2018 Year in Review: Village Schools
- Published: January 3, 2019
Yellow Springs schools were a leading source of local news reporting in 2018, particularly concerning the future of the district’s school buildings. But the facilities question wasn’t the only matter making headlines during the last 12 months, as local schools faced some challenging issues while celebrating a variety of notable achievements.
Awards and recognitions
• In February, the district announced that McKinney Middle School English teacher Jaime Adoff had been named one of 10 finalists in the national Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Teaching, a biannual award sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
• In the spring, Yellow Springs High School was once again named by US News and World Report as one of the “Best High Schools” in Ohio.
• District Superintendent Mario Basora was one of three Ohio superintendents chosen by the Buckeye Association of State Superintendents to attend an international Global Leadership conference in Berlin, Germany, in July.
After a 28-year tenure serving Yellow Springs schools, first as a secretary at Mills Lawn and then as the district’s administrative assistant, Susan Griffith retired at the end of the 2017–18 school year. A plaque of appreciation was presented during the Aug. 9 school board meeting.
More than 350 people applied for Griffith’s position, which was filled with the hiring of Steffanie Marchese.
For the second year in a row, the Yellow Springs Alumni Association held an all-class reunion event, with local alums gathering June 29 in the ballroom at the Mills Park Hotel. The following day, the class of 1971 hosted an all-class picnic at Clifton Reserve.
Class of 2018
Seventy-two seniors received their diplomas at commencement exercises May 31. Student commencement speakers were Peter Day and Ayanna Madison. The ceremony was the first since the district implemented a policy that eliminated class ranking, including the designation of a valedictorian and salutatorian, in favor of introducing a Latin honors award system tied to grade-point average.
Facilities levy defeated
After a discernment process extending over a year and including a series of community meetings, the Yellow Springs school board in January approved a “resolution to proceed” to place a combined 4.7-mill permanent improvement levy and a 0.25 percent income tax levy on the May 8 ballot in order to fund a proposed $18.5 million “addition/renovation” for McKinney Middle/Yellow Springs High School.
The plan called for the demolition of the middle school “shoebox” as well as the three-story portion of the high school and the current band room. New construction was to include a new entryway with a secured vestibule, a new band room that would also serve as a storm shelter, a new kitchen and a one-story, three-wing “academic core” addition with new classrooms and collaborative work spaces. In addition, renovations were to be made to the gym, which was built in 1963, as well as the classrooms constructed on the west side of the gym in 2002.
The district’s hope was to raise $381,375 annually for 30 years in direct tax, along with $12,688,963 in principal from the bond levy. Annual cost for a typical Yellow Springs household was estimated at about $400, based on the median village income of $62,500 and a home appraised at $150,000.
Concerns within the community about the cost of the proposal, as well as the eventual, possibly similar, costs of addressing the facility needs at the elementary school, seemed to be the primary cause for the levy’s eventual defeat in May.
Fifty percent of the community cast a ballot; 64.2 percent of them voted against the measure.
Residents who voted “no” cited village affordability as a major factor in their decision. Other concerns included the credibility of the assessment conducted by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, on which the district’s plans were based, and a perception that the decision-making process had been flawed.
District leaders followed the loss with a period of reassessment, including a safety tour of the middle/high school facility in June by representatives of the Kettering-based engineering firm Shell & Meyer Associates, whose findings concluded that the buildings were structurally sound.
Also, in early fall, representatives of the Greene County Regional Planning Commission completed a land-use site analysis of district properties with the goal of exploring possible uses for its 39 acres of land.
By the end of the year, Superintendent Basora announced that the district was “hitting the reset button” on the facilities question and forming a committee representing a diverse range of community views and backgrounds. The group, whose meetings will be open for public observation, will seek to explore the community’s vision for our schools and then determine the facility needs to meet that vision.
Yellow Springs Schools renewal levy
In November, local voters overwhelmingly approved the renewal of a five-year, 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy for Yellow Springs Schools.
According to the Greene County Board of Elections, the final unofficial vote tally was 2,050 in favor (76 percent) to 652 (24 percent) against.
The levy, originally introduced in 2008 and last renewed in 2013, raises about $138,000 a year for capital expenditures, such as building repairs and major purchases. Being a renewal, the measure did not raise taxes.
Greene County Career Center levy
Voters in November also approved the Greene County Career Center’s request for a 20-year, 1.03-mill bond issue to raise $62 million to construct a new career center building near the intersection of U.S. 68 and U.S. 35 in Xenia.
Besides moving the vocational center to a more central location in the county, the new facility will better support the vocational center’s recently implemented aerospace training program, career center leaders say.
Teaching diversity grant
A $20,000 grant award from the Ohio Department of Education will allow the district to pursue a new innovative initiative to encourage and mentor students of color in becoming teachers who potentially would come to work in Yellow Springs schools.
The district welcomed six new teachers to its instructional staff this fall.
• Joe Carr, a 1997 Yellow Springs High School graduate and former intervention specialist in Dayton, joined the Mills Lawn team as the project-based learning foundations teacher.
• Most recently teaching in Springfield, Yellow Springs resident Naomi Hyatt joined the elementary school’s staff as the new third- and fourth-grade intervention specialist.
• Amanda Kinney, who completed her student teaching at Mills Lawn with first-grade teacher Jennifer Scavone, was hired there this fall as a new first-grade teacher.
• McKinney Middle School’s new math teacher, Alicia Horvath, came to Yellow Springs Schools after six years at a charter school in Dayton, the last two as the middle school dean of students.
• Courtney O’Connor joined the McKinney Middle School team as the new seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher, replacing Cameron McCoy who was appointed interim assistant principal and PBL Foundations instructor this fall.
• A graduate of Miami University, Emily Cormier is the high school’s new art teacher.
Some Project-based Learning highlights
• Shannon Wilson’s fourth-graders completed a year-long study on affordability, giving a presentation of their findings to the Village Council in May.
• McKinney Middle School social studies teacher Cameron McCoy’s seventh-graders undertook a cultural study of Africa and comic book heroes and heroines using “Black Panther” as inspiration.
• In February, first-graders at Mills Lawn undertook an oral history project in which they interviewed Yellow Springs residents of color. Titled “Hidden Figures,” the interviews were documented with photographs and videos, and the unit concluded with a gathering honoring the participants.
• In March, 35 high school students, six chaperones and four accompanying adults traveled to Peru for a service-learning trip.
• About 120 Mills Lawn fifth- and sixth-graders started off the new school year by attending the now annual overnight trip to Camp Kern. Previously held later in the school year, the trip was moved up this year to help form a deeper bond between students earlier.
• Every seventh-grader at McKinney Middle School took part in the third annual “Into the Wild” trip, a three-day biking and camping experience that includes hands-on science learning.
• Steve McQueen was sworn in as a new member of the board of education in January, having been elected the previous fall.
• In June, the school board’s vice president and longtime member Sean Creighton announced he would be resigning in August, as his family was moving to Oakwood. The board subsequently chose TJ Turner, a research scientist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the co-chair of the recently defeated facilities levy, to fill the vacant board seat, the term of which ends Dec. 31, 2019. Filling other board-related positions left vacant by Creighton’s resignation, the board named Sylvia Ellison as vice president and treasurer pro tem, and Steve McQueen as legislative liaison.
Principal resigns, student faces
sexual misconduct allegations
At a special meeting of the Yellow Springs school board Sept. 6, the board voted to approve a separation agreement and accept the resignation of Yellow Springs High School/McKinney Middle School Principal Tim Krier, effective April 22, 2019.
Krier, who had been on paid leave since March and had reportedly moved out of the district over the summer, was to remain on administrative leave and continue to collect his salary of $108,078.93, as well as health and other benefits.
The board action was the culmination of six months of district and police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct against a high school student who has a family relationship with Krier. After police were called to the school March 7 regarding an allegation of misconduct, it came to light that the same student had been accused of sexual misbehavior resulting in police response in Sept. 2017. In that matter, police had recommended a charge of gross sexual imposition, but the case was pleaded down to disorderly conduct, according to police records and the victim’s mother.
Widespread community concern centered on whether the relationship between the principal and the accused youth influenced Krier’s handling of the fall allegation. Questions also arose about whether the superintendent and school board had knowledge of the September accusation.
According to the district, an inquiry conducted by an outside investigator, hired by the district’s law firm, concluded this summer that Krier, Superintendent Mario Basora and the school board fulfilled their legal obligations in reporting abuse accusations. The inquiry, which was not made public, also concluded that the board and superintendent had not known of the September allegation, according to the district.
A separate internal investigation that concluded earlier in the summer substantiated the allegations that the accused student had engaged in harassment, sexual harassment and bullying. The student in question, who no longer attends YSHS, also faced new criminal juvenile charges related to the March accusation.
Amid the crisis, the school board filled the school’s top leadership role by appointing Assistant Principal Jack Hatert as Interim Principal, and for the remainder of last school year, Mills Lawn counselor and former high school Principal John Gudgel served as Interim Assistant Principal.
For the 2018–19 school year, Hatert was reappointed as interim principal and middle school social studies teacher Cameron McCoy was named interim assistant principal. The district has said it will begin a formal hiring process in February to name a permanent high/middle school principal and assistant principal for the 2019–20 school year.
The district this school year also has implemented a variety of initiatives for students, staff and parents addressing healthy relationships and gender equity in the schools.
• The girls swim team won the Metro Buckeye League championship in February for the third year in a row.
• Senior Amani Wagner ended her high school track career achieving a school record in the discus and shot put at the District III Regional meet in May, where she took fifth place in the shot put and was one point away from qualifying for the state tournament in that event.
• For the first time in history, both the McKinney School boys and girls track and field teams won the Metro Buckeye Conference championship in May.
• This fall, the YSHS varsity volleyball team secured the Metro Buckeye League championship, going on to win the school’s first volleyball tournament game in 40 years. A second post-season win took the squad into the sectional finals, where their victorious run came to an end.
• Also named MBL conference champs this fall was the McKinney School boys cross country team.
• The high school boys varsity soccer team won their conference play and went on to earn second place in the district tournament.
Gender equity in sports
An outdated athletic double standard was ended this fall at Yellow Springs High School when the cheerleading squad began cheering for girls home basketball games as well as all boys games.
Athletic Hall of Fame inaugurated
The Yellow Springs High School Athletic Department and Athletic Boosters inducted 14 former students and/or coaches as inaugural members of the district’s Athletic Hall of Fame at a ceremony June 30. They were:
• Leo Frank Hughes, class of 1935, track, basketball and baseball;
• Charlie Coles, class of 1959, basketball player and coach;
• Sterling Wright, class of 1969, basketball;
• Leroy Bondurant, a coach in the 1970s and ’80s;
• Sarah (Butler) Lowe, class of 1973, who played volleyball, basketball and softball, and returned to the local school district after college to teach physical education;
• Marcus Johnson, class of 1974, who played football, basketball and track;
• John Gudgel, class of 1975, who as a student played football, basketball and track and later served as a coach of track, basketball and football;
• Shirley Cummins, class of 1976, volleyball, basketball, track and softball;
• Bill Hardman, class of 1977, soccer;
• Tyson Bondurant, class of 1978. soccer, basketball, track;
• Teresa Bondurant Wagner, class of 1979, soccer, basketball, track;
• Greg Ayers, class of 1985. soccer, basketball and track;
• Matt Brunsman, class of 1990: swimming;
• Andrew Pierce, class of 1997, basketball and track.
• After five years teaching in the Antioch School’s Younger Group (grades one through three), Christine Lipari-Althaus resigned in May in anticipation of the birth of her second child this past summer. The new school year began at the end of August with longtime villager and veteran teacher Cathleen Tong joining the independent elementary school’s staff to lead the multi-age classroom.
• The new year also began with a stronger emphasis on building diversity within the school. School Manager Nathan Summers said in August that the initiative would focus on professional development opportunities for staff to help open instruction to “more perspectives and backgrounds,” while at the same time bringing in people with a diversity of backgrounds to work with students.
• Mo Amer, a rising comic of Arab and Muslim heritage, performed in March for the school’s annual Auction Gala. Proceeds from the event, which also includes a silent and live auction, went to the school’s scholarship fund.
• This fall, the school welcomed archeologist in residence Jeff White. The residency was funded by the Emily Bailey Fund, established by the parents of the named Antioch School alumna who died in 2000.