WINTERSVILLE - What's more important than a good education?
That's the message Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla and others sent to the public Wednesday evening at the Indian Creek community levy rally.
"I'm supporting all of our local school levies. Some people may say that I love taxes, but no, I just love children," said Abdalla. "I always say if you can afford it, support it. It's frustrating when parents have kids in the district that can support it and don't."
RALLY TIME — Indian Creek Local School District students, staff, administrators and residents gathered Wednesday evening in the high school gymnasium for a community rally in support of the proposed 4.95-mill bond issue and operating levy that will appear on Tuesday’s ballot. Superintendent John Rocchi, at the end of the rally, asked all children in attendance to gather at the stage. The event included guest speakers, comments from current students and performances by the marching band. - Jeremy Kins
The high school gymnasium was crowded with supporters, and informational flyers were available at the door, along with papers to pledge support. Red and yellow balloons decorated the stage along with a projector screening of the proposed new high school plans.
Listed as Issue 6 on Tuesday's ballot, the district is proposing a 4.95-mill bond issue and operating levy.
The 4.95-mill levy - a 3.5-mill bond issue and a 1.45-mill five-year operating levy - would provide the school district with $22 million for a new high school building. The school district would be responsible for $15 million, according to officials, while the Ohio School Facilities Commission would provide $7 million.
The 1.45-mill operating levy would help the district maintain programs, staffing levels and daily operations, and will generate $473,000 annually, officials said. In addition, the millage would provide renovations to Wayne, Wintersville and Hills elementary schools.
"When you look at it, there is no doubt that we need a new high school. You can say you don't want higher taxes, but we need the high school," said John Rocchi, superintendent, mentioning the current school was built in 1947 and the district has been using 12 portable classrooms that are more than 20 years old to support the high student population.
"This school wasn't built for this many students. We need to progress to the future with new buildings. People need to get behind it for the community. Better schools equal more value," said Jim Kirkpatrick, resident of Cross Creek Township and former school board member from 1992-00.
For residents under the age of 65, the levy, if passed, will cost the average home owner less than $10 per month, and those over 65 who qualify for the Homestead Exemption will pay less than $7 per month.
The high school marching band performed during the rally, opening with the national anthem followed by the alma mater and fight song.
As the crowd danced and cheered, Rocchi took the stage and offered remarks.
"We have the best education in the valley. Great community, great parents and great kids. The pride the community has shown the past few months has been overwhelming," Rocchi said.
Senior students Anthony Davis and Brooke Piergallini were welcomed to the stage to share their thoughts and experiences at the high school.
"Everyone always told me to enjoy high school. I stand here today with three months left (of high school) and I am already wishing I was a freshman again," said Davis. "I ask everyone to reflect on their time spent here and think of if high school was their best time. For the young, the least we can do is provide for them. The levy will affect those that are coming. I truly believe we are as strong as ever and Issue 6 is for the better of the community."
"There are 700 students in a building built in 1947. It can no longer meet demands and we need new, essential progress," said Piergallini.
Other speakers, including levy Chairman Larry George and Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, also took the stage to offer remarks about school memories and support for the levy.
The district will hold a rally at 6 p.m. Monday in front of Macy's at the Fort Steuben Mall. The marching band, choirs and a flash mob will perform.
"We need to ensure that generations to come have buildings they can be proud of, and that are education remains competitive in a global society," said Rocchi.