By any measure of success, be it academic performance, financial stability, a forward-thinking superintendent or school board members who share a vision, the Poland Local School District stands out as one of the best in the Mahoning Valley.
Boasting an “excellent with distinction” designation in the state’s report card (under the previous, sensible grading system in the state proficiency tests) and several Blue-Ribbon schools, the district continues to perform at a level that makes parents happy, administrators and teachers proud, school board members eager to serve and students yearning to succeed.
Two board members are seeking re-election this year, and we find no reason to withhold our support for them. It is noteworthy that four years ago, we did not endorse Dr. Larry Dinopoulos and Richard Beau Weaver, although we did say positive things about them.
This year, Dinopoulos and Weaver go before the voters with an argument for their retention that certainly is persuasive: We’ve done everything we can to ensure that the Poland school system remains one of the best in the region.
There’s a third candidate in the race for the two seats on the board of education, but Maureen Rothrauff failed to make the case for replacing either of the incumbents when she appeared before The Vindicator’s editorial board and a reporter.
Rothrauff comes across as sincere in her desire to serve the community, but given that she has lived in Poland for about a year, and has attended only one school board meeting, we would suggest she needs to get to know the community and the school system better.
We certainly applaud her for throwing her hat in the ring, but she must know that any case to be made against the incumbents, Dinopoulos and Weaver, must begin with this question: Are the residents of Poland satisfied with what’s going on in the school district?
We would argue that they are — given the absence of formidable challengers to the two board members on the ballot this year, the passage of a 5.9-mill additional levy last November, after two rejections, and the positive reaction to the board’s hiring of David Janofa as superintendent.
“Our No. 1 goal is to meet the needs of the students,” Janofa told The Vindicator after his hiring earlier this year.
It’s a goal that drives the school board, but the district’s financial difficulties in the recent past offered some major challenges.
Dinopoulos and Weaver told us that the system was forced to reduce spending two years ago when the levy failed. Teachers and bus drivers were cut, and pay-to-play was instituted. There even was a discussion in the community about open enrollment, but residents opposed it.
Board members, with help from residents, made the case for a 5.9-mill, five-year additional levy. It was approved last November.
As a result, the district’s finances have been stabilized— even with a $2 million reduction in state funding. But while the system will be able to hold its own financially until 2017, challenges abound. Enrollment has been declining, the demand for Internet access is increasing — state testing will be done online — and the issue of school consolidations can no longer be swept under the rug.
Dinopoulos and Weaver are fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to not only meet the needs of the students within the reality of enrollment declines, but to ensure that the Poland Local School District maintains its high academic rating.
The Vindicator endorses their re-election.