Bus Service Eliminated at Dayton Schools Amid Budget Tightening
The Dayton Board of Education voted to eliminate bus service for the next school year, though special needs bussing will still be available. Superintendent Jay Brewer cited an ever-tightening budget.
About half a dozen parents and grandparents came to Wednesday night's meeting to urge board members to retain the bus service.
"I am not in favor of the cuts," said one parent. "I understand the cuts, but I want to ask that the school bus routes not be one of them. I don't have the magic answer, maybe a bus fee or something. I don't feel that it is safe for my kids to walk that distance. I am asking you to reconsider."
Another parent spoke up and said she has six children that will have to find another way to school.
"I keep hearing that the Governor is making these cuts, but I can't find where he is doing it," she stated. She said she has been noticing that there are cuts here and there all the way down to first grade and she is not happy with them. One thing she noticed has been that if a student gets a D they don't get tutoring, but they do if they receive an F. Board President Rosann Sharon asked if the comments could be kept to the bussing budget.
A third parent said she heard some unkind comments about parents being lazy, but she also didn't think it was safe for the kids to walk.
Superintendent Jay Brewer acknowledged that the budget is getting tighter.
"Ninety percent of our students aren't transported," he pointed out. "They make it to school. The truth is I believe in our kids. I believe in our parents, and in our community. We can do this."
A grandmother said it takes her a half hour to walk from her home to the school, and pointed out that a lot of the children who will be without bus transportation are preschool to third and fourth grade children, and in her opinion much too young to be walking that far, especially when it is cold. She wanted to know if cuts could be made somewhere else, or if they could use high school students as aides on the buses to earn service hours.
"I feel the administration could cut back on something else, not on what the children need," she said.
Brewer said that she made some good points and he was aware that not all decisions are 100 percent correct.
"It could be that this is one of the worst decisions I have made to recommend this," he said. "If it is, I will recommend to reverse it. But we are getting less and less from the state. We didn't have bus service before the 1980's. When we started it, the state was giving us 96 percent. Now it is 61 percent. And because they give a partial amount for any students who live less than a mile away, we get less, because we don't have any student who travels more than a mile to school."
Brewer said the decision was not an easy one to make. But looking at similar school districts in the area, he realized they are just about the only district that provides bus service.
"In school year 2014-2015 we lost over $90,000 in transportation costs," said Ron Kinmon, Director of Student Services. "Next year we are looking at recouping $40,000 of that $90,000 and we plan to put that money into instruction. I don't think we can cut anything else that would produce that kind of money, or a fee that could produce that much."
Brewer pointed out that Erlanger, Bellevue, Ludlow, Southgate, Silver Grove and more affluent schools like Beechwood and Ft Thomas do not provide bus service for their students, choosing to spend any state money in the classroom. He also brought up the fact that the 100 students that would be affected amount to 10 percent of the students in the district, and it is the job of the board to make decisions for the greater good.
The board agreed that this was not an easy decision to make.
Carrie Downard mentioned that she walked every day. The grandmother said that the times were different then, and when she walks now she carries mace. She asked if the district could ask for more funds from the city. "I grew up on Dayton Pike, and I had to walk sometimes, and my dad took neighbor kids to school because he was leaving at the right time," she explained. "It was a hard decision for me. But I believe our students deserve the money in the classroom. I think we can do it if we have to."
City Councilman Ben Baker is a city liaison to the school board, and he spoke up.
"The city has received a large sidewalk grant, in excess of $150,000, last year," he told the board and the parents. "As soon as the state grants us a conversion of space we will use it to put a sidewalk on Dayton Pike through a park that we will be building. We are hoping to start the sidewalks by this fall, although September is wishful thinking. It is a major concern, getting kids to school safely. But I have to say that I think Dayton is an amazingly safe town. The only problem is the lack of sidewalks on Dayton Pike, and we are trying to fix that."
The grandma pointed out that the district was going to lose students because of this decision, and she thought they could make cuts elsewhere.
"The bottom line is that the kids need the bus," she stated.
Brewer said that they have cut 2 1/2 to 3 people out of the Central Office, and they had a public hearing last Wednesday, so they are not trying to hide anything. He suggested that possibly parents could work out some car pools, or have high school students who live in the area walk the smaller children to school. That suggestion was discounted because the parents felt that they would not be acquainted with the students and did not want to trust their youngsters to strangers.
In the end, the board voted to eliminate the two regular pick up routes for the 2016-2017 school year. They will keep the special needs route.
Dayton High School Principal Jeremy Dodd had a lot of good news for the board. He said the percentage of students meeting benchmarks on the ACT was up across the board.
"Every single subject is up," he said proudly. "Math has been up for three straight years. Reading has become a strength. I started a theme last year, 'OK is not OK.' Our college and career-ready seniors numbered 8 in 2014, 9 in 2015, and 17 in 2016."
He echoed the numbers reported by the student representative. Seventy percent of the seniors are college and career ready, as opposed to 2 percent six years ago.
A chess club has been started in the schools, and Superintendent Brewer is very excited about the interest it has generated. Former Bengal Cris Collinsworth has a project to start chess in as many schools as he can and he has used students in Dayton's district in a promotional film about the educational bonuses of children taking part in playing chess.
The board voted to stay with Crawford insurance for student accident insurance for next school year. They also approved the SBDM allocations, and next year's salary schedule. The board voted to stay with Barnes, Dennig and Company for the audit at a cost of $15,000. Instead of going with Novacare for the Athletic Trainer contract, the board agreed going with St Elizabeth, who will save the district up to $10,000 and could be more if the hospital goes with sponsorships.
Naomi Colliver and Katrina Hacker gave a presentation on Lincoln Elementary's RAMP program. Only a handful of schools are certified in the program, which centers around 12 components. Of 105 schools who applied for the certification only 43 received it, and Lincoln elementary was one.
Several students were honored at the meeting as students of the month. Marti Jo Griffith received the employee of the month honors, and Kilee Donelan, starting pitcher for the Lady Greendevils, was the Athlete of the month. Marquelle Spencer was the artist of the month.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Top Photo: Kilee Donelan is recognized by Brewer as the athlete of the month.