Leading the Wellington Schools into a brighter future is superintendent Dennis Mock’s main goal as he prepares for classes to begin Wednesday, Sept. 2.
Mock joined the district full-time Aug. 1 and has been trying to get a solid understand of where the school system is and where it needs to go.
Early this year, the Wellington board of education voted to make some serious staffing and programming cuts to avoid a $2.4 million deficit. Now Mock is tackling the resulting challenges and trying to find ways to bring back some of what was lost.
“I’ll be glad when school starts,” he said. “We can get in a normal routine so I can get a better perception of how everything operates.”
He plans to sit back and observe for the first month or two before making any serious changes.
Due to the reductions, a lot of people will be teaching different subjects than last year. Twenty-seven teachers lost their jobs when cuts were made.
“Hopefully that transition is smooth and administrators are going to have to understand that there’s some growing pains there,” Mock said.
He has already started prioritizing the aspects of the district he wants to address in the beginning of the year.
Number one on his list is the move into the new McCormick Middle School building. Children will make the transition sometime in November.
“I would say the second one is working with the board and trying to figure out where their vision and priorities are for the district,” he said. “And number three is working on a five-year forecast for our finances because our finances are OK for about a year and then after that we’re going to have to either be on the ballot or continue to make reductions. We’re really thin right now. If we continue to make reductions it’s really going to affect delivery.”
For the last three weeks, Mock and the administrative team have been working on the high school schedule because the cutbacks affected class offerings and electives. Some students had two and three study halls because the classes simply weren’t there.
He said the district is considering bringing back a half-time English and math instructor to make up for the gaps.
“We still have the curriculum (director) position in our forecast because we eliminated it but we know we have to do something with it,” Mock said. “And Tim Simpson, who left as a principal, his salary is still there so it’s not that it’s going to affect the general fund. There’s some money available there but I can’t spend it all because who knows what next year’s going to bring.”
And the district won’t be receiving much help from the state.
Mock said he’s expecting to get $100,000 less from Columbus than last year, which means he might need to look at services such as transportation and lunch menus.
Enrollment is also taking a negative toll on the district. Mock said the upper grade levels are keeping afloat but the lower grades are dropping. The elementary school is only expecting about 70 kindergartners.
If that trend continues, Mock said the district will need to look at staffing and facilities in the next four or five years.
Mock plans to operate by committees as he’s done for many years. The purpose of the committees is to conduct research and present findings to the board so elected officials can make well-informed decisions. Committees are also a good way to get the community involved.
“Every decision at the top has to be what’s best for kids and if it’s not you don’t go in that direction,” he said.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Wellingtion Schools administrators Paul Holland, Dennis Mock, Tim Wulfhoop, Craig Housum, and Laura Groboske pose for a picture outside the old McCormick Middle School.