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From the Print

May 12 school board meeting— School fiscal future looks brighter

As the 2015–16 school year drew to a close this month, the Yellow Springs Board of Education conducted its last meeting of the school year Thursday evening, May 12, by looking back at staff and student accomplishments and looking ahead toward projected financial expectations.

“It’s been quite an exciting year, that’s for sure,” Board President Aïda Merhemic said at the meeting. A highlight was the recently announced US News and World Report ranking that placed Yellow Springs High School at number 13 (out of 890) in the listing of Best High Schools in Ohio, as well as 391st (out of 19,908) in the country and No. 1 in the Dayton region.

Also, YSHS and McKinney Middle School Principal Tim Krier, on behalf of the district, presented plaques to two longtime teachers who are retiring: middle school English teacher Aurelia Blake and high school Spanish teacher Kathryn Burkland. Blake is retiring after 19 years, while Burkland is leaving after 18 years. Krier described both women as educators who are passionate about teaching and care deeply about their students.

Also in attendance Thursday were several students from Brian Knostman’s fourth-grade class. The students presented the results of a nearly year-long PBL project in which their class envisioned and designed a new elementary school building. The line of inquiry reportedly began in the fall when Knostman pulled a string that was hanging from the ceiling and a cloud of dust fell. “We need a new school,” a student said at the time, and Knostman challenged the class to explore what that might look like.

After surveying everyone in the school community ­— from students to teachers to custodians to cafeteria staff ­— and investigating such issues as environmental factors and useful and appropriate technologies, the students came up with a list of 22 new suggestions, ranging from a gray water detention system to sky lights in the cafeteria to an outdoor classroom to robots that cleaned the halls at night. The class also gave their detailed designs to LJB Inc., a Miamisburg-based engineering and architectural firm with which board member Evan Scott is affiliated, and the staff turned those designs into professional blueprints and illustrations.

In other school board business:
• District Treasurer Dawn Bennett presented an updated five-year forecast that was more favorable than projections presented in October, as the district ends the school year with higher revenues and lower expenditures than anticipated. The revenue over expenditures for the year is $423,951 higher than initially forecast, Bennett reported. The ending cash balance for the 2015-16 school year is $4,037,635, with a total revenue over expenses of $577,203.

Some reasons for the better-than-anticipated numbers, Bennett said, include an increase in property values resulting in higher real estate tax revenues; a 6 percent increase in personal property tax revenues, as opposed to an anticipated 2 percent increase; and higher open enrollment numbers as well as higher open enrollment special education billings.

While she described the five-year forecast process as “a shot in the dark,” she said she anticipates some of the more positive numbers to continue to carry through into the future, particularly the property tax revenues from recent housing developments in town.

• The superintendent reported on plans for the implementation of the Yellow Springs Deeper Learning Training Center (more details were in a story in last week’s paper) and, relatedly, several grant proposals by other school districts in which Yellow Springs is named as a training source. Successful funding of the grants will mean more revenue for YS schools, he said.

• The board approved the creation of a half-time special education aide position at Mills Lawn, three hours a day, five days a week, as well as the creation of a .33 full-time equivalent performance and live arts position at the McKinney Middle School, both effective the 2016-17 school year.

• Superintendent Basora introduced two new teachers, Kevin Lydy, who will teach social studies at the high school, and Christopher Sidner, who will take over Kathryn Burkland’s Spanish classes.

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