BELPRE - Belpre City Schools saw several changes in 2010 and will see at least one major change in 2011.
In the past year, Belpre Elementary School has continued with the Reading First program, which is part of the No Child Left Behind Act, after receiving federal grant funds to participate since the 2005-2006 school year. The district has received more than $1 million in funding since the first year.
This year, the district program received a $500,000 grant that was used to improve technology at the elementary school, which includes children from kindergarten through sixth grades. The Reading First program provides the finances for four staff members to give the teachers extra support and oversee progress in the classrooms.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Kendall Lee, search consultant for the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), led the discussion with the 14 community leaders and parents during an open community meeting in late January to learn what the Belpre City Schools District wants out of a new superintendent.
This year the program administrators purchased 110 iPads and 120 iPod Touches as well as wireless Internet throughout the elementary school with the grant. Teachers must go through training before using the devices and students throughout the school are learning how to use them.
"With the grant we received last spring, we got all new textbooks and those books are available online and with the iPads and iPod Touches, the students can do reading assignments and other things," said Christy Boothby with the Reading First program.
Boothby said on Nov. 12 the sixth-grade students were able to take a test on the iPads, save it and send the tests to the teachers' computers for grading. Because the devices were purchased with Reading First money, they are only available to students in the elementary school.
Larry Lorentz, director of instruction for the district, said the addition of these new items has put Belpre City Schools ahead of the curve in technology from other schools in the area.
"I think we should be very proud of the way we have built up the technology," he said. "Now we have to figure out how to bring that new technology to the high school."
The school district administration moved from the school board office building on Washington Boulevard to the former Stone Elementary School building on Rockland Avenue. Renovations to paint the rooms, clean the floors and upgrade the electrical and phone systems to accommodate the administrative offices were estimated about $75,800.
It was decided in 2009 by the board to sell the current administrative building and move those offices into the old school in hopes of creating some revenue.
One of the most talked about issues in the district was the open and public discussion the board of education held about the option to move inside millage, which would basically add property tax that does not have to be approved by voters. According to Ohio House Bill 604, school boards may levy inside millage to pay for current expenses, permanent improvements, repaying debt and school libraries.
The money cannot be used for raises or to hire employees. According to the state, the district can levy as much as 10 mills per dollar through the moving of inside millage.
The board held a special meeting in July as a way to discuss another method of funding since five levies have failed in several years and the district needs funds. During that meeting, the board decided to kill the inside millage discussion and not bring the issue to a vote.