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Ada superintendent addresses school levy "misinformation"

The board of elections determined that this levy would be considered a renewal

The following is a letter to the editor from Meri Skilliter, Ada school superintendent.

Icon viewers:
I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some misinformation that has circulated regarding the Ada School’s levy that will appear on the ballot on Tuesday:

Misinformation: “This levy should not be called a “renewal” because the one expiring was for a five-year term, and this one the Board of Education is asking to put on for a continuing period of time.”

As I have stated in the interviews I’ve done, the letters I have posted and that were published in four newspapers, and in the multiple presentations I’ve made to local philanthropic groups over the last two months (that I asked to be allowed to come and make), the Board of Elections determines the language that is put on the ballot.  Because we are not asking for a new percentage, nor additional money, the Board of ELECTIONS determined that this levy would be considered a renewal.  The Board of Education has no control over that.  Because the School Board is asking for this levy to run for a continuous period of time, all of my letters, speeches, and all of the levy committee’s material has been deliberate in spelling out that the Board was asking for this levy to run for a “continuous period of time.”  My talks to groups and my letters and interviews further spelled out the reasons the Board decided to ask for it to run for that period of time.

Misinformation: “Making this ‘continuous’ removes one of the primary means in which we the taxpayers can voice our opinion as to the work being done by the board, administrators, and staff of the school.”  

Respectfully, I would argue that the conscientious ways to voice your opinions are to talk to a board member or administrator with whom you disagree, attend a meeting and make a public input statement, and/or elect new board members.  Campaigning or voting against a levy hurts students by requiring cuts in programs, should the levies fail.  These responsible measures do not impact the very students for whom you have concern.   

This levy, one of three, raises $979,660 a year.  This is a difficult, if not devastating, amount of money to have to cut from the district.   Such cuts would have a wide reaching impact on our students.

Misinformation: “The Board,and/or its agents, have been ‘deceptive.’”  

Board minutes appear in the Ada Icon, and meetings are attended and reported upon by the Kenton Times. This decision required two resolutions and discussion that were covered by the Times, including a headline that stated that the Board was looking to convert this levy to a continuing one.  Every piece of information that the Board (or its agents) put out included this piece of information, and any information I shared included an explanation of the change in time frame and discussion of reasons why the Board chose to go this route.  To say any of us was deceptive is to imply an intent that was simply not there, and all evidence would point to the contrary.  Some folks have said they called the Board of Elections for clarification, not one call has come to our office to ask the source itself to clarify.  We welcome those calls.  Had you called, you would have gotten the same information the paper reported, was given, and was in each and every speech Mrs. Skilliter gave over the last months, well before a Billboard was placed, with no source being listed.

Misinformation: “Ada Schools recently terminated an extra-curricular activity, ignoring the voice of around 32 of us at a School Board meeting – it is our opinion that 32 people in an approximately 260 member high school is a staggering number of tax-payer voices to ignore.”

If, indeed, 32 students from our high school had signed up for an activity, or if the 32 people who spoke up for the program were representing 32 current students who were interested in the program this year, that number would be very different than the 7 students who wanted to participate in this program that was indeed eliminated.  While being accused of being deceptive, I wonder if this particular statement, on behalf of an unidentified “we” in a recent letter to the editor of the Ada Icon, might also be considered misleading or deceptive?  Clearly, some of the scare tactics being used, such as likening a continuing levy, which many Ohio districts have and have had on the books for decades, as “socialism,” are a response to a decision by the administration with which a group of people disagreed.  Implying that the Board did not hear their concerns is also misleading.  Hearing someone’s concerns and doing what they are asking of you are two distinctly different things.

I respect everyone’s right to vote, and I very much appreciate all the support this community has given the district over the years, not just at the polls. I have worked with this Board, with many of the people on the levy committee, and with this administration for over three years now.  If this levy does not pass as it has been presented by this school board, we will look at it and decide how to proceed.  But for our students, I did not want it to fail due to any misleading information left unclarified. 

On a last note, I owe our administrators, our support staff, and our teachers a huge public note of gratitude.  In unprecedented times, these Ada Schools’ employees, stepped up with calm, positivity, and grace to what needed to be done.  I have never been part of a district where such a “can do” attitude pervades, even in the hardest of circumstances.  Not just a “can do” attitude, but a “what else can I do” attitude has been the norm as we have traversed a never seen before, constantly changing situation.  We do absolutely have the best people at Ada Schools, and I thank them for their spirit.

Yours in education,
Mrs. Meri Skilliter, Superintendent