Gina Mace

CUYAHOGA FALLS: Two Summit County school superintendents believe a key to successfully educating youth is for the schools to partner with the business community.

Woodridge Superintendent Walter C. Davis and Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Todd Nichols promoted public-private partnerships during their State of the Schools talks before the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

“We need business and industry partners who understand strong schools are vital in sustaining strong communities,” Davis said.

He pointed to the Biomedical Engineering and Technology Academy that opened at Woodridge High School this school year as an example. The college tech prep program is open to students in the Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge, Hudson, Kent and Stow-Munroe Falls school districts.

Students receive six college credits for completing the program, Davis said.

Davis also shared the records of his district’s athletic program that includes a cross country team that has won six of the last seven championships.

He also took time to thank the community for coming together to pass a levy in November and promised continued fiscal responsibility and transparency.

During the two years leading up to the levy’s passage, Woodridge has cut $2.1 million from its budget, including the elimination of 44 full- and part-time employees.

While Davis can breathe a little easier with the levy behind him, the fight in the Falls to pass one is just beginning.

Nichols said the district needs to pass a levy to be able to “maintain the buildings and grounds, update the bus fleet and purchase technology.”

Cuts in federal and state financial support coupled with a decline in property values has put a strain on the district’s finances, Nichols said.

The district’s budget is already $1.9 million lighter because of cuts made in 2011, he said.

The good news is that enrollment is up thanks to all-day kindergarten and fewer students opting to leave the district through open enrollment.

Falls schools has reached out to partner with businesses to offer career and college-based education for middle and high school students, Nichols said.

It is focusing on “meeting every student where they are cognitively,” he said.

Changes have been made in the schools to focus on positive behavior and a “bring your own technology to school” program has been implemented.

To prepare for even more rigorous state standards, Nichols said, school will end early on Wednesdays for students, so teachers will have time to train for the more stringent requirements.

“Be patient with us,” Nichols said.

Both superintendents warned that a new state rating process could mean lower scores in the next round of testing.

“It pits public schools against private, against charter schools,” Davis said. “Only when everyone plays by the same rules, only then will state report cards be meaningful.”