In about a month, Canfield residents will be casting their vote on a 5.9-mil levy for Canfield Schools. Beginning this month, the levy committee will begin addressing concerns and getting the word out in a new format.
"We are going to stray away from the big town hall meetings," said levy committee co-chair Leo Daprile. "We are planning on Coffee with Leo Daprile events with 10 or 15 people."
He said by having small discussion groups, voters will feel more comfortable and can have a real discussion. The events will include Superintendent Alex Geordan, who will be answering any questions on school operations and funding.
Daprile said he got involved because he was skeptical on whether the district needed the levy. As part of an early committee, he was able to examine the district's books and scrutinize the schools' situation.
"The district cut over $4 million from the annual budget and still ran in the red for this year," he said.
The district continues to operate even with the deficit spending and Daprile explained that it comes from carry over. Every district in the Mahoning Valley has a carry-over amount used to start the following school year. In Canfield, that amount this year ended up being less than in previous years. Daprile said the carry-over funds are still there, but they are diminishing each year. Without new money, the district will eventually have no funds to begin a school year.
Besides ensuring a stable financial balance sheet, Daprile said there are other factors that are important to warrant the levy. He said technology is one area where the district needs new funds.
"Our technology is out of date," he said. "We are still using old computers that were purchased used."
The old computers combined with outdated textbooks is an area that Daprile believes needs addressing. He said with global competition, Canfield students need to be given an advantage of having the kind of education that will prepare them for the future.
He also mentioned the cuts made over the past two years. Some of those programs can be brought back, such as busing.
Geordan said the high school busing was totally eliminated and the kindergarten through eighth-grade busing was cut to quarter-mile stops, meaning kids have to walk to a central pickup location. He said the levy would allow them to bring back high school busing as well as the kindergarten through fourth-grade bus stops.
The pay-to-play sports would be eliminated as well. Goerdan said it has become a burden to some families.
The levy funds would allow the district to increase course offerings, make technical improvements, and increase security and safety measures within the district as well.
Geordan added that all-day kindergarten could be established and could bring back some Canfield students. He said this year, the district lost 86 students, with a good portion attending all-day kindergarten in open enrollment districts. Many have gone to South Range, which has open enrollment. He explained that the state provides a set amount of funds for each student. While the state considers $5,700 as its cost per student, the district hardly gets half of that money. When a student leaves the district, Geordan said the full $5,700 goes to the district the child attends. In essence, the state gives Canfield a couple thousand, then requires the full $5,700 be sent to the child's new school district.
"All-day kindergarten would cost us $200,000," Geordan said. "We definitely would want to bring that on if the levy passes in November."
He said one problem with the students attending other schools for all-day kindergarten involves the child preferring the other district. When they are ready for first grade, they may just continue there for the rest of their public education.
The need for the levy covers all these issues and can be confusing to some. Daprile said the idea of having small discussion groups should get the truth out to the community and allow them a chance to address their individual concerns. He said the key is "community."
"We want this to be a community campaign," he said. "We don't have school board members on our committee. It is made up entirely of community members and we have so many people jumping on the band wagon to help that it is truly amazing."
Daprile will open his "Coffee with Leo Daprile" events next week, then will plan events all over Canfield during October.