The Akron Board of Education voted Friday to transfer property that the University of Akron long has desired to own.
The sale of Central-Hower High School to UA is expected to yield $13.5 million worth of merit scholarships for applicable Akron Public Schools graduates. The district never will actually see the money, however, and that has been the hold up in approving the measure for the past two weeks.
The sale had stalled twice before Friday’s special meeting.
Board member Tim Miller, the lone dissenter in Friday’s 6-1 vote, again expressed “discontent” with the contract, although not with UA or the scholarships.
“I bleed blue and gold,” said Miller, a UA graduate. He said his concern is that the district will not earn interest on the proceeds from the sale.
“It can be argued we are holding this note at a negative interest rate, as tuition and fees will increase over the life of this promissory note. So the value of today’s dollar will shrink over time as tuition rises,” Miller read to the board from a prepared statement.
By law, Ohio’s schools must make a first offer of property for sale to charter schools, but an amended clause in the legislation that expires Dec. 31 allowed for this unusual sale.
As part of the contract, the Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) high school class would remain at Central-Hower for the next five years, as the district leases the space from UA.
After that time, another five-year renewal would be available.
Miller argued against leasing property when unused space exists in other district buildings.
“If we don’t need or want the building, let’s get out and move to one of our other high schools that are begging for programming such as STEM,” Miller said.
Moving the program out of Central-Hower would save the district from incurring utility and rental expenses, Miller said, helping the district balance its budget.
Board member Ginger Baylor, and others acknowledged and praised Miller’s “investigative and analytical work,” but voted in favor of the sale as the clock ticked down to the legislation’s expiration.
“Over the life of the program, we’re not getting $13.5 million. That was my original concern,” board member Patrick Bravo said. But “this is probably the best deal that we’re going to get,” he added after voicing frustration about making a “down-to-the-wire” decision.
UA trustees voted last week to accept the details of the original contract. Officials said the university plans to use Central-Hower as swing space as construction projects unfold elsewhere on campus. Other university buildings and parking lots surround the 230,000-square-foot school on the north side of campus.
Board member Lisa Mansfield also struggled with making the final decision to let go of the property, which has been graduating Akron students since 1885.
“This is huge. It seems to me that we are selling a piece of history,” she said. “Is [the deal] everything I hoped for? ... It’s not.”
But the possibility of helping students ultimately outweighed her concerns.
“We can’t ignore the fact that there is a generation who will benefit from this,” she said.
The board agreed that the scholarships would be used only after each student’s federal, state and other grant and scholarship opportunities are exhausted.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.