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Norwalk students assist with 5-for-5 levy campaign

Aaron Krause • Apr 17, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Norwalk High School junior Megan Casselberry began attending district levy committee meetings as a school assignment. As part of their coursework, students must attend government meetings, such as those held by city council or boards of education.

After that first levy meeting, Casselberry continued attended meetings because "I was interested in it and I wanted to help out," she said.

She brought some friends with her to the meetings, and a group of students advocating for the levy's passage was formed. They've manned pro-levy booths at sporting events and spread the word among the study body -- which, in turn, informed other adults about the levy.

Casselberry is too young to vote, but "she's probably made a lot of other people vote in her favor," said junior Isaac Lindenberger, who is also involved in promoting the levy.

Cassleberry said she's seen a lot of students wearing levy buttons on their bookbags and asking her questions about the levy.

The "Five For Five" levy is an emergency levy that, if passed, will generate $1.5 million per year. The last time voters approved new operating money was in 1991 -- 23 years ago.

Total district budget reductions since 2008 are in excess of $2 million. Forty nine staff positions (full and part time) have been eliminated since 2008. "Five for 5" requires voter renewal in five years.

"As of this moment, Norwalk City Schools are faced with a financial emergency," Reflector columnist Jim Busek wrote in a recent edition, adding it's not the administrators' or board members' fault. "Somebody in Columbus who does not know the great things being done here in Norwalk has figured out how to take away nearly $4,000,000 in revenue for our schools over the past six years."

Lindenberger said school funding is important to him.

"It's funding to pay for my school and my peers," he said. "I personally think education is one of the most important things you can give somebody."

The teenager added a community with a good school system is one that draws new residents.

"I think (the levy is) very important to the community," Lindenberger said.

Lindenberger and Casselberry said they've mostly heard positive things about the levy from those they've spoken to.

Junior Ben Hohman said he feels students can better inform adults about how passage of the levy or its failure will affect students. He, Lindenberger, Casselberry, board members and others were busy during a recent levy meeting, readying postcards promoting the measure for mailing.

"It's good to see everyone represented here," Hohman said, noting that administrators, teachers and students were preparing the mailings.

Superintendent Dennis Doughty was among those present. He praised the students' initiative in supporting the levy.

"They did it on their own, we didn't solicit them," Doughty said. "That's democracy occurring in action. It's great when students will take a stand. They're our future."

Levy committee chairman Alan Furey is also impressed.

"To me that's incredible," he said about their willingness to participate. It tells voters the students aren't only educated, but concerned that future generations of students have the same opportunities, Furey said.

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