Here's something Akron Public Schools board members aren't used to hearing from the district treasurer: good news.
But treasurer Jack Pierson passed along to the board at Monday night's meeting that the number of students leaving the Akron district for other options is no longer increasing.
Board president Jason Haas says that fewer students leaving could result in a -slight- uptick in state money, over time...assuming the trend holds...
"We would actually see a little bit of an increase in our annual per pupil allocation, if those numbers continue to stablize, as they look like they're going to," Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com, based on earlier budget projections that the number of students leaving would continue to rise. "So, it's a positive, rare, but we'll take it, positive bit of financial news."
Haas thinks the district is doing a better job getting the district's strengths out there...in direct comparison to charter schools.
"We've really been conscious over the past couple of years of 'telling our story'", says Haas. "And we're getting a little bit better at it...we've got a long way to go, but we are getting better at that."
But the Akron district still must make some more cuts.
The appointment of new board member Veronica Sims, who took office Monday evening, has slowed down some of the process, but Haas says the board should have something to chew on, as far as possible budget cuts, sometime in the next month.
23 candidates have shown an interest in replacing former Akron school board member Ginger Baylor.
The strong turnout to fill Baylor's empty board seat surprised Akron school board president Jason Haas.
Haas tells AkronNewsNow that he was expecting "8 to 12" candidates for the open seat. He says candidates who have applied are "quality" candidates from all walks of life.
Haas says that the board will interview candidates twice. 13 candidates are up tonight, and the remaining 10 are set to be interviewed Wednesday.
Haas says the board expects to announce Baylor's replacement at the next regular school board meeting on Monday, March 25th.
Baylor left the Akron school board earlier this month to take a position in the office of Representative Marcia Fudge.
UPDATE 3/14/13 4:45 PM: School spokesman Mark Williamson says early word is that the reported incident involves three students, and does not involve any teachers or staff.
Very little is known about an alleged sexual assault of an Akron Public Schools student.
But we do know that the reported incidents, which were brought to police and the district's attention by Akron Children's Hospital on Wednesday, apparently didn't happen on school property.
"From what I understand early on, this did not happen on school grounds. This was not in a building, it was not on the property of the school system," district spokesman Mark Williamson tells AkronNewsNow.com. "However, that doesn't mean it's not a concern of ours. If students are involved, then we're always concerned."
And Williamson said school superintendent David James had strong words if these allegations bear fruit.
"If this is true, this is truly reprehensible," Williamson says. "This is not the kind of thing that we want happening with our students."
Akron police and the district are looking into the allegations, and are helping the alleged victim.
Williamson says it's still very early in the process, and officials are not saying much more out of caution...as information is still being gathered.
"Get to the truth," Williamson says. "We need to get to the truth to find out exactly what did happen."
There's no word yet what school the victim attends, or of their age or gender.
(Earlier ANN coverage) The city of Akron and the Akron Public Schools are looking into alleged sexual assaults of a young victim.
The city says Akron police detectives were notified of reported incidents by authorities at Akron Children's Hospital on Wednesday, and police and the district are investigating.
A city statement says police are also working with the victim's family to make sure their needs are being addressed.
The statement does not give the victim's age or gender, and does not name which school may be involved.
City of Akron and APS Investigating Incidents
Juvenile Believed to be Victim of Sexual Assault
Akron, Ohio (March 14, 2013) - Mayor Don Plusquellic and Akron Public School Superintendent David James became aware today of incidents that involve a juvenile victim of alleged sexual assaults. Yesterday, police detectives were notified by authorities at Akron Children’s Hospital of the incidents involving the juvenile victim, and the detectives responded immediately. Police and APS personnel are actively investigating the incidents: statements are being gathered, evidence is being collected, and any videotapes reviewed. The police are also working with the victim’s family to make sure the victim’s needs are being addressed.
“We are taking these allegations seriously and want to protect the victim. We will do everything we can to find out what happened and take appropriate action after a thorough and complete investigation,” said Mayor Don Plusquellic.
“We still have very few confirmed facts, but I want to assure everyone that our staff is working---right now---with Akron police to get to the bottom of this. If the allegations are true, my heart goes out to the victim and the victim's family. This is truly reprehensible behavior," said Akron Public School Superintendent David W. James.
Just when they thought the "Fiscal Cliff" was avoided, local agencies are learning to fear the "sesquester".
Billions of dollars in automatic budget cuts will take place in Washington, if they're not averted in a deal by Friday.
Akron school board president Jason Haas says that the federal cuts would hurt an already hard hit budget, by a few percentage points.
"When you're talking about already having a deficit that's a few percentage points of your total budget," Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com, "you definitely don't want to be adding any more to it."
Haas says programs that could be cut include those funds based on poverty in the city, including some child nutrition funding.
"Direct supports to reading interventions, other programs that affect children that come from our least to-do neighborhoods," Haas says, "We're talking about even some of the child nutrition programs are funded on this."
But as in January, local school officials can only wait for how Washington politicians act, or don't act.
In action at Monday night's school board meeting, a new educational and training facility will have an Akron Public Schools component.
The Akron district has agreed collaborate at the new Summit Lake Family Opportunities Center, which is being built by the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Akron schools superintendent David James says that some Kindergardeners will have classes there.
"We're going to have two Kindergarden classrooms in that facility that AMHA is constructing," James tells AkronNewsNow.com. "It'll serve the students who live in the Summit Lake area."
There will also be Head Start classes and AMHA training rooms.
The $4.3 million center will be primarily funded by federal Housing and Urban Development money, but the Akron school board agreed to spend $600,000 for its portion of the building.
James says such one-stop centers help improve education in areas like Summit Lake.
"When you look at some of our populations in the city, and the opportunity for different agencies to partner and share in some of the costs," James says, "to help improve the educational outcomes of our children."
Akron Public Schools superintendent David James had mostly positive comments about the district in the "State of the Schools" address.
In his speech at the Akron Press Club on Thursday, James highlighted performance increases...numbers he says were NOT driven by attendance manipulation, as a state auditor's report has charged for nine other Ohio districts.
He says Governor Kasich's education reform plan "shows some promise", but James wants to know why some rich districts are getting more than poorer ones.
James said APS needs to ensure all students are successful by being flexible enough to meet ever changing demands...including increased use of technology.
But the superintendent says the Akron district must continue to "right-size" and reduce expenditures.
Read the full text of the "State of The Schools" address below:
The Akron Public Schools board is starting to hear how the state budget could affect the district's finances.
But there's caution around those early numbers.
School board president Jason Haas says he's heard varying possibilities in just the past few days, since Gov. Kasich unveiled his own budget plans.
"You know, originally they're telling us that our funding may go up by about 2.9 percent," Haas explains to AkronNewsNow.com, "however, you're looking at other numbers...the increase over a five year period is only about 0.2 percent per year. That comes out to about one percent."
Haas says just wait it out, and see what the state legislature does before relying on funding numbers out of Columbus.
"It's very exciting to the budget processes start," Haas says, "but we know over the next four months it's going to look a lot different than it did in the governor's head when he came up with it."
But the Akron board can't wait long to cut more spending. It's looking ahead to fiscal year 2014.
"We need to eliminate about eight to nine million dollars in spending to have our next fiscal year be balanced," Haas tells AkronNewsNow.com.
And cuts could be more than that, Haas says, if the board decides to make cuts looking at their effect on future fiscal year deficits.
Haas says superintendent David James will work on a plan to deal with the deficit, and that James and the board will work on a final cut plan for the coming fiscal year sometime in the next 60 days.
But Haas again says one thing is clear...the areas that are left to be cut to save money involve people and buildings.
"Personnel costs are about 73 percent of our costs," Haas points out. "So you're talking about people, you're talking about buildings."
Akron Police were called to Kenmore High School for reports of four fights Tuesday.
Sarah Hollander, spokesperson for Akron Public Schools tells AkronNewsNow.com no major injuries were reported to any of the students.
"The school did not go on lockdown, but administrators took some precautions including hall sweeps to make sure the students were in classes and not loitering in the halls to prevent any additional problems," Hollander said.
She says additional police were summoned to the school as precautionary measure to make sure dismissal went smoothly as well as preserve student safety.
No students were arrested in any of the fights.
Hollander said the reason for the fights is "unclear at this point."
Kenmore High School is looking into disciplinary measures at this time.
The Akron Public School board took its first step in setting guidelines for the "Innovation Generation" scholarship.
That's the University of Akron scholarship funded by the recent sale of Central Hower High School to the university.
The initial guidelines, modeled on an existing rule, open the scholarship to qualifying students who've been in the district starting in ninth grade.
Akron school board president Jason Haas says after the initial class graduates, the board will evaluate possible changes for the future.
"Potentially, one of the things board members have talked about is trying to incentivize a longer time of residency in Akron Public Schools," Haas tells AkronNewsNow, "and so dropping the...from ninth grade down to sixth grade into 12th, being the length of residency for a full scholarship."
But Haas says the board will have to hammer out the details of any possible changes over the summer.
"One possibility would be that it's 100% all or nothing," Haas explains, "or that, for instance, if they came in at a later date and maybe picked up at ninth grade, that they could be eligible for a percentage, but not a full 100 percent."
The academic guidelines are set by the University of Akron. The Akron district handles things such as residency requirements.
Haas says about 20 students are already at UA under the program since it was being readied, and were accepted by the university on that basis.
About 40 more students are eligible and considering going for the scholarship.
Science fairs are nothing new, but a renewed emphasis on science in the schools are making them more popular.
The science expo in the Akron Public Schools is now the Science, Technology and Math Expo, and this weekend's "STEM" event at North High School brought out nearly 600 student projects - double last year's participation.
"We have all the career education programs here in the Akron Public Schools highlighted by our own students and their teachers," APS health and science learning specialist Katrina Halasa tells AkronNewsNow.com, "so students who are younger can see what opportunities we have in careers."
Halasa says Akron students start dipping into the world of "STEM" young...as early as in third grade.
"For example, they build and shoot rockets, which is an engineering program that is given by OSU Extension. And we also do another one with OSU Extension that has to do with the lifecycle of a chicken. They actually hatch chickens," Halasa says. "So, we're starting very young working with those STEM experiences."
Fifth grader Rebecca Mold showed off a robot called "S To The Fourth Power", otherwise known as "Senior Saver Super Sam".
"We have our catapult attachment on him right now, and we've modified it a little bit," Rebecca explains, "but what it's supposed to do is it's supposed to launch a projectile. It's built entirely out of Legos."
Upstairs from Rebecca and partner Aidan Turner was the University of Akron's Robotics Team - where students got to control "STEVE" - or "Small Tactical Electronic Vehicular Excavator" - built for a NASA competition last year designed to collect sand on the moon.
And the team's Ben Chaffee says he got started as a young student working on robots much in the same way as Rebecca has, at science fairs.
"That's where you start building things, I started with Legos personally," Chaffee tells AkronNewsNow.com, "and I got into college and I started doing robotics on a large scale."
At the STEM Expo, physics students also got a chance to build - and destroy - homemade bridges.
A new wrinkle in the case of the Akron teacher facing possible termination over Facebook pictures of her students.
Buchtel teacher Melissa Cairns has requested a hearing before a referee, a provision allowed under the Ohio Revised Code in hopes of keeping her job.
The math teacher posted a picture on the social networking site of students with duct tape on their mouths. The Akron School Board will not be voting on the job status of Cairns during their meeting January 28.
A release from the Akron Public Schools says a referee will be chosen and a date will be set before an official hearing will be held.
The referee will then forward his or her recommendation to the school board for a final vote.
Cairns was on paid leave until the school board voted to consider termination. She has been on upaid leave since January 15.
Carins maintains that while it was a mistake taking the photo, she did not place the duct tape on any of the students' mouths and that it was a joke amongst the class.
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