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Published: Friday, 1/18/2013

Technology, aging buildings for schools among concerns by superintendents

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Perrysburg schools superintendent Thomas Hosler, Sylvania schools superintendent Brad Rieger, Springfield schools superintendent Kathryn Hott, and Washington Local schools superintendent Patrick Hickey each speak at a "Lunch and Learn" gathering. From left, Perrysburg schools superintendent Thomas Hosler, Sylvania schools superintendent Brad Rieger, Springfield schools superintendent Kathryn Hott, and Washington Local schools superintendent Patrick Hickey each speak at a "Lunch and Learn" gathering.
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Changing demands in technology and pressing needs for updates in infrastructure are among key challenges facing some local school districts in the Toledo area, superintendents told Realtors today during a lunch and learn program.

Superintendents from Sylvania, Perrysburg, Washington, and Springfield school districts presented information on both high points and challenges during a program in Maumee with members of the Toledo Board of Realtors. School officials, aware of the importance of communicating with the real estate professionals who sell homes in their school districts, took part in discussions to offer updates to real-estate agents on a variety of topics, such as accomplishments, regulatory changes, and anticipated challenges in the delivery of public education.

Tom Hosler, superintendent of Perrysburg Schools, noted that all school districts are encountering many of the same struggles.

“So much of what we do and the challenges that we face are universal,” he said, adding that, in his district, growing enrollment is among major issues.

“We put together a community group last year...to talk about our issues," he said. "Right now, we're feeling the pinch at the elementary and junior high. We need to come up with a solution."

The Perrysburg school board is “wrestling” with the issue, he said.

Aging buildings are another issue for the district, which has about 4,800 students enrolled and operates under a $40.8 million budget.

“We're getting to the end of their lifespan," he said of the district's buildings. "We continue to struggle with what our next step is, and we want to engage the community...”

Realtor Carol Dimas, center, poses a question about school security. Realtor Carol Dimas, center, poses a question about school security.
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Another issue that will plague the district next year is state tests will be entirely administered online. Finding the space to make testing happen in a timely manner may present a few challenges for the school system, Mr. Hosler said.

“One of our elementary buildings might have one computer lab and we might have 600 kids [who need to take the test]. We have to be willing to incorporate technology,” he said.

Springfield Schools superintendent Kathryn Hott, whose district has about 4,000 students, said, “...We're facing required state testing all on computers and we may not have building infrastructure to support that.”

Nine out of 10 families in Springfield send their children to Springfield schools, she said, noting that the percentage is growing, adding students to the schools.

Sylvania Schools superintendent Brad Rieger said emphasizing quality of life and educating respectful students is important.

“We want them to leave our school district with the skills and the confidence to achieve in college...and life in general,” he said. The district has fluctuated between 7,700 and 7,900 students in the last 10 years for which Mr. Rieger has been superintendent.

Sylvania schools focus on curriculum and on teaching students how to contribute positively to society, he said. Test scores and grades are important benchmarks along the path, he added, but students should be tuned in to discover how to connect what they've learned to the real world.

“People in Sylvania value education. The challenge is this idea of financial constraints...” Mr. Rieger said.

Patrick Hickey, superintendent of Washington Local, said his district faces another issue entirely. He said because of “growing enrollment in a shrinking city,” many of the district's students are transient and there has been a 200 percent increase in the level of poverty of students in the last eight years.

“...We're not caring so much right now about how they're being educated, but how their food needs are being met,” Mr. Hickey said. The district, which has a $74 million operating budget, has about 6,800 students enrolled.

He said choosing a school is a competitive process, and that Washington Local hopes to help students find their passions and build a strong education around them.

When asked by local real estate agents who attended the meeting about ways to encourage potential homebuyers to set up a meeting with the school district and check out the schools, Mr. Hosler said it was important for open communication. 

“Try to steer them into the experience of the school -– talk to the superintendent, talk to people who are actually customers of the school,” he said.

About 25 Realtors and other area professionals attended the lunch and learn program.

Realtor Carol Dimas said, "I think this has been one of the best lunch and learns we've had."

She asked about safety in schools and protection from "mad men." She was told that the meeting was not the forum for that issue.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-206-0356 or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.



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