A Message from the Superintendent

Welcome to the Medina City School District.  We believe in excellence, strong sense of community and tradition --- this is all achieved with a supportive and involved community.  As a result, the Medina City Schools has achieved the rating of 'Excellent' from the State of Ohio for multiple years.

Our community strives to provide many opportunities for its children from academics to athletics, the performing and fine arts and community service.  For these reasons and more you will find that the community and the school district go the extra mile when it comes to the children.  Musically, Medina City Schools truly excels beyond expectations.  Regularly, our performing arts programs are recognized for their outstanding performances.  We are one of a few school districts in Ohio to have choir, band and orchestra achieving at the highest level in the state year after year.  As a result, you will find that 'superior' ratings at state level competitions occur frequently for all three groups.  We offer 23 varsity level interscholastic sports at Medina High School and pride ourselves in the high degree of sportsmanlike conduct and competitiveness that our students experience.

You will find that the Medina City School District employees are some of the best educators in Ohio.  We provide many opportunities for professional development focused on keeping everyone on the cutting edge when it comes to understanding and implementing the best instructional strategies and practices.

All of the great programs and accomplishments I have mentioned would not be possible without the ongoing support of our community and the Board of Education.  We are very proud to have such a professional and student-centered group of individuals representing the schools and the community.  Their commitment toward doing what is best for children and the community is second to none.

Working together we can assure that our children are afforded many opportunities and an outstanding educational experience.  A community, such as Medina, valuing education and its children will always be vibrant and alive.

Go Bees!

Randy Stepp, Superintendent

'Bee In the Know' by Superintendent Randy Stepp

Superintendent Stepp will be writing a monthly informational column about issues and programming within the Medina City School District.  Following is the first informational column.  If there are areas that you would like addressed in these columns please email hurtjs"bodycopyBlack"> March Informational Column

In this month’s column I will address the following questions that have been asked by community members: Why did you build two new elementary schools when you didn’t have the money to operate them? And, what are you doing to run the schools more like a business?

As most of you are probably aware the school district opened two new elementary schools at the beginning of the school year. These schools were built to alleviate the overcrowding at the elementary level. The average student population in elementary schools across the state of Ohio is approximately 450 students. Prior to the opening of the two new elementary schools, the average student enrollment at Medina’s elementary schools was 525 students at one school, well over 600 students at two schools and nearly 800 students at two other schools. Today, with the two new elementary schools our student population ranges from 460 to 565 students.

Why did you build two new elementary schools when you didn’t have the money to operate them?

The two new elementary schools that opened this school year were built with sales tax dollars. Medina County is the only county in Ohio that has passed such an issue for all of its school districts. The sales tax issue was passed by voters in May of 2007 and consisted of a sales tax increase of a half-percent. By law, sales tax dollars can only be used by a school district for capital and permanent improvements (which means any capital project that has a five-year or greater life expectancy). That means the school district can use the sales tax money to build or remodel facilities and to make facility or infrastructure improvements that will have at least a five-year life span. Sales tax dollars cannot be used to pay salaries and benefits, cover utility costs, purchase consumable items, or any of the other day-to-day operations of the school district.

When we campaigned for the sales tax our primary purpose was to obtain funding to build a school to offset the student growth that the district had been experiencing for quite some time. We also hoped to have enough funds remaining to help pay for necessary repairs and maintenance throughout the school district. We had trailers at all but one of our elementary schools, which was Garfield Elementary. The only reason we did not have trailers at Garfield was because we did not have the physical space. Instead of trailers, the district rented space for student overflow from Garfield. Canavan and Fenn elementary schools had close to 800 students each, while Garfield and Blake were pushing between 650 to 700 students. The infrastructure of our elementary schools was not designed to accommodate that many students. Understanding the community’s frustration with increased property taxes, the district saw the sales tax as a way to obtain the necessary funds to build much needed schools without asking for a property tax.

When the sales tax was soundly supported by our community, we began the process of researching the most cost effective design in an elementary school. The one we found and liked was a pre-existing design. By choosing a pre-existing design we were able to save money when it came to architectural fees. With the donation of property from the townships, the swapping of land with the city, and the state that the construction business was in at that time, we were able to reduce our building cost enough to allow us to build two schools for a few million more than we were projecting one school to cost.

Now, that brings us to the operating costs for the two new schools. The sales tax provided us with the money to build the schools, but not the money to operate the schools. Many community members have asked why we didn’t wait to build the schools until we had the operating money voted in by the community. This is a dilemma that school districts have struggled with for years – there truly is not an easy answer.

The basic choices we could have presented to the community were: approve both the sales tax and operating levy at the same time; approve one and then the other but don’t build until we had both; or do as we did and ask for the sales tax, build the schools, and then ask the community to support an operating levy as the schools neared completion. The reason we chose the option of building first and then ask for operating money later was because asking for operating money before starting the construction of the buildings would have meant that the district would have collected operating money from the community up to two years prior to actually needing it. Based on past construction experience in the school district, we chose to build first, taking advantage of the sales tax dollars and the state of the construction market, and delay asking our taxpayers for additional property tax dollars. This option kept property tax dollars in taxpayer hands, as opposed to the district having tax dollars for up to two years collecting interest, interest that community members could collect on their own money.

The school district also heeded the advice of a Citizen’s Facility Committee that met during the 2006-07 school year. The Committee members looked at a number of construction options for the school district to help alleviate the overcrowding in its buildings and recommended the district move forward with elementary overcrowding being a priority area to be addressed.

As I am sure you can see, the district desperately needed to address the student overcrowding issue at the elementary level. We also wanted to take advantage of the funds available for construction as a result of the sales tax and we wanted to take advantage of the state of the construction market at the time because we saw great opportunity to save the community tax dollars. I would also like to point out that the operating cost for the two new schools is not the sole reason that the district needs operating money at this time. The majority of the positions in those buildings came from positions that were in trailers and in other places around the district.

What are you doing to run the school district more like a business?

This is a question I am frequently asked. We are always looking for ways to be more cost efficient and to stretch the community’s tax dollars. An example of what we have done to stretch tax can be seen by comparing our five year forecast projections for FY 09 from May of 2006 to our five year forecast projection for FY 09 from May of 2009. In May of 2006 the projected fund balance by the end of the 2009 fiscal year was $1.9 million (a fund balance is a reserve that would be used if an emergency financial need occurred in the district). Over the last three years we have worked diligently to cut our costs and reduce our expenditures, while at the same time working very hard to maintain our level of academic performance. As a result, the fiscal year 2009 fund balance grew to $11.5 million by May of 2009. This happened even while we took nearly $1 million in federal fund revenue reductions during that time to Title VI-b and Title I programming

The cost savings measures we have taken over the last few years are what allowed us to have the money necessary to operate without asking for additional tax dollars until the 2008 March operating levy. As you may recall, this tax issue failed. As a result of that failure and the state of the economy, the Board decided to eat away the fund balance as opposed to asking for another levy during a bad economy. The Board then placed an operating levy on the ballot this past November and it also failed. That is why the school district is currently in the process of making $9.4 million in cuts and reductions across the district. A listing of the cuts to date can be found on the district’s web site www.medinacityschooldistrict.org and clicking on the Administration tab and visiting the Superintendent’s page.

Below are some of the things we have done in the past and continue to do today in order to cut costs and reduce our expenditures. Running a school district like a business can only be done in certain areas, as we are not producing widgets. As you know, we are striving to produce well-rounded productive members of our society. Therefore, not all business practices are appropriate in a school setting. That being said, there are certainly areas within the district that we can run more like a business. I believe we are making strides toward becoming leaner than we have been in the past. I also believe that you will see evidence of this in the following list of operating practices that the district has engaged in over the last few years.

• Reduced total number of instructional positions by increasing class sizes
• Reduced total number of administrative positions district-wide
• Reduced total number of classroom support positions district-wide/working to only have those that are required by law
• Reduced total number of support staff positions district-wide (custodial, secretarial, transportation…)
• Became self-insured in order to realize the financial benefits of good healthcare performance
• Conducted a health benefit audit to reduce costs through a reduction of people on the district’s healthcare plan
• Increased health benefit contributions from the administrative staff
• Made policy, fixture, equipment, and procedural changes to become more energy efficient which results in decreased operating expenditures
• Conducting a performance audit through the State of Ohio Auditor’s Office to uncover cost saving opportunities (MCS solicited the state voluntarily)
• Conducting a technology audit to uncover cost savings and efficiency opportunities
• Regularly renegotiate vendor and service contracts
• Developed a tighter budgeting process
• Working collaboratively with school districts in the county and with the city to look for ways to share resources and  increase efficiencies
• Purchased larger buses to maximize efficiencies with fuel, personnel and time
• Engaged in consortium purchasing to acquire products and services at a reduced cost to the district
• Seek more efficient operating standards at all levels
• Conducting time studies to ensure efficiencies

I encourage you to email our Communications office with additional areas that you would like addressed in this column and I will do my best to address each one. The email address is hurtjs"20">

Superintendent's Presentation Board Meeting February 22

Please click on this link to view Superintendent Randy Stepp's presentation from the Board of Education meeting on February 22, 2010.