MOUNT GILEAD — About 50 to 75 students, parents and concerned residents attended the May 14 Mount Gilead Board of Education meeting to question and protest the loss of Advanced Placement (AP) English and Spanish courses at the high school.
People were given three minutes to speak about their concerns to the board with a total of 15 minutes allotted to citizen’s comments.
Parent Mike Williamson spoke first about the fact that his family had moved to the Mount Gilead School District 12 years ago in part because of the excellence of the district’s schools. He said his two oldest boys benefited greatly from AP classes and he was disappointed that his youngest son might not have that opportunity.
Williamson also asked what it would cost to continue with an AP English teacher. He also expressed concern about class size in the elementary grades because of the loss of two elementary teachers this spring.
High school students Jadyn Shipman and Noah Tuggle spoke with passion about saving the AP English classes that benefit both students and the community. They said they had requested and received information from the district treasurer on the five-year forecast and other financial matters. They noted that the district is on a trajectory to be in the red without cuts.
“By 2020 we will be more than $300,000 in the red anyway,” said Tuggle.
“We need to save a teacher position,” added Shipman.
Students suggested saving the teacher and trying to pass a levy.
Parent Bernie Bolha spoke about the $112,000 that was on the agenda to be approved for parking lot paving.
“You are cutting what affects children directly,” said Bolha. “There are no cuts on administrative costs, only cuts on programs and teachers that will directly affect children.”
Superintendent Jeff Thompson said, “I appreciate and respect those who stood up to take an active role tonight.”
Thompson said the administration had eliminated 1.3 administrative positions and reduced the janitorial staff. He said that in the past the district was able to absorb costs by cutting positions.
Both Thompson and Board President Virgil Staley indicated that the board will consider a levy for the fall ballot.
Thompson said that in the past 14 years the district lost an average of about 15 pupils per year. From May 2017 to May 2018 the Mt. Gilead district lost 77 pupils. Most were lost due to families moving out of the district to seek jobs elsewhere. Because of the loss of so many pupils the district also lost a large percent of state funding.
When asked what the district would do if a levy didn’t pass, Thompson said it would be facing even more cuts.
“It’s as simple as revenue vs. cost,” said Thompson. “The last five to six years the district lost revenue.”
Local resident and retired teacher Lindsey Kohlenberg received loud applause when she noted that “the problem goes back to the state legislature that has been cutting funding to schools for years.” She added that residents need to contact their state legislators and let them know how much small communities are struggling.
Williamson commented that if there is less money and fewer students, wouldn’t the one place left to make cuts be the administration? Couldn’t it be explored to share costs of treasurer like Cardington and Highland districts do?
After 45 minutes of comments and questions, the board passed the following recommendations. Recommendations were unanimously approved, with the exception of approval of administrative fringe benefits that received a no vote from Denny West.
Student supply fees remain at $35.
Approval of Treasurer’s five-year forecast.
Resignations of Kimberly Hollingshead, Judy Lawson and Jim Swain.
Supplemental contract for Gretchen Jolliff as Elementary Public Relations Coordinator.
Supplemental contracts for a complete list of 52 coaches and club advisors.
Approval of certified and classified contracts of personnel for 2018-2019.
Elimination of one high school language arts position.
Resolution awarding bid for the asphalt paving project total cost of $112,095.45.
Approval of administrative fringe benefits.
For a complete agenda and listing of board documents visit the district website at: www.mtgilead.k.12.oh.us. Go to Departments, Board of education, Meetings and see document details.