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Cambridge City Schools News Article

Restructuring of Elementary Buildings Benefits District

In the Fall of 2016, newly hired Superintendent Dan Coffman was walking through what was then called South Elementary School when he was asked by a teacher about the possibility of restructuring the elementary schools in the district.

At the time, Cambridge had three Pre-K through fifth grade elementary buildings, a model that still embraced the idea that a school building served as the neighborhood center, geographically located near or in the community its students resided.

While historically this model was considered to be the best way to serve students and families, it had become an out-of-date framework that was costing the district money and creating problems that could be better addressed in grade-level buildings, a fact that most educators recognized.

Coffman, being new to the position, was initially hesitant to make any large-scale changes like restructuring the district. However, when looking at the district’s financial situation, he knew something had to be done and none of the options would be pleasant to implement.
At the time, the district was already in financial distress. Coffman was working on a plan with then treasurer Dave Caldwell, also new to his job, to cut twenty-five fulltime employees.

After visiting the classroom of a dynamic teacher that would be on the cut list, they realized a creative approach to addressing the district’s financial situation was needed.

“Basically, it came down to a choice between cutting nearly 25 employees or restructuring the district,” Coffman said. “We had recently learned that we would lose $630,000 in state budget funding (ended up being $250,000) and we needed to implement the redistricting plan to help improve our financial situation in addition to improving our district educationally.”

The restructuring created two elementary schools, one for grades K-2 and one for grades 3-5. The banding together of the grades created a great deal of flexibility staffing-wise and in other ways as well.

The third elementary building was able to be utilized for administrative offices, special services, and a Preschool.

“The restructuring of the elementary schools has made us much more efficient in terms of operating costs,” Caldwell said. “Actually, the operating costs were less than what we anticipated. That was an immense help to the district’s finances.”

The Superintendent’s and Treasurer’s office were previous located in two separate buildings on Fairdale Road. That property also included several storage buildings. The former Oakland Elementary School, located on Clairmont Ave. in the Oakland subdivision, housed a handful of employees.

“The restructuring benefited us financially as we were able to consolidate a number of buildings and expenses,” Caldwell said. “At Fairdale, we owned 32 acres that included five or six buildings. Those all have operating costs and maintenance.”
The district was able to sell at auction the Fairdale property, all the old equipment stored in those building and the rights to timber the property.

“We had a maintenance building back there full of equipment that wasn’t being used because it was old,” Caldwell said. “We auctioned off all the equipment we deemed not needed anymore including several trucks from the 70s and 80s.”

The district was also able to sell the Oakland School building even though at the time of the restructuring, many people wanted to keep the Oakland School building as part of the district’s properties. An analysis of the building indicated high maintenance costs, high utilities, a roof that was past its prime and other maintenance concerns.

The sales created a substantial sum of money that, according to the Ohio Revised Code, must be placed in the permanent improvement fund.

“We can’t use that money for salary, and we can’t use it for operating expenses,” Caldwell said. “It has to be used for a permanent improvement – items that will last five years or longer.”

The district used some of that money to upgrade the bus fleet and make some other improvements, however, additional financial benefits derive from the efficiencies realized resulting from the restructuring.

The redistricting happened quickly. The decision to restructure was announced in mid-April of 2017 with the plan implemented for the 2017-2018 school year.

“We were in a react mode,” Coffman reminded. “We would have liked to gather input from our district staff and community members before making a decision, but because of the financial situation, we did not have the benefit of time.”

However, over time, the district has benefited from the decision to restructure the elementary schools.

Note: This is the third in a five-part series about the financial situation of Cambridge City School District.

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518 South 8th Street Cambridge, OH 43725 Phone: (740) 439-5021 Fax: (740) 439-3796