By Janie Southard
FORT RECOVERY -- Mercer County schools meet or exceed the state requirement in every single educational content area at every grade level and spend 14 percent less ($1,203) than the state average to do it.
This conclusion was the focus of a 69-screen Power Point presentation made to Susan Tave Zelman, director of the Ohio Department of Education, during her recent visit to Mercer County. The presentation, created by Fort Recovery Superintendent David Riel and tech specialist Chris Keller, was presented again at the board of education meeting on Tuesday night.
Riel circulated among board members a recent letter from Zelman saying she was "unbelievably impressed" with the presentation and the Fort Recovery system.
"It was such a great opportunity to talk with her. I believe we now have an open door to continued dialogue. At the least, she knows our name," Riel told the board.
He explained the original idea for a presentation was to make her aware of concerns held by Mercer County educators, but he said he "took it upon himself" to put together the Power Point (with Keller's assistance) showing a comparison of how well Mercer County is doing compared to the state. "It also brought to her attention areas where we need help, like grade four citizenship scores. They're going down county wide and we could use some help," Riel said.
The last two screens, entitled "How can ODE help?," pointed to a number of areas, one of which was funding for professional development.
"We're doing so well in Mercer County with all excellent- or efficient-rated schools and high-scoring students that we no longer get dollars for professional development. Only districts in academic watch get that state money," he said. "To stay on top we need to make sure our teachers and staff receive professional development opportunities."
Some other county demographics were also included, such as: population, 40,924; median household income, $33,183; student enrollment (2003-04) 8,711; highest population age group, 35 -to 44-year-olds; second highest age group, 45 to 54 year olds. Numbers, except where stated, are based on the year 2000, the most recent available.
Riel's presentation also presented local implications and observations based on the information gathered.
Strategies are needed to address the discrepancies between the achievement levels of disabled and non-disabled students.
As well, the county's high level of achievement could make reaching state value-added goals extremely difficult. Value-added is a new state academic measurement showing that students improve at a certain level from one year to the next.
"That's going to be tough here in the county with our scores already so high, especially with the lack of (state) funds for professional development (that enhance educators' skills)," he said.