While we are living in a time of great change through our society’s adoption of new technology, our mission at school continues to be one in which we prepare our students to be successful in the world they will inherit from us and that mission requires all of our support.
As you are aware, our school is our community’s school. As a public school, the resources required to turn out the next generation of educated citizens come from all of us. From the contributions of our parents to those of our neighbors, a community effort is what it takes to provide excellent educational opportunities for our children and young adults.
Our nation, state and community have been working these past few years to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Our school district has had to make major changes in the way we operate in order get the work done. We have engaged in significant reorganization requiring tough choices such as the closure of Lark Elementary School, additional student fees being required to participate in extracurricular activities and the accepting of open enrollment students. In addition to those sacrifices, last spring, our community demonstrated a serious commitment to our future generations by supporting the plan to build new school facilities for all of our students. Through these efforts, I am pleased to report to you both as our school superintendent and as a fellow Northwood tax payer that our district is presently on stable financial footing, providing excellent educational opportunities and preparing to continue to do so well into the future. Our commitment is to continue to do our best to manage costs and only come back for additional operating money when it becomes a necessity. For more financial details, you may wish to go to http://www.northwoodschools.org/Page/15 where you will find the most recent Five Year Forecast prepared by our Treasurer, Angel Adamski.
Since the passage of the levy in May supporting the plan to build a new school, we have worked with our Bond Counsel (attorney) and our Financial Advisor at getting our local share of the financing put together. That process began during the summer when we prepared materials and made a presentation at Standard and Poor’s to secure a bond rating for our school district. That presentation took place in late July and I am pleased to report that our school received an AA- for the GO Bonds and an A+ for the Certificates of Participation that are financing our local share of the project. We were and remain very pleased with the results of that effort.
With our favorable rating in hand, our next step was to prepare the documents required and proceed to market to secure the financing for the project. All was going as planned with our GO Bonds set to go to market on August 27, 2014 when I received a phone call at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 informing me of an unforeseen circumstance that was creating a problem for our sale of the bonds. I was told that the OFCC (The State of Ohio) had changed its view on the use of Certificates of Participation to finance their co-funded projects and our school would not be permitted to use them for our project.
That development, if allowed to stand, would have left us about 7 million dollars short of the amount we needed to fund our share of the project putting our project in jeopardy. Simply put, this would have been an unacceptable outcome. From the moment I received that call until a few weeks ago, we worked very hard with our Bond Counsel, Financial Planner, State Legislators, the Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Office and the OFCC to arrive at a solution that would allow our project to move ahead as planned. Anything short of that and our state, The State of Ohio, would have let the citizens of our community down in an irreparable way.
In the end, after many hours worked by a number of people and with the especially hard work of State Senator Randy Gardner, I am pleased to report that we are back on track and moving forward.
As one would expect, this delay does not come without some things to work through. In a nutshell, the project is now a bit behind schedule and may not open in the fall of 2017 as hoped.
One upside that resulted from this situation is that we have been able to re-work our deal with the State of Ohio using an updated equity list. Because of changes in property values across the state and our slightly increased enrollment, the state will now be funding a larger share of the project than they were before. The state share of the project is now 40%.
Since successfully dealing with that bump in the road, we have been able to successfully get our Bonds and Certificates of Participation into the market for pricing and I am pleased to report that we are financing the project at an overall averaged interest rate of 4.04%. Because of our favorable Bond Rating and some good fortune with market timing, that rate is less than we originally planned for and reduces what we will be paying back to our creditors by 6.3 million dollars over the life of the bonds. That is certainly good news all of us as taxpayers can appreciate. We are now on track to finalize our agreement with The State of Ohio before the end of the calendar year and begin the planning process for the new school. It is certainly an exciting time for our community! Expect to hear about opportunities to be a part of that just before or right after the holidays.
You may remember that last school year I wrote about school choice in Ohio and the impact decisions made in Columbus around this issue have on our local school. Recently, an online resource became available making much of the data about the impact of charter schools on local schools easily accessible for citizens. As an educator, I am an advocate for school choice and an advocate for excellent student learning experiences. I sincerely believe and share with our legislators every chance I get that any entity using public (tax) dollars to educate students should be required to abide by the same rules and be financially audited using the same standards. The tax paying public deserves nothing less than this and current Ohio law does not provide for it. Our policy makers should use the best information available to develop policy that best serves students and not ever allow political donors from any side of any issue to set the agenda. As citizens, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about the changing landscape of schools in Ohio from as many sources as you can find.
Here are a couple of links to get you started: http://knowyourcharter.com/
For opposing views you may want to look here: http://edexcellence.net
We are so very fortunate to live in a community that continues to demonstrate its commitment to excellent educational opportunities for our young people. As superintendent of our school district, as the parent of a NHS graduate and of a second grader as well as a community member, I continue to be impressed and sincerely appreciate our community’s commitment to our children and their future. We understand educating our youngsters is an investment in the future prosperity of our city, our state and our nation in addition to simply being the right thing to do. Providing these opportunities for our children is not a cheap proposition, but it is our school’s commitment to work to do it well at a price we can afford.
As always, I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.
Northwood Local Schools
500 Lemoyne Road
Northwood, OH 43619