Thursday, October 19, 2000

Taft visits boost schools

Volunteers, levy on agenda

By Sue Kiesewetter and Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Gov. Bob Taft swung through Greater Cincinnati Wednesday to celebrate the first year of his OhioReads initiative and attend a rally for Cincinnati Public Schools' 6-mill levy.

        His visit to the D. Russel Lee Career/Technology Center was aimed at recruiting more volunteers for the Middletown and Hamilton schools as part of his sweep of urban school districts.

[photo] Governor Taft exhorts the crowd to cheer for the youngsters who recited a welcome to him for the rally.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        Speakers told community and business leaders that the Miami Valley Reads Corporate is the model for the Dayton area. Since the initiative began in the Miami Valley, volunteers soared from 750 last spring to 1,250 today, said Ron Budzik, vice president for government affairs for the Mead Corporation.

        “What we're about is to try to change lives,” Mr. Budzik said. “When we started in Dayton, we pulled together organizations already involved with reading.”

        Ten OhioReads programs have been formed in the state and Gov. Taft urged Hamilton and Middletown officials to form a permanent organization.

        “There's already great things happening in Butler County,” the governor said. "We need more tutors, more businesses. We would like to see an ongoing permanent structure.”

        Gov. Taft said 60 percent of Ohio's fourth-graders are passing the reading portion of the proficiency test, but that leaves 50,000 students who aren't reading at grade level.

        “My highest priority is to enable every child to succeed,” the governor said. “There are very few good, unskilled jobs in Ohio."

        In the Middletown Schools, volunteers through the Seniors Teaching and Reaching Students program provide 7,200 hours of tutoring at McKinley, Taft and Mayfield Heights elementary schools, Superintendent Wayne Driscoll said.

        Statewide, OhioReads calls for 20,000 volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring to Ohio's students. The governor has allocated $40 million for classroom reading grants.

        Later, at a rally at Parham School in Walnut Hills. Gov. Taft said the levy, which is Issue 33 on the ballot, “will give Cincinnati schools the resources they need to continue their remarkable improvements.”

        Mr. Taft was joined by city leaders, church pastors and representatives from dozens of community and civic organizations, as well as the University of Cincinnati.

        He was welcomed to the school by kindergarten and first-grade students who recited, “We believe that reading is the key to our success and we want you to know we are trying our best.”

        Mr. Taft said levy passage is critical. He noted the district's improvement in ninth-grade proficiency tests, implementation of a mandatory summer school for reading and the new performance-based pay system for teachers.

        The levy would generate $35.8 million a year for four years. It would mean new taxes of $184 on a $100,000 home.

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