"Obviously, we feel like we operate a very efficient school district and we were recognized in two of the five or six categories they've designated. We're glad to receive that recognition. We do try to manage the district's resources very frugally," Wheelersburg Superintendent Mark Knapp said.
Ohio Education Matters is a statewide, non-partisan, public policy research organization conducting research, advocacy, engagement and policy development. They are a subsidiary of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation.
The rating stems from a report issued by Ohio Education Matters this year as part of its nine-month study of K-12 education called Ohio Smart Schools. That report, titled "Benchmarking Ohio's School Districts: Identifying districts that get more for their money in non-instructional spending," identified 135 school districts across Ohio that seem to get more for their money in central-office administration, school-level administration, food service, student transportation and building maintenance and operations than other similar districts.
"Wheelersburg has shown that it can deliver quality services at a lower cost than most other districts in the state," said Andrew Benson, executive director of Ohio Education Matters. "The taxpayers and residents of this community should be proud that their district takes seriously the best use of resources to benefit children."
In its report, Ohio Education Matters noted that in providing school administration, Wheelersburg was the most efficient district among small, high-poverty urban districts. According to the report, Wheelersburg spends just $297.48 per student —compared to similar school districts that spent as much as $1,206.72 per student.
"Our administrators work very hard," Knapp said. "We're very thin, administratively. In fact, that study was done on 2010 data and going into 2012 we've eliminated an administrative position. So we expect that number to be even better in the future."
Also in providing transportation, the report finds Wheelersburg was among the most efficient districts in its type, spending $36,169.54 per bus compared to similar school districts that spent as much as $69,115 per bus.
"We do dual school bus routing and we use bus stops for the 4-12 students. We try to combine trips if we're going in one particular direction. We try to make multiple drops instead of sending several buses in the same direction. We transport our parochial students, our JVS students and any students attending the alternative school all on one bus and make multiple stops. We look at our routing each year and try to maximize ridership on each bus," Knapp said. "I don't know that those aren't things that other people aren't trying to do, but it seems like it's working very well for us right now."
Benson said districts that are not as efficient should look to Wheelersburg to learn how they are doing more with less.
"By spending less in these non-instructional areas and yet still meeting minimal quality standards, these districts are ensuring that more dollars are getting into its classrooms to help support students," Benson said. "The state should be highlighting these efficient districts and rewarding them by protecting them from deeper cuts in state aid than less efficient districts."
According to Ohio Education Matters, Ohio school districts could save nearly $1.4 billion a year if they were able to emulate the best practices of the most efficient districts in the state — a savings that approximates the cuts the state is seeking in primary and secondary education in the next biennium.
The full report is available online at www.ohioeducationmatters.org and www.ohiosmartschools.org.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.