Akron: Educators, students say more progress requires levy

5:43 PM, Oct 8, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- Akron Schools Superintendent David James says he's happy with the progress the district has made and you will be too. But not without voter support this November.

You've seen the signs in front yards and along roadways asking for a vote for Issue 61. Some students say you need to see what's happening inside the Akron Public Schools to step up to support them.

"If they see that the students are working to make their dreams [happen], then it's important the community gets behind them. I believe they will once they see what's actually happening in here," said senior Samson Griffin. He's the class president at Buchtel High School.

The 7.9 mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $242 a year, an 18 percent increase in school taxes.
"We could have put a much larger levy on the ballot but we didn't," said Superintendent David James.

James says it's compromise in the current economic environment - with the levy, the school needs to cut $8 million to make ends meet next year. Without it, the board will be forced to make $23 million in cuts.

"We're trying to take the resources that we'll get from the community, make our ends meet and keep quality programs. And constantly look to trim things that aren't pushing us toward that focus of student success," he said.

"We desperately need the support of our community, businesses around," said Buchtel Principal Sonya Gordon.
Despite the economic outlook, the district is performing well, earning a Continuous Improvement rating on its report card.

New interventions and teaching methods have moved toward a college and career ready culture. The graduation rate at Buchtel High School has increased 10 percent in two years to 87 percent. District wide it's at 75 percent.

"There's still work to do and look at why we're, there are still kids out there that aren't graduating," said Gordon. "What can we do to make sure that number gets up to 90 percent or a hundred?"

Between local tax revenue and state funding changes, and a failed 5.5 mill levy last fall, APS already cut $22 million from its budget this year, losing about 200 jobs, including more than 130 teachers.

If the levy passes, the schools will continue to look at support side and curriculum changes.
James says if the levy doesn't pass, you're likely to see additional building closures, bigger class sizes and fewer electives and specialized programs.

"We think it's on everyone's radar screen," said James of the levy and its consequences. "People are concerned about our kids and community. So we're hopeful."
For more information on the levy, you can click here.


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