Parents, mayors meet over Parma City School District budget troubles

PARMA, Ohio-– More than 100 parents attended a “Save our Schools” meeting in Parma on Saturday.

The slogan is getting lots of attention since the superintendent announced possible cuts to staff, programs and school closings.

“Our kids are devastated,” said Doreen  Kukral, a Parma parent. “No one has had a voice. There is just a small group of people that are making a drastic an enormous decision that will affect every one of these communities and every single child in this school district.”

The mayors of Seven Hills, Parma and Parma Heights led the discussion. All three mayors told FOX 8 they are in agreement that district leaders should have started the conversation with families earlier to warn of the budget crisis and potential consequences.

“Forcing us literally at the 11th hour to decide where we are going to stand,” said Seven Hills Mayor Richard Dell’Aquila. “Are you going to accept this? Are we going to look at other alternatives? Are we going to perhaps take the fight to Columbus to be engaged and involved earlier on would have been very helpful.”

The Parma City School District is currently under “fiscal caution.” The superintendent said $7 million needs to be cut from the budget for fiscal year 2017 and an additional $8 million for fiscal year 2018.

The mayors said their main goal is try to come up with more ways to save money that includes taking possible alternative plans to state leaders.

“What we are trying to do is get options, try to buy time,” said Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter.  “So we will be lobbying to the state as three mayors and getting other elected officials engaged.”

Many people at the meeting were concerned the proposed possible building closures could result in a decrease in property taxes. They also fear fewer young families will choose their community to call home.

“This used to be a very good school system,” Chester Withrow said. “How it got into trouble is the question we have and we are not getting any answers.”

The mayor of Parma Heights echoed those concerns.

“It's difficult enough to get residents, younger families to move into the city,” said Mike Byrne the mayor of Parma Heights.

One of the students in attendance is taking the issue to heart. Colin Czech, 10, said he is planning a student-led protest ahead of the next school board meeting. He spent Saturday handing out fliers to parents. He is a part of the STEM program potentially on the chopping block under the restructuring plan. Colin’s father said that is not the only concern facing his son’s education.

“The current plan he'll have to go back to elementary school, which doesn't help him in the least,” said Ryan Czech. “He's not happy about it and this is why Colin started this whole student-led protest.”

The majority of parents said the biggest issue is the lack of communication between district leaders and families.

“Listen to what others have to say,” Kukral said. “My problem is this school board has not talked to their community.”

A financial plan must be presented to the Ohio Department of Education by Oct. 17, 2016.