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Published: Wednesday, 8/4/2004

Residents happy, but seek to better Bowling Green schools

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although residents appear happy with the teaching at Bowling Green City Schools, they want more arts programs, improvements to the junior high facilities, and more consistent class sizes.

Members of the school district's Community Discussion Coordinating Committee heard these messages loud and clear at a series of 36 informal public meetings. More than 230 parents and concerned community members attended the meetings throughout May and June.

At least one school board member attended every meeting, superintendent Hugh Caumartin said.

"We got some outstanding information," he said. "This will act as a compass reflecting the feelings of the community. The school board can use this to help make decisions."

Members of the 30-person community discussion committee facilitated each meeting by asking the attendees five questions:

●How they feel about the quality of education in the district.

●What they think about the district's facilities.

●What they want the schools to be like in five to 10 years.

●How they would prioritize goals for the schools.

●What advice they would give to the school board.

"People felt like students were already getting a good education, but they wanted more from the schools," committee member Ellen Scholl said.

Four main long-term goals for the district emerged from the discussions, said Eric Crimmins, a member of the committee. Many people wanted all-day kindergarten, foreign language classes at the elementary schools, an auditorium at the high school, and consistency in class sizes.

Mr. Crimmins said differences in class sizes are especially large between elementary schools. Some classes have less than 15 students, while others have up to 27 youngsters in one classroom.

"It's a really huge disparity," he said.

Residents at the community meetings offered varied suggestions for upgrading the district's facilities, but many agreed that the aging junior high school should be improved, especially because it is not equipped to accommodate students with disabilities.

Other recommendations from residents included communicating better with the public and collaborating more with Bowling Green State University and other local organizations.

"The emphasis of the meetings has been finding the values of the district, not solutions to specific problems," Mr. Crimmins said. "Now we'll be trying to identify the biggest issues that need to be addressed and what are the most critical issues for the district right now."

The committee was assisted through the public forum process by the Santa Rita Collaborative, a consulting group from Medina, Ohio. The committee held the meetings at different times and locations to encourage a variety of residents to attend.

"We got a very nice cross-section of the community in terms of geography," Mr. Caumartin said.

The committee will hold more meetings this month and next month to discuss the public comments. In October, it will have a meeting to present its findings to the community and solicit more input from residents.

"We'll actually phone residents to invite them," Mr. Crimmins said. "We want as many people as possible to attend."



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