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Four local teachers to retire

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Four teachers with long and distinguished tenure in the Yellow Springs schools gave notice of their resignations at the end of the current school year. At the school board meeting Thursday, Feb. 10, the board accepted the resignations of Yellow Springs High School teachers Joyce McCurdy and Phil Lemkau, and Mills Lawn teachers Shanna Winks and Jutta Galbraith, who have a combined 143 years of experience and institutional memory with the district.

At that meeting, Superintendent Mario Basora and school board members thanked each teacher for their years of dedicated and expert service to the young people of Yellow Springs.

“It’s a sad moment to see these retirees leaving, but it’s also a celebration,” Basora said. “Thank you and congratulations for all your years of service.”

Distinguished as the school district’s longest employee, historian and civics expert, Joyce McCurdy is retiring this year with 43 years of service. McCurdy has taught with a “tremendous amount of dedication, efficacy and love for her job,” Basora said at the meeting. “She has a great background in social studies, and her content knowledge is second to none. She should be honored for her commitment to this community.”

Lemkau came to the district in 1982 as the high school shop teacher. With a masters in zoology, he quickly moved into teaching middle school science at the Arthur Morgan building. Then when the high school needed a physics teacher, he stepped up to fill the position and found the subject that truly suited his personality as a consummate tinkerer, he said this week. During his tenure as the high school’s dedicated physics expert, Lemkau has taken on many independent study students and has seen some pursue careers in the field.

Mills Lawn’s physical education instructor Jutta Galbraith came to Yellow Springs schools in 1976, the same year that McKinney and high school P.E. teachers Sarah Lowe and Kevin O’Brien, who retired in December, also joined the local district. Galbraith has helped students in kindergarten through fifth grade to enjoy creative movement and exercise, and also helped coordinate the annual police department bike ride.

Shanna Winks has taught at Mills Lawn for 36 years. She started as an aide and moved into special education before becoming a full-time first- and second-grade teacher. For the past 10 years she has served as the elementary school’s Title I teacher, providing support for students in need of supplemental instruction in reading and math.

“I am proud to say I am a teacher at Mills Lawn School,” she wrote in her letter of resignation.

During the meeting, Basora thanked Winks for her service.

“Shanna has been on the front lines helping our kids learn to read — she is a bulldog for the kids,” he said.

This year the district offered teachers with 30–35 years of service a retirement incentive of a one-time cash payment of $30,000, and teachers with 36 years or more of credited service a $40,000 payment. The district had six teachers eligible for retirement, four of whom chose to exercise the option. Those four positions will likely be filled by teachers at the beginning of the salary scale, which according to Basora, is expected to save the district $110,000 annually in the second year.

In other school board business:

• Board President Sean Creighton gave an update on the district’s Class of 2020 strategic planning initiative, which is currently in the expansive thinking phase and looking to move into the strategic planning phase of the initiative. The board has established a steering committee to lead the strategic plan, including teachers Sarah Amin, Aurelia Blake and Elizabeth Lutz, parents Steve Conn, Lori Kuhn and Sterling Wiggins, villagers Wally Sikes, Mark Meister and Tomas Williams, and school leaders Basora, Treasurer Dawn Weller, Creighton and Benji Maruyama.

• Special education director Terry Graves-Streiter presented a report comparing the district’s performance in special education with similar area districts. In both reading and math achievement test scores, Yellow Springs students outperform those at Greenon, Clark-Shawnee, Tecumseh, Northeastern and Southeastern in Greene and Clark Counties by an average of 20 percentage points. But compared to Oakwood, Wyoming and Solon districts, to the south, Yellow Springs trails by about 10 percentage points.

• Basora presented the district’s bullying report for the 2010–11 school year, which showed a total of 13 incidents of either harassment or intimidation at Mills Lawn and the high school and one incident of planning exclusion at McKinney Middle School. A bullying incident is defined by a repeating pattern of abuse of a student or group of students by another student or group of students. The report shows that bullying occurred this school year at every grade level between third grade and eighth, as well as 10th and 11th grades, with repeating patterns over a four-month period in both fourth and fifth grades.

• In the principal’s reports, YSHS Principal Tim Krier said that he and the superintendent are completing exit interviews with every member of this year’s senior class to learn about ways to improve as a school district.

• The board met in executive session from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to discuss issues regarding personnel and union negotiations.

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