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School Matters

Yellow Springs schools plan for fundraising

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At its meeting on Jan. 9 the Yellow Springs school board heard an update from Superintendent Mario Basora on furthering the goal of financial development for the district. The goal is the fourth priority of the Class of 2020 strategic plan, and its most immediate need is to support the curricular transition to project-based learning throughout the district.

Last year the district received $150,000 in seed money to start the private donor-based Yellow Springs Capital Endowment, or YSCAPE, fund. Most of the funds were spent on professional training for teachers before a development director could be found to help grow the fund. Now the district is in the midst of creating a plan to identify and hire a development director with the skills to steward the district’s first private fund.

To get expert input, this month Basora met with local development professionals Dusty Hall, Kipra Heerman, Lori Kuhn, Bruce Grimes and school personnel Treasurer Dawn Weller, Susan Griffith and board members Aïda Merhemic and Evan Scott. The group discussed financial campaigns, details of the amounts needed and options about the director’s positions, including creating a full-time position and one funded partly from private donors and partly from the school district budget.

The group planned to meet again and present a recommendation to the board at the February school board meeting, including a resolution in support of a development plan.

“It’s so important we do this right,” Basora said. “If there’s ever an investment we should be making for our school it’s this — it’s hugely important because it will yield revenue for the future.”

In other school board business:

• The board approved a policy change to allow students to participate in extra-curricular activities, regardless of academic performance or standing. The previous policy required students to maintain a certain grade point average and be passing every course in order to maintain extracurricular eligibility. However, according to school leaders, administrators did not enforce the policy consistently. According to Basora, the old policy of prohibiting failing students from extracurriculars was “counterproductive to our goals” and often “made grades get worse.”

The updated policy reflects the district’s current values and practices, he said.

• The board approved a grant application for the second phase of Project Peace, a K–6th grade project to honor historic figures who have promoted peace in the world. The project includes a music residency, video and audio components and other artistic media and stresses student leadership and creating a culture of inclusion within the school.

Project leaders John Gudgel, Mills Lawn school counselor, and Principal Matt Housh applied for $11,356 from the Yellow Springs Education Endowment to cover instruments, materials and instruction.

• The board appointed Aïda Merhemic as the president and Sylvia Ellison as the vice-president of the incoming board. Other appointments were as follows: board member Sean Creighton as the treasurer pro-tem and the legislative liaison, as well as to the insurance committee, the policy committee and the YSCAPE committee; board member Evan Scott as the student achievement liaison and to the 2020 advisory implementation committee; Merhemic to the student review board, the policy committee and the crisis plan committee; Ellison as the board representative to the Greene County Career Center, the Yellow Springs Education Endowment committee and the wellness committee; board member Steve Conn to the open enrollment committee, the music committee and the 2020 committee.

Board members are compensated at a rate of $125 per board meeting.

• According to Treasurer Dawn Weller, the district currently receives approximately $700,000 annually for the average 146 open enrollment students who live in other districts and attend Yellow Springs schools. Yellow Springs pays out an average of $100,000 for the 20 local open enrollment students who attend other districts.

• The board accepted a “silent” donation of $2,000 and a $500 donation from Scott Kellogg and Linda Griffith to the YSHS Drama Club. The schools also received four $300 grants from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation’s Charlotte Drake Philanthropy Group for high school student projects.

• The board scheduled a work session for Friday, Jan. 24, to discuss how the board wants to run its meetings and committees; board protocols; board member training and calendars.

• The board will hold a PBL sharing night at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, at Mills Lawn School. More information on the event will be available in this week’s and next week’s paper.

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