Superintendent: ‘It means survival’

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Ohio County School Superintendent Brandon Roeder breathed a big sigh of relief.

The ballot referendum that would add 25-cents per $100 of assessed valuation and help the school corporation get itself out of debt passed on Tuesday night, with 70-percent of voters going to the polls in support of the levy.

So, the morning after the decision – what does that mean today for Ohio County schools?

“It means survival,” Roeder said. “Rising Sun has not had the ability to plan for quite a few years now. This gives us the ability to plan for a decade out; and make improvements. It allows us to strengthen our school and attract students into our district.”

Roeder said that now that referendum has passed, which will bring in an additional $650,000 to the schools, it doesn’t necessarily mean that residents will see more staff brought into the system, but his focus is on keeping the staff and the programming that the schools have now.

“We need to remember that we have a $500,000 deficit,” he cautioned. “That means we’re not going to be adding staff members by any means, but we’re going to try and keep the staff members and teachers that we have here and programs that we have. We have added some programs like the pre-school, and we will be looking at adding a latch-key program, which will be an after school program for K-5. We also want to strengthen some old policies, but until we start steadying our enrollment, we’re going to be living like we have for a while here. We’re just going to try and continue to strengthen.”

And what does it mean five or 10 years into the future?

“I had a staff meeting this morning (Wednesday) and I told them the count numbers and everybody cheered. I told them everybody has today to celebrate, and tomorrow the hard work begins,” Roeder said. “We need to work, every single employee, from the bus drivers to administrators on improving our schools, and I expect all ideas to come through – even if you don’t think it’s a positive one, I want to hear what it is. That’s the way we strengthen it.”

He also knows that the schools have been given a vote of confidence by the community.

“We’ve got to prove to the taxpayers that their investment was a good one,” the superintendent said. “We appreciate the confidence from the voters of Ohio County.”

The new rate will go on Ohio County tax bills in 2016, so bills already out for this year will remain the same. The hike will allow Roeder to build the additional money into his general fund budget for the 2016 school year.

“We won’t actually get any funding until June of next year,” he said.

So, as he allows his staff to celebrate for the day – how about the superintendent? Is he allowing himself a day off, too?

“I already got back to work,” Roeder laughed. “I’m giving my staff the break, but not myself.”