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School board meeting — Merhemic continues as board head

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The school board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 14, was marked by a number of recognitions, appointments and personnel changes in school board and school district offices.

Incumbent school board members Sylvia Ellison and Sean Creighton were sworn in during the school board meeting after being re-elected to another four-year term in November’s elections. Ellison and Creighton ran unopposed in the election. The 2015–2016 term marks the third term for Creighton and the second for Ellison.

Continuing Aïda Merhemic’s role as school board president was proposed and seconded, as was Creighton’s role as vice president. After the swearing-in ceremony, board members divvied up board responsibilities and appointments to various school district committees. Also passed was an official decree concerning the time and place of school board meetings, which is the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the John Graham room of Mills Lawn School, and the $125-per-meeting compensation each board member receives. There is a limit of 24 paid board meetings annually.

In other school board business:
• Yellow Springs superintendent Mario Basora reported that interviews will continue with the five candidates being considered for the district’s advancement director position. The advancement director will oversee fundraising as part of the district’s 2020 plan, and will seek private donations and “diverse revenue sources.” The ultimate goal is to have $3.5 million dollars in the fund, and the advancement director will be expected to raise $250,000 a year for the next three years. Salary for the position has not yet been determined.

• In news from the Greene County Career Center, a consulting group delivered a feasibility study regarding the implementation of an aerospace engineering program at its facility. Yellow Springs Board member Steven Conn, who also sits on GCCC’s board, reported that the study answered an unambiguous “yes” to the question of whether there is a need and demand in the community for a program that trains for more jobs in the aerospace sector. Conn said the board will take the next step to move the project forward, though the anticipated millions of dollars the program would cost and the logistics of putting it into practice likely mean that an aerospace program at GCCC is years away from completion.

• Yellow Springs school athletics have been plagued by a series of coaches who have signed on to coach but have not followed through with their commitment, sometimes quitting midway through the season or simply not showing up at all. Basora said this is obviously to the detriment of the students, and so it is important for the board to do something to try to better retain coaches.

Typically, the coaches’ contracts are renewed at the end of the year, which often meant that the school was scrambling to find a coach, go through the hiring process, and get them prepared for the season between the end of the school year and the beginning of fall sports. The time crunch wasn’t conducive to hiring dedicated coaches, Basora said, which is why the board has now decided to start searching for coaches as soon as each sport ends, instead of all at once at the end of the year.
This year, all coaching contracts were not renewed in order to start the hiring process afresh. In many cases, the same coaches will be hired back and given a new contract, but the process also allows the school to start a proper hiring process from the ground up and begin searching for new coaches well in advance.

Additionally, the board approved some increases in compensation for coaching. Coaches who worked in the school and coaches who didn’t were paid on different scales. Now coaches are paid the same, regardless of whether or not they are otherwise employed by the school.

• Also recognized was the retirement of English teacher Aurelia Blake. Blake has been teaching for 20 years and has worked at McKinney since 2000, where Principal Tim Krier said she has been a “pillar of the school” and “part of its DNA.” Blake helmed the Power of the Pen, served on the committees to hire principals and superintendents and received a number of laudatory comments at the board meeting concerning her dedication to teaching. Her skill in making students better writers was personally known to the board members, as a few of their children were once Blake’s students. Creighton said his kids often lamented the difficulty of her class, but nonetheless loved it and demonstrably learned a lot.

Blake said she has worked with “assiduous and courageous educators” and in a district where “revolutionary changes unfolded.” Retiring has not been an easy decision, she said, but she’ll still be there to help as a tutor and substitute teacher.


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