Special education, finances and business at MT


By Martin Graham - mgraham@recordherald.com



Editor’s note: This is the fourth part of a series covering the Miami Trace Local School District’s annual “State of the District” address.

The Miami Trace Local School District held its second-annual State of the District address online recently, during which district administration discussed special education, finance and business within the schools.

The first of these presenters were Directors of Special Education Casey Enochs and Jackie Morris. Enochs — who serves as the elementary special education director — thanked the Miami Trace community for the opportunity to provide special education services to the children who need them.

“We would like to thank all of our families for allowing us to educate your children and to provide special education services,” Enochs said. “At Miami Trace Local Schools we take great pride in delivering services to meet the needs of all students. We understand the current school year has been challenging and we would like to thank you for your continued support and flexibility. Every year districts receive a rating on the performance of its special education program, known as its special education rating.”

Enochs explained the rating also informs districts of any required activities based on these indicators and falls under one of four categories: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention and needs substantial intervention. Miami Trace was identified as a district that, “Meets requirements.”

“The rating ‘Meets requirements’ indicates that — based on all records uploaded to the Ohio Department of Education — the district rating evaluated the implementation of federal requirements, also called “Compliance Measures,’ as well as results for students with disabilities,” secondary special education director Jackie Morris said. “We are proud and pleased with the teamwork within our special education department and want to thank all of our team members and community.”

Morris said in conjunction with the district strategic plan they continue to make resources available to staff and students to further their “professional development and learning.” With the assistance of district staff, Morris said they strive to work toward providing greater educational opportunities for all students regardless of their needs.

“This includes furthering our resources for transition opportunities at all grade levels,” Morris said. “We are excited about the future of special services in the Miami Trace Local School district. We look forward to continuing to serve our students, our district and our community as we strive for excellence.”

Next, Miami Trace Treasurer Debbie Black presented a financial review of the district, saying that currently the status of the school district’s finances are stable, “Even with all of the challenges and unexpected changes brought on by COVID.”

“This school district has continued to move forward to educate its students and operate this district to the best of its ability,” Black said.

Black continued by breaking down the general fund of the school district — or the main operating fund. She showed that over the last three years (and said this trend continues going 10 years back) the district has continually been able to keep its revenues above its expenditures, sometimes — as in the fiscal year 2020 — by nearly $2.5 million.

“This doesn’t happen by accident, the board of education and the administration take the charge of fiscal responsibility very seriously,” Black said. “We want to spend your taxpayer dollars very wisely.”

In order to accomplish this, Black said the district must plan ahead and in order to do this planning, they create a five-year forecast. This forecast — which is required by law — must be updated at least twice per year and is filed with the Ohio Department of Education. Within the plan are three years of history for the district and five years of projected financial data.

“This past November when it was presented to the board of education, I brought to their attention some potential issues they need to keep on their radar,” Black said. “The first is a reduction in local tax revenue. Sixty percent of the district’s general fund revenue comes from the local taxpayers. We have already been informed to expect a reduction in the property valuation for the Tanger Outlets Mall (now Destination Outlets). This means there will be a reduction in taxes. In addition, the current five-year $1.9 million emergency operating levy expires at the end of this calendar year. That means 2022 will be the final year we receive any tax proceeds from it.”

Black said state funding is also a concern. Currently, the state operates on a two-year budget and this is the final year for the budget, so legislators are discussing a new funding formula for schools. Whether it will be a new funding formula or the current funding formula, the treasurer said it is very important for the district to understand and know how the district will be funded.

Finally, Miami Trace Business Manager Bill Franke spoke about the district work to support educational delivery. He said the main focus of his department is to work in support of educational programs within the district.

“This would include transportation, buildings and grounds, food service and liability and contents insurance,” Franke said. “In addition to the normal daily challenges, we all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a strain on our ability to continue to provide a safe and efficient education for our students. I am so proud of our support team and all they have done over the past 10 months to help support instruction and keep our students and staff as safe as possible.”

Franke said the since the start of the pandemic, the district has focused on acquiring and circulating personal protective supplies within the district. He said the district has consistently had the ability to provide plenty of face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, face shields, sanitizing supplies, and all of the specialized equipment that has been requested by the building teams.

“Our custodial team members understand their critical role in keeping our students in school as much as possible and have truly risen to the occasion through their efforts in cleaning and sanitizing all contact surfaces,” Franke said. “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic as an airborne virus, we have focused on greatly the fresh air exchanges within the buildings to provide high quality indoor air environments. We have invested in ionization air purification systems for the heating and cooling ventilation equipment within our schools. These systems are proven to greatly reduce the amount of viruses and other harmful pathogens within the air stream as the air is distributed throughout the buildings.”

Additionally, Franke said the district uses high quality air filters in all equipment to do what they can to safe guard the building occupants. He said that while in the “Hybrid Plan B model” (which is when half of the students alternate coming to classes in person throughout the week), the food service team at Miami Trace partnered with administrators and transportation team members to distribute meals to their most vulnerable students.”

“This is quite a challenge in a district of over 400 square miles,” Franke said. “We certainly appreciate their efforts and dedication to helping ease the burden to our families during this difficult time. Our support staff members continue to work hard to maintain our beautiful centralized campus. This campus was created due to solid support of our community. We understand the financial sacrifice that you have made and pledge to always work hard to keep our facilities in good repair. Time marches on and the need to properly care for and maintain the assets that were provided by our community is very important. I am very proud of our entire staff of dedicated professionals that work hard every day to safely transport our children to school, provide high quality meals, work to educate our children in clean, safe and comfortable school environments and then return them home safely.”

Stay with the Record-Herald for more updates on Miami Trace Local Schools in a future edition of the paper.

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 463-9684 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.

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By Martin Graham

mgraham@recordherald.com