PIQUA — “I’m excited to share all the great things that are going on in Piqua City Schools,” Superintendent Rick Hanes began by way of kicking off the district’s annual State of the Schools event on Wednesday.
Presented by Piqua City Schools and the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee, the annual session gives a look into the school district’s academic and financial progress.
In the first half of the hour-long session, Hanes detailed Piqua City Schools’ strategic planning process, its belief statements and core values for students, parents, staff, and the community, among other tenets.
His report was broken down into categories, including:
• Opportunities Through Strong Beliefs: This includes such beliefs as parents having a responsibility to have an active role in their children’s education, and staff partnering together professionally to support and provide quality instruction to ensure all students will perform at their highest potential.
• Opportunities Through Leadership: The board of education serves as a liaison between the district and the community, demonstrating leadership in ways including highlighting the achievements of staff and students, and touring the school buildings.
• Opportunities Through Data: Hanes focused on two sets of data that provided a glimpse into some of the ways in which the district is succeeding academically. For instance, the average ACT score for the 2014-15 school year was 21.9, just shy of the state average of 22.
“We continue to look at a goal of raising ACT, raising SAT scores,” Hanes said.
The other set of data pertained to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires the district to ensure that every student is reading on grade level before advancing to the fourth grade, and if the student is not on target, intervention programs must be provided.
• Opportunities Through Targeted Strategies: This included a wealth of programming including all-day, every day kindergarten for all students.
“This is something we are very proud of because that has been on our list for about a decade,” Hanes noted.
It also includes the Straight A Grant of $2.1 million, an early literacy grant that the district received to purchase Chromebook laptops for all students in kindergarten and first grade to use at school and at home. Among other programs are Read 180, in its first year at Piqua Junior High School; the Piqua High School algebra block, another fledgling program; and the Community Connectors Mentoring Program, which thus far has provided 18 mentors for students in fifth through eighth grades.
Other targeted strategies include professional development; parents and community; and staffing. Piqua City Schools’ staffing increases include 12 instructional aides, three Title I teachers, two kindergarten teachers, and a Samaritan Behavioral Health specialist, among others.
• Opportunities Through Technology: Network upgrades have been made at the new school buildings, as well as at the high school and junior high. In instructional technology, numerous teaching tools have been made available including more than 1,100 desktop computers districtwide.
• Opportunities Through Academic Partnerships: Piqua City Schools works in conjunction with several institutions including Edison State Community College, Upper Valley Career Center, and Wright State University, as well as the Piqua Education Foundation.
Other categories focused on opportunities through: providing great building facilities, providing community economic stimulus, and community/business partnerships.
During the second half of the session, a financial progress report was given by Jeremie Hittle, treasurer and chief financial officer. Hittle explained that the shift in financial support for the district has shifted from primarily local to mostly state funding.
“We continue to receive more funding from the state due to the new biannual budget,” he noted.
Whereas in the previous year funding was 53 percent local and 47 percent state, it now is 52 percent state and 48 percent local, he said.
He also explained such concepts as where the local funding comes from: approximately $5.6 million comes from income tax and $14.5 million from property tax.
Hittle informed the crowd that much of this funding – more than 67 percent – is spent on classroom instruction. This gives Piqua City Schools a 68 out of 105 ranking in comparison to other districts of similar size.
The district’s operating expense per pupil, on average, is $8,961, compared to the state average of $9,189.
“This is a great thing for the taxpayers,” Hittle said. “We continue to put the resources in the classroom, put the additional staff where we need it, and still maintain our budget.”
Overall, Hittle painted a positive picture of Piqua City School’s financial progress.
“We’ve operated eight years in the black, and we’re on track to finish nine years in the black out of 11 years,” he said.
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341