CUYAHOGA FALLS: The state of the Cuyahoga Falls schools is “Sunny with a Few Meatballs.”
Superintendent Todd Nichols offered that title to his state of the school speech given to board members Monday night. The speech will be repeated Nov. 15 at a Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
After three years of a gloomy negative first-quarter balance, Nichols said, revenue this year is sunny.
The district’s revenue of $18.2 million is up about $1 million from last fiscal year. Salaries and benefits, the district’s largest expenditure, are down from 55 percent of the budget to 49 percent. This change gives the district a year-to-date balance of just over $6.5 million — about $1.5 million more than at this time last year, Nichols said.
The district is one of five out of 21 similarly sized districts in the state that received a rating of effective and the only one to also receive a rating of continuous improvement.
This is in line with the district’s goal for the school year to meet every student where he or she is cognitively and help that student achieve one year’s growth.
The number of students who live in the district, but attend community, non-public or other public schools through open enrollment is one of the “meatballs,” Nichols said.
More than 1,300 students choose an academic program somewhere else.
“We have to change our academic program to attract students who live in the district,” he said.
Another issue the district is working to change is a culture that does not assume success.
“Probably 36 percent of our students aren’t even thinking of college,” he said.
Science remains a focus issue in the district. Only 47 percent of the students who took the SAT met the college benchmark. Only 49 students took the PSAT, which awards National Merit Scholarships.
The high school offers several college-level courses. Students earned 286 college credits last year — worth $114,400 in saved tuition.
Nichols is proud of the athletic and music programs and the work of the Cuyahoga Falls Schools Foundation.
He cited the Business Advisory Council that is helping to shape the new smaller learning communities that are in the design phase.
But there is still work to be done, he said.
“We have to change the culture,” Nichols said. “We have to make it more interesting for kids, and give them a reason to come to school.”