BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With a 4.5-star rating on its state report card, Anthony Wayne Local Schools ranks 47th among Ohio’s more than 611 public school districts – yet has the lowest effective millage of any district in Lucas County.
As Superintendent Dr. Jim Fritz wrapped up a League of Women Voters-sponsored school board candidates’ night last week, he took the podium to urge voters to consider not just who will serve on the five-member board, but also how the district will move forward in terms of finances and facilities.
The district has a 2.9-mill operational levy and 2.6-mill bond issue on an already packed November 7 ballot.
“I’m not allowed to ask you to vote for it or to discuss what happens if it does not pass,” Fritz said of the operational levy, which would collect $3.8 million a year to pay for all-day, every-day kindergarten, among other specific needs voiced by the community in a survey.
While the staff and administration can’t campaign during school hours, a dozen current and retired teachers are leading the campaign to pass the levies, including Waterville Primary dean Matt Beakas, Whitehouse Primary dean Michelle Dammeier, junior high social studies teacher Christine Young, Waterville teacher Nichole Siravo, high school social studies teacher Dr. Justin Zemanski and retired athletic director and principal Jeff Schwerer. The goal is to secure 3,000 to 4,000 committed “yes” votes prior to Election Day.
“We have asked our OAPSE (Ohio Association of Public School Employees) and teaching staff to communicate to family, friends and neighbors about the levy,” Zemanski said. “Social media and websites are wonderful, but research has proven that people respond and are more open to person-to-person interaction.”
While 2013 and 2017 were similar election cycles, Zemanski expects a much higher turnout than the 31 percent during those years. With two major state issues and multiple candidates on the ballot for school board and Whitehouse and Waterville councils, he believes more people will be heading to the polls.
With 61 percent of the district’s registered voters consisting of those without students in Anthony Wayne Local Schools, he’s encouraging the volunteers to spread the word about the excellence of the district.
“Our district is wonderful, with so many opportunities. It’s one of the reasons why I moved my family here,” Zemanski said. “We are in the top 7 percent of all districts in Ohio. We have an incredible number of elective classes in our junior high and high school. We want to keep the district strong and improve on it.”
The volunteers are also sharing how federal and state funding is stagnant even as costs are going up.
“Anthony Wayne Schools has not been on the ballot for additional operating revenue since 2013,” Zemanski said.
Some of the other challenges faced by the district include the rising costs of equipment and materials, the elimination of ESSER funds by the end of the school year, an increased need for student support services and an increase in the number of special education students and affiliated costs.
“This is a pivotal election moving forward,” Zemanski stated.
The basics of the operational levy and bond issue are listed at www.anthonywayneschools.org/levies. Homeowners can use the Lucas County Auditor’s Real Estate Information System (AREIS), https://co. lucas.oh.us/377/AREIS-Information, to see how each one will affect their own taxes. Keep in mind, Fritz said, that the property taxes are based on the property’s assessed value, which is 35 percent of what it might sell for, he noted.
The 2.9-mill operational levy will collect $3.8 million per year and equal $102 for each $100,000 of assessed value.
Funds would be used for:
• All-day, every-day kindergarten, adding six kindergarten teachers, classrooms, materials and increasing hours for cafeteria and playground aides and cafeteria services to meet those needs.
• Instructional staffing needs, including adding a math, science and language arts teacher at the high school, a middle school teacher and three intervention specialists.
• Academic intervention, providing for six instructional coaches (one in each building), two tutors for each K-8 building and four tutors at the high school, and summer intervention programs.
• Covering the costs of purchased services for special education. Currently, the district works with nearly 800 students in various levels of need for special services.
• Mental health intervention, including hiring one new social worker, a school psychologist and mental health intervention support.
• School safety, creating threat assessment teams; adding a new school resource officer; security personnel; providing a safety program for students, staff and parents; and providing multi-disciplinary safety team meetings.
• Instructional and operational manuals, covering the rising costs of products for daily operations.
The 2.6-mill bond issue will raise $70.8 million to be repaid over a maximum of 37 years. Property taxes will equal $91.00 per $100,000 of assessed value.
The funds would be used for facilities improvements identified during a 2023 assessment and community survey, including:
• An estimated $18 million in deferred maintenance projects, including HVAC, plumbing, electrical repairs and upgrades; roof and masonry repairs; technology improvements; ADA compliance updates and other repairs in every school except Whitehouse Primary, which is the newest building.
• An estimated $30 million in building renovations and additions, including classroom additions to Waterville Primary and Whitehouse Primary for all-day, every day kindergarten; expanding the kitchen and cafeteria areas at the middle school and junior high; added classroom space and expanded band/choir room at the junior high; and an added lecture/performance area, storage and a classroom in the high school’s performing arts area.
• An estimated $22 million for the construction of a new multiuse stadium for football, soccer, track and lacrosse; renovated softball facilities and overall site improvements to alleviate floodplain issues.
More information and a full list of needed improvements can be found on the Facilities Master Planning Page at www.anthonywayneschools.org.
“We are encouraging people to talk to their friends and neighbors about this and how we can keep the excellent tradition of Anthony Wayne Schools continuing,” Zemanski said.
The levy campaign is being funded by donations from the Anthony Wayne Education Association and the Ohio Education Association. Those who would like to volunteer or receive a sign should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.