New day dawns on newer, stronger Old Fort

After a tremendous amount of work, the transfer of the Bettsville School District to Old Fort Local Schools now is official. Change is difficult, but sometimes necessary. As the communities and staffs ready for the upcoming school year, I hope all will keep in mind this transfer occurred to facilitate what is best for the students in both districts.

This transfer will allow the newer, stronger Old Fort Local Schools to move forward with, among other things, a stronger financial forecast, more course offerings and two buildings that are more conducive to quality learning and teaching. The best buses from both schools are merged to make a stronger fleet. A highly qualified staff of teachers from both buildings will be providing instruction to students in the traditional class sizes that have made Old Fort the school of choice for not only resident students in the district, but from the surrounding area, as well.

Many members of the staffs of Bettsville and Old Fort have been busy moving classrooms from one building to another already. Many of these members have been in a room for 10 or more years and are now having to move. Again, change is not easy, but I’ve not heard one complaint from anyone. There is an air of excitement as teachers move into new rooms where each will have SMART Board technology in a building that is climate controlled.

Community members and businesses have been a part of the move, as well. Church & Dwight Co., Green Bay Packaging, Steyer Seeds and Old Fort United Methodist Church have provided products, services or equipment to help with the move. Several individuals from both communities have offered their help, as well, with a “just let me know what you need” offer. It is attitudes like these among people and businesses that will make this transfer a success.

I also would be remiss in not thanking The Advertiser-Tribune and The (Toledo) Blade for providing outstanding coverage and stories as the process has taken place. Finally, Jim Lahoski and his staff and board of North Central Ohio Educational Service Center have provided invaluable help in making this transfer a reality.

A community committee comprised of two board members of each district and three community members of each district has been formed to facilitate this transfer and to preserve and honor the heritage of Bettsville’s tradition while moving forward as one district. Having been the principal at Bettsville and now the superintendent at Old Fort for the last three months, I have seen firsthand the pride both districts have in their students and in their history. This community committee is charged with honoring that heritage while moving forward as the “new” Old Fort Local Schools.

While it is a sad day for many residents and alumni of Bettsville, my hope is that it is sad only because the name is gone. The history and heritage will always continue and be a source of pride, while future students will still be a part of a small-school setting and the advantages that go with it.

Very few are aware of the countless hours spent by members of the boards of education of both schools to make this transfer happen. I would like to especially thank Michelle Davis, president, and LeighAnne King, vice president, of the Bettsville Board of Education. They, along with the rest of the Bettsville board, have had the unenviable task of working toward what, in the end, was the end of the Bettsville School District, but doing so knowing that it was best for the students in the district that they represent. They, along with treasurer Jaime Pearson, have made phone calls, sent letters, had meetings, and made and revised countless financial projections for the Ohio Department of Education and for the state legislature to give them timely information.

Finally, without the help and support of State Sen. David Burke, none of this would have ever been possible or taken place. He has taken a personal interest in seeing the transfer through the legislative process and staying in contact with us to let us know where we’ve stood as the process has played out.

We eagerly look forward to opening the doors to the “new” kindergarten through sixth-grade school in Bettsville and the grades 7-12 building in Old Fort Aug. 18. As the staffs, boards and communities come together, it is our hope it will be with a sense of “we” and “us” and not “they” and “them.” The residents and staffs of the district have been given a great opportunity and it is certainly our intent to take the opportunity and make Old Fort Local Schools a district of continuing pride and community. Change can, and will, be good!