District looking at community’s concerns

After hosting several community listening sessions in April and May, board members at West Clermont Local School District are now working to review community feedback and make decisions about how to move forward as a district.

“They have somewhere over 1,000 verbatim comments,” Superintendent Dr. Gary Brooks said about board members. “They have set up a series of meetings to determine what (the comments) mean and where they need to move forward as a district.”

Brooks said the community was well represented during the listening sessions and comments seemed to center around several themes.

“They wanted kids to have fine arts offerings, transportation is a concern, funding is a concern and taxes are a concern,” Brooks said about community feedback. “Most of the feedback was things people wanted, and costs are associated with that.”

Kathy LaSota, with the Ohio School Boards Association, pulled together these common themes and presented them to board members May 29.

Other common themes included increasing communication, hiring high-quality teachers, including technology at all levels, thinking outside the box to secure resources and more.

Doug Young, president of the West Clermont Local School District Board of Education, said he felt unity was one of the most important themes the district can improve upon.

“There needs to be more people involved and we need to be on the same page moving forward as far as what resources we need in the school district,” Young said.

Young said communicating with residents and knowing their concerns helps the board know what is most important.

“Obviously a lot of the wants are things that we have had to cut,” Young said. “So looking at those wants, we have to look at cost efficiency. How can we be more efficient about operating those items bringing them back?”

Young said the board will be looking at both short term and long term decisions that will have to be made and issues that will have to be addressed.

“The long term part of the discussion is the issue of facilities,” Young said. “That is because we’ve lost a number of students.”

Young said that because of the cuts they have had to make along with open enrollment at surrounding districts, West Clermont has lost a number of students and now has an increasing amount of space.

“We need to figure out how to retain our students and still be a community that attracts families,” Young said.

Young said a short-term item they are discussing is whether or not they will put an operating levy on the ballot in November.

“We know to put an operating levy on (the ballot) we need to have a decision by the first of August,” Young said. “We hope to have a decision on a levy by the end of July.”

Young said the board the board will continue to meet to discuss feedback from the listening sessions and make decision about the future. He said the remaining meetings are scheduled for June 11, June 25, July 9, July 12 and July 13.

“It’s definitely a work in progress at this point,” Young said. “Hopefully the community understands we are trying to engage them in dialog.”

For more information about the board meetings, work sessions or to view the presentation from Kathy LaSota regarding the listening sessions, visit www.westcler.k12.oh.us.