Thursday, May 10, 2001

Fairfield schools to tighten staff

Districts make plans after votes on tax levies

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD - School officials here will hire only the staff needed to meet state requirements after voters rejected a 2.9-mill operating levy Tuesday.

        The levy would have generated $3 million a year for the schools.

        Meanwhile, in the Edgewood Schools, Superintendent Dale Robertson hopes to tear up the resignation letters sitting on his desk from four teachers after passage of a 6.9-mill operating levy, the district's third attempt at passing a ballot issue since November.

        In Fairfield, school board president Anne Crone said, “Obviously we're very disappointed. But historically this is the way it plays out in Fairfield. We don't pass issues the first time. The reality, though, is our costs are escalating.”

        The vote against the levy was 4,185 to 3,310.

        Superintendent Robert Farrell said Tuesday that if the district doesn't pass a money issue before year's end, voters would likely see a higher issue in 2002 because the district would lose a year of collections. He said he thinks parents of Fairfield's students support the schools, but perhaps voters didn't fully understand the need for the levy.

Work on message
        “We had 5,000 people at (last) weekend's arts fair. That's not the sign of a school district that doesn't support kids. That's the sign of a school district that doesn't understand a need,” Mr. Farrell said. “I think we have the support of our people. We have to work harder on our message.”

        Had the issue passed, Mr. Farrell said, he would have begun hiring aides so that elementary school libraries would be open more days, and teachers to help students having difficulty in specific content areas, including math.

        Mrs. Crone said the school board would review its finances and wait until legislators complete the state budget before deciding whether to resubmit the operating levy in November, modify it, or do nothing. The district is already dipping into reserve funds this year to balance the budget, she said.

        The deadline for putting an issue on the November ballot is Aug. 23.

Time to shift gears
        “I'm not saying we will be back (on the ballot) in November, but don't be surprised if we are,” Mrs. Crone said.

        In Edgewood, Mr. Robertson said passage of the levy allows educators to turn their focus away from campaigning and toward curriculum and construction projects, including a 78,000-square-foot addition at Edgewood High School. One of the first things to be reviewed will be implementation of honors and advanced courses cut in 1992 for financial reasons.

        “We've got to shift gears away from dismantling the district to all the things we've got to do before school begins,” Mr. Robertson said. “We've got a lot of work ahead of us.”


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