Dover, Ohio - The Dover Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to reorganize its elementary buildings by grade level.
The unanimous decision came during a special meeting Monday attended by at least forty members and supporters of a group called Support Dover Excellence.
The group had presented an alternative plan to the board that they said would save the district twice as much money and preserve neighborhood schools. Board President Steve Mastin said they considered the plan carefully but decided reconfiguration would be the best option for the district and its students.
“We have listened. I listen to the community members on a daily basis, and we listened to what they voted on on November 6th. I believe that the reconfiguration of the elementary buildings is in the best interest of our students and will allow us to continue a legacy of Dover excellence in the future,” he said. “This model is the most efficient way to make staff reductions in an efficient manner and reorganize in a way that gives us greater flexibility to add or reduce staff as needed in the future.”
Superintendent Carla Birney said the board and administration considered many different options to balance the budget and offset recent reductions state funding. She said all of those options would have an impact on students, staff or the community and reconfiguration was the only one that had potential benefits to students.
“The reconfiguration of the elementary schools is a long-term solution that allows the district to be more responsive to changes in funding, both increases and decreases at the elementary level,” she said. “We also know there are many positives to this change such as greater collaboration among grade-level teachers, balanced class sizes, more equitable resources for all children, more access to reading intervention for students and economic efficiencies when purchasing supplies, technology and more.”
Board member Randy Longacher also spoke out in favor of the grade-leveling plan.
“I believe that although there are some negative intangibles that might come with grade reconfiguration, the positive tangibles outweigh them,” he said. “I believe that grade-leveling is the most efficient way to deliver elementary education. I believe that grade-leveling is the most financially efficient. I believe our children, your children, will experience higher levels of academic achievement.”
Longacher also commended the community group for their dedication and commitment.
“I appreciate and respect each of you for your research, your intelligent and extraordinary effort over the last two months to bring your concerns to the board of education. I especially admire your love for your children and your passion in bringing your concerns to the board of education.”
He encouraged the group to continue to promote excellence in Dover schools by supporting the decisions of the board and administrators and their future levy requests. He also urged them to contact state lawmakers and ask them to restore funding to local school districts.
Support Dover Excellence organizer Brianna Beal said the group was disheartened by the board’s decision but they’re not ready to give up the fight.
“The Support Dover Excellence group will not halt or falter in our efforts as a result of the current board decision. We will meet and reorganize our approach to ensure that the voices of our community and the district are heard and followed by our elected officials,” she said. “We encourage the public to continue to come forward, stand with us, and join our efforts to stop grade-leveling and increase the transparency of our school district. Dover is an incredible community and an amazing school district, and we can and will find the best solution to this issue.”
Birney said the board and administration will now focus on making the transition into the new system as smooth as possible. She says they will communicate more details with staff and community in the coming months.
The board also voted Monday to implement pay-to-participate fees for activities and athletics and to eliminate senior citizen passing for sporting events. All the changes will begin next school year.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV