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01-13-03: Zuma residents, officials talk about school closing
The Daily Standard
    MONTEZUMA -  About 50 village residents concerned about the possibility of closing Celina's Franklin Elementary School next year met Saturday morning with school district officials in a meeting from which The Daily Standard was barred.
    The unrest comes following Thursday's newspaper article where Superintendent Fred Wiswell confirmed that closing the school is part of budget reduction measures to be proposed for vote tonight at the Celina City Schools board of education meeting.
    Wiswell, board members Mary Lehman and Joe Bath, district Business Manager Mike McKirnan and district Treasurer Mike Marbaugh attended the meeting at the residents' invitation and presented information involving the proposed closing.
    The Daily Standard reporter was asked to leave the meeting by two residents citing a private meeting wherein they "wanted to talk openly to the school board' without the press on site. Both men refused to give their names when asked by the reporter.
    As there were no more than two board members present the meeting did not violate Ohio's Sunshine Law restrictions governing public meetings and the newspaper complied with the request to leave.
    Montezuma Mayor Charlotte Garman said she thinks the residents' group chose a "bad way" to handle notifying the public of the meeting, which she was not able to attend.
    "I'm glad they had a nice turnout, but I think if they had published the date and time in the newspaper a lot more people would have been there," the mayor told The Daily Standard Sunday via telephone.
    The mayor added that she felt closing Franklin school would be "devastating" to the village.
    "I think there are a lot of ways for them to cut costs before they take away our school. I know everyone here is upset about losing the school," she said.
    A meeting attendee who spoke anonymously Sunday afternoon described the meeting as "cordial" but said he left "feeling more perturbed" than before the meeting.
    The newspaper has learned the residents' group has put together a presentation outlining other cost reduction steps that they plan to introduce to the board this evening before the vote is taken on whether to close the school.
    Closing the elementary school as a budget reduction in light of a predicted $1.5 million deficit by 2004 will be among motions board members will vote on tonight.
    According to law, the board must submit its plan for addressing the deficit to the state by Jan. 31.
    The board meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the high school lecture hall.


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