ELYRIA — Hey, where’s the party?
The question was screamed Friday morning inside the Elyria High School Performing Arts Center by an enthusiastic band member to the amusement of 800 employees who thought they were just in store for a typical rah-rah speech from Superintendent Paul Rigda.
But the opening day convocation, which is only held every few years as a district-wide pep rally of sorts, is about celebrating the good in the district and encouraging each other for the year to come.
Rigda led the sentiment Friday with a fun opening.
“Well, there is no party,” he said with a smile. “But if there was a party, we would need a band.”
On cue, the full Elyria High School Pioneer Marching Band marched loudly into the room playing the Elyria High School fight song. Teachers and staff stood and clapped with the beat of the drum line and even danced a bit when the student musicians began playing a rendition of “Party Rock Anthem.”
Monday starts school in Elyria, and Rigda reported good news to the educators.
While not official, word is that this year’s state report card will be one of the best ones yet.
The reports, which generally are released in late August, will not be made public until at least sometime in the fall because of an investigation into the attendance reporting practices of three Ohio school districts. But preliminary data for Elyria Schools is showing the district has met and exceeded 17 out of 26 indicators the state uses to gauge academic achievement.
The last time report cards were released in 2011, the district met 15 indicators and earned a rating of “effective.” It is unknown at this time if the boost will likewise improve its rating to “excellent.”
“You should applaud, because this is because of the hard work of everyone in the district,” Rigda said. “We are up two points from 2011 and seven points from 2010, when we met just 10 indicators. We have come a long way.”
Rigda said Elyria High and Prospect Elementary schools met all of their building academic indicators this year. Both schools were rated as “effective” on the last report card. Both could be labeled “excellent.”
Other district high notes include district-wide improvement in science and fifth-grade improvement in all areas.
John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said that until the report cards are released, local school officials will not have access to the official reports or rankings.
Rigda said areas to grow on for the 2012-13 school year include third- and seventh-grade achievement. Instructional focus will include a push to collaborate more with area pre-K instructors, guided reading and math in kindergarten through fifth grades and rolling out common core curriculum in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Professional development will also be important this school year. Charles Rudd, once a teacher at Crestwood Elementary, is leading Elyria University, which is an in-house professional development where continuing education credits can be earned by teachers.
And just as the marching band hits the road to let their music be heard far and wide, Rigda said Elyria Schools employees should also be willing to hit the road with a message of excellence and achievement.
“Don’t be afraid to let everyone know what you are doing, even your fellow teachers,” he said. “I remember the days when teachers closed the door and pulled the shades because they didn’t want anyone to know what they did in the classroom. I’m not sure why we ever did that, but this way is much better, because it’s the reason why we are succeeding.”
Elyria is seeking new operating money in November by placing a 4.9-mill emergency levy on the ballot that would raise approximately $4.34 million a year for the district. School officials know it will be a hard sell to cash-strapped residents but without the additional revenue, the district faces a projected deficit of at least $1.8 million in 2015 and $8 million in 2016.
The district brought in a guest speaker for a hard-nosed speech to employees on the difference between winning and losing levy issues.
Simply put, winning is difficult, said Jerry Rampelt, of the Support Ohio School Research and Education Foundation. Based on passage results from recent years, the normal passage rate in Ohio is an average of 30 percent.
“This is not a spectator sport,” Rampelt said. “You cannot prevail in a levy campaign without a lot of people volunteering and working together.”
Rampelt said for a successful campaign the district should raise at least $2 per vote needed, garnered by outside donations as well as by encouraging every employee to contribute financially to the campaign. They need to get out of the school buildings and meet voters in neighborhoods to talk to them face-to-face.
“Winning elections are about being on message,” Rampelt said. “Every conversation you have will give votes away if it is anything less than, ‘This is a great district and I work with great people.’ ”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.