Tuesday's Tiffin City Board of Education meeting started on a happy note: The board honored a retiree, learned about a pen pal project and was honored for its service.
The board also heard of the district's accomplishments. The district met all 26 indicators on the state report card, six of the district's seven buildings were rated "excellent," the district met the graduation rate standard for the second year in a row, with more than 90 percent of its seniors earning a diploma, and three buildings were named "Schools of Promise."
Officials have achieved all of that while spending $2,370 less per student than the state average. The district's cost-per-pupil is lowest of all schools in the Northern Ohio League, according to a presentation delivered by Superintendent Don Coletta Tuesday.
Isn't succeeding at educating children while spending taxpayers' money wisely what we ask of a school district?
But, what followed the praise at the board meeting wasn't so positive.
Coletta outlined a series of recommendations that included cutting staff, reconfiguring buildings and using two fewer elementary schools to address a projected $3.3 million deficit as of June 30, 2013.
The district has taken steps to help rectify financial issues. It has eliminated the equivalent of 13 full-time positions through attrition, effective with the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, and some administrators have given up raises.
Anyone with questions about how district money is spent can get more information by asking administrators. The information is public record.
What I find sad is the superintendent's proposals would not have to be made if money were not an issue. They were not made due to lack of success in education, and, as a community, we should be proud of that.
However, the economy is difficult, and more hard decisions must be made.
A not-so-perfect storm that includes reductions in tax revenue and the upcoming state budget has hit. The district faces a shortfall of more than $13 million in 2015 without a new levy and budget cuts.
It's OK to feel angry, disappointed or confused about the recommendations presented during the board of education meeting. I know I am hurting, too, and I didn't even attend Tiffin City Schools.
My heart aches for the students and parents whose schools no longer may be used, the staff who might face unemployment, the administrators who have had to debate and ultimately outline proposed cuts, the board of education members who are contemplating the plan and the community that must endure whatever happens. Education is at the very core of our community, and when the education community suffers, we all suffer.
The time is now to come together.
I would like to encourage everyone to attend the community forum at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at Columbian High School's auditorium. Bring forward your questions and concerns.
The days, weeks and months ahead are going to be difficult. The entire community needs to come together in a spirit of cooperation to find out how best to solve the issues.
We owe that to the children of our community.