By Kevin Howell
LEETONIA- As the Leetonia school district continues to stave off a budget deficit, the administration has been able to build its curriculum and community services.
The school, projected in the spring f 2010 to have a cash balance deficit of $817,327 this July and $1.7 million by July 2013, has been able to delay the deficit largely by reducing staff through attrition by approximately seven members since last July, consolidating several positions, according to schools Superintendent Rob Mehno. The district's most recent five-year financial forecast showed a cash balance of $158,142 by July 2013, an increase from the October forecast projecting a deficit of $218,053 by that same time.
But despite the cuts in staff that have left some employees filling three positions, the faculty and administration is running efficiently, Mehno said. That, as well as an increase from seven periods to eight and fewer study halls made available to the students, has made it possible to increase electives, he added.
"We've been fortunate to be able to do both (reduce staff and increase curriculum)," he said. "Even though we've decreased staff, our staff has been more efficient, with teachers being shared throughout building (elementary and high school) and some
filling multiple positions. So what we've been able to do is offer more courses and increase enrollment."
For the 2012-2013 school year the district is adding several new electives including ACT prep, drama, sociology and AP biology in addition to a speech class required of all 10th-grade students and a writing skills course for all eighth-graders.
Additionally the school's virtual learning program continues to expand, with students taking courses not offered in the district such as Russian and Latin, as well as a required ninth-grade health class aimed at exposing students to online studies. The program, which helps non-traditional students such as home schoolers and drop-outs earn their high school degrees and traditional students earn college credit, has enrolled 80 students since its inception last year.
The improvements have not been limited to just curriculum, though. In the past year, the district has added over 150 wireless devices in 95 percent of the campus, including five full computer labs and iPads, laptops and Kindles made available to students and staff, all without using any general fund money. The district has also resurfaced the student parking lot, sanded and painted the gym floors, improved drainage to increase use of practice fields and purchased new band uniforms and equipment, all of which through donations, grants and permanent improvement funds, Mehno said.
The district also partnered with the Greenford Christian Church Big Reach Center of Hope for it Weekend Back Pack program providing over 70 students with lunches over the weekends during the school year and will for the second consecutive year participate in the Salem schools-sponsored lunch program this summer.
"Our goal is to gain stability (in the administration), form a bond with the community and show the public that we are good stewards of their tax money," said Mehno, who is finishing his third year as
superintendent and entering a five-year extension. "If you have all that in place, the finances will get stronger."