Trouble reading this? Click on this link: Lakota Schools state ratings
Michael D. Clark reports:
Southwest Ohio’s second-largest school system maintained its top state ranking while the area’s longest financially embattled district finally dropped a category, according to the annual Ohio Report Cards, released Wednesday.
Butler County’s Lakota Schools earned an Excellent with Distinction rating despite historically deep budget cuts in recent years.
And Warren County’s state-controlled Little Miami Schools dropped one category, from Excellent to Effective, after three previous school years of the higher rating. Those excellent rankings came during a stretch from 2008 through 2011 when the state-designated “fiscal emergency” district was cutting millions in personnel and programs while losing eight consecutive tax levies at the ballot.
Being forced by the state into academic minimums as part of Little Miami’s financial recovery plan, which was bolstered by voters’ levy passage in fall 2011, finally took its toll on the district’s rating, said Superintendent Greg Power. In 2010 the district was ordered by the state into fiscal emergency.
Power said the lack of staff and dollars to commit to on-going, high-quality curriculum revision and professional development all played into the rating decline.
Little Miami met 25 out of 26 indicators on student data, but did not meet its “Adequate Yearly Progress” target number for the second year in a row, resulting in the downgrade.
Officials at Lakota – the eighth-largest district in Ohio – said their streak of 11 years of earning the state’s highest ranking may also be brought down by financial woes and deep budget cuts that are now in place for the 2012-2013 school year.
“When someone says we cut the budget by millions and the results are still just as good, we need to remember these (state) results are from last (school) year. We had many teachers who helped our kids learn this material who are not here anymore,” said Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia.
Mason Schools, the largest district in Warren County, dropped from Excellent with Distinction to Excellent but district officials months ago announced that they were joining nine other districts in Hamilton and Clermont counties in creating their own annual report cards. Officials from the highly rated districts say the locally generated grade cards – when combined with annual state grading – will provide a more comprehensive and detailed measure of their annual performance than that provided by the annual state rankings.
Mason officials, however, touted their continued ranking among the top-10 of Ohio’s 613 districts, according to their performance index rating – 110.3 – and said that mark was achieved while spending $2,444 less per pupil than the other top-10 districts.
The 9,700-student Fairfield Schools in Butler County met all 26 indicators on last school year’s report card and raised its rating from Effective to Excellent.
“We are very excited about the excellent rating,” said Superintendent Paul Otten. “We also realize that there is still work to be done.”
The only other district in Southwest Ohio to fall into fiscal emergency and state control – Monroe Schools in Butler County – maintained its Excellent rating despite coming under state governorship earlier this year.