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YSHS gains national honor a second time

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For the second time in the past five years, Yellow Springs High School was named one of the state’s top high schools in the annual U.S. News and World Report high school survey, YSHS Principal Tim Krier announced at the school board’s May 14 meeting.

Yellow Springs was ranked first in Greene County, second in the Miami Valley region (behind Oakwood) number 30 of Ohio’s 881 public high schools, and 778 in the U.S. of 19,000 schools in the country. The ranking, based on standardized test scores, AP test scores, racial and economic diversity and student/teacher ratios, puts Yellow Springs in the top 3.5 to 4 percent in both Ohio and the U.S.

In 2013 U.S. News and World Report ranked YSHS/McKinney Middle School 24th in the state, placing it in the top 2–3 percent of high schools in the state and second in the Dayton area.

In other school board business:

• Yellow Springs schools are currently in stable financial health, thanks to the nearly $1 million in annual revenue now rolling in from the 2012 levy. But steadily rising salary and benefit costs with no comparable revenue increase led District Treasurer Dawn Weller to project new deficit spending beginning in fiscal year 2019.

According to the five-year forecast Weller presented at the meeting, the district is building its cash reserve each year, starting at $3.3 million this year and climbing to an anticipated $3.6 million by 2018. The cash could serve to cover future deficits, but only for a short period.

Over the next four years personnel expenses are expected to be the main cost increase. Though the district saved $400,000 a year beginning in 2013 due to several retirements and contract nonrenewals, the schools are now on track to extend the contracts of a music teacher, a science teacher and a third kindergarten teacher, as well as special education and technology support staff, and add a new part-time project-based learning foundations teacher, a study hall aide and possibly a special education teacher.

In addition, according to Weller’s forecast, salaries will continue to increase 3.5 percent through 2016, with 2 percent annual increases projected beyond that. Also, the district contributes 14–16 percent of salaries to the State Teachers Retirement System and School Employees Retirement System, for a total that has more than doubled from $360,000 annually in 2002 to $742,000 this year.

Flat revenues over the corresponding four-year period are only expected to cover the district’s needs for about three years, according to the forecast. While both property and income taxes may enjoy a slight upward tick of 1–3 percent, those funds will offset the state’s continued phasing out of business “personal property” taxes and property tax allocation funds.

“There’s no additional money from the state, so the bell curve always comes in 10-year cycles,” Weller said of the amount of time it usually takes expenditures to catch up to revenues after a levy passage.

With open enrollment, and the per-pupil funding that comes with it, increasing every year in Yellow Springs, school officials are leaning toward promoting more open enrollment. This year’s 39 kindergarten students in district, coupled with open enrollment, will push the need for a third section. Though the additional class will utilize the last available classroom at Mills Lawn, the revenue justifies the use of resources, school leaders agreed.

“We’re starting to count on open enrollment more and more in our budget model,” board member Steve Conn said. “It may be time for us in the near-term to create a more comprehensive strategy to maximize that kind of revenue.”

The district is also considering hiring a communications director, whose contract would include promoting the schools outside the district, Superintendent Mario Basora said.

• The board approved the hire of Lynne Wooten-Mitchell as the district’s special education supervisor, replacing Barbara Greiwe, who retires this month. Wooten-Mitchell has 20 years of experience as a counselor in grades K–12.

The board approved an award of tenure to Mills Lawn first grade teacher Heidi Hoover, and extended her continuing contract.

• The school district is still applying with a dozen other schools in Ohio for the standardized testing waiver with the U.S. Department of Education. However, according to Basora, due to the uncertainty or timing of the approval, the waiver might not be implemented until the 2016–17 school year.

• The board will hold a work session on June 11, at 5 p.m., followed by the regular school board meeting. The board will also hear an update on the 2020 Strategic Plan on June 25 at 6 p.m. at the Mills Lawn conference room.

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