Letters to the Editors: Issue 11

In Favor

While discussion continues about Issue 11, we must remember that we are part of a strong and diverse committee, including many parents of school-aged children who are tired of commonplace argument and committed to action. In this day and age we know that family, school, and community influences on student achievement are great, and that the environmental quality of schools affects educational performance. Study after study demonstrates that facilities themselves have an impact on things such as student behavior, grades, teacher retention, and community satisfaction. Some may think that retrofitting current buildings for present use is the answer. We have done our homework and find the more prudent investment to be the building of a new school. This new facility will adhere to design standards for teaching and learning, technology, safety, and sustainability, serving Oberlin well into our future.

We encourage you to visit the Yes for Oberlin Schools bond issue committee’s website at oberlinyes.org for more detailed information regarding Issue 11.

Laura Slocum, OHS ’93

Amy (Pechaitis) Burgess, OHS ’98

Chris M. Mason

Oberlin Residents and Parents of Future OHS Graduates

Oberlin College students who are registered to vote here in Tuesday’s election need to know that the “down-ballot” contests are important. Court and State Board of Education decisions may affect them. And certainly the vote on the Oberlin school improvement levy will have a significant impact on the future of the Oberlin schools and the community as a whole, including Oberlin College. In addition to strongly supporting the Democratic candidates for statewide office at the top of the ballot (Cordray/Sutton, Dettelbach, Space, Clyde, Richardson), Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, Janet Garrett for U.S. House of Representatives, Sharon Sweda for State Senator, Joe Miller for State Representative, and Matt Lundy for County Commissioner, I am urging a vote for Jeanine Donaldson for State Board of Education, Michael Donnelly for Justice of the Supreme Court, Melody Stewart for Justice of the Supreme Court, Diana Colavecchio for Judge of the Court of Appeals, and John Miraldi for Judge in the Court of Common Pleas. I am for the two Lorain county ballot issues (8 and 14) and for the Oberlin City School Bond Issue (11). Don’t forget to vote!

John Elder

Oberlin Resident

On November 6, we will have the opportunity to shape our community’s shared future. Several significant state and local issues come to us. One of these, Issue 11, begins the process of building a single-campus school designed to meet the 21st century needs of our small but special district.

Presented in these pages last week were some inaccurate statements regarding the local schools. I write simply to set the record straight.

On the most recent state report card, the Oberlin City Schools received an overall assessment of ‘C’ not an implied ‘F’ as you may have read. (For more information, please see https://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/district/overview/044594.) Of the 608 Ohio School Districts, only 28 received an ‘A’, and the majority received a ‘C’. Those districts receiving As exhibit socio-economic traits very different from our own.

Oberlin is a district of 985 students. During the last school year, Oberlin experienced a net outflow of 101 students (not close to “about 250” as claimed in last week’s letter). Our community recorded home schooled students (39), students that chose charter schools (25) and students that choose private school (31). Last year, 92 students open enrolled out and 86 chose to open enroll in.

Regarding the International Baccalaureate program, indeed, Oberlin spends money on the curriculum and celebrates the fact that 100 percent of students in grades K–10 receive this award-winning, broadly recognized course of study integrated with their daily lessons. Eleventh and twelfth graders can choose to take IB courses and a smaller subset of those students chooses to take on the added rigor of the IB Diploma program and sit for the exams. IB’s mission statement is “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” Who would not want that?

Will a new state-of-the-art school cost money? Yes, of course. We were fortunate that our forebears saw fit to provide those that followed them a better opportunity through educational techniques and facilities that were state-of-the-art at the time. With a school system infrastructure comprising four aging buildings — the newest of which is approaching sixty years of age — now is the time to support the next generation, our children, and our future in voting YES on Issue 11.

Michele Andrews

Oberlin Resident

Teachers of the Oberlin Ohio Education Association are in support of the upcoming Issue 11. The decision to ask taxpayers to support new school buildings for our children came after a number of years of exploring multiple other options, including consolidation and retrofitting of our current buildings. New buildings proved to be the most cost-effective choice. Retrofitting our current buildings would cost more and leave us with old buildings that were designed to meet the educational needs of previous generations, not current or future generations. Recently, our staff spent the day in North Ridgeville and were able to see firsthand the difference between our old buildings and their new buildings. The learning spaces were beautiful and clearly designed with collaboration, innovation, and safety in mind.

Oberlin is known for being a forward-thinking community. We have our own power plant, our own hospital, and a wide variety of thriving businesses and community services. Please be forward-thinking when it comes to our schools. Vote “Yes” on Issue 11.

Robin Diedrick

OOEA President


Please join us in voting “No” on Issue 11 for these reasons.

Oberlin taxes are already high. Property taxes are average, but Oberlin’s two percent school income tax is tied for the highest in the state. Even without the school levy, property taxes will increase substantially in Oberlin in 2019 due to a reassessment of our property values by the county. A 2016 study done by the city shows that Oberlin is becoming a less economically and racially diverse community as it becomes a more expensive place to live, leading to a more gentrified and aging community.

Many feel the school district has not spent our money wisely. Top-heavy administration, low state report card grades, and a lack of building upkeep are key concerns. In addition, with student enrollment decreasing we may soon be too small to remain independent without merging with other school districts. New buildings do not mean better education. A new building will also not alter our existing problems with discipline and academics that cause so many to leave the district.

In the age of technology, brick and mortar buildings are likely to play less of a role in education. It is also not sustainable to build and knock down buildings every 50 years. The greenest buildings are those already built.

Consolidation and renovation have not been adequately explored. Other districts have provided personalized, cost-effective renovations without placing an undue burden on the taxpayer. Please join us in voting “No” on Issue 11, so the district will consider options that better meet the needs of our community.

Judith Poirson

Monica Smith 

Oberlin Residents

I write firstly to thank Jackie Brant for the reasoned and dispassionate discussion of Issue 11 presented in “Oberlin Students Must Evaluate Their Place in Local Elections,” (The Oberlin Review, Oct. 5, 2018). Issue 11 concerns the Oberlin school board’s request for a 37-year, 4.8 mill increase in local property taxes to pay for the first phase of the creation of a single-campus school facility for Preschool to Grade 5. A second 37-year levy will be requested by the Board in 2022 for Phase II to pay for a new grades 6-12 building on the same campus. Brant carefully presented a few of the arguments that have been presented for and against passage of this new tax levy.

Second, I wish to alert readers of the Review to the existence of the group Oberlin Concerned Citizens, formed in opposition to Issue 11. The fact that long-time supporters of the Oberlin City Schools felt the need to create OCC and argue against Issue 11 is, in itself, quite telling. The website, www.oberlinconcernedcitizens.org/, is filled with factual information concerning Issue 11. One can learn, for example, that the school board’s oft-stated claim that consolidating existing buildings through renovation will cost essentially the same as a new building is false; it will cost much more than renovations. I would urge readers of the Review to consult this website for much more well-researched information pertaining to Issue 11.

Passage of Issue 11 would increase Oberlin property taxes in support of city schools to 14.15 mills ($1,415 for every $100,000 of property valuation), well beyond the 10-mill limitation in the Ohio Revised Code. (As such, the wording of Issue 11 must specifically state this new tax levy would place Oberlin’s property taxes outside the 10-mill limitation.) In addition to the proposed increase to a 14.15 mill rate in property taxes, Oberlin residents also pay a 2 percent income tax in support of the Oberlin City Schools. As it stands — prior to next week’s polling — Oberlin residents support the education of our children through taxes at a level well beyond the state and county averages.

Passage of Issue 11 will negatively impact our wonderful community. There are alternatives to Issue 11 that would achieve the same results in a much more fiscally responsible manner. I would urge any interested reader to visit the online version of this letter and use the links posted there to explore Issue 11 further.

I also urge voters to join me in voting “No” on Issue 11.

Jim Walsh

Professor of Mathematics

Voting “No” on Issue 11 could influence education in Oberlin to be more thoughtful, creative, and community-building.

The schools don’t need a new building in order to be community gathering spaces, age-mixing spaces, and teacher collaboration spaces. All of that is a matter of programming and use of our buildings. Buying a new building, to be delivered four or more years from now, may even be more of a distraction for the school board than a benefit for education.

We can’t just order a new school, or a new planet, from Amazon, and we shouldn’t teach our kids that we can. We need to learn about our resource limits — and how to balance our lives. Other needs in the community, and in the world, are much greater than for a stretch-limousine school, especially when two minivan schools will do just fine, and we can add great sound systems, cargo trailers, and great drivers.

As you may know from the Spanish “SITES” program, and from various math, STEM, and arts programs in Oberlin — or from sending children to private schools and camps — education is about enriching experiences, not about edifices.

So guaranteeing that all Oberlin public school students get individually-chosen, enriching summer camp experiences, paid for by the district, would attract far more students to the district than a new building, would cost far less, and would boost kids’ academic levels much more.

Further, space-sharing just makes sense. Why not be clever and work out a building-sharing deal with the College? Some people complain about the College owning so much tax-free property; I’m not one of these complainers, but why not hack that reality with a clever deal to share the beautiful and bountiful buildings of the College in a way that benefits the College? The College might also find some of the school district’s buildings useful, especially as people express needs for more performance space and start-up business/lab space. We are a small community — with lots of buildings. We will continue to need to add specialized facilities and equipment, but not general buildings.

We also need to make at least one of our school buildings self-sufficient for when there is a power outage or different utility disasters. This means adding geothermal heating and cooling, and other systems for water, sanitation, power, and communications.

Voting “No” on Issue 11 will move the school board past this one very expensive and relatively ordinary proposal, to consider the options that are cheaper, more educational, more fairly funded, more moral in the face of climate crisis, faster, and more creative.

Aliza Weidenbaum

Oberlin Resident

Please join me in voting “No” on Issue 11, phase one of the proposed $43 million new school building. Consolidation and renovations are a more affordable alternative, offering many benefits to our community.

Have pride in restoring Langston Middle School and keeping it as a cornerstone of our school district. Built in 1923, it is in a central location, has strong architectural stature, “good bones,” and can accommodate our PK–5 students without an addition.

Show our children that we are not part of a “throwaway” society, that it is neither environmentally sound nor sustainable to build and knock down buildings every 50 years, which is the predicted lifespan of the proposed new building.

Complete work incrementally, using some of our permanent improvement levy money ($555,000 annually), combined with a more modest levy, so as not to overtax the community.

Allow the district to remain flexible in uncertain times more so than with a big, expensive building. Nationwide birthrates are at a record low — lower than during the Depression — which could cause enrollment to erode further. Technology is rapidly changing the face of education, with predictions that schools will be used as “homebases” rather than where all learning occurs.

Realize many of the exact same benefits attributed to the proposed new building: reduced personnel costs, elimination of duplicated services (e.g. food service, libraries), lower building maintenance.

Despite information on the school’s levy site that it would cost between $27–39 million to consolidate two of our schools, we have every reason to believe that it can be done for less than half the cost of the proposed new building. For more information, please visit: www.oberlinconcernedcitizens.org

Debbi Walsh

Oberlin Resident