Under new leadership, Waterloo pledges greater transparency and accountability

Waterloo Elementary School. Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

Hoping to improve communication with residents and build support for future levies, Waterloo school district will roll out a series of focus groups, surveys and progress reports to parents, as part of its new “three-year strategic plan.”

The plan was announced at the district’s monthly board meeting April 14.  

In a statement, Superintendent Angela Terella said the plan will help Waterloo “create a challenging and accessible educational program to support all students’ futures goals.”  

The district created the plan using input from district staff, parents, business owners and community leaders. They did not collect feedback from students. They also conducted focus groups to evaluate the needs of the district’s “stakeholders.”  

Terella touted the administration’s collaborative effort in creating the plan.  

“The district is not just the ownership of those that work here,” she said. “It is a heartbeat of the community. We want it to be the heartbeat of the community.”  

District leaders presented an agenda detailing the plan’s goals and their timeline, which stretches through the 2024 school year.  

Among the objectives are to implement “external stakeholder surveys regarding communication,” create more focus groups to “collect feedback,” and report the district’s progress to the community “on a regular basis.”

“The words that kept coming up were curriculum, communication, staff development and finances, so that’s really what we centered the strategic plan around,” Waterloo High School Principal Lauren Willis said.   

A complete description of the strategic plan will be made available on the district’s website. (It was not there as of April 18.) The plan will outline action steps for reaching its goals, along with who is responsible and when it’s expected to be done.  

“It’s so thorough,” Board of Education President Brian Pusateri said. “It’s nice to see this kind of focus and this kind of path forward.”  

As goals are met, the district says it will continue to update families on its progress.  

“Each action step will turn green when it’s completed,” Terella said. “It’s very transparent.”

Waterloo has failed funding levies 13 times over the last six years, and residents will not see one on the upcoming May ballot. 

The district’s deficit for the 2021 fiscal year was just over $470,000, according to the Ohio Department of Education. But because of a recent boost in tax assessments, the district’s financial forecast over the next three years is encouraging for district leaders.  

“A lot of people question the finances, and that’s OK. That’s their right,” Willis said. “But I think just us being open and honest internally and externally about the finances is a really big part of this plan going forward.”  

Waterloo Local School District has 867 enrolled students among three schools and 54 teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Mason Lawlor is a freelance journalist based in Kent. He is a Kent State journalism and business graduate and has worked for WKSU and KentWired.