Norwalk students assist with 5-for-5 levy campaign

Local youth advocating support for schools where they study.
Aaron Krause
Apr 17, 2014

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.

Comments

proudparent

As a parent of 2 Norwalk school students- I think its time the community and the students are told the truth. Why is this money needed and WHERE IS IT GOING? This money is not going directly to the students- its to cover the salaries & benefits of our district employees.

FACT: 41% of all Norwalk City School employees make over $35+ per hour worked.
FACT: 84% of all Norwalk City School employees work PART TIME (2.5 days more than half a year)
FACT: 58% of all Norwalk City School employees make more than $60K salaries based on pro-rated pay or equivalent to the private sector.

Check the facts here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsh...

Please tell me how many jobs in Norwalk pay $35 per hour to work part time? 184 days a year? The majority of us who are still fortunate to be employed in this city do not make near this amount. And yet we are supposed to pay more out of our pockets so they can maintain their current pay rates? Everyone goes after Doughty and the administrators salaries. At least their hours worked are closer to full time. The highest paid teachers in the district are making more than Doughty based on their contracted hours!

The mantra for as long as I can remember is "teachers are grossly underpaid." Not anymore! Wake up everyone- government employee wages are surpassing the private sector at an alarming rate. The taxpayer’s wallets are empty.

And thanks again for thinking the public are a bunch of morons and will cave to you every time at the election booth. “We have to raise the pay-to-play fees." Let's go after the families with kids who play sports. Our athletic programs are the largest money generators for the school! What about lost revenue when many kids won’t play, cheer, or join band because it’s financially unfeasible? I’m surprised transportation is not being threatened on this levy. Kick em where it hurts until they concede.

If they have found 900K worth of cuts...then so be it. This levy money is not directly going to our students. It's going into the staff’s bank and retirement accounts!

CAST THE FIRST STONE

you are right..and they will trick young kids into thinking you do not care about them if you are against a terrible levy. shame on them. hopefully parents can explain to there kids about greed in this issue

Alan Furey

Cast,

Good morning!

As the levy chairperson, I want you to know we are not "tricking" the kids into voting on the levy or working on the levy campaign. They came to us and said they wanted to help out. They have sat in the meetings and heard about the cuts in local funding from the state government and about all the reductions the district has already made in an attempt to stay off the ballot.

The levy committee understands that times are tough on voters, but until the State Government approves another funding method for schools, this is the route we have to take.

If you have any questions regarding this levy, please contact me at norwalklevy@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Alan Furey

rbenn

If SB5 would have passed we wouldn't be having this discussion. But most people listened to the union crybabies and didn't pay attention to the writing on the wall. You asked for it you got it. vote no

Stonybaby

If the students are permitted to help with a school levy then what would be the reaction be if the students decided to help with the legalize marijuana effort or legalize gambling or ANY other vice base issue. Having students participate in any type of political effort is a bad ideal.
Keep the school (a mandatory institution) free of all politics. It is not the place for liberal manipulation of young minds. Totally inappropriate. I wonder if that Government class credit would be available for the anti-levy movement? Freedom as long as you agree with the teachers point of view. Would the N.R.A. have such access to the student body. No way.

Alan Furey

Stony,

Good morning!

My understanding of how this works is that students are required to attend a government meeting every nine weeks. They can attend school board meetings, city council, township trustee meetings, etc. A few decided to attend a levy meeting and wanted to get involved. I asked them what types of things they wanted to do, and they told me. It is really quite impressive that they took the initiative to continue coming back AFTER they met the requirements of their government class. If they don't show up we don't track them down. They are strictly there as volunteers and of their own free will.

I believe if students chose to anti an anti-levy meeting they would be given the same credit as attending any other meeting. This government class assignment isn't about manipulating students minds (as you put it). It is used to make students aware of the moving pieces and parts of their community in a meaningful, real-world application.

As for your questions regarding the NRA, gambling, marijuana, or other vice-base issue, you would have to contact Mr. Cooley or Mr. Doughty for those answers.

If you have any other questions for me, please contact me at norwalklevy@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Alan Furey

44846GWP

Stonybaby: "It's not the place for liberal manipulation of young minds" Where do you get that from? To be fair, its not the place for "right wing" nuts either.

swiss family

wow...I have to say I am very very proud. Usually I am about the only person on here saying how wasteful and overpaid the teachers and staff are being paid, and usually I am harassed so badly and condemned so harshly and told that I do NOT care about the kids and our future and their educations etc.. I am so happy to see that others are finally joining me in an effort to stop being bullied by the school and school board, and to instead, look to them and demand from them some information. Please tell us how much money does it cost to put this on the ballot each time you do??? how much money does it cost each time to mail out in mass quantities your "pro levy" post cards??? wouldn't it be better to use that money in other places instead of gambling it on something with a 50/50 chance of return in the long run , especially when you are seemingly so short of money??? our money, after all?????

To the blogger who said that they have not threatened anything about transportation, you know they will cut busing when the levy fails though, right?? they want to punish as many "bad citizens" as possible for not doing what we were meant to do...I say , let them cut busing, and I am also ,saying right here right now I am looking for a partner to join me min opening our own privately owned and operated busing system , where we buy older good running school buses and start our own transportation services taking kids back and forth to school, just as they are now, only making it a private business, so the parents will not have to wonder what they will do to make other arrangements to get their kids to school...we need to take the power away from the schools, who seem to think they have us over the barrel... we will figure something out if you try to cut us ... we just wish that you would learn to do the same, after all that really is your job..

Alan Furey

Swiss -

Hello! As levy chairperson I wanted to respond to your post.

First, no one associated with the Norwalk City Schools has said they are going to cut busing if the levy fails. The cuts, as approved by the school board, include four teachers, two librarians, and eight aides. One administrative assistant at the central office will be cut as well. Activity fees will increase for sports and clubs, while contracts for coaching and advising will be reduced.

Second, the cost of putting the levy on the ballot varies from year to year. For the past three levies the district spent close to $6,775 TOTAL, not per year, to have the issues on the ballots. The cost for this election is unknown at this time.

Third, the cost of the postcards, yard signs, mailings, etc., for the "pro levy" is completed funded by The Committee to Support the Levy. This committee solicits donations from community members to pay for all these items. The school district does not spend one penny of your tax dollars to promote the levy. They only pay the charges set forth by the Board of Elections.

Fourth, this is the system the Ohio Legislature has decided to stick with for school financing, despite it being ruled unconstitutional several times. The hands of the district are tied - they have to ask for levies. It will continue this way until our State Representatives and Senators develop a constitutional plan.

Fifth, the district spends $8,366 per student, much less than the state average of $10,800 per student. The last time an operating levy was passed for Norwalk was 1991. If you own a $100,000 home the levy will cost you $175 a year, or less than 50 cents a day. The district has cut 49 staff positions, both full and part time, since 2008. This levy is for five years. If voters decide not to renew it in five years it falls off the books.

Finally, this school board and administration have hosted, on several occasions, informational nights to talk about the financial hardship being faced in this district. These meetings are publicly announced in the local paper. Mr. Doughty, any of the board members, and I are always willing to speak with residents about the financial picture of the district and why this emergency levy is needed. If you have further questions, or would like to meet with me, please e-mail the campaign at norwalklevy@gmail.com.

Thank you for taking the time to post your comments so I could answer your questions. I hope I cleared up the misinformation you were given.

I look forward to speaking with you in the future !

Alan Furey

Dr. Information

Oh the typical postings of the Norwalk uneducated.

swiss family

OH "Dr"... we are very educated... it is you who are either gullible, or are part of the school system and are enjoying the money being thrown at you by the tax payers, and are crying that you need more.... and are trying to pull the oldest trick in the book with your >5 year levy" like it will end in 5 years..lolol.. show me any tax or levy that has ever gone away ever in history once it is in place.. it just doesn't happen.......sorry, but money is tight in Norwalk and the surrounding areas, maybe you haven't noticed that,but people have had to make some serious cuts in their budgets, it is time for the schools to do the same.. and NOT the usual, busing and sports... those are the easiest and the cheapest shots that punish th most voters, and that is why they do it .Please Dr. pay attention to what is happening around you.. get educated yourself...

Alan Furey

Swiss,

As I stated in an earlier post, this levy is for five years. If voters choose not to renew it in five years the money it collects will no longer be collected. This is a simple fact that can be verified by calling the auditor or the board of elections.

Norwalk has made some serious cuts the past several years. Total district budget reductions are more than $2 million since 2008. Forty nine staff positions were eliminated. The district spends more than $2,400 less per student than the state average.

This isn't the oldest trick in the book Swiss (that, by the way, is the look over there/made you look trick). This is a way to ensure Norwalk can continue to provide an excellent education to our children in the district at a fair and reasonable cost.

swiss family

Mr Furey<
I do believe you are an honorable man, But I think that you are not seeing the facts clearly, and I am not exactly sure why

First you say that if the voters decide NOT to renew the levy in five years it will go away.. basically, no harm, no foul.... does the slogan .."it is not new money we are asking for" ring a bell??? this is the slogan that is always used to renew any levy or tax in hopes of getting it passed and it usually works, you know statistics, and you know that statistically ,once a tax is in place it NEVER goes away
Second, you say that the Norwalk School system has made some serious cuts the past several years... please tell us what they were?? didn't they eliminate several positions but create new positions and rehire the people that they had eliminated to fill those positions??? do they have a LIBRARIAN that makes $60,000.???I have empathy for the Superintendent and the school board, and I think we are seeing this from different perspectives. I guess I see it, the way that the pioneers and the first settlers saw it. Each village pooled their money together to see what they could afford to spend to educate their kids, then they looked for the staff of people who could live within those means and give their kids the education they needed, and if the people that they hired couldn't do it on the funds provided , they were fired and new people were hired until people who could do the job, within the funds provided.

You seem to see it completely from the opposite direction..You know that the kids need a good education, and you want to provide one for them, BUT you all keep holding that magic "carrot" out there saying if we just had this much MORE we could do so much more, and your kids could be so much better off with the miraculous things we would be able to do and it would only cost you a mere pennies a day...PLEASE>>> PLEASE< even your own children want you to give more money....so we can finally sit back in our recliners and relax.. until 5 years from now when another crisis arises and you need us to renew and it won't be new money ....you guys are like a kid in a grocery store.. it gets bothersome after awhile and after a while you are hoping that the Mother just gets firm with that kid and makes them STOP!!!! I hope it is time the voters tell you all "NO MORE>>>WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE AND IF YOU CAN'T DO IT WE WILL GT PEOPLE WHO CAN" IN MY OPINION

swiss family

OH and Mr Schumm, and Mr Doughty and basically to the entire school board, I have repeatedly stated that I think that the public has very little trust and faith in you, wouldn't it have made complete sense to show that you had nothing to hide and instead of just saying that you have made all of these cuts, actually showing us all where all of these cuts have been made?? Or is the fear there that when you post a list like that where it says that you eliminated Mrs Smiths $65,000.00 a year (actually 184 days 2 days over a half a year)people that actually know Mrs Smith will say that they may have done away with her position but she still works there but now as a teachers aide???? so where are the savings there???

JACKEL

Pass the darn levy. Someone passed it for you. Hold The School Board accountable, they do nothing ! The Basketball Team put us on the map.

J Cooper

Keep politics out of the classroom, don't use the students. Until the teachers agree to do away with the automatic step raises just for showing up, I will vote NO!

proudparent

With all due respect Mr. Furey, please understand the voters frustration and our reasoning for consistently voting no. We simply do not have the money to continue to support the salaries of the district employees. Blaming this on the State is fair only in that this is not just a Norwalk problem- it’s a problem with every district in the state. Until I see the teachers union agree to an overall reduction in salaries to bring their pay rates back into balance and closer to fair market rates for employment, I will continue to vote no.

We are 5th in unemployment in the state of 88 counties in Ohio. Where is this money going to come from? You are adding further burden to the remaining employed homeowners and businesses in the city.

We may pay $2k less per pupil in comparison to other districts, however the biggest issue is the percentage of those dollars going directly to the staff. I would happily approve a levy that would directly impact our kids, and not pad the pockets of the employees. The numbers do not lie- our districts largest expense BY FAR is the employee salaries and benefits. ($14 million +) How about a 10% cut across the board? There is your levy money and then some.

And as for the basketball team putting us on the map- the incredible athletes who made this happen will be punished by paying crazy “pay to play” fees. This team brought more money into the Norwalk schools and community (ticket sales, concessions, t-shirts) then we have seen in decades. Now let’s punish the future teams and their families. Talk about kicking a gift horse in the mouth.

J Cooper

Always enjoy when they blame the state for their financial woes, what they fail to mention that 66% of property taxes in Norwalk goes to the school system with the addition 33% divided among the city, county and all other taxing authorities that provide us with 24/7 service 365 days a year, not to mention the additional school income tax we pay, time for the schools to live within their budget like the rest of us.

Whitebuffalo

No Local Good Paying Jobs = No Money = No Levy. Efforts would be better spent bringing good paying work back to Norwalk. IMHO

keystone

Mr. Furey...If this levy is so important, where were you and the rest of the school board in promoting the last levy. Why didn't we see signs in the windows on main street? You might say, you didn't have the money to promote it. Why wasn't the money raised then to promote the earned income tax? Was this because some of the board members were not supporting it? Where were you voicing your opinion?

You state that the tax increase on a $100K home will only be around $175. Have you made senior citizens aware that there is NO homestead tax exemption on any new taxes voted in? Several sr. citizens are assuming that their tax will be less than you quote because of the homestead tax exemption or rollback. This is NOT the case.

You state that Norwalk has cut 49 jobs. I'd like to know where they are. Why doesn't Mr. Doughty post a list of these?

When this levy goes down, I expect to see you and the 3 board members who were against the earned income tax to support it the next time. With the unemployment in Huron County, that's the only chance you have.

KURTje

Megan good luck to you. Being involved in civic affairs & local government is very important. Can only hope you get the opportunity to serve as a juror when you get older. Many "adults" become hostile towards jury duty. Ask them why.