Getting any school issue approved by voters in an unpredictable economy is difficult, and the odds going in to this month's election were even at best for Hilliard Schools. Yet there were a number of things that likely help improve Hilliard area voters' perceptions, with a decidedly positive margin (and perhaps surprisingly so) when all the ballots were cast.
The resolution of the teachers' union contract was as significant as it gets, at least in my opinion. The key issue involved, participation in health insurance costs to the district, dates back to the last contract negotiations I participated in, back in 1998. At that time the board stressed that, essentially, it was only a matter of time until the staff across the district became responsible for more of the direct health insurance costs to the district...not unlike what my fellow board members and their neighbors in the public sector had already begun to face in their jobs. While making calls to raise funds for last March's levy campaign, I was told in no uncertain terms by various business owners and leaders that the contract was a critical issue.
Also important was the overall voter turnout this time around, prompted by clear choices across the political tickets, along with visible physical improvements throughout the Hilliard area, and the simple fact that the population and makeup of the community continue to adjust. And of course it never hurts when the local high school sports teams are still in the playoffs...no matter what your demographic.
And then there's Hilliard School District's recent boost to an "Excellent With Distinction" rating from the state, the highest a district can achieve. You can take a look at Hilliard's 2007-08 Local Report Card online. Hilliard City School District successfully met 30 out of 31 total "indicators", with an overall performance index score of 10.1. Those achievements are high enough to bring an "Excellent" rating, but districts must also measure up to "Adequate Yearly Progress" for various student subgroups...a newer rating area that can pose problems for schools as population shifts become more pronounced.
An even newer "Growth Calculation" factor in the rating equation takes a longer-range view into consideration as well, allowing districts a more comprehensive evaluation of how they've actually progressed in addressing needs of different demographics and needs. The previous approach's to measurement of non-traditional student progress was simplistic and unfair.
As Superintendent Dale McVey noted, "We have worked extremely hard to ensure that we are meeting the learning needs of our student subgroups and have demonstrated sustained improvement over the past several years. This current rating information recognizes that we are being highly successful with these students." Another new calculation on the report card this year is value added.
If you're a newer resident of the district, you might not be aware that Hilliard actually has a very long history of success with bond and levy issues, dating most pointedly back to the 1990's when the real "boom" took hold....with lots of thanks to a stable yet progressive staff and administration, along with a distinct lack of any real "politics" among various school boards. When we first moved to Hilliard in 1988, I recall the student population being approximately 4,000. Through the subsequent years and about a four-fold increase in total students, things just essentially kept getting better. And this was despite the bumps and bruises brought by many new school buildings and the necessary redistricting.
And what's it all mean for pocketbooks and the real estate market? The Hilliard Area's overall good news during the past couple of challenging decades has kept home values reasonable and stable...no wild swings due to levy failures, for example. Ultimately, people still move to an area because of the schools. And whether or not you have children in the district, you benefit financially...but keep in mind it's always a more farsighted sort of gain. And that's what's made Hilliard one of central Ohio's best places to live for many, many years....
©2008, Doug Parker, ikarensell Enterprises Inc. http://www.ikarensell.com