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Basora puts schools to task

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Taking the first action step toward turning the Yellow Springs district into a model for 21st century education, Superintendent Mario Basora presented a four-page goal chart and timeline for the current school year to school board members at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 9. The chart included 36 tasks oriented toward four goals: increasing academic achievement for struggling students, establishing an open and positive district culture, creating the Class of 2020 Strategic Plan and identifying ways to reduce the deficit.

As an educational system, “We believe in high expectations, and we also want to have high expectations of ourselves” as leaders, Basora said during the meeting. “The bottom line is we know it’s good for our kids, so why delay it? We want to get things done now.”

Toward the goal of improving the performance of struggling students, Basora’s chart identified himself, District Special Education Supervisor Terry Graves-Strieter, and the two principals, Matt Housh and Tim Krier, as the leaders of the year-long effort. Tasks include researching intervention methods, identifying struggling students and personalizing an intervention plan for them, developing credit recovery options outside the curriculum or online and conducting parent forums regarding academic development.  

For achieving a unified and positive district culture, the chart relies heavily on student, staff and parent surveys to identify the district’s strengths as well as areas that need the most improvement. Two local residents, Cheryl Meyer and Deb Zendlovitz, have volunteered to lead the survey process once at the beginning of the school year and again at the end of the year, Basora said. The school administrative team will then analyze the survey results and use them to develop strategies for improvement, including revising disciplinary plans and implementing a new teacher evaluation system.

Basora and school board President and Vice-president Sean Creighton and Benji Maruyama will lead the year-long effort to establish the district as an exemplary 21st-century education system with the 2020 strategic plan. The process will include administrators integrating the “four C’s” of creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and collaboration, which are the guiding principles of the national organization Partnerships for 21st Century Schools. As part of the shift toward innovative education, the school will also develop a school-wide immersion project.

However, the strategic planning process is still in its fledgling stage. While the 2020 Strategic planning committee interviewed eight consultant candidates in August, a “clear finalist” did not emerge, according to Creighton during the board meeting. The committee may choose to either re-release the request for proposals, choose one of the current candidates, design its own strategic planning process or implement a combination of those options.

Regarding the year’s fourth goal, Basora and district Treasurer Dawn Weller will lead the budget reductions task, according to the chart.

The timelines for each task vary, and some continue throughout the school year and into the summer. While his caveat about the timeline included room to accommodate other priorities that may arise throughout the year, Basora told the school board, “I really believe in the focus on goals.” He plans to give a progress report on the plan each month during school board meetings.

In other school board business:

• The board approved a total budget of $9,504,343 in permanent appropriations for the 2010–11 school year.

The general fund budget total of $8,220,167 included $4,634,053 in salaries; $1,657,363 in fringe benefits; $1,046,377 in purchased services and $461,644 in equipment and capital improvements. The general fund appropriations are higher than they were last spring when the education plan budgeted $8,037,167 for the general fund, due to the addition of the House Bill 264 capital improvement funds to make both the Mills Lawn and high school buildings more energy efficient. But  Weller reported during the meeting that Huntington Bank had purchased the Qualified School Construction Bonds at a zero percent interest rate, provided the district repay the $835,000 loan back in 11 years.  

This year’s capital expenses appear to inflate this year’s budget, but those expenses include a long-term payback in energy savings for the district, board member Richard Lapedes said during the board meeting.

“Operations are actually more efficient this year,” he said. “We’re managing the business responsibly.”

• The Yellow Springs school district met all of the special education management requirements for the 2008–09 school year based on technical criteria established by the Ohio Department of Education. According to the ODE, the district scored 4 of 4 possible points and will not need to take measures to remediate its program.

“This is an indication that we’re good at our process — it’s a big deal,” Basora told the board.

• Superintendent Mario Basora reported that the district is one of 81 districts, among Ohio’s 614 districts, to be rated as excellent with distinction, putting Yellow Springs in the top 13 percent of schools in the state.

He also reported that in an attempt to improve communication, the district would begin to meld the Mills Lawn and high school calendars as well as embark on a trial use of e-mail list-serves and a Facebook page to communicate last-minute information to students and their families.

The YSEA teacher’s union agreed to forgo teachers’ flexible spending account money if the whole district, including administrators, agreed to reduce spending as well. Administrators agreed to reduce office expenses by $3,000, and if the staff agrees to reductions as well, it could mean a $40,000 savings for the district, Basora reported.

• The board approved the following persons for co-curricular positions: Susan Doubt, Donna Haller, Bonita Pence and Stephanie Triplett as senior and junior class co-advisors at $508 each; Karen Crist and Naomi Orme as sophomore and freshman class advisors, respectively, at $268 each; Bonita Pence as cheerleader advisor, $1,017; Joshua Zinger as MLS, McKinney and YSHS Web advisor, $2,034.

Due to the district’s financial difficulties, drama club leaders agreed to fund most of its advisors through ticket sales. While the school budget will continue to fund Jeff Murphy as the spring musical director and choreographer at a stipend of $2,409 and Susan Carlock as musical assistant director at $1,927, others will be funded through gate sales, including fall play director Sarah Elder, originally scheduled at a stipend of $1,606; One Act coordinator Jess Shake, originally scheduled at $749; and musical tech advisor Brian Carlson, scheduled at $749. Drama club advisor Mary Beth Burkholder agreed to perform her duties as a volunteer.

• The board approved the following substitute teachers at a pay rate of $80 per day: Sierra Cooley, Emily Bolen, Amy Dihrkop, Nicole Gay, Laura Gillaugh, Wesley Mercer, Christina Maynard, Lindsay Ragland, Emma Robinow, Joyce Spencer, Victoria Spurgeon, Mitchell Stamm, Kelly Stephens, Kristina Stieger and Kari Tulecke; the following were approved as substitute bus drivers: Susan Butler and Tim Sandlin; and the following as a substitute custodian: Ken Korhonen.

• The board agreed to cancel the second meeting of the month. The school board will meet again on Monday, Oct. 11.

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