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"Westerville Where?" ~ Wrong!
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Dear Editor,

 

I was amazed to see an editorial in the Dispatch, written by the Dispatch staff, and a letter to the editor on September 24th, that contained so much innuendo and misinformation about the Westerville School District that I feel compelled to respond.

 

The editorial titled, Westerville Where? does a great disservice to the entire community of Westerville. It implies that the administration and the Board of Education did not take time or make an effort to find the best solution possible with regard to redistricting and states that it removes any sense of community. Indeed the opposite is true. The redistricting committee worked diligently to assign neighborhood areas to the same high school attendance area. 

 

The Westerville School District is NOT your typical suburban school district; it comprises seven municipalities, as well as over 52 square miles and is the 9th largest district in the State of Ohio, with over 14,000 students.  Its size alone creates problems other suburban school districts do not have. Yet the district strives to balance diversity in all its school populations, which is no small feat.

 

The historical boundaries of the Westerville school district extend from Morse Road in the south to Big Walnut Road in the north, east to the eastern edge of the Hoover reservoir, and west to Cleveland Avenue.  There is often confusion about importing students or allowing students from outside the City of Westerville to attend these schools. The school districts southern boundary of Morse Road has existed since the 1800s where the Brick School House on Cherry Bottom and Morse Roads was built, but it is in the northern part of the district in Delaware County homes are now being built.  Students from outside the Westerville city or village limits have always attended Westerville Schools since the 1800s. There are 90 different languages spoken within our schools, representing students from 43 countries.  Each student in our schools should be allowed to experience this diversity.

 

The editorial even mocked the name of the newest high school in that it is not centrally located in the district. Granted, it is not a particularly imaginative name; however, it is consistent with the other schools and eliminates the problem of having one named school and two others geographically named. This avoids the possible class problem that could occur if it were the only named school.

 

Populations at all three high schools were carefully assigned to represent a cross-section of the district. This was done to avoid having one school or another be labeled as the rich kids school, but instead to mirror our diverse community. Our four middle schools are not feeder schools and, therefore, students from each middle school attend all three high schools. This process allows students to have friends at each high school, and it reduces rivalries so endemic to other district high school populations. The Dispatch article even referred to the years when the North-South game had to be cancelled due to the seriousness of the rivalry. The North-South game has been very successful for the last 16 years without any major incident, thanks in part, to the fact that we do not have feeder middle schools. Ours is the only district in central Ohio that currently has its high schools play each other. This is something the entire Westerville community is proud of and has reason to be, and when Westerville Central joins in the rivalry in a year or two, the same friendly competition is expected.

 

The Dispatch stated school leaders could think of some positive ways to focus students and their parents attention on doing well in school, having fun in extracurricular activities, representing their school well in and around Westerville things to be really proud ofrather than on who has cooler clothes and a better car. The author of this statement apparently has not been in Westerville, or in its schools, lately to see that this has always been the focus of the Westerville schools.

 

Each of our high schools takes great pride in its internal community as well as the community of Westerville. Each one has its unique atmosphere, its unique traditions.  The primary focus at each high school is to provide a safe learning environment for our students. Our students excel academically and athletically and spend countless hours in community service in and around Westerville. I urge the editorial staff at the Dispatch to visit each of our high schools and see for themselves the quality learning taking place in Westerville.

 

It is inflammatory and inaccurate editorializing that causes rifts in communities. Letters to the editor by uninformed residents who purport to live in Westerville for 27 years, yet are so unaware of how the school district was formed or how it is operated, cause such misinformation to be blatantly spread throughout the community. The Dispatch has a responsibility to its readers to fully research the information available and present it responsibly to the public, setting an example to the letter-writing public. This editorial and Letter to the Editor clearly misrepresent Westerville and all it stands for.

 

Kathy Cocuzzi 

Westerville Voters On Target for Education