The public was welcomed to the middle school’s cafeteria, where Superintendent Ben Chaffee Jr. shared the floor with administrators and neighbors to discuss “staying in the game” for project funds.
Applying for funds to renovate the school buildings began in 2016, yet as of Tuesday evening, the project was still in its “infant” stage of even being made a bond issue.
Chaffee, who began the “state of the schools” address, said the South Central community wasn’t ready to receive funding and start construction any time soon.
“Right now, we’re not ready to receive immediate financing for this project. We don’t (even) have concept designs for what we think schools should like like to best fulfill students needs.”
“But for that,” he continued, “we need more input, more communication from the community.”
Tom Lucha, President of the Board of Education, also shared Chaffee’s sentiment.
“All of us (school board, committee, etc.) are trying to make decisions based on what the community wants . . . but the community needs to share, and join in these conversations,” Lucha said.
Treasurer Chris Warrick spoke next, briefly sharing a five-year-plan and where the school currently rests financially.
“We’re (one of) the only schools in the (area) whose buildings are completely debt-free,” she said.
Warrick included that four of the six recently purchased school buses will still need to be paid off.
After thanking Warrick, Chaffee moved on to how to get money from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). The superintendent explained how South Central is third in line to be considered for OFCC funding, but is ranked 16th to actually receive them. The agency approves funding for school building projects.
“The OFCC’s master plan for our (project) proposal was to combine all of South Central students in a K-12 building . . . and tear down the high school,” Chaffee said. “The FAC (Facilities Advisory Committee) was overwhelmingly — well, overall, against that plan, so we decided to seek funding elsewhere, specifically the state.”
Unfortunately, South Central administrators learned that the state of Ohio will not fund projects that haven’t been approved by the OFCC.
With 87 percent of FAC members in support of keeping the high school building and nearly 83 percent willing to accept the OFCC’s regulations, the school board must approve a clear concept for upgraded building/facilities by September, Chaffee said. At that point the district will have 13 months to secure outside/local funding to have the project as a bond issue.
“I love that we’re a small school. … But if we want OFCC funding, we need to follow their rules,” Chaffee said, before passing the microphone to four individuals chosen to share their exposure to South Central Local Schools.
Moe Moore, a school alumnus and long-time district resident, came with some tools in tow to help illustrate his point.
“(Companies like) Amazon and Verizon are showing that the work environment has changed. Before, they were telling us that when our kids start working they’ll be in a cubicle. … But now we’re seeing these places with standing desks and windows,” he said.
“I love these kids, every one of them and (my wife) Mary and I will do whatever we can to give kids a good education … but we need to have facilities that will prepare them for the 21st century. We need to measure up,” Moore said.
Finally, he raised the tape measure he brought to the meeting — eliciting laughs from the crowd.
Melissa Wallace, a district resident and faculty member, said she was “confident that well thought-through decisions and discussions will provide students (her own child being among them) with the best facilities to move into the future.”
Brooke Miller was another speaker in support of “measuring up,” as she told the story of how, as an “average” student-athlete, Plymouth’s new school and facilities changed her life. Despite being from Plymouth, she has deep roots in South Central, after marrying husband, Andy.
“I was an average student, an average athlete, but when I first entered that new school, something in me said (to herself), ‘Now I need to measure up,’ from then it seemed that the world was opened to me,” she said. After graduating HS in 2005, Miller went on to college and a career in media broadcasting.
Miller included advice she’d received from past administrators, to not just think about what’s best for the community now, but what would also be best for the South Central Trojans 50 years from now.
Lucha was the final speaker of the evening.
“First and foremost, I’m a husband, a parent, then a board member,” he said. “That said, the number one concern (for the board) is how to best serve students.”
As a proponent for transparency in school matters, Lucha said he wished more people attended board meetings, and to remind people that “nothing — not financial decisions, projects, or anything like that, is going to happen overnight.”
Chaffee thanked the public for coming to the meeting and encouraged them to write any questions or feedback on notecards, promising to answer each one.
The next community meeting will be July 23. For more information on FAC, for general school information contact the school website.