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Levy committee forming

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The Yellow Springs school district is ramping up efforts in support of passing its May 8 ballot request of a combined 4.7-mill property levy and 0.25 percent income tax, with the goal being to raise $18.5 million for the renovation and replacement of the existing middle and high school facility.

A crucial piece in that effort is the formation of a levy committee, District Superintendent Mario Basora told the school board during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, Feb. 8.

Basora said about 15 people had met the week before to get the ball rolling. TJ Turner and Matt Grushon, both parents of children in the district, are serving as the committee co-chairs, and Jalana Lazar, another parent, is treasurer.

In a phone interview this week, co-chair Turner said that the committee’s executive core trio is working on a list of roles that community members can take on. “We’re looking at the other jobs we need to fill and looking for the talent to do that too,” he said.

Among the tasks that need doing is “raising funds to get the message out there.” Another is overseeing the creation and distribution of yard signs.

Turner envisions a committee of about “20 folks or so.”

In the short term, the district will host a community forum on Thursday, March 1, from 6:30–8 p.m., at the high school. “Mostly it will be to roll out the facility design and provide a tour,” according to Turner. “There will be some time for Q & A as well.”

Turner said his desire to get accurate information out into the community is the main reason he is working with the levy committee.

“I support the levy, but I agreed to do this because there seemed to be a lot of misinformation out there.” He said he wants to make certain people have accurate information about the district’s tax request and building plans so voters can make an informed “assessment for themselves.”

At the Feb. 8 school board meeting, Superintendent Basora told the board that other events, in addition to the March 1 forum, are in the works as well, including a bus tour to neighboring “places that have done some of the elements that we’re considering.” Details are to be announced. The goal, Basora said, is to give “the community a chance to see what’s out there and what’s possible.”

Related to the tax-measure discussion, Eli Hurwitz, the district’s library media specialist and president of the Yellow Springs Education Association teachers union, told the board that the union favored the measure’s passage.

Also, board members set a work session for Tuesday, March 20, from 4–6 p.m, in the John Graham Conference Room at Mills Lawn. The main topic for the meeting, which is open to the public, is expected to be school facilities.

In other school board business Feb. 8:

• The board approved the 2018–19 school calendar, which mostly parallels this year’s calendar, including continuation of 12 late-start days. One addition is planned PBL Exhibition Nights at both Mills Lawn and McKinneyMiddle/YSHS. Superintendent Basora also indicated that conversations were beginning about the possibility of changing some teacher work days and times in the following school year.

• The semi-annual bullying report  indicated four bullying incidents, as defined by the state, since the start of the school year.

“I want to suggest that this is a very positive report,” Basora said. “Last year at this time we were really concerned” that the mood and interactions in the schools were reflecting some of the negative national tenor. 

Ten incidents, nine of which occurred in grades 6–9, were reported in last February’s report.

Principal Krier said that the atmosphere at the middle and high schools has definitely been better, with about half the discipline referrals as last year at this time. Mills Lawn Principal Housh echoed that assessment: “It’s been a great year,” he said.

• District Treasurer Dawn Bennett reported that the district had received the fourth quarter 2017 income tax payment in the amount of $300,997. She said the payment was more than 21 percent higher than the past five years of fourth quarter payments. “On the whole, 2017 collections were 16.6 percent higher than 2016 collections,” she wrote in her report. “This is great considering 2016 collections decreased almost 2 percent from 2015.” She suggested that part of the bump can be attributed to the fact that “we do have a celebrity who lives in the district.”

• Board members unanimously adopted a resolution of agreement with the Greene County Career Center. According to Basora’s report to the board, the agreement “better codifies the relationship around our satellite program in engineering and gives a clear picture of our mutual commitments and responsibilities to one another.”

• The building principals reported on recent activities in the schools. Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh said that elementary students in all grades were marking Black History Month with a focus on “hidden figures” — important people who may have been unheralded — in the community and beyond. For their part, first-graders had undertaken an oral history project in which they interviewed Yellow Springs residents. Those interviews were also documented with photographs and videos, which will later be shared with the community.

McKinney Middle/Yellow Springs High School Principal Tim Krier reported on the “2nd Annual Day of Empowerment,” Jan. 31, when the middle and high school welcomed “30 experts from local agencies and health, wellness and community practitioners for the day-long programming.” He said the event is modeled on the schools’ tradition of Girls’ and Boys’ Nights.

• Krier also reported that McKinney Middle School English teacher Jaime Adoff has been named one of 10 finalists in the national Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching, sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Given out every two years to five teachers across the U.S., the award honors educators whose evidence-based practices help teach “the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in diverse settings, achieve academically and work collaboratively.”

• Krier reported that the spring musical, to be presented the weekends of March 9 and 16, will be “Disney’s High School Musical.”

•The board accepted letters of resignation from school nurse Jeanne Barker, who is moving out of the area with her family; and JV cheerleader coach Ashley Tharbs, who has accepted a teaching position out of state. Relatedly, the board approved a one-year limited contract as a substitute school nurse for Eden Matteson, at $25 an hour.

• Other employment related approvals included: one-year limited contracts for Lynn Millar as a substitute secretary, and Kenny Easterling as a substitute custodian, both at $11 an hour.


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