DEGRAFF - Nearly 50 people were in attendance on March 19 as the Riverside Board of Education met to discuss the on-going budget cuts and to address issues stemming from cuts already made as well as what can be done at the state and local levels to help ease the financial struggles of the district.
With regards to the district’s current financial situation combined with the fact the governor’s new funding plan calls for no increase in monies for Riverside next year and a cut in funding two years from now, Riverside parents Lori Meade and Laura Smith informed the board about a letter writing campaign they started recently.
Meade said the ultimate goal is to flood Governor Ted Strickland’s office with signed letters that state the impact the budget cuts will have on small districts like Riverside and how those cuts affect the children directly.
Meade stated a “group letter” has been prepared for residents and the goal is to get the letters into as many hands as possible so they can be signed and passed on to the governor. Meade mentioned the letters would be sent home with students and can be returned to the school or local businesses.
As for the children, Meade said the goal is to visit every classroom and have the students write letters about how the cuts affect them personally.
“Being able to deliver 2,500 letters to the governor is our goal,” said Meade, citing that all the materials for the letter writing campaign have been donated.
To ensure that Gov. Strickland gets the letters, Meade said State Representative Dave Burke has offered to help set up a meeting in which the letters can be hand delivered directly to the governor’s desk.
The board also heard from Riverside parent Shelly Newland concerning the BOE’s decision to cut junior varsity sports next school year.
Newland questioned why the board chose to keep seventh- and eighth-grade sports instead of junior varsity sports.
“High school sports should always come first because high school students need JV sports to start working on scholarships,” she said. “The school could set up intramural sports with volunteers for the seventh and eighth grade.”
Elementary Principal Tim Walls responded by saying the school currently does not have an intramural program and the decision was made to cut junior varsity sports so that “everybody has the opportunity to try out for something” at all grade levels.
“There is not a whole lot here for our middle schoolers to do as far as extra curriculars,” he added. “This way they have the opportunity to try out for a team.”
“I just don’t understand the logic behind putting junior high sports over high school sports,” Newland added.
BOE President DeeDee Harshbarger reiterated that making cuts was the last thing the board wanted to do, but that cuts had to be made due to a lack of funding.
“We have got to make sure we are thinking through all the avenues possible,” she said.
“The cuts we’ve made are based on both of the upcoming levies failing. If both levies pass, we can reinstate some of these things we’ve cut.”
Harshbarger said the first things to come back would be transportation to sporting events, all junior varsity sports and part-time positions would return to being full-time positions.