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Ten new hires for Yellow Springs schools

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The Yellow Springs School District welcomed 10 new staff members at the board of education meeting last week. The new hires include elementary, middle and high school teachers and staff, as well as a new administrative position created this school year.

“As administrators, hiring great teachers and support staff members is the most important and impactful work we do. Given that, we take this part of our work very seriously and put significant time into it,” wrote superintendent Mario Basora in a handout distributed at the meeting.

A number of new faces were present at the meeting and were personally welcomed by the board. Dawn Boyer, a 1996 graduate of YSHS, is the district’s new director of advancement and community relations. The position was “created from scratch” and is designed to raise money for PBL projects and “advocate for the schools,” as Boyer described it. One of her current projects is launching a district alumni association.

New teachers include Shannon Wilson, an aide and long-term sub last year who will be replacing Jeff May as a third-grade teacher at Mills Lawn. Rob Grote is filling a new position at Mills Lawn as the physical education teacher, and Carrie Juergens will be taking a fourth-grade teaching position at Mills Lawn, replacing former teacher Brian Knostman. Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, the founder of the Yellow Springs Theater Company, will be a performance and live arts teacher at the middle school, a new part-time position that will offer students a creative option like band or orchestra, she said, in which they will “explore every aspect of the word ‘performance.’”

Other new members of the staff include special education aides Kelley Oberg, Lauren Sullivan and Tamsin Trelawny-Cassity, as well as bus driver Tim Sandlin and nurse Jeanne Barker.

In other school board business:

• According to Basora, the district is beginning to look into renovating or rebuilding its facilities. Part of the district’s strategic plan includes updates to buildings, he said, and it’s time to see what the real costs are for maintaining them. In a follow-up interview last week, Basora said that the buildings as they currently stand “don’t meet the needs of the kind of learning [the district] wants to do,” citing the relative narrowness of the hallways, inadequate lighting and problematic roofs.

The first step is finding an architectural firm to help with the exploration process, he said. From there, the district will know what is possible as far as renovating or repairing extant buildings, and can then present plans to the public. Basora said he anticipates “six or seven” community forums to get feedback and ideas from the public regarding repairs or a possible levy. Grants from the state will also be considered, he said.

The costs of any project would be significant, he said, and parents have been very interested in taking part in the process. Board President Aïda Merhemic said that parents have preemptively volunteered for a facilities exploration committee, should it ever come up.

Following the report from the architectural firm and feedback from the community, the earliest a vote could be expected on whether or how to proceed is fall 2017, Basora said.

• Basora was asked to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming conference in New Albany, Ohio. He said that it will be an opportunity to showcase the district’s PBL activities to an audience of between 300 and 500 people, including educators from around Ohio, the US and the world. After his speech, the audience will have the chance to ask a panel of eight students about their PBL projects. The panel ranges from fifth graders to seniors. The conference also includes a breakout session, Basora said, in which 30 people will work closely with the Yellow Springs students and staff making the trip.

• The Mills Lawn student handbook was updated to address the school’s policy regarding student tardiness. While a significant number of unexcused absences can be referred to a truancy officer, there was little recourse for students with consistent tardiness, which Basora defined as being “an hour or two late.” According to the changes in the handbook, five tardies is equivalent to one unexcused absence.

• The board officially extended its gratitude to the donor of $250 to the district. The board also officially recognized the service of board member Evan Scott, who resigned last month for personal reasons.

• Salaries for professional staff are the following: Dawn Boyer, $70,000; Shannon Wilson, $53,144; Rob Grote, $37,985; Carrie Juergens, $63,309; Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, $12,535.

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