildings and not much else.

Only a handful of people attended the meeting, which was designed to explain a 2.9-mill bond issue that will be placed on the ballot next month. If passed, the money collected would fund the local 53 percent share, or roughly $26 million, of a $50 million expansion project. The state would fund the remaining 47 percent.

Those who did attend were satisfied with the answers they received.

“I’m just trying to get as much information as I can so come Election Day I’ll be able to make a better, informed decision,” said Rich Klena, 37, who has a child enrolled in Frank Ohl Intermediate School and another who will begin kindergarten at Watson Elementary School next fall. “The specific questions that I had have been answered.”

Klena also observed the model for the proposed campus-style layout the district would use if the bond issue passes.

The district is made up of several small “feeder” elementary schools. Those schools would be consolidated into two new facilities: a kindergarten-through-grade two building and another to house grades three to five. The new buildings would be constructed on the current sites of Watson and Frank Ohl.

“I love it,” Klena said of the layout. “Austintown Middle School is really nice and state-of-the-art. The whole campus idea is very appealing and hopefully it will become a reality. It would be an asset to the community, certainly.”

Anne Booth, 45, of Youngstown, has three children enrolled in the district through its open-enrollment policy. Though she cannot vote on the issue, she wholeheartedly supports it.

“I think it would mean everything to the district,” she said. “Our children are our future, not to sound like Whitney Houston. You have to put the time, money and resources into them because they’re going to be our future leaders. We just need to put the effort into it.”

Colaluca was not discouraged about the lackluster turnout and joked that it must mean there are few issues with the project.

One issue brought up during past discussions was a lack of parking. Complaints have been made that there is not adequate parking currently, and the new model, which features three soccer and two softball fields in the center of the layout, would decrease it further.

But Colaluca said all issues can be solved collectively with the community.

“I’ve heard people bring up parking, the playgrounds aren’t big enough, but it’s just a conceptual model,” he said. “The softball and soccer fields can be more parking or be more playgrounds. ... What the community needs to know is that when this bond issue passes, they will have the opportunity to voice their concerns and give their input on what these buildings will look like.”

jmoffett@vindy.com


Comments

1KLee(18 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

They want our input now because they want our money. Why wasn't the community involved in deciding whether we wanted all the children on one campus? We only were given a choice between a K-2 with 1200 kids (16 classes per grade) & a 3-5 with 1200 kids OR K-3 with 1600 kids and a 4-5 with 800 (same as Frank Ohl holds right now). No neighborhood schools, no "none of the above". They try to put the onus on the OSFC as far as saying they will only build the campus option. Not true. They make reccommendations, but as long as you have property (and the district does) they will build whatever schools your district decides on, with a minimum of 350 students per building. Of course the community has to be willing to fund the other half. But maybe if the (whole) community was involved in the decisions from the start, we would have more buy-in.
Kathy Mock said at the Growth Foundation Candidate's Forum that we should make Davis a senior center. As it stands now, that isn't in the cards. The plan the current board approved calls for the demolition of each of the current elementary buildings and Frank Ohl. (After they make repairs to Davis so they can redistrict Austintown one last time during the construction phase.) - Now wasn't Davis in such poor shape that it wasn't feasible to make repairs in 2008? Too much money for a roof that was publicly portrayed as in imminent danger of collapse. That same roof is suddenly acknowledged to be in good enough shape to last several more years. Did wee little elves make repairs when nobody was watching? It has also been admitted that only a fraction of the money forecasted to be saved by closing Davis was actualized. Really? You mean those kids weren't just going to disappear when their school was closed? More kids wouldn't be riding buses because they could no longer walk to school? New staff wouldn't be put in place at the other buildings to accomodate the influx of kids? You mean those things cost money, too? Doggone it. Well, we need to implement open enrollment to save our schools. OK. We'll earn tons of money there. Sure. Those kids don't cost anything to educate. right?
Oh, yeah, one last thing.... if new buildings are going to make us "excellent", why is Youngstown one of the worst districts in the state? They've been putting up new buildings and consolidating for the past decade. What do they have to show for it?

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2commyliberal(93 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

I find it interesting the meeting was billed as a "community event". When was "the community" invited? This was not listed on the district website and I did not see any publicity for the "community event". Maybe this is why there were so few in attendance? Was it by invitation only?

I want to know how the district is going to pay for the increased busing that is going to be required for the "campus model"? The neighborhood elementary buildings allow half of the 1200 students not currently located on the campus to walk to school. If the campus model is adopted and this single elementary building is constructed in the proposed location, an additional 1200 children will be on the campus and busing will be needed for approximately 600 MORE students.

Austintown voters have turned down a 6.9 Mil Operating Levy just last spring. Mr. Colaluca stated in PTA meeting that the district will be in the red fiscally next year. The bond levy is for construction not operating expenses. Where is the additional funding?

Proponents of the "campus" model spout off about increased efficiencies of the central elementary building but specific amounts have NEVER been openly discussed with the community. If I had a great idea and it was going to save a LOT of money, I would certainly give specifics.

Am I just being resistant to change? Maybe, or maybe I have been LIED to in the past. Like when Davis Elementary was closed because of roof issues and declining enrollment. This was supposed to SAVE the district anywhere from $300,00 - $500,000 a YEAR.

When I asked about the number of STAFF to be reduced it was minimal, utility cost savings were a mere $70,000 a year and the district did not include the added cost of BUSING the displaced Davis students who used to walk to school.

SO what was the final savings for closing Davis just 2 years ago? About $!50,000 over 2 years!

Oh, and by the way, did closing Davis have anything to do with the operating levy NOT passing last spring?

How much is the district going to have to put into Davis so it can be used for four years while the central elementary building is being constructed? This is also and OPERATING EXPENSE!!!!!!!

I want to see an efficiency study done to determine the best most efficient method for utilizing the OSFC funding. I dont have any confidence that this community is being well served by a central elementary. I would like an independent opinion BEFORE we spend $26 Million on buildings and the ???more on operating levy and THEN get hit up again for renovations to Fitch in a few short years.

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