A closer look: No easy school funding answers

By Julie Pavelich Record-Courier assistant city ed Published:

Minutes later she is out of the cheerleading uniform and into a dance outfit as part of the marching band's dance line performance during half-time.

In a small school district such as Windham, with about 60 students in the senior class, it is typical for students to be involved in more than one activity at the same time.

Becky, like many of her peers, said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"I don't have any time to myself, but I do this because I like meeting people," said the Windham senior, who is also the vice president of Student Council, a member of Teen Institute, the choir and band, and a recent finalist on the Homecoming Court. "It's neat to have people, especially little girls, looking up to you when you cheer. It makes me feel good."

The youngest of Robert and Sandy Stanek's three children, Becky is a lifelong resident of Windham. While she acknowledges her district is smaller, more rural and has less money for education than most other districts, the honors student said she believes she has received a quality education that will enable her to get into and succeed in any college she chooses.

"The teachers are nice and personal with you," Becky said "They play a big part of my education, but mostly it's been my upbringing and my parents."

"My kids always had good relationships with their teachers," Robert Stanek said. "I have always told my kids to find something to pursue that they will be happy with. We encouraged college, but they decided on their own that they all wanted to go. There was never a conversation of whether they should or shouldn't."

Windham is known for having a low percentage of students go on to college after graduation. However that number has been increasing in recent years, largely due to the supportive relationships between teachers, students and parents, said Windham Superintendent Vincent Frammartino.

"In a small district like Windham, teachers get to know parents on a more personal level, and the kids get to know each other well so there is a good feeling among them," he said.

Becky agreed. "People think our community is low, but I don't think it is bad at all," she said. "A lot of kids go to college or get jobs after graduation.

"The majority of my class wants to go to college. They might not be able to afford it right away, but they really want to go."

An animal lover, Becky hopes to follow in her older siblings' footsteps and attend Youngstown State University. She then would like to transfer to a college where she can major in zoology, preferably at the University of Toledo.

"I have been raised that college is the way to go," said Becky, who works part-time at Wal-Mart in Streetsboro.

Although she knows she has received a quality education and is well-prepared for the future, Becky said she is aware her school does not offer programs, including Advanced Placement courses, that some of the larger districts do. But she insists that hasn't hindered her or her classmates from achieving.

"We have the program where you can go to college classes while you are still in high school, and also have classes like physics, and French," she said. "And I love classes like English where we can have discussions about the subject."

Becky's friend, Chavon Marder, said she would rather be in a district like Windham and perhaps have less equipment or course offerings than other schools because of the attention she receives from teachers.

"I moved here from the Crestwood district in the sixth grade, and the junior high there is probably three times as large, and they have more (activities and materials) there, but here it is more personal," Marder said. "They have more computer and foreign language classes there, but we have smaller classes here and I think the teachers are able to pay more attention to you."

While Becky hasn't followed the school funding issue taking place in Columbus, she said she would like to see all students have an equal chance at a quality education.

With a 2.83-mill bond issue on the November ballot, passage by Windham district voters will mean the construction of a new high school and elementary school, as well as renovation of the present high school and junior high school.

Becky knows she won't be around as a student to enjoy the modern buildings should the levy be approved, but believes they would help enhance students' already quality education.

"If the levy passes, I think it would give us a better image," Becky said. "When we go to different schools for games, the floors are shiny and the walls are bright. You see that, and you think of those schools and students as being better, and you don't forget them.

"I think our kids would dress better, act better, not fight with each other and get better grades because the new buildings would give them a better self-image," she said. "I think better surroundings would help everybody because maybe the other schools would not look down on us so much and would see we are just like everyone else."

If Windham receives more state funding from the Ohio Legislature's upcoming decision about how to fund schools, Becky said she would like to see teachers have more materials, and would like Windham to have more classes.

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