By Susan Tebben
Open enrollment was the hot-button topic at the Austintown school board meeting.
Jim Sobien, a regular attendee to the meetings who has expressed interest in becoming a school board member, said at Tuesday night’s meeting open enrollment would cause many problems within the district. Neighborhoods would be changed negatively, and the school district would not be better for all the new students, he said.
“Stop it now before it destroys Austintown,” Sobien added.
Board member Harold Porter said open enrollment has caused safety issues as well. He said he spoke as a parent, not as a board member.
“Most of our traffic problems are because of open enrollment,” Porter said, calling the policy a “major concern.”
A big part of the discussion of open enrollment and school business in general was the lack of extra funding coming from the federal and state governments. Core Curriculum Standards set to be instituted in the 2013-14 year would not be able to be implemented as well without more budget dollars, said board member Tom Stellers.
“Without more state funding, some of these ideas will remain just ideas,” Stellers said.
Meanwhile, superintendent Vincent Colaluca called Austintown one of the safest districts around.
“There wasn’t one decision made to make adjustments to save money that would take away safety,” Colaluca said.
The open-enrollment plan was implemented to keep staffing numbers up, Colaluca said, and to avoid cutting programs. The approximately 600 open- enrollment students in the district have helped with those goals, he said.
“There are only four schools in the tri-county area that aren’t [conducting] open enrollment,” Colaluca said.
Little was said at the meeting about the teachers’ “work-to-rule” plan to draw attention to the work and amount of extra time teachers put into the school day, according to teachers union president Barbara Tomic.
Board president Dave Schnurrenburger declined to comment on the situation because of the ongoing contract negotiations with the teachers, which is going into its eighth month.