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Schools hire an outside promoter

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Earlier this school year, the Yellow Springs school district hired Megan Anthony, a communications coordinator with the Clark County Educational Services Center. Anthony has registered the district’s social media presence on Twitter and Facebook and will focus on comprehensive website evaluation and overhaul. District Superintendent Mario Basora said that the schools are doing a fantastic job with their students but haven’t been good about promoting their success.

“There is more to schools than what is on the state report card, and we want to show what isn’t necessarily measured,” he said. Anthony said that the ease with which teachers can provide content to the social media platforms is a boon to the district and will highlight its close and innovative relationship to its students.

Another reason for the social media campaign is to be more competitive with area STEM, charter and private schools for students, Basora said, and a greater online presence will highlight what the district is all about. Attracting new students through the open enrollment program is not only a testament to the district’s appeal but something that makes financial sense as well. Basora explained that there are scattered openings throughout all grade levels and that the district wants to maintain open enrollment at capacity level.

The state gives the district about $3,000 for each student that lives within the district and $6,000 for open enrollment students. When a student leaves the district to go elsewhere, the district pays the recipient district $6,000, but the reverse is also true here.

“Open enrollment students are like the district getting two for the price of one,” Basora said. Currently, 23 percent of the school’s students are open enrollment students.

Anthony’s services are shared with four other districts. She is in Yellow Springs one day per week working with teachers and students and does the social media work remotely. Basora said the district cannot afford a full-time social media campaigner, and that it’s more cost effective to work with Anthony through the Clark County Educational Services Center.

The“between $8,000 and $9,000” the district will pay for her services this year is less than the $10,000 the district had budgeted.

In other school board business:
• In elementary school news, Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh said that there seems to be a significant movement among parents to opt their kindergarten children out of taking the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, an annual state-mandated exam. Housh said that 65 percent of parents have quietly opted their children out so far this year. He said that it’s not a show of protest against the school or teachers but rather a show of support for teachers and parents. The contention with KRA is that it is far too time-consuming to be beneficial to students, said Basora. The test measures emotional and social development in students in addition to standard intellectual measures, and Basora said teachers and parents maintain that it is too difficult for teachers to meet the demands of the test. Each test takes three or four hours to administer to each student, and it has to be administered one-on-one. The time spent away from the class as a whole is counterproductive, Basora said, because it’s crucial for kids to develop a bond with their teacher and peers in order to feel more comfortable learning, especially during the first year of school.

The test is state-mandated, but because the district has “safe harbor” when opting out of kindergarten exams, Basora said there are no negative ramifications for students who opt out, or for the district.

• Contracts for Principal Housh, YSHS and McKinney Principal Tim Krier, Treasurer Dawn Bennett (formerly Weller) and Athletic Director Nate Baker were up for renewal this month. The discussion of the parameters of the three-year contracts was accompanied by a few speeches by the board. Board Member Sean Creighton said that the staff has “more than just come in and created stability” and that their “energy and resilience is astounding.” He finished by saying it is “an honor to approve [the contracts] tonight.” The contracts were unanimously approved. The salaries have not yet been determined for school administrators, who will meet with their union representatives over the spring and summer to negotiate pay increases.

Bennett also mentioned that the district will consider a possible increase in the amount a substitute teacher earns per day of work. Increasing the pay rate for substitute teachers will make the district more competitive with those of surrounding areas, Bennett said, and would insure that the district gets a good pool of subs. Subs currently make $90 per day, and any change in that rate would go into effect next year.

• Principal Krier talked about how to make McKinney’s annual eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. more financially solvent and affordable for every student. The school is considering a few fundraising options to help mitigate costs. He referenced the teachers-serving-as-waitstaff fundraiser hosted by Sunrise Café and said that a fundraiser of use to the community would be best. “We don’t just want to sell junk or double the cost of the trip by asking parents to buy more stuff,” he said. Krier also mentioned using the fundraising efforts as a PBL project for students.

• Jack Hatert, a McKinney teacher and the district’s lead project-based learning mentor, chronicled the two-day teacher orientation program for the district’s 13 new teachers that took place earlier in the year. The orientation was a primer for the district’s new class of teachers, helping them to gain a more thorough understanding of the district’s values and approach to education. Hatert said that the teachers were all very interested in being in Yellow Springs in particular; for a few, he said, it was the only place they applied. The teachers are interested in YS because of its approach to education, and they are personally invested in the district’s PBL approach to education.

The orientation included an Amazing Race-style rally throughout town, interviews for this paper and an exercise called “appreciative inquiry,” in which teachers discuss their best classroom experiences from when they were students and try to replicate these experiences in their own classrooms. Hatert was impressed with the teachers’ competitiveness and ability to mug for the camera during the Amazing Race component, but more seriously, he said, he was very impressed with the “diverse level of interest and experience” the teachers bring to the school, as well as their “high PBL readiness.”

• Last on the agenda was a mention of the Greene County Career Center’s possible re-orientation of itself as an aerospace-specific career center. Last month, GCCC board members approved the hiring of a consultant to see what changes would have to be made to convert the GCCC to an aerospace center. The study will look at other tech and STEM high schools across the country that offer engineering and science programs. Training for aerospace jobs makes sense regionally, said Board Member Steve Conn, and an aerospace-oriented career center would be the first of its kind in the country. A feasibility study detailing their findings will be available in the spring.

The next school board meeting will be on Nov. 12.


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