Letter from the Oak Hills Local School District Superintendent

Issue 20

The Oak Hills Board of Education is currently seeking taxpayer approval for a 4.82 mill emergency operating levy on the November 5, 2013 election ballot. If approved, the levy is limited to five years and will expire in 2018.

Its been 16 years since the school district has asked voters to approve new revenue for school operations. To put that into perspective, that was seven years before Google, eight years before YouTube, and 10 years before anyone had even heard of Facebook. Y2K was believed to be a real fear and the Reds were still playing in Riverfront Stadium. In fact, our graduating classes from 2012, 2011, and 2010 never experienced a school levy during their K-12 time with us.

It has been said that the “quality of a community can be measured by the quality of its public school system.” We believe in that and work hard to provide a quality education to students so that our community can thrive. We do not want to see home values decrease and we do not want people to have difficulty selling their homes. We want to continue providing the top-notch educational experiences that our community has learned to expect.

Several million dollars in cuts over the past five years have allowed us to delay the need for an operating levy. Those cuts include teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, food service and educational support staff. We have reduced all budgets by approximately 20% and reduced expenditures by outsourcing our technology (IT) work and treasurer services. Class sizes across the district have increased. We can delay no longer without deeper reductions.

If the levy fails, we will have no choice but to continue cutting our program. Fifty more teachers will be cut and class sizes in our middle schools and high schools will increase even more. An additional five custodians will be cut and we will begin cleaning classrooms once or twice a week. An additional administrative position will be eliminated, adding to the administrative cuts over the past four years. Our middle schools will return to the traditional junior high model and academic teaming will become a thing of the past. Oak Hills High School will see the elimination of many course electives and will lose one period of instruction when the schedule changes from seven bells to six bells.

We can all agree that times have changed since the turn of the century and even educational theories have evolved. New tools and technology make learning more accessible preparing students to be successful in life. The pace of change is quickening. Some of our students are graduating high school with an entire semester of college or more under their belt - unheard of a decade ago. We need community support in order to maintain that competitive advantage and continue to provide an innovative, contemporary, and professional learning environment leading to jobs for our graduates.

If you seek additional information regarding Issue 20, please visit our district website at www.ohlsd.us. If you do not have internet access and would like information mailed to you, please call our district office at 513-574-3200.

I encourage you to exercise your right to vote on November 5.

Thank you,

Todd Yohey, Superintendent of Schools, Oak Hills Local School District

Letter to the Editor - Cincinnati.com - Please vote for Oak Hills Levy

I am writing to you as a parent, psychiatric nurse and Oak Hills High School alumni.

I graduated from Oak Hills in 1976, and went on to attend the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health. I graduated from UC with both bachelor and master's of science degrees in nursing. I was well-prepared for college upon graduation from Oak Hills.

My daughter, Haley, is a junior at Oak Hills. She is taking advanced placement and honors' courses, and is being challenged daily by outstanding, dedicated teachers. I have no doubt she will be well-prepared for college.

As a psychiatric nurse, i worked on the Adolescent Psychiatry Unit at Children's Hospital for several years. I worked with countless young people with learning disabilities.

Most of them were in the hospital because they were depressed, had low self-esteem and often were suicidal. They were frequently attending schools that did not understand their disabilities and could not provide the resources they needed and deserved. These students were capable, they just needed different or additional help. Oak Hills School District provides this specialized help.

Every child deserves a decent education. Oak Hills offers this to every student that walks through their doors. We have a good thing going in our community – it's our public school district. Don't take it for granted. Please vote for the Oak Hills School levy, so every child has a chance to succeed.

Sandy Aerni Wakelam - Bridgetown

Letter from Community Member

weidnerMy son has a poster hanging above the desk in his room. On it is a well-known quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.” I’m sure this message resonates differently with each of us, likely influenced by our stage of life, our current responsibilities and priorities. I’d like to think, however, that regardless of the lens we’re looking through at any point in time, it is a meaningful message THROUGHOUT our lives.

Messages of enablement and empowerment were first ingrained in me by my parents and again as a student in the Oak Hills Local School District. Oak Hills certainly helped to prepare me academically for the world beyond high school. However, my experiences in this district, and also the recent experiences of my own children as students in the district, have both shown me that the commitment of the Oak Hills teachers, coaches, staff and administrators goes far beyond academic preparation. The Oak Hills “family” is working to enable, equip and empower our students to contribute in a positive way in the world. These students are our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends…our FUTURE.

We all have the opportunity to be the “change agents” that make schools and communities stronger and healthier. What a powerful and fulfilling opportunity – to know that we can play this role, especially for our youth! One of the easiest ways we can do this is to vote in November. For those of us who live in the Oak Hills district, if we don’t seize this opportunity to vote, how can we expect others to? For alumni who live outside the district, you can also help to make a difference by being an advocate. Spread the word about the good things happening in our Oak Hills community and the many reasons this work should continue…for the students, for the community and for our collective future.

I’m proud to be an Oak Hills alum. I want to play a part in maintaining a legacy of excellence in our Oak Hills Local School District. I hope you do, too! I’ll see you at the polls in November.

-Diane (Duebber) Weidner '85

Letter from Community Member

sellmeyerPassing the Oak Hills levy is important to my family for many reasons.

We want to keep Oak Hills' amazing academic rating In order to maintain excellence we have to retain all of the talented staff that make the district such a great learning environment. We need to continue to entice the best teachers, administrators, and staff to want to work in Oak Hills Local Schools. Keeping Oak Hills strong brings new families to the district and preserves our community.

We want to maintain Oak Hills tradition Both of my parents are Oak Hills graduates and my husband and I are Highlander sweethearts. We are all successful products of the Oak Hills school system.

We want a strong community The strength of the community comes from the strength of the school district and Oak Hills adds value to the homes in Green and Delhi Townships. Our home is our biggest investment, and that is important to us.

Now is the time to rally behind greatness for our families, children, schools and community to remain Highlander Strong! Please vote Yes on November 5.

~Kimberly Sellmeyer, ’98 Oak Hills graduate and district resident

Letter from Oak Hills Alumnus

imageOver the last year, I have had the pleasure of reconnecting with the Oak Hills community. It was in the spring that I was surprised to learn that I had been named a recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award. There are countless Oak Hills alumni who are accomplishing great things, not only professionally, but also in their personal lives and in service to their communities. I realized there were many alumni who were equally deserving of the award; therefore, I was truly humbled and honored to be a recipient.

The night of the awards banquet was like a trip down memory lane. I spent an enjoyable evening with family, friends, and mentors from high school. It was as if only a few years had passed since my days at Oak Hills, as opposed to nearly 30. It was somewhat ironic that only five days following the awards banquet, I would once again experience a nostalgic trip back to the mid-1980s; however, this time the memories weren’t nearly as fond, and they were triggered by an event that was all too common in the 80s: the Oak Hills tax levy had failed. I’m sure that upon hearing the news, many of my former classmates relived the same “pass the tax levy” memories: continual threats of cutting all extracurricular programs, cancelled practices to avoid using lights/heat in the gym, band practice at dawn to use the “natural” morning light, an end to hot lunches (Oreos and ‘Buckeyes’ for lunch...no wonder they thought I needed Ritalin), a thermostat set at ‘permafrost’, and (my favorite) dodging garbage cans half-full of water in the middle of the hallway on rainy days.

Even as a teenager, I never understood how a school district that achieved such a high degree of success in academics, the arts, and athletics would fail to pass a tax levy. Now, as a middle-aged adult who has had time to reflect on what the Oak Hills experience has meant to my life/career, I am even more astonished by the recent tax levy failure. It goes without saying that Oak Hills provides an excellent education. This is borne out by any number of measures: “Excellent” state ratings, high state achievement test scores, scholarship money awarded and college placement of graduates. I know I owe a debt of gratitude to several of my high school teachers. Not only was I well prepared for my general pre-med studies in college, I actually remember pulling out my high school biology notebook in order to make sense of my college professor’s cell biology lectures (thank you, Mr. Poynter).

Although the academics were outstanding, in retrospect, I can honestly say that it was my participation in activities “beyond the classroom” at Oak Hills that contributed the most to my professional development. I have never liked the term “extracurricular”: if the goal is to prepare a student for life beyond the school walls, there is nothing “extra” about these experiences....they are an essential part of the curriculum. It was on the athletic fields, and in student government, that I received the mentoring that would prove invaluable in the future. In my case, there is one individual who deserves special mention: my class principal, Jim Williamson. He oversaw my activities as a class officer during my sophomore and junior year, and as student council president my senior year. His door was always open to me, he would hear me out on any issue, he would remain calm, and he was always fair. In looking back, the level of access he afforded me was amazing. I now recognize that he must have had countless other demands on his time, but never made me feel like I was an imposition. That meant a lot to a 17-year-old who was just getting his feet wet in holding leadership positions.

It would be several years before I realized just how valuable my experience at Oak Hills had been for my career. As I moved further along in my medical training, from Ohio State, to the University of Virginia and ultimately to the Cleveland Clinic, my peer group became increasingly competitive. Many had attended the finest East Coast prep schools, as well as the most exclusive colleges and medical schools. I genuinely believe it was my upbringing on the west side of Cincinnati, and in particular my experiences at Oak Hills High School, that allowed me to hold my own among such a competitive peer group. All I could do was be myself, and apply the principles I had learned in my youth: Work hard. Accept responsibility for mistakes.

Don’t make excuses. Don’t cut corners. Don’t put on airs. When given the opportunity to lead, be fair, don’t ask people to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself and give credit where credit is due. These are principles that most people on the west side of Cincinnati take for granted; however, in my experience beyond Cincinnati, I have found that such a community ethic is not commonplace. I’m convinced that it was my sticking to these principles that led my peers in medicine to trust me with leadership positions.

When I returned to Cincinnati in 2003, I knowingly committed the unforgivable sin of moving east of the Mill Creek. I found a home 0.9 miles from my office that offered a three-minute commute during rush hour, and I decided that such convenience was worth a lifetime of grief from my friends and family. I am fortunate to live in one of the few school districts in the region that is on par with Oak Hills; however, I should mention that we spend considerably more money per student than Oak Hills in order to maintain that status. In short, many school districts use Oak Hills as model when discussing how to get the greatest value for the least cost.

If you are a parent of a student in the Oak Hills Local School District, please register to vote, educate yourself on the value Oak Hills provides when compared to other districts, remind yourself that your children get one chance at an education and then vote accordingly on November 5. If you live in the Oak Hills Local School District, but don’t have children in school, keep in mind that many of these students will one day be your neighbors, clients, local small business owners, contractors, first responders, in-laws, and care-givers....then vote accordingly on November 5.

Joel Reginelli, ‘86
Oak Hills Distinguished Alumnus 2013

Letter from Community Member

Moving to the Westside of Cincinnati eighteen years ago was, in a lot of ways, like coming home. The community in North Western Ohio where I was raised is full of hard working folks just like here. There are a lot of Germans where I come from and almost everyone is Catholic. Church festivals are the preferred summer weekend entertainment activity and they transition into Oktoberfest celebrations in the fall. It’s remarkable how similar the two areas are.

Back home there are public and Catholic schools just like here. The difference between here and there, however, is that the community supports both the Catholic and public systems. I guess that’s why I have such a hard time understanding why some families of parochial students do not support the Oak Hills levy.

My father was in his sixth year as a seminarian when he decided, thank goodness for my brothers and me, that the Priesthood was not for him. He still dedicated his life to the church but as a Catholic school teacher and administrator instead of as a Priest. My Dad firmly believed that a Catholic education was not only the right education for a student, but he also believed it was the best education available. Despite those cor ebeliefs my father would have never voted against a public school levy.

“We’re put on this earth to help each other” he would say. “Not everyone can attend a Catholic school so what better way to help our community than to help everyone get the best education possible?” After that he woul dremind us of his favorite bible verses, Matthew 25: 31-46, and then he’d start humming “Whatsoever you do………..” At that point my fourteen year old eyes would be rolled so far back in my head they almost got stuck, but now I understand what he meant.

The Oak Hills Levy will not be used to install chandeliers in their hallways. No school administration has been a better steward of their funds than the Oak Hills administration. They provide an exceptional education to the people who are the future of our community by doing more with less.

Oak Hills Local School District educates 8000 of our community’s children every school day. Over the past sixteen years approximately 13,000students have graduated from Oak Hills High School, a number which is almost 45% of the population of Delhi Township and 23% of the population of Green Township. Oak Hill’s graduates, as well as parochial school graduates, are the Westside’s future.

I agree with my Dad that supporting public schools is the right thing for the community, but when you think about it and look hard at the numbers, if you vote yes for Oak Hills, you’re actually voting yes for you.

Brian Cron, Glenway Animal Hospital

Letter from Military Veteran and Oak Hills Teacher

donnieDear Military Veteran,
I retired from the Air Force in 1995, went back to college, and returned to my alma mater, Oak Hills High School, to teach English. My 20-year enlisted career was terrific preparation for a second career in teaching. There are many things I miss about being in uniform but I have to tell you, teaching these kids makes every bit as much of a difference as anything I did while I was serving my country. I am writing to you because you are a legal resident of Green or Delhi Townships and we need your YES vote in the upcoming Oak Hills Local School District levy.

Here are the pertinent facts:

  • Oak Hills hasn’t had a levy in 16 years. They have the third lowest school taxes in Hamilton County and have maintained one of the lowest total costs per pupil rates in Hamilton County - a full $2400 per year, per student lower than the county average. And while practicing that fiscal responsibility, the district has achieved a rating of “Excellent” for over ten years.
  • Since 2009, Oak Hills Schools have reduced their administrative staff by 30%. The remaining administrators took a three-year pay freeze. Teachers have had their pay frozen for the last two years and many retiring teachers were not replaced.
  • Without the revenue increase, the district will have to cut almost fifty positions – 44 of them will be teachers. That means bigger class sizes at every level. Every known study tells us that bigger class sizes mean lower overall academic performance for our students.
  • The fees students pay to participate in activities will increase by an additional $75 per activity with no family cap. Custodial and other services will be scaled back.
  • As a result of the last failing levy, Oak Hills has cut $4.3 million since May 2013. There is just nothing left to cut without seriously compromising the quality of the education and the quality of life that our schools help to provide.

I can’t begin to say why any of this should matter to you. You’ll have to decide that for yourselves. I can tell you, though, that after 20 years in uniform and over a decade in education, what we’re doing here to help the children of this community get career and college ready does make a difference. In fact, Oak Hills has been ahead of the curve in that area for years. We are deeply committed to getting our students prepared for what will come next – career, college, or, as many have done, join a branch of the U.S. military. It has been my personal privilege to shakes the hands of the majority of our recent graduates when they returned in uniform standing tall.

Please help us to keep this going. Your YES vote on the November ballot will make a difference.

Donnie Becker, Msgt. (Retired), United States Air Force
English Teacher, Oak Hills High School

Letter from Oak Hills High School Student

My name is Stephanie Price and I am a junior at Oak Hills High School. My family has been a part of the district for over 17 years, and being a Highlander has been engraved on my heart since birth. Eight years ago, my brother chose Oak Hills. He chose Oak Hills for the opportunities, the chance he had to develop the person he wanted to be and to be able to grow without limits. He chose Oak Hills for the numerous AP classes, the performing arts department and the staff. He chose to join a community that would thrive with him and, when he chose, there were not 29 AP courses offered. There were not some of the most dedicated staff members who have joined the community since. There were not some of the opportunity's that students have now. He chose and my siblings and I have followed suit. I can honestly say it has been one of the best choices we have made.

The opportunities available to us have been never ending and the support all of us have received from the amazing staff has been life changing. I love being a Highlander because regardless of anything else, the students and their best interests come first. I have never seen an administrative staff work so hard to make sure all 3,000 of their high school students are aware of their post-secondary options. Sometimes change is necessary but not change like this. The need is dire to the students for the levy to pass. A list was sent out to the teachers of all the positions to be cut- no names yet- but regardless, that is heartbreaking. A wise teacher of mine said "You are most likely in contact with at least one teacher during the day who has a job on the line, and you would never be able to tell" and that statement could not be more correct.

After seeing the list, I do have an idea of a few of the over 50 positions that could be cut and there is no way of telling. So please, vote yes in November. And if you are not in favor of the staff, then vote yes for the students. Vote yes for the students like my brother, the students like me, the students like the theater and art enthusiasts because everything will change if the levy doesn't pass. Six bells a day, no lunch, school’s out at one. With the removal of a 7th bell, I will have to choose once again which class I will have to say ‘no’ to.

My careful planning over the years will have to be redone again. Being in the schools, seeing the cuts already made and the cost-saving measures just goes to show how far our district is willing to go without laying a hand on the quality of our education. The reason Oak Hills needs this levy is the mandates we are required, by the government, to provide has had a decrease in funding while costs of these mandates have risen. We have already made cuts, all the cuts we can to maintain the Excellent school district I attend. I know it’s a lot, I know times are tough- I had the choice to take a personal finance elective last year where I learned about the average income and the average load of bills, and I know it is tough but we all need it to maintain the great neighborhoods of the district. The community needs it, and most importantly, the students need it. Please don't take away the opportunities I have been looking forward to for years, and don't eliminate them for students to come. Come November 5, vote yes for Oak Hills.

Stephanie Price - Oak Hills Class of 2015

Letter from Community Member

I’m Voting YES for a Strong Community

garrettChances are, if you live within the Oak Hills Local School District, you are faced with a variety of great choices when it comes to choosing a school. In addition to having a public school system with a history and tradition of being rated Excellent by the State of Ohio, there are also many fine private school choices available.

Our family made the choice to utilize public schools. We are fortunate to live in a district with a high performing school system, one that also has high parent and neighborhood involvement. This is not merely a coincidence, but a key component of a strong community and a successful school district.

I believe that every school system is a reflection of its community, and vice versa. Strong schools bring a strong source of community pride. Community pride can be seen in our strong schools. Those who attend and graduate from a strong and successful school feel the need to give back to the schools and community that have provided so much to them. They are business owners and employees, church members, and volunteers. They support the schools both with their time and finances, because they want others in their community to have the great experiences and success that they have enjoyed.

Many talk about property values, and yes, that is certainly important. However, I feel that the impact of supporting our schools goes far beyond protecting the value of our property; the values of your community and the quality of your neighborhood can’t be expressed by a dollar value alone.

Take a look around our city, and think about of the communities that you find desirable. Chances are, the communities that you find most appealing are also home to strong public schools. This is not a coincidence. Please support the students, staff, neighbors and community of Oak Hills, and vote YES on Tuesday, November 5th.

Leeann Garrett Delhi resident, PTA President, school volunteer and mother to Maddie, a 3rd grader at Dulles

Letter from Community Member

I’m Voting YES for a Strong Community

garrettIt was the 2nd grade “Meet-the-Teacher” night at John Foster Dulles that brought home to me why I am voting “Yes” for the Oak Hills Local School District’s Levy on November 5th.

My daughter’s teacher shared a picture of her family, who, she explained, were all Oak Hills alumni. I recalled junior year when a teacher told me, “Westsiders are like Salmon. No matter how far they travel, they always return when they have kids.”

At the time, I had cringed. No chance that would happen to me. So in 1997, I left Cincinnati for Ohio State, then the University of Chicago, followed by Atlanta and Manchester, England.

But, then came the incredible pulling force of family, tradition, and the comforts of the Westside. By the summer of 2012, I was back with three children enrolled at Dulles.

I realized that it was my Oak Hills education that gave me the solid grounding needed to propel my life and career to incredible places. And I want the same for my kids.

I will vote “Yes” in support of our schools, our neighborhoods, and our children to make sure the Westside is still a place we all want return

Michaela Rawsthorn, J.F. Dulles parent and OH alumni