Superintendent lays out school priorities

Greg Drescher

In a YouTube.com video posted recently, Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher updated viewers on community feedback he said he’s been collecting since starting in his position in July.

Drawing numbers from community surveys, Drescher presented the conclusion that the schools are doing well, but aren’t earning top scores in the public’s eyes. Cited graduation rates, drop out rates and comparisons to state SOL averages reflect this – when compared to number ranges for schools in seven surrounding counties, the numbers for Warren schools lie somewhere in the middle.

When asked what’s keeping the schools from being exemplary, many cited concerns about teacher recruitment and retention among other desires for more choices in curriculum, more resources and more student support programs.

“We know when a community invests in its schools, the entire community benefits whether or not you have children in school,” he said in the video.

“Education is about the only social structure we have to combat poverty, and combating poverty is a local endeavor,” he continued later.

The video content reflects material that Drescher presented at the Nov. 24 School Board work session. An accompanying text post to the video on social media states that it will go up on the schools’ website.

In the video and at the meeting, Drescher acknowledged the support and work the county has put into capital budget items like school facilities, and School Board members have repeatedly expressed their thanks at meetings for a cooperative Board of Supervisors. But he directed viewers to shift their attention to the challenges and costs on the operating side of the budget.

The data from Drescher’s November presentation shows more details. Ranking charts therein showed that in 2012, Warren County is in the bottom 10 districts for per pupil expenditure without including debt service, but in the top 30 for per capita income. Over the past 20 years, he said Warren County has moved from last place in per pupil expenditure to 10th from last.

“It’s a big deal,” he said while presenting at the work session. “When we spend a dollar on school systems, $11 comes back to the community.”

Priorities in his presentation that came from those surveyed included efforts toward a 1-to-1 student to computing device ratio, budgeting for increased teacher salaries, health care funding, career and technical education and building maintenance, among others.

Those priorities added up – Drescher estimated that bringing teacher salaries up to region averages would cost the district $2.8 million, and instructional costs of the 1-1 device ratio and career skill learning would cost another $2.8 million. All totaled, his prioritized plan would call for an estimated $11 million budget, which he said he had run by the county supervisors. That figure doesn’t take into account other additional costs like that of opening the new middle school in 2017.

“Businesses locate in communities with effective schools,” he said when discussing the costs involved. “The higher educated a community is, the more skilled jobs appear. You don’t get there without doing this.”

He also presented multiple implementation plans to spread those costs out over multiple years, translating the community needs into priorities and abstract budgeting items.

“There’s a lot of real numbers here that we’re kind of having to walk through,” he said.

View the YouTube.com video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R3MlzIjAvo

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com