Cooley ready for start of school year

·5 min read

Aug. 6—NORWALK — Signed, sealed and delivered.

With three-year contracts secure for both OSPE (Ohio Association of Public School Employees) and the Norwalk Teachers Association, Brad Cooley, the Norwalk City Schools Superintendent, is already looking ahead to the start of the upcoming 2022-23 school year.

Both contracts call for raised of 1.75 percent in the first and second years, and 2 percent in the third year. All employees also will receive stipends of $750 the first and second years, and $500 the third year.

The stipend money will come from ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) funds.

All-staff days will be Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, followed by the first day of school for students on Aug. 23.

"We have two new principals at Main Street and League Street, so as far as working with those two we need to get them where they need to be," Cooley said. "The first of several teacher orientation days was Friday (Aug. 5)."

Cooley said he has a board in his office that lists all of the new teachers and aides. There was still one more position to fill.

"It will be 13 (new) teachers," he said.

It's not easy finding new teachers. Cooley said when he came to the district it was common to hire new teachers at a lesser salary to save money.

"Education and schooling is no different than any other business ... people are tough to find," he said. "If people are more experienced, but a little more expensive, we will bring them in. It's a change from 'lets always find the least-expensive candidate.'

"It's somewhat of an arm's race right now," Cooley added. "People appreciate the package (benefits) Norwalk offers and that helps us hire cooks and custodians where they can make the same money other places."

As for the busing situation, which became an issue at the end of last school year, Cooley said the district has one more driver who needs to pass the required test.

"If she passes we will have all of our fourteen routes covered," he said. "Every day last year you had your fingers crossed .. we had nobody who was the backup to the backup driver."

The school board just accepted a long list of substitutes at Tuesday meeting, so Cooley said they should be covered there.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Huron County Commissioner Harry Brady met with the board in executive session.

"Public information will be talked about on the 16th (the next board meeting)," Cooley said. "While you can put those pieces together, I will hold off until then. With that said, we own 20 acres across from Norwalk High School.

"That is the space we are planning to build our new elementary school. We are looking to build a nice campus for years to come."

Cooley said while talk of a new school is being kicked around, that's all it is — talk.

But he did say when the Ohio Facility Construction Commission comes calling, the district better be ready.

"The process is rolling again," he said. "They can't tell you when you will be called, but the wheels are turning. If you cannot fund the project, your name will be skipped. If our name is called, we will be ready to go."

Many options have been kicked around. One is to build a pre-K through sixth grade building across the street from the high school, and keep the middle school, located not far north of the high school campus on Christie Ave.

One option is to make the new building a pre-K through eighth grade. That would eliminate five buildings — Maplehurst, League and Pleasant elementary schools, Main Street School, and the board office on Benedict Avenue.

But, Cooley said, a lot of things have to happen before even making any decisions.

"We want to make sure when our name is called, we have all of our ducks in the row," Cooley said. "Three buildings make sense. The less buildings, the better we can service our students."

He did say it is important to move the board offices into the new school.

"We need to be with kids," Cooley said. "The smartest thing is to be with students. We need to walk out the our door and be with students."

Cooley also talked about LifeWise Academy, which is coming to Pleasant Elementary in November.

"We had Rotary on Monday (Aug. 1) and they presented some information," he said. "We are not pushing this. This is a parent decision. Based on what was presented Monday, they have a good sign-up.

"They have buses purchased and the Methodist Church in town is getting retro-fitted. Four teachers have been hired to serve."

LifeWise Academy, a Bible-based program, will be offered to second- and third-graders at the end of the day on Friday's.

"All of the pieces and parts are falling into place," Cooley said. "LifeWise will have the ability to reach out with their goals and what they have to offer."

Cooley also talked about "putting together a strong team with our clinical counselors."

Last year was tougher that the year before, he noted.

"Adding a strong counselor team is something we are very proud of. Bringing people in with a lot of experience."

With all of that said, Cooley listed his goals for the start of the school year:

—Getting principals ready to go and new staff ready to go.

—"My goal is to be ready when OFCC calls."

—Two more years of ESSER funds ... "how are we going to spend our money."

—Securing grants. "Once the ESSER funds are gone we have to secure grants."