School finances are weighing heavily on the minds of many voters as they choose leaders to guide their district through tough times.
Eight area districts have contested school board races this year: Clyde-Green Springs, Danbury, Edison, Huron, Margaretta, Norwalk, Sandusky and Vermilion.
Many of these districts are at a critical juncture, facing budget deficits and, in some cases, declining enrollment and aging infrastructure.
Clyde-Green Springs and Vermilion are attempting to approve levies for new tax dollars.
Clyde’s board members have already cut high school busing, field trips and elementary music performances, but they’ve promised to reinstate these offerings if voters OK the 4.9-mill additional levy.
Vermilion hopes to fund major renovations to its high school and middle school with a $33 million, 37-year bond issue.
In Sandusky, concerns about communication between parents and administrators — as well as talks about sharing services to cut costs — are at the forefront of the debate.
Some residents have said sharing resources is a good step forward, but others say they’d like to see the next round of board members take the concept further.
“What I’m looking for is probably something that’s not going to happen for a good many years to come — for the superintendents in our area to sit down and have a serious conversation about consolidation,” Sandusky resident Dan Leavell said. “What I see in the future coming from Columbus is less and less funds, and what I also predict is the different communities not passing any levies simply because they do not have the disposable income to live from day-to-day, much less support the school levies.”
The 78-year-old said he hopes the next batch of board members are willing to consider all options, and he wants them to keep up with what’s going on in the classroom and the goings-on in Columbus.
Becky Missler, 39, who has a 7-year-old and 9-year-old attending Norwalk schools, said she has seen the challenges brought on by the new clustering plan.
While it seems to be working, she said, there are still some kinks to iron out, such as the need to consolidate parent-teacher organizations.
There’s one overarching PTO, but each school still has its own, which means a parent like herself — with children at separate schools — must go to multiple meetings each month. The organizations cover certain amenities like field trips for some schools but not others.
“We just need to, as a community, pull together, versus fighting with each other,” Missler said. “You want it to be as consistent as possible for the students and the teachers.”
Diane Jacoby, 63, a lifelong Castalia resident and former Margaretta teacher, said honesty is her policy when she votes for any public official.
“I want someone who’s not going to do things behind someone’s back or keep secrets,” she said. “They need to be open with the public and just be truthful.”