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Your Questions Answered

We’re hearing questions and comments about Westlake City Schools in the community and we want to be certain everyone has the facts, so here are answers to some of the most common questions.
We welcome additional questions – there is a link on the right side of this page to "Ask a Question", then just check back here for information about the topic you are raising or sign up below to receive periodic email updates.
We appreciate your interest in our schools!
 

 Delinquent Tax Revenue

 
Question
Answer
Is this the first and only time in the history of Westlake City Schools that you have received revenue from delinquent taxes? If not, why did you rush to cut off bus service knowing that you might receive money that could cover this cost?
The Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office provides property tax estimates to the district twice a year. Those estimates are used by our district as we plan our budget. Though the school district has received revenue from delinquent property tax payments in the past, the property taxes we received on February 14 from the county far exceeded previous estimates and as such could not be factored in to our planning. While we still need to verify this information with the Auditor’s office, it appears that this is a one-time increase in revenue.
Despite this news, our school district still faces serious long-term budget issues because of two failed levy attempts. While this one-time windfall is good news for the short term, without new levy money and with significantly less money coming from the state, we still have some very difficult decisions to make.
Can you please explain the rationale that was used to decide to restore bussing and not to apply towards academics?
When we learned of the one-time windfall, the Board restored busing to the same status as at the start of the school year for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year with the caveat that route time go from 40 to 50 minutes and buses run at a higher capacity because those cuts were considered necessary under extreme circumstances. The funds are delinquent property tax revenues that were not part of the Cuyahoga County Auditor's tax estimates the school receives, and are a one-time windfall. Because that money was not factored in our budget, along with the levy failure and $11 million in state funding cuts, we have been forced to make difficult decisions, including reducing transportation.
Once we fully understand the impact of this one-time revenue, we will finalize a revised reduction plan recommendation to the Board. The transportation cuts were already in effect.  We will certainly have a serious discussion about all  areas of education as well and likely make adjustments to the overall initial reduction proposal. The issue is, despite this news, our district still faces long-term budget issues because of the two failed levies. We unfortunately still have some very difficult decisions to make—they are difficult because any reduction ultimately impacts our students.
With bussing restored, why there has been such a change in the pick up and drop off times?
While bussing has been restored to the one-mile level, the district still made adjustments in route length and bus capacity, both contributing to the current time changes.
At the May 12th Board meeting, Dr. Keenan stated that he would recommend using part of the $1.9 million in delinquent property tax collections to renovate a “field house” or “auxiliary gym”.  How much will this renovation cost?  
It is estimated that renovations will be approximately $400-$450K if made now. When taking down the old high school the district looked into retaining the auxiliary gym and accompanying locker rooms to save an existing facility that would complement curricular, extra-curricular and community activities at the high school and the stadium complex.   Delaying the renovations greatly increases the probability of a much larger expense, which was the circumstance that occurred by waiting on renovating the Red Brick Building. The district has heard from community input to not replicate that circumstance.  Partnership usage of the facility will also be sought to help offset any costs once utilities are connected and weather protected. 
This expenditure (renovation of the auxiliary gym)  is coming after the district cut transportation to our children, imposed pay-to-play for extra-curricular programs, and increased full-day kindergarten tuition.  On top of that, our elementary schools remain in a state of disrepair and the district has stated that there are safety concerns with these buildings.  Why is this facility more pressing than one of the other school buildings? 
First, to be clear, all safety issues have been assessed with the assistance of our city’s safety forces and have been addressed first as they are priority issues.  However, it is accurate that many of those fixes are temporary and a much larger investment is necessary. The elementary schools are in disrepair and the estimate in 2008 for renovations was approximately $40 million, this one time delinquent tax windfall will not adequately address those needs, nor will they address the long term operational needs.  We do not believe it would be fiscally responsible to use these one-time delinquent tax windfall dollars to make further temporary repairs to our elementary buildings when we know more permanent repairs will need to be done in the future. 
The community input has made it clear that we are to optimize our resources and that is what we are doing by renovating the facility now, rather than later, when it will be more expensive to do so and because we have the dollars available now. 
The district is operating on its 8th year on a levy in 2006 that was projected to need supplemented with additional resources by 2010.  Numerous adjustments have been made in how we operate and with our negotiated agreements over the last several years to put the district in a position where an operating levy was not sought this spring and it is unlikely one will be sought prior to 2015. 
While the great majority of the delinquent tax revenue will be used to assist with the operating challenges, this one-time money will not have the same necessary long-term impact  as the other issues you listed in order to make up for the lack of additional operating revenue.
What happened?
After we received property taxes from Cuyahoga County that well surpassed what we and the county had projected, Westlake Schools CFO/Treasurer Mark Pepera contacted the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office to investigate the variance and gather additional information.
That same day, Feb. 14, new information provided indicated the schools and the City of Westlake would likely experience a one-time, significant spike in tax revenue – the result of delinquent property taxes collected by the county. While the Auditor’s office still needs to confirm this information, it appears the additional one-time revenue for the schools will be $1 million to $2 million larger than previous estimates.
Mr. Pepera is working with the county to determine the full amount of these delinquent tax payments. We expect to have more detailed information from the county during the week of Feb. 23 to verify the exact amount and source of the delinquent property tax revenue.
How could this happen?
The Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office provides delinquent tax information and property tax estimates to the district twice a year. Those estimates are used by our district as we plan our budget. When the property taxes we received on Feb. 14 from the county far exceeded previous estimates, our treasurer immediately contacted the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office to investigate the variance. 
While we still need to verify information with the Auditor’s office, it appears a large delinquent taxpayer did not show up on the recent delinquency report and the additional one-time revenue ranges from $1 million to $2 million over previous estimates.
Why didn't the district know about this revenue?
We received property taxes from Cuyahoga County on Feb. 14 that far surpassed what we and the county had projected.  Our Treasurer, Mark Pepera, contacted the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office to investigate the variance and learned that schools may experience a one-time spike in tax revenue as a result of unanticipated delinquent property taxes that were collected by the county.
Will the district's revenue increase by this amount every year?
While we still need to verify information with the Auditor’s office, we believe this to be a a one-time windfall of funds.
Where are the delinquent property taxes coming from?
The Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office is the appropriate entity to provide specific information on delinquent or late tax payments.
The City of Westlake also receives a percentage of property tax revenues. Has the city also benefited from this delinquent tax payment?
It is our understanding the city will likely experience a one-time spike in tax revenue as a result of delinquent property taxes collected by the county, but you would need to contact the City of Westlake for that information.
Will this impact recent busing changes?
While we still need to verify this information with the Auditor’s office, it appears that this is a one-time increase in revenue. At the next Board meeting on Feb. 24, we will discuss the possibility of restoring busing to the same status as the start of this school year for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year. 
UPDATE: At the Feb. 24 meeting, the Board voted to restore transportation to the 1-mile minimum through January 2015, to modify ride-time policy from a 40-minute to a 50-minute maximum, and to allow for increased capacity on bus.
Do we still need to cut teaching positions?
UPDATE 4/29/14
We will still need to reduce positions in order to address the budget shortfalls the district is facing in the future. The current recommendation for the number of reductions has been adjusted to account for the savings from the recent teacher negotiation, reductions in spending this budget year and other revenue and spending adjustments.  The number of teaching positions reduced will be between 12-18 positions. These are very difficult decisions to make because, ultimately, they impact our students.
The school was going to institute pay-to-participate for sports and extracurricular activities. With this unanticipated revenue, will that change?
We are working to further understand the impact of the unanticipated revenue. We will discuss the timing of the pay-to-participate program at the Feb. 24 Board of Education meeting.  Once we fully understand the impact of this one-time revenue, we will finalize a revised reduction plan recommendation to the Board.
UPDATE: At the Feb. 24 Board meeting, a pay-to-participate plan was adopted for spring with the understanding that it will be re-evaluated prior to the fall sports season.
Do we even need a levy?
While this unexpected revenue may alleviate short term concerns, it remains clear that to manage the district’s finances effectively in the future, a combination of reductions and added revenue will be necessary. The timing and millage have to be determined, and perhaps revised, after these new projections are fully understood and considered.
The fact remains that without new levy money, and with $11 million in funding cuts from the state over the past seven years, we have had to make some very difficult decisions to reduce our budget. At the same time, our costs keep rising and we have stretched dollars from the 2006 levy as far as we can.
 
 

 Salaries

 
Question
Answer

What is the projected average Westlake teacher salary now that so many teachers have retired?

We project the average to be lower, but we will publish once the actual numbers become available.

Relative to salary comparisons, why is the district using average rather than median income?
The Q & A consists of answers to questions that have been asked.  Salary information is broken down in a number of ways within the site.  Click here to view all salary answers.
Do you know yet how many teachers will be retiring at the end of this year? I noticed in the letter that was mailed to us that at least 30 teachers make over 90 thousand dollars. Having retired from education, I feel that means an older staff. I was hoping we might be able to give some young people jobs and save the district money. Thanks
At this time nine teachers are retiring.

We work to be efficient, but not at the expense of providing what is right for our students.  We want bright and creative minds in our classrooms and we have a number of excellent, experienced teachers. The letter you refer to in your question did not come from the school district, if it indicates our current teacher salary goes beyond ninety thousand it is inaccurate.  Westlake's salary scale ranges from $39,836 to $89,631. Westlake’s top of the scale is for only those teachers with 20 years’ experience and a master’s degree plus 30 hours of graduate credit, it is lower than every Cuyahoga County district we border. The distribution of staff is found on the link we provided in another response:
Is it true that Westlake teachers are paid 10% to 20% more than all surrounding districts?  If so, then salaries can be reduced by 10% (to the same level as the next closest neighbor)  and Westlake would need zero cuts, isn’t that correct?
This is absolutely not true.  Westlake salaries are not 10%-20% higher than surrounding districts.  Hiring and retaining quality teachers is vital to student success. We compete with neighboring districts to attract and retain teachers; that is why we need to pay a competitive salary. Westlake's salary scale ranges from $39,836 for starting teachers to $89,631 for teachers with 20 years’ experience and a master’s degree plus 30 hours of graduate credit. In fact, Westlake’s top of scale is lower than every Cuyahoga County district that borders us.
This link illustrates the salary breakdown for comparison districts for last year. It includes additional salary data to give a more complete picture.
How does the new contract affect teacher salaries?
Teachers’ base pay scale was reduced by 2.5% in January 2013, rolling it back to the 2011 base pay scale. Westlake teachers will remain on the same pay schedule in 2014 and 2015. This demonstrates that the school district made appropriate adjustments and that teachers understand the types of changes others have experienced.  Last year about 60% of teachers took that 2.5% decrease in base pay and received no step increases.  Additionally, their take home pay was 1% lower than in 2011 because of increased retirement contributions, making it an overall 3.5% decrease in take home pay.  With this new contract, teachers will actually see an additional 1% decrease in their take home pay due to another increase in retirement contributions on their part. This is appropriate because of our current resource situation.
How does an average Westlake teacher’s salary compare to the average income of a Westlake resident?
The Ohio Department of Education lists the latest average income in Westlake – using tax year 2010, four years ago– at $95,912.  This year’s average teacher salary is $14,000 lower.  In fact, in 2014-2015 the highest paid teachers in Westlake – those with 20 years’ or more experience in the classroom, plus a master’s degree, and an additional 30 hours of graduate credit – will earn 7% less than the average income of a Westlake taxpayer in 2010. The 2010 average income of a Westlake resident is 60% higher than our current teachers’ at the lowest end of the scale.
What is the actual % of health care premium costs teachers are currently paying?
The last contract increased the contribution teachers’ pay toward insurance from 10% to 15%, this is a fifty percent increase for teachers and the adjustment took place at the same time the salary schedule was decreased by 2.5% and they had to contribute an additional 1% to their retirement.
Are Westlake teachers required to pay union dues even if they don’t join the union? If so, why?
The Westlake Teachers Association (WTA) has a legal obligation to fully represent all assigned bargaining unit employees, members and non-members alike. Non-members pay a fair share fee in the amount of no more than regular union dues. This fee covers the cost of bargaining, implementing, and enforcing the contract. Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4117.09 allows for fair share fee if negotiated in the local association bargaining contract. WTA has bargained such a contract.
What is the rationale of charging pay to participate fees for middle school classes that meet during the school day, such as band and choir?
In our initial proposal to the Board, MS Band and Choir are listed as Tier II – B Activities with a recommended participation fee of $15.00.  The cost is to offset the supplemental contracts that teachers hold for numerous performances and/or competitions.  These co-curricular proposed participation fees will be evaluated this spring for recommendations in the fall and are subject to change.
I keep hearing that over 80% of WCS District's costs are salaries. What is typical for a service industry such as public education?
Last year, salaries accounted for 62.52% of our operating expenditures and benefits accounted for 22.96% for a total of 85.48%.  The Ohio Department of Education reported that for similar districts, salaries accounted for 61.54% % of our operating expenditures for and benefits accounted for 23.25% for a total of 84.79%.
What other teacher unions in NE Ohio have agreed to pay cuts (not just freezes) within the past 5 years? 
We do not have record of all NE Ohio contracts over the past 5 years. Not all teachers took a pay cut in Westlake, some actually received step raises.  However, the entire salary schedule was adjusted by -2.5%.  Westlake was the only district of the 41 Ohio districts reporting to the Ohio School Boards Association that reduced the overall salary schedule.  
Did the 3 additional staff development days in the most recent contract ( days in addition to the 185 work days) reduce the number of teaching/classroom days?
The 3 extra days did NOT result in less student days; they were additional staff work days.  The added work days for staff development took place on August 28, 2013, November 4, 2013, and February 17, 2014. None of those took away from the number of student classroom days.
In addition to the three extra work days, the district also applied for, and received, 3 waiver days from the Ohio Department of Education for staff development.  Did those days reduce the number of classroom days for students?
Yes. The 3 days were approved by the Ohio Department of Education who waived the student days per the staff development plan submitted. Those days included September 3, 2013, January 6, 2014 and February 14, 2014.
Putting salary scales, minimum, and maximum salaries aside for a moment, what was the average salary actually paid to a Westlake school teacher in 2013? And what was that same number for North Olmsted, Bay Village, Avon, Avon Lake, and Rocky River?
The average teacher salary in Westlake is $72,720. The state has not yet provided 2013 information for the other districts.
As the state has not yet provided 2013 information, can you provide the comparison for FY 2012?
We do have data from FY12 for most of the comparison districts.  The distribution of staff (experience and education) and the hiring of part-time staff impacts average salary.  However, it is one of the numerous important measures that provide information to help understand our expenditures.  

Here is a histogram of this year’s staff distribution.
Why does the State Treasurer of Ohio’s web site report top teacher salary in Westlake is $91,872 yet you report the top salary is $89,631?
The number you refer to is outdated and does not take into account that Westlake teachers’ base pay scale was reduced by 2.5% in January 2013. We have had to make some very difficult decisions without new levy money and $11 million in state funding cuts. Teachers agreed to reduce their salary schedule by 2.5% and also agreed to pay 50% more for their health insurance premiums – among other concessions.
Is it true that taxpayers in Westlake pay 100% of teachers’ retirement?
That is absolutely false.  By law, teachers are not able to contribute to Social Security; they must enroll in the State Teachers Retirement System.  The school district contributes 14% to this retirement plan as required by Ohio Revised Code, similar to how private employers contribute to Social Security and 401K plans for their employees.  Teachers contribute 11% to this retirement plan, similar to how private employees contribute to Social Security. 
Why aren’t you reducing salaries and compensation for teachers?
Without new levy money and less money from the state, we have had to make some very difficult decisions, including reducing our budget significantly. In January 2013, Westlake’s teachers agreed to reduce their salary schedule by 2.5% and pay 50% more for their health insurance premiums – among other concessions. In addition, the District instituted a 5% pay reduction for all new administrators and froze wages for non-teaching staff for two years.
If teacher salaries were supposed to be frozen last year, why did 65% of them receive raises?
We want bright and creative minds in our classrooms and we have to pay to attract them. That is what our students deserve and that is what parents want. Teachers’ base pay scale was reduced by 2.5% in January 2013, but some of our teachers received “step” raises for achieving milestones related to service. "Step" increments on salary schedules are very typical in personnel contracts, in fact they are part of every bordering districts' contracts.
When layoffs are necessary, why do you always lay off the newly hired teachers first? Why not make your decisions based on performance?
Our contract with teachers dictates seniority-based layoffs when needed. The current teacher contract expires at the end of 2014. The Board will pursue negotiations with the teachers’ union this year and is taking community feedback into account. You can view contracts from school districts around the state from 2013 by clicking on this link.
 
We have truly excellent teachers, including both our new teachers as well as those with greater experience and training.  We wish we did not have to lay off any of them, but we have to make some very hard decisions as a result of the levy failure and significant budget deficit. Unfortunately, that includes reducing our workforce by 20-33 teaching positions.
Why does the Board refuse to invite the teacher’s union to negotiate a new contract in public?
Contract negotiations with public employees, including teachers for a public school district, are exempt from open meeting laws for many reasons. The contract between Westlake Schools and the teacher’s union requires the negotiations meetings occur in private. So, by law and by contract, these meetings occur in private. Negotiating a new contract is a complicated process. We need to be able to negotiate in good faith so there are no disruptions for our students.
 
 
 

 Student Learning

 
Question
Answer
Are Westlake schools participating in the common core initiatives?
The Westlake City School Districts follows the content standards set by the State Board of Education.
In June 2010, the State Board of Education adopted Ohio's New Learning Standards in English language arts and mathematics, the results of a multi-state effort. The board also has adopted Ohio's New Learning Standards in science, social studies, fine arts, world languages, and several other subjects. These more rigorous standards, geared to college and career readiness, will drive learning in Ohio classrooms by 2014-2015.  Additional information about the standards can be found on the Ohio Department of Education link here.
Have the kindergarten half day schedules been finalized yet?

Letters were prepared the week of June 23, 2014 and will go out soon to registered families.  All Kindergarten Half Day sections are remaining as they were in 13-14; all AM except for Bassett, which was PM.

Why doesn't Westlake get involved in a healthy activity initiative and promote it district wide, coupled with Nutrition and other wellness speakers in the spring?
The Westlake Schools Wellness Committee has been active over the past several years implementing a variety of healthy activities throughout the district. The committee used a “School Health Index” tool from the CDC to perform a needs assessment and identify areas of strength and weakness, followed by an action plan to address those areas. The committee began a Community Family Wellness Night at the K-4 level that includes games, nutrition, fitness, Internet safety, dental health, concussions, eye health and adult health screenings. WHS hosts an annual Wellness Day with many of the same activities geared toward teens and adults. Our K-8 students annually participate in Walk to School or Bike to School Days each spring. All of our elementary schools have garden clubs. You can keep up to date on our wellness activities here.
Among several things, I am wondering why our district is not proactive like our neighboring districts are, namely Bay Village, in hosting several drug education sessions for middle school and high school students within the Westlake Schools? BV involves their administration, Police Dept. And their educators/officers as well as professionals within the community to address the concerns that drug usage is a problem in their schools, as well as many other suburbs. They host these meetings and open them up to the public, parents and students alike.  What are we actively doing to decrease usage by our own students?
The Westlake City School District continually works to be proactive in addressing adolescent substance abuse.  Our administration, police department and educators enjoy a close working relationship both inside and outside of the school district.  In fact, the student speaker at the last Bay Parent educational meeting at Bay Middle School was someone that our Prevention Coordinator, Kathy McGinty, recommended to them.  In addition to Mrs. McGinty, we have other staff members who are actively involved with Westshore Enforcement Bureau and University Hospital’s “Safe Kids and Safe Communities” organization.  They include Dorothy Beyer, RN, school nurse and School Resource Officer, Scott Fortkamp and Officers Keenan Cook, Mark Krumheuer and Detective Roseanne McCoy, and retired Officer Ken Delfing, DARE. 
The WHS “Leadership Challenge” program was recognized by the State of Ohio Department of Education with the “Safe and Drug Free School Asset Builder Award.”  The Leadership program provides ongoing service projects, events and education that have their roots in evidence based research.  Students from that group sit on two district-wide committees that include police, parents and educators:  The District Health and Safety Committee and the District Wellness Committee.
WHS also has a strong student based organization, SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions.  They plan, organize, and host a number of programs to educate our students about risky behaviors and the importance of making good choices. 
How do we know which "Block" our child is in for Final Exams?

The students are fully aware of which block they are in.

Ice Hockey is listed on the school web page as a club sport. At the  Jan. 15th meeting by the school board, the athletic director told the board that Hockey was not on the pay to play list because "Hockey is self-funded so it is not included." Then on April 28th the board recognized the inaugural WHS varsity Hockey team members as varsity athletes. How did  hockey's status change in the middle of its season?
After a 4 year long process of working alongside the leadership of the Westlake Hockey Organization, Westlake City Schools was proud to recognize Ice Hockey as a Varsity sport at the April 28, 2014 Board of Education meeting.   This status changed at the conclusion of the current 2014 season and allowed for the current athletes to receive their Varsity Letters.  Ice Hockey is not listed on the pay to participate list because as part of the process, the agreement was made to have it remain a self-funded sport. 

What decision has been made regarding the Physical Education waiver?

A change to BOE Policy IKF, Graduation Requirements, was approved at the Board of Education meeting on April 28, 2014.  The change includes this language, “Physical Education Exemption:  A student who during high school has participated in interscholastic athletics, marching band or cheerleading for at least two seasons is not required to complete any physical education courses as a condition to graduate. However, the student is required to complete one-half unit, consisting of at least 60 hours of instruction, in another course of study.”
The District is currently developing the administrative regulation to spell out how we will implement this.  More information will be posted/communicated as it becomes available.
Why were all of the business courses elimnated at the high school?
UPDATE 4/29/14
The district has had to consider eliminating a number of elective courses.   Course selection & enrollment have been major components of the decision process. The district was considering eliminating business courses, but has decided some sections will run.  Our Computer Education and Technology classes are being returned to the course offerings and the Counseling office is currently working with students to make them available for registration.   All of the offerings that we have had in our Program of Studies have contributed to the excellent experience that our students have had. Unfortunately, in the wake of two levy failures, reductions to the course offerings and/or sections are necessary.  We stated at the start of this process that we would try to base cuts on student enrollment where possible.  Business classes are unfortunately one of those cuts at this time.
Have the dates been set for Summer School (Gym) at Westlake High School?

The dates have not yet been set.  We hope to have the summer school schedule finalized by mid March.
UPDATE: 
We will be offering one Summer School Physical Education session from June 23 - July 11 (July 4th off) from 7:40 am-12:00 pm. The class is 14 days - students can only miss 1.5 days (miss 2 days and they will not receive any credit).  Please check back for registration information at a later date. 

Is there homeroom at Westlake High School? If so, what time does it start and end?
We typically have homeroom once a month.  It is between 1st and 2nd period (8:45am).  We have an additional homeroom at the start of each semester at 7:55am to distribute updated schedules. 

Is it necessary to register a student every year or just the first time they enroll in the district?

Once a student is enrolled with Westlake City Schools, it is not necessary to go through the registration process again. However, due to our obligation to monitor continued residency within the Westlake City School District, parents/guardians are required to make the school of attendance aware of the following changes, should they occur:  address; phone number; guardianship. 

What will happen if my child doesn't pass the third grade OAA in reading in the spring?

The legislative requirement (ORC 3313.608(A)(2)) states that beginning with the 2013-14 school year, all students scoring below the designated level on the third grade OAA must be retained.  There are exemptions to this law that include provisions for special education, second language learners and students who have been previously retained. 
The district screens all students K-8 in the fall.  Students who are predicted not to meet the third grade standard for scoring at the designated basic level on the test are provided intensive intervention.  Should a student not pass the third grade spring OAA, they may take an alternative test during the week of July 7-11, 2014.  Students who pass the alternative test can be promoted to fourth grade.  The district will provide summer review for this test, as well as continued intensive intervention over the summer for students who need assistance in meeting the basic level required by this legislation.

How will the District enforce the provisions of the Digital Driver's License?

Use of the Bring Your Own Device network is completely voluntary. The main purpose of the “Digital Driver’s License” is to make sure that students and their parents understand that school policy applies when their personal devices are used at school or off campus at school related events. The policies outlined in the Driver’s License are a reflection of the established policies that have governed schools for many years. They will be enforced following traditional discipline procedures, blocked network access,  and Board Policy. Discipline begins with the teacher at the classroom level and then progresses following the discipline procedures in the student handbook. Most of the time discipline results from observed behavior and either will not require unlocked access to protected data or in some cases the offender might be compelled to provide access to the protected data. In the event that there is reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken the appropriate law enforcement agency will be contacted.

What stops students from using a VPN or proxy to bypass any filters?

A combination of evolving technology, training and behavioral expectations will stop most people from using a VPN or proxy to bypass filters at school or at work. Violations result in consequences following the student handbook or employment agreement.  In the Westlake City School district all Internet access is filtered. This is done because the District is required to do so under Federal Law (CIPA), to help ensure that the use of this important resource is consistent with the purposes of the District and to protect networked resources from malicious activity.
Is Westlake considering granting physical education credit to students who participate in school sports?
The school district has reviewed this policy in the past and has previously declined to take this action. However, because of our current fiscal circumstance the Board is considering a number of options, including this one. We are now seeking local input and contacting districts who operate under such a policy to see what they perceive to be pros and cons. We plan to make a decision this spring for next school year. 
Why aren't the Westlake Schools performing as well as neighboring districts?
Westlake Schools educate for excellence. We are one of the top-performing schools in Ohio when it comes to state testing. We are proud that we have ranked in the top 4-7% of schools for the past 10 years. The Ohio Department of Education reports that Westlake Schools exceeded a year’s growth for all students, earning an A for Value-Added. Westlake has the highest Performance Index for gifted students on the West Side, ranking in the top 2% in Ohio.
Westlake City Schools got three “D’s” on the State Report Card. What are you doing about that?
Westlake earned an overall grade of A. However, in the Improvement category, the ratings for gifted students, students with disabilities, and the lowest 20% scoring students were D’s. Considering our high achievement level, we believe these ratings are not an accurate measure of performance – and we are not alone. That is because there is considerably less room for improvement for high-performing students. Our district’s goal is to make sure each individual child scores at his/her highest level. We remain focused on making the necessary adjustments for improvement in all areas.
 

 

 

 

 School Buildings

 
Question
Answer
I am hearing that 2 of the lunch periods have too many students and some students are being asked to change their schedule.  Why would you not know these counts prior to the start of the year?
The reductions that impacted the District, specifically the High School necessitated a change in our Master Schedule.  The shift from 8 to 7 academic periods each day created some challenges when trying to meet all student requests.   We are happy to report that we were able to accommodate most course selections and create a schedule that was driven by student need.  Two of our lunch periods, there are four of them, were large, but manageable.  As we addressed student scheduling issues that arose following schedule pick-up and the first few days of class, those two lunch periods swelled to the point that concerned the WHS staff.  They were still below capacity, but created a situation that caused stress to our kids and our ability to serve in a timely way.  The Counseling Dept was directed to make student schedule changes, first by seeking volunteers, and then by choosing students who could change lunch periods with little disruption to their academic load.
That process is concluding and our lunch periods are now at a size similar to recent years in which students can eat and relax without the large crowds or stress of worrying about securing a seat with friends or having the time to eat.
The first year in any new schedule presents challenges.  We will continue to work to make sure our students have the best environment possible for all periods during the school day.
Has the district solicited student input relative to the climate in the new high school, specifically, was the Class of 2014 asked for the feedback?

We always welcome feedback regarding the facility.  We did solicit a great deal of student feedback during the design process.  Also, throughout last year, we involved students and student groups in Q and A’s about decorations, furniture, and murals.  We did not have any formal feedback mechanism for the class of 2014.

What is the rationale for not putting signage at the Middle and High schools as the proper finishing touches on two new million dollar facilities within our community? Will the wooded area at the western most entrance to the high school be cleaned up in the near future? It is an eye sore from Hilliard road and upon entering that lot.
Over the summer, the district did review signage needs.  We are currently gathering costs to have a sign installed at the front of the High School site on Hilliard Blvd and the Middle School site is still under review.
Contractors have been cleaning out the dead trees and brush around the western edge of the High School.  Work will continue, off and on, over the next half year to continue to clear it up.
Will signage be put up for the new Middle school and High School over the summer? Do we have funds for landscaping all around the new high school campus? Other buildings could desperately use a little landscaping touch as well.
Signage for the front of each new building site will be explored and developed this summer.  It will be our intent to have something to the City for their approval this fall.  We do feel that signage is an important part of the project, but needed to be developed shortly after the full use and layout of the site has been established.  Landscaping will continue to be developed by the contractors at the High School.This will include more earthwork, plantings, directional parking lot signage, lawn seeding, etc.We are hopeful that this part of the project will be completed by the middle of June.Extreme wet weather and a lengthy winter has pushed the completion of this part of the project back.We will be bringing in more mulch for all the buildings around the district this summer to freshen up our flower beds and landscaping islands.
Why is this facility  (the auxiliary gym)  so important that the district is moving the renovation out of Phase II and into the operational budget? 
This was not part of Phase II, it was a recommendation from our community facility group to consider saving this newer part of the high school when taking the old building down during Phase I.  We did not want to waste this facility knowing it would be much more expensive to build a new facility that would complement curricular, extra-curricular and community activities at the high school and the stadium complex.   
Why does the new high school have fewer lockers than it should?
The high school does have the correct number of lockers.  The high school was short of the specified number of lockers earlier in the year because they were not properly delivered. Consequently, for a temporary time we had 40 less lockers than were ordered.
Do any of the Westlake City Schools serve breakfast to their students?
None of the Westlake City Schools currently offer a breakfast menu for the students.  Westlake High School does, however, open their cafeteria in the morning to allow students to purchase ala carte items from their menu.  This does include some breakfast style choices.
If my children currently attend Holly Lane Elementary and we move to the other side of Westlake can they still attend Holly Lane if we provide their transportation?
The district has a policy that permits this as long as there is space available at the receiving school (in this case Holly Lane). 
Have we investigated sponsorship opportunities relative to local businesses?
The district currently pursues and secures alternative sources of revenue including sponsorship, advertising and naming rights. The web site, football stadium, and gym all use advertising.  The district has also pursued naming rights agreements for several sites.  Z-space, RE Wanrer, Hyland, and Nordson have sponsored a number of district programs and activities including STEM programs, International Baccalaureate, and career shadowing for example. 
There is a $ painted on one of the parking spaces at the high school, what does that mean?
A parking spot is auctioned off annually as part of the PTA Council’s Dollars for Scholars fundraiser.  This annual fundraiser is a Seniors v. Staff Basketball Game benefiting Westlake Council of PTAs scholarships for graduating WHS students.  This year it will be held March 14 at WHS. Doors open at 6pm, game time is 7pm. Pre-game tickets are $5 ($6 at the door). For game or raffle tickets, email Angela Wanhainen at awanhainen@ameritech.net  or Michelle Stalter at mmstalter@wowway.com.
Whose responsiblity is it to clear the sidewalks on school property?
It is the school’s responsibility to clear sidewalks on school property and we will continue to work to fulfill this responsibility.  We have asked the Westlake Police Department and City officials to send notice about reminding all property owners about their responsibility to clear walkways, both indicated they would provide this notice.
Can you address the state of the current WHS parking lot, availability of and procedures for obtaining passes, and future parking options?
Parking at WHS is by permit only. Procedures for obtaining parking passes were shared with students in the fall when the new lot was opened. We have distributed parking passes for our current capacity. Safety is our top priority and students who ignore rules regarding parking will be disciplined and face towing of their cars as outlined in the student handbook that each student has received.
When construction is completed this spring an additional 40+ spots will become available and will be assigned to students on a waiting list that was developed in the fall when student passes were distributed. Any student not on that waiting list will likely not have access to one this school year. Next summer we will return to our normal routine of distributing passes during the summer schedule pickup days. We will communicate home via mail and website postings. We will return to our normal routine of distributing passes during the summer months for the 2014-2015 school year.
Currently we have more students requesting parking spaces than we have had in the last three years, partially due to a much larger senior class than we have had in previous years. Once construction is complete we will have close to the same number of parking spots available prior to the start of construction.
Will Westlake upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 from XP, given that Microsoft will be ending all support for XP this spring?
Westlake Schools plans to transition to Windows 7 by next fall. The decision to remain with Windows XP has allowed us to optimize our existing resources for as long as possible. In addition, we have delayed migration due to concerns about how much a Windows migration could cost, particularly for hardware and software updates. Through careful planning, we will do everything we can to keep the expense to the taxpayer as low as possible while still delivering on our promise to provide an excellent education.
Is it true there were significant cost overruns on the new high school?
An $84 million bond issue approved by voters in 2010 went toward building a new middle school and a new high school, and renovating the existing middle school for an intermediate school. By law, bond issue funds can only be used for buildings (capital projects) and cannot be used for daily operations of the school district, including transportation. The district construction project came in at budget. We appreciate the community’s support for the bond issue because we believe our students deserve modern facilities with up-to-date technology.
Why wasn’t the high school finished when you said it would be?
The high school opened to start the school 2013-14 school year as planned. An issue with the design of the cafeteria, also referred to as the rotunda, resulted in the building opening while some work still needed to continue. Building the music wing was always scheduled to start in the fall because it is located where part of the old building stood.
Why aren’t there extra chairs in the lunchroom?
The new lunch room has seats integrated into table units.

 

 

 Finance

 
Question
Answer
I thought the state takes $7,500 per student attending charter schools from the student's district and redistributes it to their charter school - is that incorrect?
Students attending Community Schools are funded on a formula similar to Westlake City School students but the public schools the amount derived from that formula is not capped.  To Clarify, the average funding Westlake Schools receives equates to $536.24 per student while the average funding resident Community School students receive equates to $6,363 per student. 
Why are you comparing the 2010 salaries of Westlake residents with the 2014-15 salaries of Westlake teachers?

The data is taken directly from the Ohio Department of Education, the same source used for average teacher salary.  The source is found directly here: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Finance-and-Funding/Finance-Related-Data/District-Profile-Reports/FY2013-District-Profile-Report

Recently, it has been updated to 2011 tax year data, the infomation now posted lists the average income in Westlake as $101, 568.00

Can you quantify how much money leaves the district annually (per child) when a child goes to a private school (Charter and/ or private)?
Non-public students are funded by the State of Ohio at $1,095/student.  Conversely here in Westlake our funding per student equates to: $536.24 or approximately 49% of what the non-public students receive on a per pupil basis.
How much does it cost per child, annually, to bus to a private school?
We track our transportation costs based upon how the students are classified by the Ohio Department of Education.  Students are classified as being provided regular transport OR special needs transport.  The cost per pupil is as follows:  Regular Transportation $1,476/year and Special Needs Transportation $14, 631/ year.
If the district is in need of additional funds why did the board sign off on the Hyland tax break?
The Board has limited authority to approve tax incentives that are offered by municipalities.  In this instance, the incentive granted exceeded the municipal statutory authority and required school district approval.  As a stipulation for approval the Board did negotiate with the City and Developer a guaranteed minimum cash payment in exchange for the incentives granted by the City of Westlake.  The payment will commence when the project is substantially complete.
Regarding pay to participate; If this additional revenue is meant to offset costs of these programs, will this income be subtracted from the programs' budgets and forwarded to the overall general fund or does it become additional revenue for the specific individual programs?
The Pay-to Participate cost will be used to offset a portion of the coaches/advisors supplemental contract.

What is the difference between a bond issue and a levy?

Levies are for learning (operations)
Bonds are for building (capital projects)
Schools receive local funding through operating and bond levies, both of which must be approved by voters. Operating levies and bond levies are intended to meet different needs and there are strict guidelines governing the use of these funds.
Operating levies support district and student programs and pay for day-to-day operations of schools. Westlake Schools last went to voters for an operating levy in 2006, stretching those dollars 3 years longer than promised, making those operating levy dollars last 7 years.
Bond levies are financed over a long period of time and are comparable to a home mortgage. Once approved by voters, bonds are sold to investors to provide funds for school construction and capital facility improvement projects. Voters last approved a bond levy in 2010 for Phase I of our Master Facilities Plan, which resulted in our two new buildings and renovations of the old middle school, which will open as Dover Intermediate School fall of 2014.  By law, dollars from a bond levy may not be used to pay for the day-to-day operating costs of running our schools.
The School Board meetings cover many topics with much discussion, however, it seems that for financial issues, there is only a yes or no vote and limited discussion, why is that and how can the public be more involved in the finance issues before the meeting?
The School Board strives to support the District mission, “We educate for excellence”, while also maintaining complete transparency on all topics.  The Board meetings include two opportunities for public input, the first on specific agenda items, and the second on any topic.  In addition, Board members’ contact information is on the website and they welcome your feedback and input directly.  Reports on finance issues such as the forecast and budget take place frequently at Board meetings and all Board members have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues. Other topics frequently discussed include; student learning and achievement, staff excellence, school programming, instructional practices, and the district's overall continuous improvement along with the other operational aspects of our schools.  We believe all to be important.
Many people are angry about the busing cuts. To equate the busing cuts into academic savings, about how many High School classes would be preserved with the $ saved from busing cuts?
The transportation reductions over a year’s time would save approximately 4-6 additional teaching positions.  If all of those were high school classes that would amount to 20 to 36 course sections or classes.
Have the Board of Education and the Treasurer considered other alternative measures to raise funds for the district such as potentially selling the 33 acres of land on Bradley Road?
The District currently pursues and secures alternative sources of revenue. The Bradley Road property was included in the Master Facility Plan that our community group worked on.  The community group recommended that if the property is definitely not needed after Phase II, the District should consider selling and using the one-time revenue to support capital improvement needs, in addition to a Permanent Improvement Fund.
Don’t Westlake Schools spend more than neighboring schools because of poor budgeting and out-of-control spending?
We are careful stewards of taxpayer money. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education has singled out Westlake Schools for the innovative ways we’ve found to save money. Westlake City Schools’ cost per pupil is $13,393 – 12th out of 30 districts in Cuyahoga County. A large part of that expense is to provide services for special needs students. Westlake spends about 13% of its budget on special needs student services – the highest among surrounding districts. The percentage of the school budget spent on administrative costs per student is the second lowest of all 57 districts in Northeast Ohio. You can read more about how Westlake works to reduce costs here.
Why did the district ask for more levy money and why are you making all these cuts when you have a $15 million reserve in the bank?
We operate with complete transparency and welcome inquiries about our financial decisions. When property taxes are collected, the lump sum is deposited and we draw from that money to pay our operating expenses. If you take a snapshot of your bank account at the beginning of the month when you get paid, it looks like you have a big cash reserve. But as you go through the month and pay your bills, the balance gets smaller. This is how all Ohio school districts operate under the state funding system.The district still gets revenue from property taxes, but it is not enough to pay all our bills. 
  
Meanwhile, our costs continue to rise – just as everyone’s costs are rising – for everything from fuel for transportation to health insurance premiums. We have stretched dollars from the 2006 levy as far as we can.
Why doesn't the district cut sports and other extracurricular activities before cutting transportation for students?
Several difficult cuts have already been made because of the levy failure, including transportation. These are very difficult decisions because we know that, ultimately, our students lose out. The reduction in transportation services took place in early February. This spring, students who participate in extra- and co-curricular activities will have pay fees to participate. Next fall, we will be forced to restrict after-hours community access to school facilities, eliminate Advanced Placement courses, and reduce art and music offerings.
 
The district also is reducing its teaching staff by 20 to 33 positions. More details on specific cuts will be provided in the coming months.
In terms of specific cuts, how many school bus drivers were fired?
None were fired, 16 positions in the transportation department were eliminated (16 driver positions and one mechanic).
How many school bus drivers were laid off?
Three of the drivers among the 15 positions eliminated chose to retire leaving 12 laid off.
How many buses were sold?

No buses were sold.

What will the total cost of transportation be in February 2014 compared to February 2013?
The projected savings from the reduction to state minimum transportation is follows
This school year:             $174,000 (Started February 3, 2014)
2014-15 school year:       $387,000
2015-16 school year:       $445,000
Aren’t these cutbacks just a way to punish Westlake parents who did not vote for the levy?
Absolutely not. Without new levy money and with less money coming from the state, we have had to make some very difficult decisions to significantly reduce our budget. Meanwhile, our costs keep rising and we have stretched dollars from the 2006 levy to their limit. These are difficult decisions and we do not take them lightly because, in the end, they impact our students.
Voters just approved an $84 million bond issue. Why can’t some of that money be used to stop teacher layoffs and bring back busing and free extracurricular activities?
There seems to be some confusion in the community over the bond issue passed in 2010 and our efforts to pass another levy. The money raised in the bond issue is used for capital projects – building and improving our facilities. By law, it can’t be used to cover year-to-year operating expenses like salaries. It’s like having two separate bank accounts – one that can only pay for fixing up your house, and another that can be used to pay for your day-to-day expenses.
Aren’t you saving money on transportation at the expense of our children’s safety?
The Board provides transportation for elementary students in grades kindergarten through eight who live more than two miles from school, and for all students with physical or mental disabilities which make walking impossible or unsafe. We also include instruction on pedestrian safety as a part of our regular curriculum, appropriately geared to students at different grade levels. We certainly wish we could continue to provide bus transportation as we have in the past. But, as a result of the levy failure, we have had to make difficult decisions to reduce spending. Many other school districts in our county have had to make similar decisions in response to budget cuts. This map shows which districts met or exceed state minimums, click here to view.
Aren’t Westlake Schools on an unsustainable path?
The district uses forecasts as a tool to make adjustments and hold down costs. In fact, Westlake’s costs have been lower than projections in the last five years. We have worked hard to stretch our funds, and the Ohio Department of Education has singled out Westlake Schools for the innovative ways we’ve found to save money.   Both Moody's and Standard & Poor's also recognize Westlake as one of the best in allocating, planning and budgeting, awarding a credit rating that places Westlake in the top 4% of all Ohio schools.  However, costs continue to rise and voters have not passed an operating levy since 2006. We will have to place another levy on the ballot soon.
 

 Teacher Contract

 
Question
Answer
What are the terms of the agreement?
The one-year contract freezes base pay and step increases, and implements coordination of benefits for all teachers.  Teachers who complete additional education and obtain an advanced academic degree will be eligible for additional pay by moving to a new column on the salary schedule. The new contract also eliminates spousal insurance for all teachers. Spousal insurance was eliminated for new teachers in 2006, but grandfathered in for veteran teachers. Under the new contract, that grandfather clause is removed. The contract runs July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, and saves up to 13 teaching positions and will save the district $2.3 million over the next four years. The district cannot certify anything beyond a one-year contract because the financial forecast, at this time, still shows a negative balance in FY16.
What is the Third Grade Guarantee and why does the contract agreement exempt Westlake teachers from state credentialing and assessments required to comply with the Third Grade Guarantee?
Our contract does NOT exempt proper credentialing.  Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee is a program to identify struggling readers from kindergarten through third grade and provide support to ensure students are on track for reading success by the end of third grade.   There are numerous ways a teacher can be credentialed (click here to view list)The test has to be paid for and it adds no value, it’s just take a test and pass it, whereas obtaining a master’s degree, a reading endorsement, or other required staff development, which also meets the criteria for state credentialing adds value to our students. Our contract indicates that  taking a test will not be required. All teachers will be required to be credentialed. If they choose to do so by taking the test, they can, if not those teachers will have to meet one or more of the other criteria.
How will mandating spousal insurance save the district money?
The majority of school districts in Ohio still permit spouses to be primary participants on their insurance programs.  Westlake was one of the first districts in the area to mandate employees’ spouse to take insurance at their place of employ.  This type of mandate saves the district money because it reduces the insurance rates the district has to pay for its employees by 15%.  Since Westlake instituted the spousal mandate for new hires in 2006 the district has saved close to $1 million. With approval of this contract the district will now mandate the spousal requirement for over 53% of its staff, netting the district an additional $240,000 in annual savings.
Do Westlake Schools use taxpayer money to pay for teachers’ spouses to have health care?
Under the agreement, employees’ spouses are required to participate in their respective employers’ insurance program regardless of cost.  As a result, the district receives a 15% reduction in premium.  While the district has agreed to offset the cost to each eligible spouse up to $175/month, the spousal mandate will permit the district to save an additional $240,000 per year.  Only 53% of staff is eligible for this incentive, of those eligible the great majority is not within $50 of the threshold.

 

 

 Transparency

 
Question
Answer
WKYC has a searchable database on their website as a result of an investigation into teachers who have faced disciplinary action. Searching Westlake City Schools shows 4 results. Are any of these individuals still employed by Westlake City Schools?  Thanks!
The four individuals are not employed in the Westlake City School District.
Why does the school board meet behind closed doors so often?
All meetings of the Board of Education are open to the public, and agendas are available to everyone who attends. We post the minutes as well as Board Notes on our website. We also televise all regular Board meetings and make audio recordings available on our website.
 
Some board business requires confidential discussion in executive session. This includes personnel matters and negotiating contracts. Ohio law permits public bodies such as the Board of Education to conduct business on these sensitive matters in executive session.  More information about how Ohio's Sunshine Law applies to the Board of Education can be found by clicking on this link.
Why does the Board limit public participation in its meetings?
Each board meeting includes up to 30 minutes of public participation. During this time, anyone in attendance may address the board. The time is limited so that the board can fulfill its obligation to complete the planned agenda in a timely and efficient manner. If discussion goes beyond the allotted time, the board can vote to extend the time period. Anyone who wants additional time beyond the public participation session should contact the superintendent and ask to be placed on the agenda.

 

Westlake City Schools District