Dear Employees, Families and Community Members,
I hope this email finds each of you and your loved ones doing well.
Our last communication was on Monday, April 20, in response to Governor Mike DeWine’s announcement that for the remainder of this school year, students will continue to go to school remotely. Since then, there has been a flurry of planning and other activities.
Graduation and Other End-of-the-Year Recognitions
At the end of the school year, there are traditional and rite of passage types of programs and events that are part of each school’s DNA. From kindergarten to graduating seniors, families’ calendars fill up with these special occasions. The memories, pictures and recognitions become permanent keepsakes in chronicling our students’ experiences.
Given our current situation, many families have been asking about how schools will be dealing with these special events. It is important to know that we as educators value and understand the importance of these milestones. On Thursday, April 23, 2020, the Ohio Department of Education issued a letter to all school district superintendents regarding graduation ceremonies, student gatherings and other end-of-year recognition ceremonies for students.
The letter reminded superintendents that Governor DeWine, during his press conference on Monday, April 20, stated: “the gathering of significant numbers of people is a dangerous situation. Just as schools have been innovative in regard to how to teach from a distance, I know that they will be innovative as they look at how… they honor the students.” The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is asking the education community to: “come together and honor our students, especially our seniors, in a manner that doesn’t pose health risks to anyone. Schools should continue to recognize the importance of restrictions on mass gatherings, and events should be aligned with the Ohio Department of Health’s Order.”
The letter goes on to outline some of the negative aspects of holding “in-person” events. The department specifically mentions that with each change of venue and/or calendar delay (late June, July or later graduation ceremony), there is no guarantee that large gatherings will be permitted, and there is a risk of fewer students actually participating due to other life plans such as beginning employment, attending college, military enlistment, etc.
They also point out that in-person events add to the complexity of asking students to comply with social distancing, as these events often are highly emotional, invoking natural physical responses (such as high fives and hugs). These in-person events, even if only for participants, can lead to other family members and friends wanting to physically attend, even though not permitted to do so.
Finally, the letter advises that school leaders should conduct graduation ceremonies and other recognition events in a remote manner that honors each student in a safe and responsible way, prioritizing the health needs of students, their families and the community.
What This Means for Perrysburg Schools
Each school and program will be communicating with students and families about special end-of-the-year events. Given these new recommendations from the department, our focus will shift to doing these things virtually.
We had been holding out hope that for seniors, we would be able to schedule in-person events, for example, graduation, awards night, fine and performing arts final shows and prom for later in June or July. This is no longer an option.
The team at Perrysburg High School is now working on doing what it can to recognize and celebrate students given the restrictions we have. The team will be communicating soon on those details.
As we think about celebrating the pinnacle milestone of high school – graduation – it is easy to get caught up in the “pomp and circumstance” – food, cake, snacks, parties and all of the trappings that go into the graduation event. Oftentimes it is easy to lose sight of the fact that earning a high school diploma is something special. While COVID-19 will change what we have done in the past relative to the ceremony, it does not change the fact that students have earned their diploma – and that is something worth celebrating. I want to share another perspective on earning a high school diploma and just how special it is.
This person’s story began with being born to an unwed mother and then being put up for adoption. Six weeks later, a loving couple adopted the little boy. At the age of five, this little guy lost his adoptive mother. By the time he reached 10 he had lost two other step mothers. He traveled from city to city as his adoptive father struggled to find work and remarried three times. The boy spent summers with his grandmother, who taught him the values he used later in his life, particularly her advice: ''Don't cut corners.''
His favorite thing to do with his grandmother during the summers was to eat at the counter of the local five-and-dimes and diners. He also dined out with his father almost every evening. Since his father did not like to talk very much, the boy studied how things worked in restaurants. When he was eight, he decided that he would have a restaurant one day.
He got his first job at age 12, working the counter at a Knoxville restaurant, and fell in love with the restaurant business. When he was 15, he found work at the Hobby House Restaurant in Ft. Wayne. It was then that he made what he considered his greatest mistake: he dropped out of high school to work full-time. His father and new stepfamily were preparing to move yet again and the boy decided to stay in Ft. Wayne, move into the YMCA and work full-time. This decision to dropout of high school haunted him for years to come.
Through his work at the Hobby House, he met Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The boy’s enthusiasm was so strong that for a while he adopted his boss and mentor Colonel Sanders's signature white suit and black string tie. After serving in the Army, he was given a chance to turn around four failing KFC restaurants in Columbus, Ohio and in exchange he would become a part owner of those restaurants. Four years later, by using his experience and determination, he turned the stores around, sold the restaurants back to KFC and received a percentage of the sale – making him a millionaire at age 35.
With that money, he could finally start the hamburger restaurant of his dreams. He named it after the nickname of his 8-year-old daughter, Melinda Lou. On November 15, 1969 he opened the very first Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Wendy’s was everything Dave Thomas wanted: an old fashioned place where families could be together and enjoy great tasting hamburgers. In many ways he wanted to provide his customers with the same experience that he fell in love with as a young boy.
Now his franchise has over 6,650 restaurants across the globe and is the third largest restaurant chain in the world. Dave Thomas became a generous philanthropist, particularly in the interests of children's welfare, medicine and education. He did it by focusing on the simple things: a great product, service, a passion for detail, innovation, a genuine love for his people and a commitment to never cutting corners, like his grandmother used to say – hence the square hamburgers found at Wendy’s.
Despite living this amazing life, being a highly respected CEO, a celebrity appearing in his own commercials and being a multi-millionaire, he was still haunted by never earning his high school diploma. He considered not earning his diploma as his biggest failure.
In 1993, Dave Thomas hired a tutor, became a student at Coconut Creek High School in Fort Lauderdale and passed the G.E.D. exam. He and his wife were named king and queen of the prom. He finally earned his high school diploma and was voted ''Most Likely to Succeed'' by his classmates.
He always claimed, next to his family, getting his high school diploma was one of his greatest accomplishments.
It is amazing to me that Dave Thomas, who had accomplished seemingly everything in his life, still felt he needed to earn a diploma. I am sure there were some advisors that cautioned him that going back to school after dropping out 45 years earlier was not necessary or may cause others to think less of him. To Dave, it didn’t matter. He knew he made a mistake and wanted to make it right. He knew he was a role model to many and wanted to show people – not tell them – but show them that education was important. Dave Thomas has stated that everyone should have an MBA. To Dave an MBA means a “Mop Bucket Attitude.”
As graduates, our students will receive their high school diplomas. It is no small accomplishment.
The ceremony may be virtual. The graduation parties may be reduced to getting cards in the mail. But, the important work has been done and this year, the focus on getting the diploma and its importance is now a primary focus. In many ways earning a diploma, in and of itself, is like a gift. The gift of accomplishing something special that will now start the next phase of life. The word commencement means to begin. COVID-19 will not stop students from earning their diploma. Nor will it stop the commencement of something very special. Please do not squander this gift but cherish it. Our seniors’ education does not end due to this pandemic. It is only the beginning.
Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-8
We have this week circled on our calendars and are planning something special for our wonderful teachers. We may need your help. Stay tuned for more information.
Financial Actions Begin for This and Next Year
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s lives in so many ways. The virus is unforgiving. The personal and financial devastation continues to play out in every community across the country. Virtually every home is impacted.
Since the “stay at home” order was issued in March, our focus has been on transitioning to online and home learning. Our faculty and staff members have done an extraordinary job with this. We are also seeing an increase in the need for food and personal supplies for students. This week, our staff members, administrators and volunteers provided more than 4,000 meals for hundreds of students. We know that any progress made to ensure the learning process continues and to help support our students and families has been accomplished because of our team.
There is a great deal of uncertainty in virtually every aspect of our lives. We wish we had answers as to what is to come next. The impact of COVID-19 will be far-reaching and impactful in many ways for months and years to come. Just as our families are reacting to these financial challenges, the school district is planning for potential impacts as well. While we do not have the details as to what the reductions will be, I’ve outlined a few updates below.
With the passage of the levy in November 2019, we entered this crisis in a strong financial position. Despite this, we know there will be significant financial challenges ahead.
We are anticipating drops in our local income tax as well as the property tax collections in the year ahead as unemployment claims surge in our area and across the state.
Approximately 63% of our funding comes from locally-collected funds. Short-term delinquencies from some residents and businesses who are not able to pay taxes will reduce the revenue collected. Also, longer-term property values may change. These factors are difficult to forecast.
Last month, Governor Mike DeWine ordered all state agencies and departments to prepare budgets that reflect a 20% reduction in state funding. Approximately 27% of our annual funding comes from the state (10% of the remaining revenue comes from federal and other sources).
The last financial crisis in the state was the great recession from December 2007 - June 2009. From October 2009 to March 2010, our school district saw a decrease of $2,171,889 in its combined federal, state and local revenue. By the fall of 2010, our school district needed to make $3.1 million worth of reductions to balance our budget. During the peak of the recession in 2009-2010, unemployment in Wood County rose to 8,400. As of April 4, 2020, unemployment in the county was 8,391. One year ago this month, unemployment was 568.
We are formulating a process to begin to address the financial fallout from COVID-19:
It is too early to know exactly what the impact will be on school districts across Ohio. We are taking steps now to reduce spending this and next school year with various school building and department budgets. Building and department budgets for the 2020-2021 school year will be the same as 2019-2020, including a 5% reduction from 2018-2019. Budget amounts for the 2020-2021 school year will be available at 50% of each total budget area. This means that only 50% of the school building or department budget will be made available at the start of the year.
Any requisitions entered for this year are to be dated July 1, 2020 as we have frozen all school district accounts for the current fiscal year. Also, the school district is putting a hold on hiring all fall sports coaches, club moderators and extended days for staff members until more is known about the return to school and any restrictions on crowd sizes and social distancing. We are hoping that these activities will be permitted to happen, however, a hold until further direction from the Governor is appropriate.
We are working with principals and administrators in evaluating all staffing requests, focusing on those positions being requested due to growth or replacing staff that have retired or resigned. We have already canceled some searches that were already under way due to the financial uncertainty.
We have taken steps as directed by the Governor to accommodate as many of our faculty and staff members as possible to work remotely. As the order to remain closed has extended to the end of the school year, we are beginning to evaluate options for those staff members who cannot work remotely.
As the financial picture becomes clearer, the school district will need to refine our 5-year forecast to reflect our new financial reality. Depending on the projections for local revenue and state funding, we will need to consider what budgetary steps need to be taken. These may include further departmental and building budget reductions and/or a reduction in programming and staffing. We are consulting the plans made in the fall of 2019 that were drafted in the event the November levy were to have failed. The plans for a range of financial scenarios are under way. Consider that a 10% reduction in local property tax collections would mean a loss of $3.7 million; the same percentage reduction in our income tax would be a loss of $750,000, while a 10% reduction in state funding would mean a $1.25 million loss.
We use the 10% number as an example above given that state tax revenue in March was less than $1.4 billion, about 10.5% less than it had anticipated before COVID-19 hit Ohio.
Other Financial Decisions
The 5-year permanent improvement levy passed on November 3, 2015 is set to expire on December 31, 2020. It generates approximately $1.6 million annually to be used primarily for non-personnel school building maintenance and repairs. Permanent improvement funds may only be used for maintaining buildings, purchasing buses, buying portable classrooms and educational equipment. This levy was first passed in 1980 and has been renewed or replaced by voters every five years. The Board of Education will need to come to a decision in the next four months as to whether to ask voters to renew the levy (not a new tax) or let it expire and lose $1.6 million annually, which would mean money dedicated to facilities and future repairs would instead be taken from our general fund.
In addition to these financial considerations, we are also discussing the loss of instructional classroom time and the impact that may have on students. Plans to address how we may close gaps are under way.
We will continue to share with employees, families and the community more information as it becomes available. We will proceed with great care as we learn more about the impact of COVID-19. Please know that we acknowledge that this disease and the actions we will be taking in response to its fallout will impact our employees and students. For that, we are deeply sorry.
We are grateful for the efforts that everyone have taken on behalf of our students and families. We will continue to keep you updated as the picture becomes clearer. We will continue to do our best to manage this crisis while still striving to ensure all students achieve their greatest potential.
Thomas L. Hosler