More than 300 students have left Wellington’s public schools in recent years. Now superintendent Ed Weber is trying some fresh tactics to win them back.
“We have to start treating these kids and their families as customers,” he said. “They have a choice now. They’re not with us no matter what. Many families leave a district based on how they’re treated, not curriculum.”
As of March 1, 120 former Wellington students have open enrolled in surrounding districts, with Keystone accounting for nearly half at 51. Coming in at a distant second is Firelands (17) followed by Oberlin (14), New London (13), and Black River (12).
“Every family is a different story,” Weber said. “But a common pattern is a family departing after a negative experience. We need to look at improving our customer service model and build up a message so that by next school year we can show families why they should come back to us. I’ve heard some anecdotal complaints, but nothing that resulted in a student leaving. They just wanted to make their concern known and ask if I could work on it.”
State-reported enrollment in Wellington sits at 1,311 but only 1,110 kids are physically sitting in classrooms. That disparity is created by students who attend schools such as Lorain County Community College or the Lorain County JVS.
Students who open enroll elsewhere, are home schooled, or attend online schools like the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow do not show up on enrollment reports in their former districts.
There are 45 home-schooled students in Wellington, 70 in online schools, and 93 attending the JVS.
Public districts receive approximately $5,800 per student in state funding, but that can vary depending on population size, average property value, and the ratio of time split between the home districts and outside schools.
At Wellington High School, 47 students spend up to 80 percent of their day at LCCC and an additional seven take all of their classes at the college.
Weber has suggested sending letters to former students’ homes. Board of education member Daniel Rosecrans didn’t object to that but said if letters are mailed they should also go to students still in Wellington.
“I get what you’re trying to accomplish here,” said Rosecrans. “But are we going to say thank you to our existing customers as we try to get the former ones back?”
Fellow board member Ayers Ratliff said some students have moved to New London because its buses pick up students closer to their homes or even at their front doors.
Weber mentioned the possibility of adding a seventh bus route in Wellington.
“Because our districts overlap a bit, some of our buses go down the same streets,” Weber said of New London. “I don’t know right this second if what Mr. Ratliff said is accurate, but busing can make a world of difference for a family. Some districts are offering door-to-door service these days instead of asking kids to walk to a corner or stop.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.