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School board— YSHS student liaison proposed

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Yellow Springs High School senior David Butcher proposed at the Yellow Springs School Board meeting last week that a member of the student body be appointed as a school board liaison. The proposal is Butcher’s senior project, and board members were enthusiastic about the idea. They agreed to consider a formal proposal for a vote at their meeting on May 14.

The liaison, according to Butcher’s draft proposal, would be the president of the student body, a position that is filled by election of the entire high school, along with an upper-class and an underclass vice-president. The representative would attend all board meetings, reporting to the board every few months on the state of the student body. The idea, Butcher said, is to help the board to better understand student perspectives and to engage the students in the administration of their schools.

“It’s a link of communication between the students and the board, but it’s also to tell students what’s going on and to know what to be concerned with,” Butcher told the board. “Also I think it would encourage kids to come to board meetings and know what the people they elected are doing.”

The board could also use input from the representative to help gauge student opinion about particular policies, he added. And the representative could also report to the board on the effects a particular resolution has had on the students and the school at large — issues that don’t always get followed up on.

Both Butcher and board member Aïda Merhemic agreed the position should be a sustainable one with an election system that guarantees continuity.

“It’s a great idea. I’ve supported student governance for a long time, and I would love to have a student representative here,” Merhemic said.

Butcher responded to the enthusiasm from the local board.

“This is an opportunity for us to do something really innovative with how our board operates. I don’t know any school board that does this.”

In other school board business:

• The school board encourages local voters to go to the polls to on Tuesday, May 5, to vote for the district’s 10-year emergency renewal levy. The levy raises $1.06 million annually, or 13 percent of the district’s budget, and is not a tax increase. Passage will help keep classs sizes small and ensure that programs such as athletics remain school-funded activities.

• The board hired special education supervisor Donna First with a two-year contract at $74,000 annual compensation. First replaces Barb Greiwe, who retired this year. Part of First’s contract is covered by the Greene County Educational Services Center, where she will spend 40 days of the year in a role independent of Yellow Springs schools. She formerly supervised special education at Cedar Cliff Schools and has over 10 years of experience as an administrator.

The board also agreed to increase Mills Lawn Music Teacher Jo Frannye Reichert’s contract from a part-time to a full-time position with annual compensation of $49,900.

• Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh reported that fourth- through 10th- grade students have been meeting with a Planned Parenthood educator to discuss age-appropriate topics of sexual health, communication and relationships. Because students are already exposed to sexual material and personal boundary issues online (and talk about it with each other at school), according to Basora, “it’s critically important for our kids that we have these conversations in a healthy way.” According to board member Evan Scott, the program is based on the Unitarian Universalist Association and United Church of Christ curriculum, Our Whole Lives, which ties sexual activity to emotional health.

“It’s about sixth graders being able to communicate their choices and draw a line,” he said. “It creates a foundation of this is my body, this is my choice.”

• Yellow Springs High School Principal Tim Krier reported that YSHS was selected as one of eight schools in Ohio to teach a new AP English 11 seminar course that allows students to explore and research several themes in the greater cultural context and work collaboratively to analyze a real world problem and develop and defend solutions to it. Yellow Springs joins Indian Hills, Walnut Hills, St. Ursula Academy and others in this innovative pilot designed as a capstone project that could eventually compete with the International Baccalaureate, according to Krier. The program, open to those who are interested, is aligned with the district’s project-based learning curriculum.

“This opporunity is only available to our kids as a result of our innovative teaching and learning efforts and the district’s 2020 Strategic Plan,” Krier wrote in his board report.

Krier also reported that YSHS and McKinney Middle School were selected to join the area’s inaugural TEDxYouth@Dayton on Sept. 25. The youth conference includes three speakers from each of five schools, including Miami Valley School, Dayton Regional STEM, Kettering-Fairmont, and Vandalia-Butler. One speaker from the conference will be invited to present at the Dayton TEDx conference on Oct. 15.

• Superintendent Mario Basora reported that Ohio granted standardized testing waivers to eligible schools, including Yellow Springs, which is now waiting on the Ohio Department of Education’s waiver approval by the U.S. DOE. If approved, local students will take between 50 and 70 percent fewer standardized tests over the next five years.

Basora, who helped design the state’s waiver process in service of Yellow Springs’ 10-year strategic plan, thanked the community for its support.

“Without the community supporting this kind of innovative work, I don’t think this would have been possible.”

Basora also attended a national Knowledge Works conference this month for innovative school districts (Yellow Springs was the only school from Ohio) on strategic planning and personalized learning.

• The board met in executive session to discuss personnel issues.


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