Yellow Springs School Board

Board, Basora set contract

Superintendent Mario Basora and the school board have agreed on a 5-year contract.

Superintendent Mario Basora and the school board have agreed on a 5-year contract.

Last week the Yellow Springs District Board of Education and Superintendent Mario Basora came to an agreement about Basora’s contract with the local district, according to an Aug. 8 press release. The board will vote on the five-year amended contract at its regular Sept. 12 meeting.

“We are pleased to announce that the superintendent has withdrawn his application for a position in Wyoming City Schools and is fully committed to continuing our work with the students, educators and community of Yellow Springs for the 2013-2014 school year,” Board Vice President Benji Maruyama stated in the press release.

In an interview this week, Basora agreed that he was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations, which followed a week of district turmoil, during which Basora had applied for a job with the Wyoming Schools after the board delayed approving pay raises for other district administrators. However, the board approved the pay hikes at a recent emergency meeting.

Basora’s new contract provides him a five-year commitment rather than the three-year agreement originally offered by the district.

“I’m happy we agreed on a new contract. I’m excited that we got that behind us and can now focus on the upcoming school year, which is going to be a great one” he said, as the district launches its new Project-Based Learning, or PBL, approach to education.

Basora has ambitious plans for the district and its new approach to learning, he said this week.

“My hope is that in the next five years the Project Based Learning model becomes our niche,” he said, stating that the PBL approach is “very unique” in public schools, and that the local system may be among the first in Ohio to embrace it.

As such, he sees the local district as becoming a model of PBL, a place where teachers from other districts can come to learn the approach and perhaps receive graduate credit for doing so.

“If this works the way we want it to, our teachers will have the opportunity not only to use it in their classrooms, but also teach other adults how to do so,” he said.

The PBL model attempts to engage students in inquiry-based, self-directed learning, with a focus on solving real-world problems. The outcome could be an educational model that’s a “mix of what you’d see in a Montessorri school, a traditional public school and the Antioch School,” Basora said.

The PBL model appeals to him, Basora said, because “I’ve always been interested in helping kids become more empowered, engaged, to feel like they’re making a difference.” And after observing school districts that have implemented the model, he’s a believer.

“We’ve seen it work in the schools we visited,” Basora said. “We’ve seen the results in hard data and that this kind of education makes a difference in kids’ lives. We’ve seen kids excited to come to school each day.”

Basora would also like to see the Yellow Springs school district become a place where more data is collected.

“I’d like to see good hard data, both formal and anecdotal data that shows kids’ achievements using PBL,” he said.

And as a result of all of these efforts, Basora would like to see the local district rise even higher in the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of schools, where this year the local district was ranked 24th in the state.

But the shift to a new learning model won’t be easy, and Basora anticipates some bumps along the way.

“It’s important for the community to know that we need their support to take these risks,” he said. “There will be times when we fail. You can’t take risks without failure.”

And the Yellow Springs district already has an inclination toward the sort of learning that takes place with PBL, he said.

“We have a bent toward this change,” he said, “and now we’re making it the core of our instruction.”

As well as helping provide a solid foundation for the launch of the PBL model, the five-year contract gives his family stability, according to Basora.

“We want to continue living in Yellow Springs,” he said. “Part of what’s nice about this longer contract is that we feel better putting down roots long term.”

The family has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in the past few weeks, he said. And beyond appreciating that support, he continues to value Yellow Springs for its appreciation of diversity.

“Having my kids grow up in a community where they’re not judged by the color of their skin ­— that’s a gift I can give my children,” he said. “That’s why we came here.”

Basora said he could not comment on salary specifics of his new contract, stating it would be premature to do so. The board will officially vote on the contract at its next meeting on Sept. 12.

District Treasurer Dawn Weller continues in negotiations with board leaders on salary issues around her contract, Weller said this week, stating that they are getting close to an agreement. She also stated that she has an interview scheduled this week for the position of treasurer at the Xenia schools.

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