State of the Schools Marks Shaker’s Progress

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Props to the district for what it has accomplished. Shaker has managed to continue to excel in academics while continuing the district’s financial stability.

Superintendent Mark Freeman gave his final State of the Schools presentation March 12 in the upper cafeteria. Approximately 50 students, teachers and community members attended the speech, during which Freeman explained what the schools have accomplished in the past year. Freeman said Shaker has continued its academic success and fiscal stewardship. And he was right.

Freeman said the district’s academic achievement is evident even though Shaker doesn’t perform as highly on state-administered tests. Freeman cited the district’s SAT scores and percentage of students taking the SAT.

“If you look at that, and study it, you’ll see Shaker very much near the top,” Freeman said. “It’s important to look at this.”

Many Shaker 2012 graduates went to great colleges, including all the Ivy League schools. “You can measure schools by their output,” Freeman said, explaining the district’s excellent college admissions.

Shaker also captured success in numerous competitions such as the Scholastic Art Competition, the Ohio High School and Middle School Chess Championships and the National Latin Exam.

Freeman acknowledged that there exists an achievement gap, but not due to putting students in lower classes than appropriate. Freeman said other school systems employ the “‘Oh, we don’t think you’re ready for honors or AP classes,’” philosophy. At Shaker, “We thought that was a barrier,” he said.

The district also has continued to put forward its Strategic Plan. Shaker has accomplished many elements of the plan, such as surveys and community outreach, and many are in the works if not already done. Some criteria, however, have not been accomplished by a long shot. This is possibly because Shaker is where it needs to be and the criteria are overly optimistic.

According to senior project adviser James Schmidt, the district’s Strategic Plan goal is that 100 percent of eligible seniors participate in project. “That’s just not reasonable,” Schmidt said. Schmidt said there are some seniors who adamantly won’t go on project, and there’s nothing he as a teacher can do to persuade them to work without being paid. He said a better requirement would be for 100 percent of seniors who want to participate to go on project, because he can enable options for seniors who are willing to do project but otherwise unable to plan it out.

Shaker has maintained financial stability despite declining housing values. The district’s excellent bond ratings from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s have allowed Shaker to borrow money to install energy-saving lights, using the saved electricity costs to pay the loans back. This will save the district energy costs in the long run and benefit the environment.

Shaker has balanced its food service budget, which had been in deficit for years.  The district also recently installed a new track and turf field at the high school, which cost $2 million, but the district has managed to end with a $2.3 million surplus in 2012, allowing the district to push the school levy back another year, the second time in a row. According to Freeman, the surplus can’t be used to hire more teachers as the administration reserves it for unexpected expenditures, such as providing generators for blackouts such as the ones on March 18 and Oct. 15, 2012.

Freeman, who will retire at the school year’s end after serving 25 years as superintendent, said, “Overall, we’re doing pretty well.”

A version of this article appeared in print  on 26 March  2013, on page 6 of the Shakerite.

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