NORTH RIDGEVILLE - Superintendent James Powell discussed the major changes that have occurred within the school district the past year and what the community can look forward during his year at his State of the Schools address last Friday.

About 100 school administrators, school board members, chamber of commerce members, students and city officials attended the event at the Academic Center.

Powell opened his address by welcoming Roxann Ramsey-Caserio, who will take over as superintendent in July, and offering his help if she ever needed it.

Powell discussed the restructuring the district has gone through in the past year, including the construction of the Academic Center and the transformation of Lear North Elementary School into a STEM-themed school, Ranger High-Tech Academy. Just under 100 students in grades four through seven attend the school, though Powell said the school will be open to second and third graders as well starting the upcoming school year.

Both the STEM school and high school received fabrication labs and video labs this past year as a way to extend hands-on learning.

The Early Childhood Learning Community, currently home to kindergarten students, will undergo renovations so preschool students can also move in this fall. Preschool students currently attend Fields-Sweet Elementary School. The district has not decided what will happen to this location in the future.

The school district transports more than 3,400 students to and from school and events daily. Fortunately, routes were filled from the shortage in the beginning of the school year, though the district still needs substitute bus drivers. The district plans on upgrading bus radios for emergency situations this year.

The district restructured custodial cleaning staff to better suit the schools’ needs once the Academic Center opened in August. The cleaning staff has now been given eight-hour shifts.

Other building and maintenance projects were completed including the purchase of improved cleaning products for the schools such as Lysol and Dial, the installment of a non-slip kitchen floor tile at the high school and the purchase of new snow removal equipment and to ensure the safety of students and staff. The district also plans on enhancing security cameras at each school in the upcoming year.

The old middle school and Wilcox abatement and demolition project is in progress and is expected to be completed by the beginning of June.

As far as athletics go, middle school athletic participation has gone up 32 percent this school year. The district anticipates building a new softball field this year.

Academically, the district’s graduation rate is the highest it’s ever been. Five years ago, the district offered five AP classes. The district now offers 12. Literacy in kindergarten through third grade went up from an F in 2015, to a B in 2017.

The district had $41.2 million in general fund revenues and $36.6 million in general fund expenditures in 2017. Powell said 75 percent of expenditures went toward personnel and another 17 percent toward purchasing services for students. The district remains financially stable.

Powell concluded by saying he will be sad to leave the district and the amazing people, but he won’t be far away. He encouraged residents to contact him if they need anything in the future.

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