‘We could be so much better’: BG school board member talks about future after levy loss

Something has to be done with Bowling Green’s school facilities, and the issue cannot continue to be kicked down the road.

Kenwood and Conneaut elementaries, as well as the high school, have been subpar for years and the problems keep getting worse, said Ryan Myers at a recent Rotary Club meeting.

Myers is finishing his second year on the Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education.

“This cannot continue to stay on the back burner, because it’s not going away,” he said. “Honestly, this feels like we have the buildings on hospice.

“Our buildings are not good. I don’t know how else to say it,” Myers said.

Myers stressed more than once that his comments were his opinion, and he was not speaking as a representative of the entire board.

“Clearly, it’s heartbreaking for me. It’s disappointing, infuriating,” Myers said about the November loss of an issue that would have funded a new and renovated high school.

Myers, who is the father of a seventh grader and a fourth grader, said he was passionate about the topic of the district’s facilities.

One of the hardest things of the loss was the day after, when his children asked him “why won’t people vote for us?”

Myers said he couldn’t answer, “and that’s a little tough.”

He reminded his audience that if a $72 million issue had passed when it was first on the ballot in November 2017, it would have addressed the needs of all buildings by consolidating the elementaries and repairing the high school.

If passed then, those buildings would be operating today.

Funding requests for facilities also failed in May 2018 and November 2019.

Now, a $70 million request in November 2022 – which incidentally was for one building but was at the same amount as the issue five years ago – also has failed, Myers said.

The board had stepped back and involved the community with the facilities advisory committee to study the issue and give a presentation to the board.

The committee included members who opposed previous facilities plans, Myers said.

The committee ultimately made a recommendation to the community and the school board.

“We took that recommendation … and we said we were going to accept this,” Myers said. “Clearly, that failed.”

Reasons he has heard for ballot failures are voters don’t like the superintendent or school board members, spending money on the turf project at the high school was not necessary, people like their neighborhood schools and it’s too expensive.

“That’s the center of conversation and that is unfortunate,” Myers said.

Not one time did he hear people talk about students, the development of the city or the need to attract young families to the area.

“We as adults continue to get focused on the reasons (that are not) the focal point, which should be the students,” Myers said.

He said a bright spot is the staff, and one of the most rewarding things of being on the school board is watching what the staff do every day.

What he finds frustrating is that they don’t have the buildings to support the passion of the teachers, said Myers, who has worked in education for 23 years.

“That’s BG for you” has been heard by staff members visiting other communities, he said.

“That’s bothersome for me,” he said. “We could be so much better.”

He said the facilities issue has to turn into some kind of movement, that this has to be a community and city issue.

“The power of numbers takes care of everything,” Myers said.

He asked his audience to be aware of the reality of the situation and visit Kenwood, Conneaut and the high school. A tour can be arranged.

The combination property-income tax issue passed in 17 of 19 city precincts and failed in all by two of the eight precincts located in the country.

A 57% approval rate in the city would have been enough to pass the issue, said Rotary member Andrew Newlove, who is a member of the Wood County Board of Elections board.

Myers said that the district hasn’t used state money for facilities because Bowling Green would only receive 15-18% from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to help fund a project. That would be in at least 10 years if any funding remained available, he said.

It also was the recommendation of the facilities committee to not use state funding, Myers said.

In answer to another question, Myers said the next time the issue could be on the ballot is May.

“There is no concrete plan,” he said.

This impacts all of us, Newlove said.

“It’s affecting everyone, no matter where you live or if you have kids in school,” he said.

Rotarian Gary Keller, a former principal in the district, said that when families move their children out of the district because of building conditions, it’s a double-edged sword. First, they have no compulsion to support the local schools, and state money follows the child out of the district, he said.

One Rotary member said the issues have failed because landowners don’t want to pay more taxes.

Myers pointed out funding for the one elementary was 50-50 income and property taxes, and the split was 70-30 for the high school, with the higher amount coming from property taxes.

“We’ve tried to appease and work with different groups,” he said.

“We’ve got to be the adults in the room, find our shared values of what’s important to our community, and educating our children has to be in the top one or two,” said Rotary Club President Trevor Jessee.

“We have to do something now,” Myers said.