Coventry Twp school district in fiscal emergency, superintendent blames state for bad math

Posted at 8:12 AM, Jul 12, 2017

Two months after Coventry Township residents overwhelmingly shot down a nearly 10-mill school renewal levy, the school district remains in fiscal emergency. And the superintendent blames the situation on the state auditor's math.

"Our district concluded that open enrollment is a positive for the district," said Russell Chaboudy, Coventry Township school superintendent. "It's actually bringing in money to the district."

David Yost, state auditor of Ohio, placed Coventry Township schools under fiscal emergency in December of 2015. Yost's office pointed to the district's large open enrollment program as a significant part of the problem.

The program allows students who live outside the school district to fill open spots and attend Coventry schools. It's a practice that an increasing number of districts across the state utilize because it can boost revenue.

But the state auditor's office said Coventry's program is poorly managed, and it's ultimately hurting local taxpayers.

Their latest audit on the school district can be found here: Coventry Local School District 2016 Performance Audit.

"The problem is open enrollment is costing this district a million dollars a year," said Ben Marrison, director of communications for the auditor's office.

Chaboudy said 757 of the district's 2,200 students live out of the district. That ratio is one of the highest in the state, according to Marrison.

"What happened here is they [Coventry Township] kept adding students that forced them to add more teachers, more buildings, more administrators, more buses, so they've got an expense base that they can't really afford," added Marrison.

"This is a disaster, and it's costing us money," said Dave Calderwood, a Coventry Township resident.

"One-third of the school system is open enrolled," said David Jandecka, a Coventry Township resident. "What's the deal with that?"

Chaboudy said most of his open enrolled students come from Akron. They're either driven in by their parents or live near existing bus routes, which keeps transportation costs low.

He also said the program's revenue allows the district to offer more educational courses and activities for all students while the extra expenses to educate more students remains minimal.

"There's going to be a high school principal, there's going to be a middle-school counselor, you're going to have those regardless of the number of students that you have," added Chaboudy.

Chaboudy said the state's financial audit did not take into account detailed numbers, which shows a much different picture.

But the state's audit shows that out-of-district students bring the district nearly half the revenue as resident students.

"It's ridiculous," said Calderwood. "Why are we subsidizing people outside our community when we should focus on educating people in our community."

The school district's renewal levy will be back on the ballot in November. Both Calderwood and Jandecka said they voted against it because of the district's open enrollment program.

Chaboudy said his district has not added any teachers or staff in recent years to accommodate a larger student population but rather made cuts. His district completed its own review of its open enrollment program.

Found here: CoventryLocal School District Open Enrollment Review