November 27, 2014

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District talks massive cuts after levies fail

SULLIVAN TWP. — Black River Superintendent Janice Wyckoff warned the school board that small class sizes, athletics and extracurricular activities are in jeopardy after the failure of two levies on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Wyckoff told an audience of several hundred students, parents, faculty and staff that if the district can’t pass a levy next year, the board will have to consider firing as many as 37 faculty and staff, shortening school days, curtailing cafeteria lunches and limiting bus transportation.

Wyckoff said other draconian measures could include increasing pay-to-participate fees for athletics.

If a levy isn’t passed within two years, she said the district faces a worst-case scenario — closing the high school.

Wyckoff said the consequences are not written in stone. They are simply possibilities the school board will discuss.

“They can choose nothing, everything or just some things,” Wyckoff told the audience.

Nov. 6 marked the fifth time levies have failed in Black River since November 2010.

Black River had two emergency levies on the ballots in portions of three counties — Lorain, Medina and Ashland — served by the district.

Both failed by wide margins:

• A 5.8-mill, five-year operating levy lost 64 percent to 36 percent. It was expected to raise $1 million for operating costs and would have cost $182.70 a year per $100,000 of a home’s market value.

• A 1.8-mill, five-year levy for permanent improvements lost 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent. It would have cost homeowners $56.70 per $100,000 market value yearly.

Students, parents, faculty and staff who supported this November’s levies say they are ready to try again.

Elisa Kazek, 50, of Spencer, the treasurer of Friends of Black River Schools, said a levy is important because the school is a focal point of the community.

“I think everything they’re contemplating cutting is really important to my children,” Kazek said.

Her children, Gus, 18, and Angela, 16, are a senior and junior, respectively, at Black River High School.

Kazek said Friends of Black River Schools is trying to raise money to print fliers and pamphlets and is attempting to get voters to register for the next election.

She encouraged anyone who can help to get involved.

“We’re going to need people on the ground,” she said.

Kazek asked anyone interested to visit the organization’s Facebook page, which can be found by searching “Friends of Black River Schools.”

Wyckoff said failing to pass so many levies affects her deeply.

“It’s heartbreaking for me to think that these kids won’t get as good an education,” she said.

For now, though, all Wyckoff and the others can do is hope the board decides to move forward.

“The next step is to look at the presentation and figure out what might need to change,” Wyckoff said.

The school board will meet 7 p.m. Dec. 20.

Contact Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.