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School Board—Superintendent search begins

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With the recent announcement that Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Mario Basora will be leaving for the Huber Heights school district effective Aug. 1, the local school board is moving quickly in the search for his replacement.

At its regular meeting Thursday, March 14, the board welcomed two representatives of K–12 Business Consulting, Inc., a Columbus-based firm that will assist throughout the process of getting a new superintendent hired before the end of the school year.

“This process officially launches today,” board President Steve Conn said.

K–12’s Debbie Campbell and Dennis Leone, each of whom have more than 40 years in education, including as school superintendents, will be working with Yellow Springs.

“We think our people are good for you,” Campbell said.

The firm offers support in developing a candidate profile, assists in recruiting candidates and advises the board on competitive wages and benefits, Campbell said.

“We act as the intermediary.”

She said that gathering community input is an important part of the process.

“What’s good about your school district? What are the challenges? What are you looking for in a superintendent?”

Leone offered a timeline for the process:

March 20: announce the opening -statewide.

April 3: hold stakeholder focus group meeting.

April 5: complete search profile.

April 10: present report to board.

April 23: application deadline.

April 24: present candidates to board.

May 6: begin first-round interviews.

May 13: conduct second-round -interviews.

May 16: hire new superintendent.

“We’ll be moving quickly,” Leone said.

Campbell said that the final interviews will have a community component, as the recent principal’s search had.

The district web site also will have a page devoted to the search, board President Conn said.

“We conduct a very open search,” Campbell affirmed.

Board Vice-president Aida Merhemic said that the K–12 firm came highly recommended.

“Everybody talked about what an incredible process this is from all constituents.”

The company, founded in 2001, recently assisted the Middletown, Washington Court House and Pickerington school districts in their superintendent searches.

The contract cost is $14,900 plus consultant mileage and other expenses above and beyond the agreement, according to district Treasurer Dawn Bennett. In an email this week, she wrote that the firm isn’t paid until a candidate is chosen and successfully hired. She added that the Greene County Education Services Center has agreed to pay $2,000 of the contract cost. 

Relatedly, the board officially — and reluctantly — approved Basora’s letter of resignation, dated Feb. 20.

“As I reflect on my time in Yellow Springs, I am so proud of the students, the staff, our administrators and our parents for trusting and believing in our vision for a better learning experience,” he wrote.

In other school board business March 14:

Plastic Rap

A recent project-based learing, or PBL, study about the effects of plastic on the environment prompted students from Carrie Juergens’ fourth-grade class to seek school board action in eliminating throw-away plastic cutlery in the school’s lunch room in favor of metal flatware that can be washed and reused.

The students carried in boxes representing the number of plastic forks, spoons and knives used during a single school year — 21,582 — according to their calculations. Elaina Gilley noted that the stacked boxes were taller than she.

Mateo Basora and Wyatt Fagan offered a cost analysis, having found that the district spends $990.72 a year on plasticware, where metal flatware would cost $230.32, for a savings of $760.50

“That’s a lot,” they said.

The boys also noted that metal doesn’t leach out toxic chemicals, as plastics have been found to do.

The students brought their message home with an original “Plastic Rap,” the chorus of which went: “Plastic in the ocean, plastic on the ground, plasticware is filling this world all around.”

Board members lauded the presentation.

“I think the board will be very serious about taking your suggestion,” Conn said.

Basora said he would follow up with the class the following week.

Mushroom love

During the community comments portion of the agenda, third-grade teacher Peg Morgan, who was dressed as “Trevor, the Yellow Springs mushroom,” along with two of her “third-grade scientists,” gave a brief presentation about their ongoing study of mushrooms and soil. The trio said their class is gathering data about the importance of mushrooms on sustaining healthy soil, and will come back to the board later in the year to present their findings.

Theater arts expansion

The board unanimously approved increasing performance arts teacher Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp’s half-time contract to full time for the 2019–20 school year, effectively expanding the theater arts program.

In addition to the middle school performance class currently offered, high schoolers will have the opportunity to take a class in acting and script analysis, and a class in stagecraft. A choir will also be started, Basora said.

The addition also allows the school to offer a visual and performing arts career education pathway, which will bring with it $50,000 annually from the state.

“These new pathways are designed to help students make career connections and develop pathways to future jobs in the art field,” Basora wrote in his advance report. 

“This will provide powerful opportunities for our kids,” he told the board. 

High/middle school report

Interim Principal Jack Hatert, who this week was announced as the district’s choice to become the permanent principal next year, reported on recent activities at the high/middle school.

On Feb. 15, the United Students Society presented the school’s third annual Black History Month Celebration. The event was 100 percent student planned and organized, Hatert said. The Rev. Bill Randolph spoke about “staying woke,” and performances featured the Xclusive dance crew from Dayton and locally based rap unit Issa Ali and the Village Fam. 

On Feb. 16, the student Gender and Sexuality Alliance, or GSA, hosted a dance at the Bryan Center in collaboration with GSAs from Xenia, Bellbrook, Fairborn and Springfield. Hatert said that about 75 students attended. Local restaurants, the Winds Cafe and Ha Ha’s, supported the event, which organizers hope to make an annual activity. The effort was part of GSA’s goal to promote a regional organization, Hatert said.

Hatert also highlighted recent student accomplishments, noting that five members of the Power of the Pen team had qualified to compete against 35 schools in the regional tournament March 9. Olive Cooper, who won the Western District Tournament, earned best of round for two of the three rounds. Sylvia Korson earned second place among eighth-grade writers and won the Director’s Choice award. The state tournament is scheduled May 24.

Mills Lawn Black History Month

“Mills Lawn went big this year during Black History Month,” Principal Matt Housh told the board.

A committee of teachers worked over a few months to plan the school’s activities, including daily morning news features, a student-led assembly, art and writing displays and a second-grade living history museum.

Housh also noted sixth-grade members of the district’s speech and debate team did well in state competition, with Payton Horton taking third place in Declamation, Gini Meekin earning 14th in the same category and Maggie Wright earning 13th in the category of Interpretation.

He also highlighted the recognition of first-grade teacher Mikasa Simms and her 2017–18 class as recipients of the inaugural Wheeling Gaunt Community Service Award, honoring their study of “hidden figures” in the village and production of an A-B-C book on Gaunt’s life.  

Faculty and staff

Retired teacher Suzanne Grote, who is music director of the high/middle school spring musical, and performance teacher Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, the production’s stage director, each wrote letters to the board asking that their stipend for working on the musical be reduced by a third and given to volunteer James Johnston, director of the show’s pit orchestra. The board approved.

The board approved supplemental contracts for Grote at $1,742, Sparrow-Knapp at $1,801 and Johnston at $1,801.

The board also approved leaves of absence for custodian James Waulk, for dates to be determined, and instructional aide Vicki Willis, from March 13 until approximately April 17.

Isaac Haller was approved as a homebound tutor, as needed, at $25 an hour; and Makenzie Laipply was approved as a substitute teacher at $90 a day or $45 for a half day.

Additionally, the board approved supplemental contracts for John Gudgel as coordinator of Strengthening Ohio’s Teacher Pipeline Grants at $2,000 and Brian Housh as national debate team coach at $3,122.

The board also approved volunteers Omar Durrani as YSHS/MMS chess instructor and Danielle Horton as softball coach.

Antioch Miller Fellow Morgan Hayslip also was approved to work in the schools through a Yellow Springs Community Foundation grant.

Facilities task force

Basora announced that the 11-member community task force that will work on developing a plan for addressing the district’s facility needs was scheduled to have its first meeting Monday, March 18. The group is expected to meet about twice a month for six months; the public is welcome to sit in and observe. (A story about the meeting will appear in next week’s News.)

New principal to be approved

The board scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday, March 21, to approve the superintendent’s recommendation for principal at the high/middle school. Basora announced this week that he would be recommending the current interim principal, Jack Hatert. Board approval is anticipated.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Thursday, April 11, in the John Graham Meeting Room at Mills Lawn.

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