Report On The District: The Good, The Better, And The What The Heck

The Good: This new column will be focusing on The Lakewood Board of Education and the entire district. Let’s start with the basics: there are 5 members on the school board who are elected by our community, and they serve a 4-year term. In general, all school boards have three responsibilities: developing the annual budget to run the school system; setting school policies; and hiring and evaluating the superintendent and treasurer. The only positions that the Board itself hire are the superintendent and the treasurer. The board therefore acts as their bosses. Policy 1210 states “it is the primary duty of the Board to establish policies and that of the Superintendent to administer such policies” and policy 1310 states “The Board vests the primary responsibility for the financial affairs of the District in the Treasurer.”

When someone stands and speaks at a school board meeting they may feel frustrated or wonder why the board members do not answer their question or respond at all.  Policy 1222 explains: “The Board only speaks through its minutes.” Pretty frustrating. This column’s goal is to help all of us understand more about this organization that has a tremendous impact on our entire community.  

Take a moment and go to lakewoodcityschools.org; find the Board of Education tab. There you will find information about board members, purpose, calendars, and a Board Policies link. Reading through policies may not sound like a great way to spend an evening, but there is an amazing amount of information about the district that can be found in these policies. General public meetings are held the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month at 7pm and are also livestreamed on YouTube. Search “Brent Kallay” or go to the link on the Board tab. This is also the location to find archived board meetings, special events and concerts. 

The Better: Eclipse glasses are being supplied to every student through the Teaching and Learning Department. LHS hosted the OMEA Junior High solo and ensemble where 150 students participated, 50 from Lakewood all earning superior and excellent ratings. In 1999, one Lakewood elementary school started a jump-a-thon to raise money for "Jump Rope for The Heart.” More elementary schools have joined and to date they have raised over $100,000. Recently LHS welcomed 28 students and teachers from Germany. They stayed with Lakewood families, communicating in German and English while exploring Cleveland. 

What the Heck: Policy 7510 mandates in detail the usage and priorities of all district properties, it states: “In order to assure a close relationship between the Board of Education and the Lakewood community, it shall be the policy of the Board to grant and encourage maximum use of schools facilities as provided by law…Such use shall not interfere with the regular education programs. Category 1: Lakewood Student Groups, Category 2: Lakewood School Support Entities, Category 3: Lakewood Public Nonprofit Groups Category 4: Lakewood Private Nonprofit Groups and Category 5: Commercial Users/Non-Resident Groups."

I was around when this policy was written. It was in response to the practice of school facilities being rented out as much as possible for the rental monies. The result was that Lakewood school groups were pushed aside in favor of making money on rentals. School groups were given dates and then had those dates taken away or changed to accommodate a rental.

Just like all the facilities owned by our community and managed by the district, the Lakewood Civic Auditorium at Lakewood High School serves as a place for concerts, commencements, dance recitals, and awards ceremonies just to name a few. When it fits into the district schedule, it is rented out to mostly different community groups.

This year the Civic has been rented so much that it severely limited usage by the LHS Performing Arts Department's yearly musical. Due to an overly zealous rental schedule, instead of the normal 10 plus weeks of closely monitored time for rehearsals and production, they only have 1 full week of uninterrupted time. Volunteer parents are spending many hours to catch up, and Sunday rehearsals had to be scheduled for pit and cast. Now there are reports that the district is offering overtime to maintenance staff to help get the set done, up and struck. But none of this gives back the needed rehearsal time on stage.

It is clear that obtaining the best results for students should be the priority. Did the amount of money the rentals brought into the district justify paying for all that overtime and the unforeseen expenses generated by taking the time away from the musical? 

Superintendent Niedzwiecki assured me that neither this Board nor she has set any priority above the Lakewood Student Groups use; even rental agreements. Though extra cash flow is a bonus, there is not a current practice that would disregard policy 7510. She said that mistakes were made this year due to new people involved in scheduling that did not completely understand the district needs.

We know that the community will rally around these students. Thankfully the superintendent has already guaranteed a review and a commitment to doing better in the future.

The dates for this year's school musical, "Sweeney Todd" are 4/11, 4/12 and 4/13 at 7pm in the Civic Auditorium. Ticket info can be found on the Lakewood Music Boosters website: https://lakewoodmusicboosters.com/

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Volume 20, Issue 7, Posted 4:24 PM, 04.03.2024