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Yellow Springs Schools — Work session to consider future

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With the new academic year in full swing, the Yellow Springs School Board  will take time Saturday, Oct. 5, to talk about the future.

The board has scheduled a work session beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Graham Conference Room at Mills Lawn.

Topics of focus will range from the district’s strategic plan, which concludes in 2020, to the schools’ budget, which is facing ongoing deficit spending.

Other agenda items include: school facilities, stadium upgrades, levy/bond timeline, technology and the local Community Development Corporation, or CDC.

“I hope that our discussions can lead to some clarity about some of the items on the agenda,” Board President Steve Conn wrote in an email in reply to a request for comment.

Conn noted that the work session will be the first with Terri Holden as the district’s new superintendent and Tammy Emrick as interim treasurer.

“The items on the agenda are those that Terri wants to hash through with the board, and those discussions will help her think through future actions she might want to recommend,” Conn wrote.

Work sessions, which take no official actions or votes, are open to the public to observe, but there is no opportunity to comment.

Conn wrote that the sessions are valuable to the board not only because they allow more time for discussion and debate than the board’s regular business meetings, but also because they “can be a good way to communicate what the board is thinking to the rest of town.”

In other recent school board business:

New contract approved

At its regular September meeting, the board unanimously approved a new three-year contract with the Yellow Springs Education Association, the teachers union, effective Aug. 1, 2019, through July 31, 2022.

YSEA co-presidents, sixth-grade teacher Sara Amin and high school health and physical education teacher Kate Lohmeyer, thanked the board for their work.

“We are pleased … that we have reached an agreement,” Lohmeyer said. 

“We are excited about continuing open and transparent discussions,” she continued, asserting a desire for “the inclusion of teachers’ voices in this collaborative work” of defining the district’s educational goals.

Deficit spending expected

Interim Treasurer Tammy Emrick reported that while the district’s general fund showed a balance of “a little over” $6.9 million as of Aug. 31, she projected that the amount would drop to $4.5 million by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2020. Emrick said she would give a more detailed look at the budget when she presents in October the five-year projection.

Bus purchase approved

The board approved moving forward with advertising and receiving bids for the purchase of one or more school buses.

The most recent bus purchase was last year at a cost of $90,000.

Food service update

District Superintendent Terri Holden reported on the introduction of a temporary new food service provider, the Nutrition Group, with the start of the new school year Aug. 22.

She noted that since its hiring earlier in August, the company has “done a considerable amount of work,” including hiring and training staff, creating new menu options and securing food vendors.

“Early feedback indicates the food is of a much higher quality and taste than last year,” she wrote in her written report to the board. She added that the company planned to survey students about their needs.

The district signed an “emergency” six-month contract with the Nutrition Group after experiencing communication issues with previous provider Sodexo. 

The district will be issuing a request for proposals for continuing food service at the conclusion of the six-month contract with the Nutrition Group.

Facilities task force work continues

Superintendent Holden reported that the facilities task force had been meeting throughout the summer to prioritize building needs identified by architectural assessments, staff and student input and additional building walk-throughs.

She said that the group planned to begin meeting with community groups in late October and anticipated making a presentation to the school board in December.

New policies considered

The board approved first readings on eight policy revisions:

• Concerning interscholastic athletics, the revision allows students who were previously ineligible because of a grade of incomplete to play.

• Concerning graduation requirements, as set by recently passed HB 166, the revision adds “show choir” to the physical education options available to districts.

• Concerning purchasing and bidding policies, the revision requires competitive bidding for the purchase or lease-purchase of a bus when the vehicle costs more than $25,000.

• Concerning policies regarding procurement-federal grants/funds involving small, minority and women’s business, the revision adds language about steps the district should take in encouraging these groups’ competitive participation in the procurement process. 

• Concerning credit card use, the revision requires the name of the district on the credit card and identifies eligible goods and services for credit card purchase.

• Concerning crowdfunding, the new revision introduces language that addresses student privacy and appropriate fiscal safeguards when using crowdfunded money.

• Concerning the student activity fund, the proposed revision clarifies language regarding charitable donations and student activity funds.

• Concerning school safety, the revision reflects the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is the current federal law, and eliminates references to the former No Child Left Behind Act.

A second reading and final approval of each of the revisions is anticipated at the board’s October meeting.

Donation accepted

The board accepted, with “great appreciation,” the donation of a world globe from villager Paul Beck.

Job description updates

The board approved job description revisions for six positions: assistant to the treasurer; board office clerical assistant and transportation coordinator; the education management information system, or EMIS, coordinator; executive assistant to the superintendent and communications director; special education coordinator; and student services director.

Holden said that the changes were “minimal,” and mostly reflected the separation of the EMIS duties from the executive assistant position or “to reflect actual job responsibilities.”

Other personnel matters

The board approved Antioch College student Caitlin Killen-Bove as a Miller Fellow working in the special education department at the middle/high school. Miller Fellowships are funded through a grant administered by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

Substitute teaching contracts were approved for Kendra Boyette, Christine Gustafson, Deanne Hartman, Lynda Love Highlander, Ida Kwatereng and Dianne Light.

Upcoming meetings

In addition to the work session planned Saturday, Oct. 5, at 9:30 a.m., the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m., in the John Graham Meeting Room at Mills Lawn School.

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