I am proud of the excellent work that Elida students and teachers do every day, supported by volunteers, booster groups, support staff, and community groups. Elida schools continue to make improvements each year academically, despite the ever-changing “targets” established by the state. Our high school has been rated excellent eight of the last 10 years. The middle school has been rated excellent seven of the last 10 years, twice rated excellent with distinction. Three of the last five years, the district has been rated excellent.
This excellence occurs despite huge financial cuts from the state, but how long can we sustain it? The 2012-13 state budget eliminated $1.8 billion dollars from K-12 education. These cuts have placed Ohio’s public schools in serious financial trouble. More than half the states in the country have cut funding to public education, but only seven of those states cut more per student funding than Ohio did.
At the same time, the district has been in cut mode. Over the last 10 years, 43 positions have been eliminated with the same student enrollment. Automated payroll, controlled heating/cooling set points, savings in printing/paper/phone costs, streamlined food services, reductions in bus fuel consumption, consolidation of routes, all these and more have been put in place. Along with these cost savings measures, the entire staff contributes more for their health care. There are wage freezes in place for the entire staff. Compare Elida Schools to any district in the state and you will find that we are incredibly frugal. Our per pupil spending is lower than 90 percent of schools in the state.
Elida is a unique school district. We truly have a diverse population with boundaries that stretch from Delphos and include portions of the north end of Lima. When state department officials visit, they are often astounded at how one district can include students from urban, suburban and rural settings. A student who lives on a farm may be taking classes with a student who lives in a modern sub-division. A student living in an apartment complex may be taking classes with a student who lives in the country. Students with limited English ability, students with disabilities, students from single-parent homes: they all come together under Elida’s roof. This is our strength, and at the same time, it is our challenge.
How do you make a community out of such a large, diverse geographic area? Residents of our district live in villages and cities and townships. They are wealthy and middle-class and living in poverty. They are elderly, youthful, parents, non-parents. They are Republican and Democrat and Libertarian and apolitical. The only thing district residents have in common is our public schools. Our public schools are a precious resource and certainly one worth coming together for.
Public education offers every child in the community a chance at an education. While sometimes too many children remain limited in their ability to take full advantage of that opportunity due to personal circumstances, it’s important that those opportunities remain available to all. Education ought to be about lifting up, not weeding out. Without a free, public education system open to all, some may never have a chance to make their lives better by developing new knowledge and skills.
It has been eight years since our district asked for new operating money. During that time (actually for over a decade), the district has been making cut after cut after cut. In the last five years alone, spending has been reduced by $2.8 million. But at the same time, the state has been making cuts. We won’t be “adding” anything. All the cuts will remain in place.
We recently conducted our seventh annual Financial Summit. Bankers and business people and community members came together to examine our financial situation. This is not mandated or required. We want to be financially transparent with our taxpayers. Those attending the summit were unanimous in their support of the emergency levy requesting new operating funds and the Permanent Improvement renewal levy (no new taxes).
If you have any questions, please visit the keepelidastrong.com website or contact me at 419-331-4155. Please join me in voting for both Elida levies.
Don Diglia is the superintendent of schools for Elida
Don Diglia, Elida Superintendent