Thursday, February 26, 2015

OPS will feel the impact of the OMU rate increase

OPS Community:

As you are probably aware from recent news reports, the Owensboro Public Schools will soon feel the impact of a significant rate increase for electricity used throughout the school district.  Last week we were informed by Owensboro Municipal Utilities that the district’s rates would increase sharply because the utility will no longer provide reduced electric rates to non-profit organizations, including schools. 

We certainly have appreciated having a “school rate” for more than three decades rather than a “commercial rate” charged to for-profit businesses.  We recognize that they have increasing costs and we will have to pay a larger share, but transitioning our schools to a “commercial rate” over a short period of time will be difficult.

OPS is currently paying approximately $349,000 annually for electricity.  An initial rate increase will go into effect July 1.  Then, additional increases, planned for the next six years, will raise rates for OPS to $1.3 million.  An annual increase of about $1 million per year will certainly impact our staffing and programs we offer. 

We certainly want to pay our fair share.  But, this represents a significant burden to our schools. To take the new electric rate out of our operating funds from this year forward represents a real loss to us in terms of money that we would use to benefit our students.

To compound the matter, the City Commission is planning an occupational tax increase that is part of the overall revenue adjustments between the City and OMU.  This increase will impact the paychecks of all OPS employees.

I wanted to make everyone in our school district community aware of this, but I do not want to create undue alarm.  Our board and leadership do not plan to immediately cut $1 million out of our budget.  We will make the necessary adjustments over time, but will need to be diligent and disciplined about absorbing the costs of this rate increase.  We also plan to implement aggressive plans to become more efficient and conserve power across the district. 

We will continue working with the City and OMU to try and find a mutually beneficial solution.  We know the status quo will need to change.  We will do everything in our power to stand up and support the students and staff of our school district. 

I urge anyone in our district community with specific concerns related to this or the occupational tax increase to reach out to members of the Owensboro City Commission.   The first reading on this plan will be Tuesday followed by a final vote on March 17 at 5 pm at City Hall.

Nick Brake


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Owensboro Innovation Academy introduces new class

The Owensboro Innovation Academy introduced its first class at a public ceremony on Thursday at the Riverpark Center.  The class will be made up of 100 students from both local and regional middle schools.  The students will enter the school as freshman in fall 2015.

“We are so excited to welcome the first ever class to the Owensboro Innovation Academy.  We are working hard to make the Owensboro Innovation Academy a one-of-a-kind high school that opens the doors of success for our students,” said Beth Benjamin, Owensboro Innovation
Architect David Dotson's rendering of the Innovation Academy space
Academy Head Teacher.

Here is a breakdown of where the eighth-graders are coming from:

Owensboro Middle School: 53
College View Middle School: 11
Daviess County Middle School: 18
Burns Middle School: 15
Heritage Christian School: 1
McLean County: 1
Homeschool: 1

 “Combining real world application with new innovative teaching methods, the OIA will provide classes in fields like computer information technology, life sciences bio-medical, industrial engineering, and entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Benjamin.   

Each year, OIA will add about 100 eighth-graders.  Four years from now, the academy will have around 400 students.  

Owensboro Innovation Academy will be located in the lower level of the Centre For Business and Research on Allen Street.  In a special called meeting, the Owensboro  Board of Education authorized the execution of a lease for 21,000 square feet of space in the lower level of the business incubator.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Local Financial Institutions, Messenger-Inquirer, and Public Library Team Up For Owensboro READS

The Owensboro Public Schools announced today a partnership between six local banks, the Daviess County Public Library, and the Messenger-Inquirer to enhance the district’s nationally recognized Owensboro READS program.

As part of the program six local financial institutions will each adopt an OPS elementary and preschool and the Messenger-Inquirer will adopt the Owensboro Middle School. 

The Owensboro READS Initiative has taken off since it was launched last year.  It has been featured in media outlets throughout the United States and even in England.  Summers reading camps, an “Owensboro READS Week” proclamation by the City of Owensboro, and the “Read 30 Minutes A Day Challenge” have made Owensboro READS a success. 

“We are incredibly thankful to live in a community where businesses support education.  I hope these exciting new partnerships will show residents how important literacy is in our world,” said Dr. Nick Brake, OPS Superintendent.

The Evansville Federal Teachers Credit Union will adopt Hager Preschool.  Republic Bank will adopt Newton Parrish.  First Security Bank will adopt Sutton.  Old National Bank will adopt Cravens.  Independence Bank will adopt Estes.  US Bank will adopt Foust.  By adopting the schools, the banks will supply volunteers to the schools to read to classes on a regular basis.  The financial intuitions will also purchase Little Free Libraries, which are kiosks that hold books at each school.  The idea is that when you take a book, you leave a book.

“The biggest thing with these Little Free Libraries is books are available to the community 24/7. You can’t beat the location of the little libraries either because they are right where the students live,” said Jim Blanton, Daviess County Public Library Director.

In addition to the Little Free Libraries, OPS is working on a project with the Daviess County Public Library that will allow the library to issue an OPS/DCPL Library Card to every student in the district. 

The Messenger-Inquirer is supporting the Owensboro Reads Initiative by providing a newspaper for every student once a week at the Owensboro Middle School North and South Campuses.

“Middle school is the perfect time to put a newspaper in a student’s hand.  Being literate is about more than just having the ability to read and write.  It’s about knowing what’s going on in their community and the world,” said Brake.