2019 Year in Review: Village Schools
- Published: January 2, 2020
Top administrative changes
Personnel changes in the Yellow Springs School District’s top administrative posts dominated school news in 2019. By the end of summer, the district had a new superintendent, an interim treasurer, a new athletic director and a permanently appointed principal and vice-principal at the McKinney Middle/YS High School.
The year began with the knowledge that the district soon would be conducting a search for a new middle/high school principal and vice-principal, as those positions were being filled with the interim appointments of former Vice-Principal Jack Hatert as principal and classroom teacher Cameron McCoy as vice-principal in the wake of former Principal Tim Krier’s leave and subsequent separation agreement in 2018.
But all the other administrative changes in 2019 were unanticipated.
Most surprising, perhaps, was Mario Basora’s announcement in February, that after nine years in the district’s top job, he had accepted the head administrative post with nearby Huber Heights schools, effective Aug. 1.
The school board immediately launched a search, assisted by Columbus-based K–12 Business Consulting, bringing in three final candidates for community meetings in early June. Less than a week later, Terri Holden, Ph.D., the executive director of teaching and learning and a former principal with Winton Woods Schools north of Cincinnati, accepted the board’s unanimously agreed-upon offer, with an official start date of Aug. 1.
The search for a middle/high school principal in March also involved community meetings with three final candidates. The community’s clear favorite was also the district’s, with Jack Hatert going from interim to permanent effective the start of the new contract year. Subsequently, Interim Vice-Principal Cameron McCoy became permanent as well.
As the superintendent search was nearing its conclusion, the board in May unexpectedly voted not to renew the contract of Treasurer Dawn Bennett, who like Basora had been with the district for nine years. A temporary appointment of Joy Kitzmiller as interim treasurer was soon replaced by longterm Interim Treasurer Tammy Emrick, who remained in the position at year’s end.
The last departure came in mid-summer, when then Athletic Director Nate Baker resigned to become AD in Huber Heights, Basora’s new district. Jeff Eyrick, an area soccer coach and former select team administrator who has children in the district, left a career in senior care administration to take the part-time Yellow Springs position at the start of the new academic year.
In other district leadership related news, school board members TJ Turner and Sylvia Ellison ran unopposed in November to retain their elected positions. And in December, the board approved a three-year appointment to the Greene County Career Center Board for YS school board member Steve McQueen, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
In other 2019 school news—
Facilities Task Force
Early in the calendar year, Superintendent Basora announced that he was forming a Facilities Task Force to develop a plan for addressing the needs of the district’s facilities, after voters in 2018 rejected a combined income/property tax levy to pay for a proposed renovation/replacement project at the middle/high school campus. The group included 11 official members — made up of people with different opinions about the levy measure — and four ex-officio members — himself, Treasurer Bennett, school board member TJ Turner (who had been co-chair of the failed levy committee) and architect Mike Ruetschle (whose firm had overseen the previously proposed project).
The group, whose members included parents, grandparents, community leaders, educators and students, began meeting in March with Mel Marsh, of Springfield-based Acorn Consulting, serving as facilitator.
After 10 months of work, which included school visits; meetings with experts; surveying community members, teachers and students; and prioritizing identified needs; the group presented their findings and preliminary recommendations and solicited feedback in a community meeting Dec. 10 in the Mills Lawn gym.
Primary among the task force’s conclusions was that “the best way forward” for the district is to invest in significant improvements in the existing school buildings, rather than rebuilding or near complete replacements. Group members also believe that more money needs to go into building maintenance, recommending that the school board seek an increase in permanent improvement levy funds.
Individual task force members plan to meet with more members of the community before combining the feedback into a final report to the school board early in the new year.
• In its second year as an extra-curricular activity, the district’s Speech and Debate team hosted the inaugural Fearless Forensic Festival in January. The team, which had expanded to include sixth graders for the 2018–19 season, had four sixth graders qualify for the state middle school competition — Maggie Wright, Gini Meekin, Payton Horton and Kian Barker. Barker could not compete, however, because of illness. Payton earned third place in Declamation, Gini placed 14 in the same category and Maggie placed 13 in Interpretation. High school sophomore Galen Sieck qualified for the state high school tournament as well.
• On Feb. 15, the United Student Society presented the high school’s third annual Black History Month Celebration.
• The next evening, the middle/high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (formerly called the Gay Straight Alliance), or GSA, hosted a dance at the Bryan Center in collaboration with GSA groups from other area schools.
• Also in February, the McKinney Middle School Power of the Pen eighth-grade team took second place out of 17 schools at the district conference. Olive Cooper earned the first-place writing award, qualifying her for the regional tournament in March. In addition to Cooper, three other eighth graders qualified for the regional match — Dani Bieri, Sylvia Korson and Ava Vescio, though illness kept Vescio from competing. Korson earned the second-place eighth-grade award for individual writing among the 35 participating schools. She and Cooper both qualified for the state tournament in May.
• The Junior Council on World Affairs, in its second year at the high school, fronted five four-person teams at the annual QuizBowl hosted by the Dayton Council of World Affairs at the University of Dayton in February. The YS teams placed second, seventh, ninth, 11th and 14th among the 39 competing foursomes.
• The 72nd annual School Forest Festival was held the first weekend in December, continuing a beloved school-community tradition.
• A mounting of Rogers & Hammerstein’s “Sound of Music” by the middle/high school theater program was delayed several times in March as illness made its way through the schools and cast. The soaring production got glowing reviews when it finally made its debut in April.
• During the last weekend in March, 33 YSHS students attended the annual Ohio State Thespian Conference in Akron. Yellow Springs was chosen to perform “Girls Like That” in its entirety as well as an abbreviated version of “Romeo and Juliet,” both of which the school presented locally in fall 2018. Conference organizers select fewer than 10 schools each year to showcase a full production over the conference weekend.
• In September, the middle/high school presented “The Bigfoot Letters,” a contemporary comedy. The YS show has since been selected for presentation at the annual state thespian conference next spring.
• A senior in the 2019–20 school year, Julia Hoff, who was Maria in last spring’s “Sound of Music,” was selected by state thespian conference officials to appear in the organization’s all-state production, to be presented during the 2020 conference gathering in Akron.
• The district mounted an “all-schools musical” this month with a production of “Scrooge!” featuring students from the high, middle and elementary schools as well as several teachers and staff.
• In February, Mills Lawn fourth, fifth and sixth graders participated in the school’s inaugural Day of Discovery — modeled on the annual Dayton Day of Empowerment — at the middle/high school, where students explore life skills that fall outside traditional classroom activities.
• Also in February, first-grade teacher Mikasa Simms and Mills Lawn second graders were awarded the inaugural Wheeling Gaunt Community Service Award. The award was given for the creation the year before, when the students were first graders, of “Wheeling Gaunt’s ABCs,” a picture book highlighting key moments in the life of the 19th-century Yellow Springs philanthropist and produced as a PBL project.
• In March, the school board approved increasing middle school performance arts teacher Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp’s half-time contract to full time for the 2019–20 school year, effectively expanding the performing arts program at the middle/high school. Offerings added this fall included a high school class in acting and script analysis and another in stagecraft as well as a combined middle/high school choir.
• In April, the high school French classes hosted the 12th annual French Cafe, an evening of French food and varied musical performances, with proceeds going to the Byimana School of Sciences in Gitarama, Rwanda.
• Early in May, the middle/high school cafeteria on-site manager for Sodexo Foods was put on administrative leave after posting comments on a public Facebook page about the length of shorts worn at school by some girls, and posting a meme on her private Facebook page that were considered racist in content. She was not rehired when the district brought in a new food provider, The Nutrition Group, for the 2019–20 school year.
• A controversy at the high school at the end of the school year over the appropriateness of a planned classroom debate on the use of Native American images and names by sports teams concluded with the cancelation of the student debate and some cultural sensitivity education.
• Sixty-three seniors received their high school diplomas in graduation ceremonies May 30. Lily Bryan and Alex Ronnebaum were chosen as the class of 2019’s commencement student speakers.
• With the start of the new school year in August, the district welcomed two newly hired teachers — Allison Hawker, to teach physical education at Mills Lawn, and Hannah Weinstein, to teach U.S. history at the high school. The first day of classes was Aug. 22.
• For the fourth year in a row, the district’s seventh graders went “Into the Wild,” with a 53-mile, three-day biking, canoeing and camping adventure in September.
• The release of state report cards in September for the 2018–19 school year showed that Yellow Springs had dropped from an overall “B” the year before to a “C.” Although the district board and administrators have long found fault with the usefulness of state-mandated testing and the resulting report card grades, new Superintendent Holden said that taking the results seriously is necessary. “This sends a message we may not want to send,” she said of the latest report card. Relatedly, the district revealed in December that Mills Lawn had been put on the state’s voucher list based on 2014 and 2018 grades in the category of at-risk K–12 reading improvement.
• This fall, sixth graders at Mills Lawn started a community service initiative in which each sixth grader is required to undertake five hours of volunteer service.
• Students at the preK–sixth grade private school on Corry Street, welcomed the Year of the Pig in celebrating the Lunar New Year in February.
• In May, students presented their annual spring musical, this year offering a performance of “The Lion King,” at the Clifton Opera House.
Girls varsity standout Angie Smith was selected as a freshman in the 2018–19 season for the Dayton Underclassman All-Star Game hosted at Edison State Community College in March. Smith also was named co-player of the year in the Metro Buckeye Conference, where she was selected for First Team All District as well.
Boys senior varsity player Andrew Clark signed in the spring to play for Wilmington College in the fall.
Eden Spriggs was named the Metro Buckeye Conference female swimmer of the year for the 2018–19 season, and girls coach Bradley Martin was named Conference Coach of the Year. Spriggs and Natalie Galarza were both named First Team All Metro Buckeye Conference.
Track & Field
As an eighth grader in the 2018–19 school year, runner Cheyan Sundell-Turner set a McKinney Middle School record in the 1,600-meter race in April, with a time of 6:12:34. A week later, she improved that record by three seconds.
The annual Bulldog Invitational in May welcomed 13 teams, with the YSHS girls squad finishing at the top of the standings and earning the first-place trophy.
Also in May, for the first time since 2016, the girls track and field team won the Buckeye Conference meet held at Cedarville University. Coach Isabelle Dierauer was named MBC Girls Coach of the Year.
At the Division II Championship meet May 18 in Milton Union, five Bulldogs qualified for regionals, with Annlyn Foster crowned the district champion in the 100 hurdles. Foster also anchored the runner-up 400-meter relay team with teammates Haneefah Jones, Malaya Booth and Sophia Lawson. Joining them in qualifying for the regionals was Teymour Fultz, a senior, who finished third at the district meet in the 400 meters.
Four players pf the 2019 YSHS softball team were named to Metro Buckeye All-Conference Teams. Senior Abby Florence and junior Zoe Lafferty were named to the first team, and junior Rebecca Spencer and sophomore Bre Wallace were named to the second team. Coach Jimmy DeLong was named MBC Coach of the Year.
Senior Dylan Rainey was named to the First Team of the Metro Buckeye Conference.
Forrest Rowe, Olivia Snoddy and Tyler Linkhart all made the MBC First Team.
The high school girls cross-country team finished the season as the Metro Buckeye Conference champions, and 2019–20 ninth grader Cheyan Sundell-Turner was the first YSHS female runner since 2012 to compete in Division III Regionals, where she finished 20th in a field off 88.
Teammates Sundell-Turner, Josie DeWine and Avery Reeder made the all-conference First Team.
Boys varsity soccer players Finn Bledsoe, Kaden Bryan and Eli Eyrich all made the MBC First Team. Bryan also made the all-district First Team, and Vaughn Henrickson was selected to play at the senior all-star game.
In varsity girls play, Aaliyah Longshaw and Tyler Linkhart made the all-conference First Team. Girls coach Marcus Rixon was named MBC Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.
For the second year in a row, the varsity volleyball team was the Metro Buckeye Conference champs, ending the regular season with an 18–1 overall record and 12–0 record in conference play.
Tyler Linkhart and Emma Ronnebaum made the all-conference First Team. Linkhart also made the all-district First Team and played in the senior all-star game.
New hall of famers
YSHS inducted its second Athletic Hall of Fame class in a ceremony in December.
The 2019 inductees were: Gina Benning, 1975; Richard Benning, 1969; Sam Borchers, 2007; Michael Childs 1975; Deborah (Pearson) Jackson, 1987; Chris Rainey, coach; Duncan Silvert-Noftle, 2005; Michael Smith, 1977; Tony “Guy” Victoria, 1988; and R. Dean Washington, 1973.