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Yellow Springs School Board

School board— Facility visit prompts optimism

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The building structure of the Yellow Springs High School/McKinney Middle School facility appears to be in better condition than school district leaders feared, according to the initial feedback of two structural engineers who toured the school campus Wednesday, June 13.

Representatives of Shell & Meyer Associates, based in Kettering, have not yet turned in an official report, but their preliminary response was optimistic, according to community members who accompanied the tour and who shared their impressions with the school board during the board’s most recent regular meeting Thursday, June 14.

“We walked away with a whole new idea of what was needed,” villager David Roche said. 

Roche, a certified building inspector, had been publicly vocal this past year in questioning the necessity of the district’s previously proposed $18.5 million construction and renovation plan that included tearing down and rebuilding significant portions of the high/middle school. That plan had been precipitated by a building assessment by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC.

Current Levy renewal

In a special meeting Tuesday morning, June 19, the Yellow Springs school board unanimously approved a “resolution of necessity” to place a renewal of the district’s current 1.2-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy on the Nov. 6 ballot. The levy would not increase local taxes.

The action followed board approval during its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, June 14, authorizing the district treasurer to proceed with preparing the resolution.

The five-year levy, initiated in 2003 and renewed in 2008 and 2013, raises about $135,000 each year for permanent improvements, including construction, renovations and additions as well as providing equipment and furnishings.

The levy is an important source of income for the district, board member Sylvia Ellison noted. It pays for projects and items, such as a new bus, that the district would otherwise not be able to fund, she said.

Treasurer Dawn Weller agreed. “If it does not pass in November, we will have to do a whole new levy,” she said.

“And you’ll lose the $135,000 for one year,” Superintendent Mario Basora added.

The levy resolution will now go to the Greene County auditor, who will adjust the millage amount to match the desired income amount. The final ballot language will be presented for approval in a “resolution to proceed” at the next regular board meeting, Thursday,
July 12.

With some villagers calling for a second opinion to the OFCC report, voters in May rejected a combined 4.7-mill property tax levy and 0.25 income tax to fund the district’s proposed project. 

Other community members who accompanied the engineers’ tour included Richard Zopf, Jerry Papania and Daniel Pelzl, all of whom attended the June 14 school board meeting.

“Overall [the initial assessment] appeared to be really good,” Roche said.

Some of the safety concerns, particularly in the three-story portion of the building, are less dire than previously thought, Roche said. For example, places where the wall appeared to be pulling away from the floor indicates a need for some bolts, not a potential structural collapse requiring the building’s demolition.

“They did say that we really need to look at the whole thing, to look at and identify items that need to be addressed,” he continued.

The facility tour also made clear to Roche that “we need way more maintenance than we’re currently doing.”

Richard Zopf, Miami Township zoning inspector, said he was impressed with the thoroughness of the tour. “The two gentlemen were on the roof, [in the] basement, inside and outside,” he said.

“One of the things that came out,” Zopf noted, is that the placement of the structural supports in the three-story portion of the facility allow for more renovation possibilities than previously thought, in that some room walls can be created or eliminated without razing the whole building. 

The building “is far more flexible than we may have imagined in the past,” he said.

District Superintendent Mario Basora agreed that the engineers’ impression sounded positive.

“I can’t wait to see what the results are,” he said.

Villager Dimi Reber, a member of a community-based group interested in finding alternative ways to address the district’s facility needs, told the board that she was pleased and grateful that district leaders were consulting with other sources of expertise and engaging with people who held differing opinions.

“Short of a final report, [the high/middle school] appeared structurally sound,” Reber said. “I think this news allows us to go forward with a new plan.”

For her part, Reber said she would like to see a plan that incorporates both improvement and maintenance — “an imaginative plan that is economical and environmental.”

“I hope we can continue on this positive note,” she concluded.

While the board did not respond to the community members’ comments, Superintendent Basora agreed with their impressions and said he welcomed their support.

“I appreciate you being engaged and wanting to continue the work,” he said. “Obviously you care and want our schools to be successful, and I appreciate that.”

Toward moving forward, Basora then laid out a seven-step process.

The first step has already occurred with the structural engineers’ visit, he noted. 

“Hopefully [the assessment] will be as positive as every one thinks,” he added.

Step two would involve the formation of community focus groups to “engage the community from inception,” Basora said.

Three: form a new ad-hoc community group, of “good size,” to “move the work forward in an informed way.”

Step four: “The committee shares solutions and/or ideas with the board.”

Five: “The board and committee share the plan with the community for feedback.”

Six: “Board and committee work together” to integrate feedback.

Seven: “Take plan to a vote.”

The board expressed basic support for the superintendent’s proposal.

“I think you’v done a good job laying out a process,” board member Sean Creighton said.

Board member Steve McQueen, however, stressed the importance of forming focus groups small enough that all voices could be heard. He noted that some opinions get lost in larger community meetings.

One way to get more voices, suggested community member Roche, would be through the creation of “a good” Survey Monkey, an interactive online survey platform. “That would really give you a feeling of where you’re going,” he said.

Basora said that developing a new plan for improving the district’s facilities is open to new ideas.

“I think all options are on the table,” he said.

In other school board business June 14:

• Board member Sean Creighton announced that he and his family will be moving out of the district over the summer. Creighton’s change in residence means the board will need to find a community member to serve out the remainder of his term, which ends Dec. 31. Creighton’s seat was already one of three that will be on the November ballot for four-year terms beginning January 2019.

Board member Sylvia Ellison said the board would like to hear from community members interested in completing Creighton’s term. President Aïda Merhemic also noted that a board member will need to step into Creighton’s role as vice-president.

• The board approved a contract and agreement for speech and language pathologist, psychologist, occupational and physical therapy services and communication specialist services with Clark County Educational Service Center for the 2018–19 school year, in the “estimated” amount of $239,085.20.

• The board authorized the administration to enter into a one-year contract, subject to four additional one-year contracts, for food service with SODEXO, for the 2018—19 school year.

• The board also approved a 15 cent increase in school lunch prices for the 2018–19 school year.

At Mills Lawn, the cost will go from $2.60 to $2.75 for paid meals, including milk. And at YSHS/MMS, the price will go from $2.85 to $3 for paid meals, including milk. The price for reduced meal swill remain the same, at 40 cents, at both campuses.

• The board unanimously approved a salary increase of 3 percent for the 2018–19 school year for the following administrators: Athletic Director Nate Baker, Superintendent Mario Basora, Treasurer Dawn Bennett, Development Director Dawn Boyer, Student Services Director Donna First, Interim high school/middle school Principal Jack Hatert and Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh.

• A 3 percent salary increase for the 2018–19 school year also was approved for school nurse Tina Bujenovic.

• The board also approved the creation of a project-based learning coach position to be paid $38 an hour, 10 hours a week or 40 hours a month, for a maximum of 36 weeks a year. The board also funded the position of professional development/exhibition night facilitator, at $1,500.

• In other personnel matters, the board accepted the resignation of first-grade teacher Jessica Liming. Superintendent Basora said that Liming has accepted a teaching position in the Greenon School District of Enon, where she lives and her children attend school.

• In addition, the board approved the hiring of three new staff members for the 2018–19 school year.

Villager Naomi Hyatt will join the special education team at Mills Lawn as an intervention specialist, coming in at the Level III, Step 5 salary of $50,880.

Emily Cormier, who was a student teacher last year in Springboro, is the new YSHS/MMS arts integration teacher, at a Level 1, Step 1 salary of $39,844.

Charlyn Cantrell, RN, has been hired as a school nurse for $25 an hour, 20 hours a week.

• The board also approved an extended leave of absence for custodian James Waulk from the previous end date of June 6 to June 11. Basora said Waulk is currently back on the job.

The next board meeting is scheduled 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, in the John Graham Conference Room at Mills Lawn

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