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Schools offer drug counseling

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At its meeting on Dec. 13, the Yellow Springs school board agreed to contract with Greene County’s TCN Behavioral Health Services for substance abuse prevention and treatment services for students in the school. The contract for $5,122 for the remainder of the 2012–13 school year will provide a certified drug counselor to coordinate self-selected group counseling sessions, provide individual assessment and counseling, and give students in trouble with drug activity a rehabilitative option as an alternative to expulsion.

“I think it’s absolutely, critically necessary. I’ve seen this exact program work for kids in schools,” Yellow Springs Superintendent Mario Basora said during the meeting. “Whatever we’re doing right now [to discourage substance abuse] is not working. This will help and make a difference in a compassionate way so we don’t have these tragedies. It’s time we step up and do something.”

According to district surveys, drug use is a concern that both students and parents feel the schools aren’t doing enough about. And because TCN is challenged to treat youth with substance abuse issues outside the facility in Xenia, a partnership with the school could help, Basora said. The program targets those who are struggling with addiction, but it could have a wider, positive effect on the student body. The program could also serve to educate the staff on how to deal with addiction issues as well.

In other school board business:

• The board approved an amended five-year budget forecast that reflects the $915,000 property tax levy passed in November. The new forecast now shows expenses staying below revenue until the 2016–17 school year.

• At the request of the Glen Helen Ecology Institute, the board agreed to amend a land use contract between the Glen and the school district. The amended contract reduces the amount of land in the Glen devoted to School Forest activities from 100 acres to approximately 18 acres.

The amendment would facilitate a long-term effort by Antioch College, Tecumseh Land Trust, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Evironmental Protection Agency and other agencies to protect the Glen in perpetuity. According to GHEI Director Nick Boutis, the amendment will not affect the school’s use of the Glen for School Forest activities and will actually formalize and enhance public access to all parts of the Glen. The easement provides a higher degree of land use protection than is necessary for School Forest, Riding Centre, and other college land dedicated to educational purposes in the community.

The college dedicated the 100 acres off Bryan Park Road for use by the school district biology and science department in the 1960s, according to board member Angela Wright. The school then set aside about 18 acres to grow and sell Christmas trees to raise financial support for the science program that included water and soil analysis and the study of flora, fauna and forest ecosystems. Over the years, the School Forest program continued to use just the 18 acres for the Christmas trees, which according to Basora and School Forest advisor John Day, will not be affected at all.

“We’re trying to ensure that School Forest will be able to continue to do what it’s been doing and not impact the experience for students, but also put in place a protective layer for the Glen,” Boutis said during the meeting. “The amendment won’t change the availability and use of the forest at all. There is mutual agreement for desire to find other ways for the school and the Glen to collaborate, and we’re ready to participate in that.”

• The board agreed to adopt a new policy that gives the state of Ohio greater control over the decision about which third-grade students should be held back a year due to lack of proficiency in reading. The policy change was mandated by a recent change in state law, enacted by Senate Bill 316.

The district had a third-grade reading guarantee, which required third graders to take a reading assessment, but allowed the district to gauge student promotions. The new policy requires a student who doesn’t pass the assessment or demonstrate a certain level of progress in reading to repeat the year. It also requires that those students spend the following year with a teacher who is a licensed reading specialist.

Though the policy won’t be implemented until the 2013–14 school year, according to Basora, about 15 percent of last year’s counted third graders (4–5 students) at Mills Lawn school did not show reading proficiency. Next year’s number could be close to that. The district currently has five to six licensed reading specialists.

• The board extended a leave of absence for Mills Lawn teacher Jennifer Scavone, who took leave on Sept. 1 and will extend the leave through Feb. 1. The district will continue to employ a substitute teacher with benefits during Scavone’s absence.

The board also approved an unpaid leave for Mills Lawn teacher Jo Frannye Reichert from Jan. 7 through Feb. 15. Reichert will join the Mad River Theater Works production of “Walk On: The Rosa Parks Story” in the role of Rosa Parks, as the company performs for schools and cities across the eastern United States. The company will perform the musical at Mills Lawn School on Jan. 12.

• The board agreed to name four voting members to the district’s newly formed 2020 Implementation Committee, charged with implementing the district’s 10-year Class of 2020 strategic plan. The board named board president Sean Creighton, parent/community member Lori Kuhn, administrator Mario Basora, and teacher Jack Hatert. The committee’s next goal will be to hire a three-year development director, who will work with private groups, including Yellow Springs Schools Capital and Endowment Fund, or YSCAPE, to raise private funds to support the 2020 plan.

• YSHS is working with Antioch University to pilot a program allowing high school students to take a massively open online course, or MOOC, with Coursera through Antioch. The course, designed and administered by Duke University, is titled “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue.”

• The special education program currently has 99 students on individualized education plans, including nine in preschool, 50 at Mills Lawn, 37 at McKinney/YSHS, six at the Greene County Career Center, and three at the Greene County Learning Center.


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