Year in Review

2013 Yellow Springs year in review: village schools

• Project-based Learning
• YSCAPE and school funding

PBL and YSCAPE

As a symbol of the project-based curriculum the school district began last year, in January a new sculpture known as Triple Shadow Double Frame was erected behind Mills Lawn. The steel structure was designed by architects Keith Mitnick and Mireille Roddier as both art and a tool with which to learn about art, math, science and the natural world.

To help fund the implementation of PBL as the main tool of the district’s Class of 2020 Strategic Plan, the district agreed to the use of a private fund, known as the Yellow Springs Exempted Village Schools Capital Endowment Fund, or YSCAPE. The fund is owned by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation and administered by an advisory committee of both YSCF members and school district members.

The fund was seeded with a $150,000 donation from Maureen Lynch and former school board member Richard Lapedes, and the first funds were spent to support teacher training events in the fall 2012 and summer 2013 with PBL coaches from High Tech High School in San Diego and the Dayton Regional STEM School.

In the spring the fund became somewhat controversial among school board members, some of whom felt the school board needed more information about the funding needs and more control over the fund. The tension bled into teacher and administrator contract negotiations over the summer, which resulted in the near resignation of both the district Superintendent Mario Basora and Treasurer Dawn Weller. Ultimately, the board approved the contracts largely as recommended before the start of the school year, and the controversy subsided. Staff, teachers and administrators all received across the board 3.5 percent raises for three years, with Basora receiving a five-year contract and a 12 percent raise the first year, 3.5 percent each subsequent year.

Still, the district continued to discuss how to fund the 2020 plan, which in order to be fully implemented by 2020, will demand an additional estimated $500,000 over the next eight years, Basora said in December. The cost would cover a development director, a PBL coach and internship coordinator, and technology support tools.

Meanwhile, the district’s teachers continued to increase their focus on project-based lessons. For example, over the winter, Mills Lawn School spent eight weeks creating Project Peace: Confronting Bullying through Art, a multimedia triptych featuring portraits of historic peacemakers, and exhibited it at Antioch University Midwest. In April, high school chemistry students created games based on the Periodic Table, and fifth graders published a 40-page guide to the Glen Helen Nature Preserve with students’ stories, art work and photography. In May the high school students in graphic arts and English created a public advertising campaign for The Foodbank, Inc., a regional hunger relief network, and in October the high schoolers participated in the Yellow Springs Bronze Symposium, a public art project in which professional artists helped students create and cast their own aluminum medallions.

Budget

Though local state funding losses of about $200,000 since 2010 showed no signs of recovering, in May the school board approved a sunny five-year forecast that predicted 2013 revenue $200,000 in excess of expenses. Spending was expected to be about $450,000 under revenues for the following two years as well. The cash forecast showed reserves bulking up to about $2.6 million by 2016.

Then in November, the community rallied once again to renew the school’s permanent improvement levy at the current rate. The second levy in as many years, the PI levy was a renewal of a modest five-year 1.085-mill levy that generates about $145,000 annually and is restricted to spending on school facilities and other tangible assets.

Other school items

In April Yellow Springs High School/ McKinney Middle School was ranked 24th out of 892 public high schools in the state by U.S. News and World Report. The rankings, based on state tests, college readiness, racial and economic diversity and student/teacher ratios, put Yellow Springs schools in the top 2–3 percent of high schools in the state and second in the Dayton area.

Lois Miller and Hunter Lawson were named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of Yellow Springs High School Class of 2013.

Mary Anne Christopher retired after 25 years with the district as a math and English teacher, and finally the district librarian. First and second grade teacher Ellen Guest retired after 35 years with the district. Sarah Lowe retired after 35 years as a McKinney health and physical education teacher. Brad Newsome resigned after 16 years coaching Yellow Springs High School boys basketball.

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