'We’re setting ourselves up to become strong in the coming years'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jul 19, 2018 at 3:51 PM

COLLINS — Western Reserve Local Schools has seen better days financially, but the bank account is starting to look a little more light at the end of the tunnel, according to the most recent treasurer’s report.

“We ended the year balance-wise, really, well-within plan,” said treasurer Brett Robson, who added that wasn’t by accident. 

“We kind of took that stay-the-course approach this year. We knew we had limited funds to work with. Our margins remained very tight. They were very tight last year, but we were able to get a little wiggle room in there this year.”

About $104,000 of wiggle room after the district came in that much under the projected budget. Robson said that may sound better, though, than it is in reality.

“That’s good, but when you add $104,000 on top of $5, it doesn’t leave us still with a whole lot of money,” he said.

“We’ll still have to work hard this coming year. The other nice thing that we have in the works, though, is (Superintendent Rodge) Wilson has taken a very pro-active approach for this coming year. Looking at the staffing as well as student counts, we’ve been able to make some nice adjustments through attrition.”

Robson said those changes came in the form of several retirements the board approved this past school year, which the district has been able “to hold off in filling.”

“And there were some (positions) that we realized we didn’t really need to fill this year after some creative movements that were made,” he added. 

“A lot of that was just chance,” Wilson said. “Remember right there in May, just a whole bunch of stuff happened and everything fit right into place and we were very fortunate.”

All together, with the “creative movements,” retirements and other changes that were made Robson said the district saved between $450,000 and $480,000 this year. 

“That’s going to do a lot for us on the bottom line and in giving us just a little bit more breathing room and just becoming stronger financially,” he said. “We’re setting ourselves up to become strong in the coming years.”

In other board action:

• Wilson said “things are going well” in preparation for the 2018-2019 school year to begin next month, including finalizing the movement of the preschool onto the main campus and the sixth-grade classes into the high school building. 

“It’s going to start getting busy in the next 10 days or so,” he said.

• The board approved the one-year leave of absence of elementary Principal Melanie Conaway for “personal reasons.” HIPPA laws wouldn’t allow the board to comment further on the cause of absence. Conaway’s assistant principal, Jennifer Cornelison, was approved to be acting principal for the next year, with Mary Schaffer to serve as her assistant principal.

“She has been here for years,” Wilson said of Cornelison.

“She was a teacher here and then was the assistant principal and when Mrs. Conaway stepped back, she stepped right in. We have full confidence in her. I think it will be very seamless. Mrs. Schaffer, the now assistant principal, she’s the curriculum and test coordinator, so she’s already in classes all the time and the kids all know her. So it will be good.”

• A discussion of the 2019-2020 school calendar continued. The board discussed the research gathered from examining other districts’ placement of teacher development days. 

“They’re all over the place,” board member Peggy Weisenberger said of the various calendars. “But we’re right up there with most of the other local schools.”

The board will hold a calendar hearing where staff, parents and the general public are invited to share their thoughts on the matter. 

• The board approved the hiring Guy Schuler and Brett Nichols as varsity assistant football coaches, Travis Wilson and Mike Parcher as junior varsity football coaches, Will Pritt as freshman football coach and Rod Stevenson as volunteer to the football administration teams.

Wilson said these chosen by the district’s new football coach Ty Stevenson, who was hired following Mike Stoll’s retirement in May. 

“(Stevenson) has worked very hard to bring in his team, which some people were afraid he wouldn’t be able to do,” Wilson said.

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