Move forward with plan
I read the article in your paper “Newbury groups weighing in on West G transfer.” You talked to different people, I being one of them, who were part of three different groups with various thoughts on the territory transfer. It’s Time: advocates of the transfer, Stand 4 Newbury: advocates of staying independent and United Newbury: a group formed for those who want to help with a smooth transition for the community and the students into the West G district. The reporter gave insight as to each groups’ thoughts about the issue of the territory transfer.
It also gave a platform to a former Newbury board of education member Susan Arnold, who gave her thoughts regarding the transfer. It would have been nice to hear from the board’s current president on her thoughts.
As being the past board president, some of Mrs. Arnold’s comments made me wonder. Having been directly involved in previous consolidation/merger talks with both Berkshire and West G, I would think she knows more than she is letting on, at least I hope so. Newbury approved to consolidate with West G on March 6, 2017 and then, one week later, held an early morning meeting and pulled out of the talks. This is a very important point because if the old board had followed through with this proposal, we may have had more negotiating powers. Since they decided to end the discussions, we are now left with one option, a territory transfer. The old board is responsible for the fact that we now have little to no negotiating.
Susan Arnold, for your information, the decision has already been made. You are now either part of the plan for an easy transition, or part of the opposition. A referendum to end the decision of the board to proceed with this territory transfer will have grave consequences. Pushing back the timeline of the current territory transfer will slow the process down, possibly ending the transfer date for the 2020-2021 school year. Our taxes would not go down when anticipated. If a referendum to remain independent occurs, the district will not be able to do another territory transfer for two years. Our budget shows Newbury, without additional levies, will have a deficit of over $1.4 million by 2022. In my opinion, Newbury will not be passing any levies for a district with dwindling enrollment, huge facility repairs, a teacher to student ratio of 7 to 1 and a district that cannot compete with neighboring districts in course offerings, extracurricular activities and the state report card. If that happens, the state will step in and start dismantling the district at their whim, not ours. The state may also step in once Newbury enrollment goes below a certain number. If either of these scenarios happens, we can thank Mrs. Arnold and the old board for pulling out in 2017 and Mrs. Arnold for currently championing the cause to stay independent.
When denial becomes opportunity
Let me start by introducing myself. I am a mom of three, two of whom attend Newbury Elementary School and one who starts kindergarten in the fall. I am a Newbury BKP member(our version of PTO) and was just appointed as vice president. I volunteer and run many programs at the elementary school. I am also a member of the Newbury Rec Board and helped bring Girl Scouts back to Newbury. I am a involved and informed member of this community.
My children love their school. They love their friends and teachers and they love being black knights. But after attending board meetings, doing a lot of independent research and meeting with our superintendent, I am excited for the future of Newbury Schools. It is expected for Newbury’s territory transfer to West Geauga Schools to begin the fall of 2020.
I started off as a parent who wanted nothing more than for her small town comfortable school to stay independent. I know everyone, my kids are in small class sizes with loving teachers and the unknown was scary but it came to a point where I could no longer ignore the facts that were right infront of me all along. A aging building that is taking up the majority of our funds. Enrollment that keeps dropping. A pretty much non-existent gifted program. Limited clubs and programs at all levels and a state ranking of 319 where only 7 out of 24 standards are being met. It is already close to impossible to pass a levy at Newbury Schools and in my opinion, it wont happen again. Mostly because the very people who worked so hard to pass those levies in the past have either moved on to a new school or are working even harder to insure a stable future for our students. A failed levy would lead us to the state taking over and deciding our fate for us. That is the last thing I want.
So what is it that I want for my children’s education? A top ranked school system. A abundance of extracurricular activities. Sports programs that I won’t have to worry about having enough players for. A more inclusive special needs program and a well rounded gifted program. I want more than just College Credit Plus, I want AP courses. CCP and AP courses apply to different types of students which is why it is important that schools offer both. I want the kind of school that gets $30,000 from a donor for the music department.I want the kind of school that will provide my children with the best chance to thrive in their adult life. These are all things that you will find at West Geauga.
In March of 2017, our school board backed out of talks with West Geauga and I’m not going to lie, I was originally thrilled. At the time I was naive and did not know everything that I know now about the state of our school. Some community members ran a race for school board (and won that election by a land slide) that was based on facts and informing the public on the reality of the situation that we had gotten ourselves into and that is a school that is failing to meet the needs of its students and because of that we have fewer and fewer students enrolling at Newbury.
We spend more money on our building than we do education. We have a state report card that is less than desirable. We put more emphasis on sports than we do education, and we might not even have a football or soccer team next year. When the campaign started up two Facebook groups shared facts and data. “It’s time to save our school” shared opinions, rumors, and pictures of students playing sports. We have small classes and somehow we have 11 kids who are not on track to graduate. The superintendent informed the community on that fact at one of her first board meetings. How does a school with so little students have so many students falling through the cracks?
I know that there has been a lot of buzz on social media about a referendum to try to stop the territory transfer to West Geauga from happening. I understand people being upset. Perhaps you wanted Newbury to stay independent, or even for Newbury to join with Berkshire. But I fear that people may not understand what a referendum means. If these angry community members can get the appropriate number of signatures to make a referendum happen that would mean that Newbury can not vote for a territory transfer or merger for two more years.
In those two years West Geauga and Berkshire may not want us anymore. In those two years we will have to find a way pass a levy and fund our school. In those two years it is very possible that our enrollment at Newbury will be in the 200s which indicates that our community no longer supports our public education. As for the people on social media and newspapers that are very vocal about wanting the referendum and wanting Newbury to stay independent, I strongly urge you to do the research as to what ages their children are. Many of them are currently sophomores, or in other words the first class to not be graduating from Newbury.
Our old board President Susan Arnoldhas been speaking at ESC meetings and having interviews with newspapers. She has been quoted saying she thinks this issue should be put to a vote. Our community has already voted against her and she is still trying to persuade this town that she knows best.
A vote wasn’t necessary when she was on school board voting no to West Geauga but now apparently a vote is necessary. And why is that? Because fear is real. There is no doubt that this is a hard time for them and their transition may be tough. But we can not sit by and let parents of high schoolers decide the fate for our small children who do not have a voice. There has never been a time in Newbury history where other schools have shown interest in us and we may never get this chance again.
It was hard to accept that the school that my children and I loved so much may not be around anymore. No more black and orange football games. No more 5 minute drives to school. No more close relationships with all the kids in my children’s classes. But it came to a point where I had to push out of my comfort zone and accept reality. That reality is that Newbury Local School District’s time is coming to an end. We will miss all the teachers and the “home” feeling we get at Newbury, but we are excited for the future at our new home, West Geauga schools.
Wanting a stable school and a better education for my children does not mean I do not have tremendous love for the school that has nurtured and educated my children for the last few years. I will be sad to see it come to an end, but amazing things happen when you leave your comfort zone. We are a Black Knight family, my husband graduated from Newbury and moved us back here so our children could attend the same school that he loved. But now is the time to act for the betterment of our community. I’m done leasing my education at Newbury and excited to invest in my future at West Geauga.