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Sweep of school leadership discussed

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At the regular Dec. 10 school board meeting, board members considered the attributes they will seek in their upcoming search to hire several top administrators. At that meeting, longtime Yellow Springs High School Principal John Gudgel officially announced his retirement at the end of this school year, and 10-year District Treasurer Joy Kitzmiller, who has accepted a position with Cedar Cliff schools, announced her resignation. Kitzmiller will also stay until the end of the year.

The board is also seeking replacements for former Mills Lawn Principal Christine Hatton and District Superintendent Norm Glismann.

According to Interim Superintendent Tony Armocida, the district is in a period of renewal, with four top-level administrative positions in a period of transition. The administrative sweep may lead to a younger, more dynamic group of administrators who have the same level of energy the current set of administrators brought to the table when they began their tenure a decade ago, he said, stating that his focus is helping to get the district the best administrative team possible.

“I think over time we have rested on our laurels a little bit. I think it’s time for renewal,” he said. “I think what I’m supposed to do for you guys is to try to get you the best administrative staff we can — the top-notch people who will take this great little place and make it absolutely world class.”

The new skill set required to lead the district into the future, according to recent school meetings involving administrators, board members, parents and community members, includes an understanding of the community, clear experience in special education, and the ability to think outside of the box in curriculum design and programming. The next administrators will need to balance community values with the realities of a tightening revenue stream and increasing state mandates, Armocida said.

“This is a high context culture,” he said at the board meeting. “This is the kind of place where you have to sit down and spend time with people and talk to them, and get to know them.”

Near the end of the school board meeting, President Aïda Merhemic presented an overview of the process used during the last superintendent search. The process involved 15 community members who formed sub-committees and met weekly or bi-weekly over the course of a full year. The search resulted in 30 candidates, and the decision to hire Norm Glismann was unanimous. Contrary to some community members’ concerns, references were checked during the last search process, according to board members and Gudgel, who was on the reference committee.

The community surveys distributed throughout the search process had ample space for narrative responses, Merhemic said, and 11 community forums were held throughout town to seek feedback, resulting in what she called an extensive list of attributes the community would value in an administrator.

Armocida recommended that members of the next search committee keep their feet on the ground when checking the compatibility of a new candidate with the intellectual, and sometimes demanding, nature of the larger school community. He recommended interviewing assistant administrative staff and others who could vet the quality of a candidate’s daily interactions. The expectation is that the superintendent will be involved in the community, he said, and the goal is to find someone who fits that description.

But the committee can’t just put all of the its energy into exploring the candidates who present themselves to the district, according to school board member Sean Creighton. Rather, he said, the committee should consider becoming more proactive in order to find the best candidates.

“We put it out there to the world, so people who were looking for that job may have found it,” Creighton said, “but what we might not have done is gone out to the world to find the person we want.”

According to recent interviews, both Kitzmiller and Gudgel were actively recruited into their current administrative positions. The board met Dec. 14 for a work session regarding the upcoming hiring process to fill these administrative positions for the 2010–2011 school year.

In other school board business:
• Anne Erickson, who was attending her final regular school board meeting as a member of the board, was thanked for her service to the board and the district of Yellow Springs.

“When it came to the hard stuff that nobody knows about, the levy committees, the union negotiations, Anne was there,” Richard Lapedes said.

• Board members passed two policies that govern student use of wireless communication devices and other electronic equipment. Replacement policy #5136 states that students may possess electronic devices on school grounds, but that they must be turned off completely unless specific permission is obtained by the building principal. Bus drivers can allow students to power game devices and phones at their own discretion.

New policy #5136.01 states that battery-powered devices, including cameras, laser lights, PDAs and music devices, are not allowed on school grounds. The use of cameras or audio recorders is expressly prohibited by the policy, unless special permission is obtained.

Creighton noted that he would like to see language in the policy that would make exceptions for learning that is aided by electronic and wireless devices. Board members agreed the policy could be revisited.

• A new policy, #7440.01, authorizes video surveillance and electronic monitoring at various school sites and on buses, for the stated purpose of preventing theft and vandalism through deterrence and digital documentation. In addition, the policy authorizes security staff and the superintendent to carry portable video recorders.

Video documentation may only be used to support orderly activities of the district, or as evidence in legal situations, the policy states, and video recordings may become part of the student’s educational file. However, since the recordings would be considered confidential, parents would not have access to them under the Ohio Student Records Statute and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, except under written request that pertains to a certain disciplinary action. Likewise, teachers may request to view a portion of a recording relating to a disciplinary action.

• Revised policy #7540 states that the board supports the use of networked computer systems that aid educational development, provided students are educated about proper online behavior, including interacting on social networks.

• New policy #7540.02 authorizes staff and students to create and publish Web pages that reflect the professional image of the district and educate, inform, and communicate, provided other copyright and permissions are cleared before publishing.

• The first reading of new policy #5335 on the care of students with chronic health conditions was passed by board members. The policy states that students with allergies, seizures, diabetes, and other health or mental conditions will be provided a free and appropriate public education. All information about students will be “safeguarded as personally identifiable information.”

The policy also states that the district will coordinate services, implement annual training and designate certain staff to have responsibility for specialized services needed by students.

• In finance, Joy Kitzmiller reported that the new lunch program is running at a deficit of only $2,400 this year, which is less than previous years. Considering the outlay of equipment and the doubling of the lunchroom costs required to choose the district’s new food service provider, this clearly shows that students are buying lunch, Kitzmiller said. Building administrators and staff have reported that students are pleased with their new options in breakfast and lunch.

• Information from the district’s contracted program audit, which will assess the district’s offerings and costs against other similar districts, has started coming in to administrators, Armocida said, but the state requires that the data not be made public until the release of the final report.

• The board approved Shirley Martin and John Gill as substitute teachers at $80 per day, $40 per half day, for the 2009–2010 school year. Robert Bostick was approved as a substitute custodian at $10 per hour, and Terry Toliver was approved as a substitute aide, also at $10 per hour.

• Board members approved Jeff Murphy at $1,871 for the co-curricular position of spring musical director and $468 for choreographer.

• The next regularly scheduled school board meeting begins early on Thursday, Jan. 14. That meeting will be kicked off at 6 p.m. with a yearly tax budget organizational meeting. The regular meeting commences directly thereafter, and agendas can be accessed from the district’s Web site one day prior to the meeting.

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