Education Insider: Columbus school board’s finance panel reconvenes over ice …

After much discussion and anticipation, the
Columbus school board’s newly reconvened finance and appropriations committee
has met. The committee was on the shelf for years under what was known as the policy-governance
model of district oversight, which meant that the Columbus school-district budget got little
school-board scrutiny.

But here it was yesterday, dusted off. All new financial advisers, all new board members.

We’re pleased to report that the school-board president congratulated us on staying awake
through the meeting, which was a get-to-know-you overview. No financial recommendations yet.

So in an attempt to keep you interested through this summary of the inaugural meeting (hey, it’s
important), we considered replacing each mention of
finance committee with
ice cream social. Not everyone loves finance talk by a room full of accountants, but
everyone loves ice cream. (We resisted the temptation, however.)

The seven members (three are from the school board, four from the community) introduced
themselves to the rest of the committee. The community members are Jody Dzuranin, a former
mutual-fund administrator; Jesse Hemphill, president and CEO of Hemphill Associates, a
certified public accounting firm; Reginald Johnson, director of asset management for the Columbus
Metropolitan Housing Authority; and Tim Robinson, executive vice president and chief financial and
administrative officer for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Board members attending were President Gary Baker and members Dominic Paretti and Mary Jo
Hudson. (Hudson is the finance-committee chairwoman.) Baker isn’t officially a committee member;
Bryan O. Steward is but wasn’t able to attend.

The district’s finance staff gave an overview of school finance, important fiscal deadlines and
what-not. There was brief talk about the district’s new method of zero-based budgeting — that’s
where each year is a clean slate and no one assumes money will be spent on something just because
it was the previous year.

And just about everybody agreed that understanding how charter-school funding affects the
district’s finances was of utmost importance.

•    •    •

After reviewing
seclusion and restraint data collected from school districts by the Ohio Department
of Education
, let us be the first to tell you that the Cleveland school district did not
seclude a single child last school year in a district of 37,967 kids. Even Beaver Local in
Columbiana County (1,900 students) reported 12 seclusions.

We already told you about Columbus in October, which reported 451 seclusions last year. Akron
had 487 incidents.

The state began collecting the data this year so it could gauge how often public schools were
putting students — largely those with special needs — in seclusion. Sometimes, those are cell-like
rooms or closet-ish spaces. They’re meant to help out-of-control kids calm down, but as we’ve
reported before, many schools use them as punishment or out of convenience. The state released
preliminary data in October, and this latest collection wrapped up last month.

•    •    •

Thursday marks a historic event for Athens schools: The high-school football team is vying for a
state championship for the first time.

In anticipation of a large crowd at the 7:30 p.m. Thursday game in Columbus (and a potential
celebration), district officials decided to dismiss all students early on Thursday and start
classes later than usual on Friday — a move that disappointed some parents.

“Unfortunately, this is a situation where there is no one best answer,” according to a district
email to parents. “The administration certainly values education but also understands the strong
connection between extracurricular activities, building a sense of community and academic
excellence.

“This balance sometimes requires difficult and controversial decisions. … This may not be a
big event for every member of our community, however it is an event unlike any other, as it is
literally once-in-a-lifetime and includes a number of students that is unequaled in any other
single extracurricular competition.”

After consulting with the Ohio Department of Education, the district will release middle- and
high-school students at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday and the elementaries at 2:30 p.m. School will start
at 8:45 a.m. on Friday for the middle and high school and 10:05 a.m. for the elementary
schools.

Dispatch Reporter Jennifer Smith Richards contributed to this report.

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