Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Lakota pupils up 74% in decade

By Sue Kiesewetter and Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Growing pains felt by booming West Chester Township are mirrored in the Lakota Local Schools, where enrollment has increased nearly 74 percent in the last 10 years.

        The housing boom in West Chester and Liberty townships has caused the Lakota School District to build nine schools in the last 10 years. Its enrollment has jumped from 8,713 in 1990 to 15,156 this past fall. Another 550 to 600 students are expected to enroll for the 2001-02 school year, educators say.

        “We expect the growth to continue,” said Superintendent Kathleen Klink. “Our teachers, administrators and parents have grabbed ahold of the challenge.”

        Despite the burgeoning enrollment in the last 10 years, the student-teacher ratio has remained fairly steady. The ratio was 18.5 students per teacher in 1990; the ratio is 19.7-to-1 this year.

        To accomplish that the district is constantly looking for teachers and support staff. In a typical year, the personnel office will review 1,200-1,500 applications, said David Greenburg, Lakota's director of personnel and student services.

        In the last 10 years, employees increased by 83 percent. In 1990, the district employed 922 people in teaching and support positions that includes bus drivers, aides, cooks, secretaries and others. That number increased to 1,690 this year. David Greenburg, director of personnel and student services, said the district plans to hire another 45 people for the upcoming school year.

        Although the teaching and support staff has increased dramatically, the number of administrators has grown much more slowly. In the past 10 years two secretaries and one clerical position were added to central office. Only one new district-level administrative position has been added during that same period - director of technology.

        “Our philosophy has always been "lean and mean' in central office,” said Assistant Superintendent Mike Taylor.

        To meet the expected growth and ease crowding in the schools, an 11th elementary and fourth junior school are planned to open in 2003. They are being paid for with proceeds of a combined 6.74 mill bond issue and levy approved by voters six months ago. Along with the new schools, the bond issue will also pay for additions to Lakota East and West high schools, which opened just four years ago.

        But until those schools are built, Lakota's ever-expanding student population needs classrooms.

        This summer the district will add administrative space by placing an office modular unit next to administrative offices. The treasurer and his staff will move out there. Others will be reassigned to new space in the administrative offices, which will undergo some remodeling this summer.

        Eventually, educators hope to get new office space so that all administrative functions can move to one site instead of scattered throughout the district as they are now.

        “We needed classroom space for students,” Mr. Taylor said. “The students come first. They're still our No. 1 concern.”

        That concern has allowed Lakota to enjoy a strong reputation for educational quality, and many parents say the district's standards have remained high.

        From 1990 to 2000, the percentage of Lakota graduates entering college rose from 77 percent to 90 percent.

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