Man oh man - it seems like we've had a ton of meetings since January. We've had organizational meetings, regular meetings, special meetings, committee meetings, Ohio Improvement Process Meetings, and probably some other types of meetings that I just can't think of right now . . . wow. And we only get paid for one meeting per month, at less than $65 each. Obviously none of us are in this for the money!
The Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) is designed to help a district make decisions on curriculum and other things by analyzing the data of their own district. So by going through this exercise, you can determine where your strengths and weaknesses might be based on actual data from your district, and not broadly based assumptions. Can't argue with the numbers! It is my understanding that our district has finished looking at all data, and now will move forward to determine which areas need serious attention and which areas are fine as they are.
We had a regular meeting on March 23rd. The Crestwood "Destination Imagination" shared their skit with all in attendance. It was great to see what the imagination of 2nd graders could put together! Mona presented several Board Commendations to winter sports players, and two members of the public addressed the board: Mr. Dale Wheeler spoke about global warming and other global issues, and Mrs. Anne Cook handed out some printed information and spoke about drug testing of students in extracurricular activities.
On a side note, there have been some discussions regarding our current drug policy and its implementation. As in every school district, it is a challenge to get kids to understand that drug and alcohol usage gives an immediate pleasure, but its end result is always bad. And how do you convince kids to abstain when their parents' idea of a good time is to get "wasted" on the weekend? With all due respect to the SACC, I do not believe you use gambling as a 'safe' alternative. But that's a story for another column . . .
What I was starting to say was that some in the nation have suggested random drug testing of ALL students. Currently, this is an illegal option, and thus we don't use it - but it is disturbing to me how quickly some folks are willing to forfeit their individual freedoms for a "righteous cause". The example I use is this: The County has determined that drug usage is out of control, and they are going to send the police around to randomly search households in the county. So on any given day, you might have a contingent of cops on your doorstep, demanding to be allowed entry into your home so that they may search through all of your stuff, looking for drugs. No! NO! NO! Our Constitution of the United States takes a dim view of this type of search for good reason, and we should not be duped into believing that the end justifies the means.
But - I digress.
At the March meeting, all items on the consent agenda were approved. Our treasurer was unable to attend the meeting as she was ill, so a couple of things had to wait until April. But the Tax Rate Resolution from the county auditor was passed.
We then went into Executive Session for a short time. Upon our return, Mona Dyke moved to accept the resignation of Marianne Pearson. The motion died, for lack of a second.
It's been in the local paper now, and is a matter of public record that the school board took action last December to move forward with an intent to terminate Mrs. Pearson's contract. It is no easy task to deliberate and determine to move forward with such an action, and much thought and preparation went into that decision. It is extremely unfortunate that circumstances occurred which required us to take this action, and no one is "happy" about terminating a teacher, let alone a teacher with 20 years in the district. I'm sure we all wish this situation had never happened - but it did, and thereby forced our hand.
By this motion dying on the floor, we now move forward with a termination hearing before a mediator - a person who was agreed upon by both parties. A separate action by the Ohio Department of Education is also moving forward, independent of anything done by the school board. Their investigation is continuing, as they interview various people and their findings will determine their course of action. The mediator in the school board action will give his opinion on the termination matter, and then we'll go from there.
We then heard a presentation by Mr. Doren on the proposal to build a 3-sided, roofed sports pavilion. The old tent has seen better days, and no money would need to be spent by the district. The board voted unanimously to accept the pavilion.
We then approved adding a name to the graduation list, a new board policy #5335, and the school calendar for 2010-11.
A short explanation on digital recording and podcasting was given by Tim Vapenik. He had set up a small microphone for that evening, and was testing the quality of the mp3 file we could get from it. The board voted to podcast our meetings and thus make them available on the website for any interested parties. I am personally excited about that! I realize that many people simply aren't able to physically attend our meetings, but that doesn't mean they aren't interested in what was said. This gives everyone an opportunity to hear for themselves all that is discussed in open meeting.
And speaking of the district website, have you looked at it lately? It has a new format and more information is available online - including all district policies.
Board member Michelle Tyson then presented a request for laptops to be purchased by the district for use by board members. Part of her request concerned board meeting materials, which can be quite lengthy and require a lot of paper. After being a board member for a while now, I have requested that MY board packet be sent to me via email. I might be the only one, however . . . At any rate, I was not comfortable going forward with this request until it could be shown that we would at least break even on the cost. Superintendent Paulette Baz indicated that each laptop would be in the $1,100 range due to contractural agreements already in place. Personally, I don't see a need to spend over $5 grand to get laptops for board members, but in the meantime, Michelle and Mona will investigate the cost-effectiveness and report back to the board.
Next Steve Gfell presented the proposed high school curriculum for 2010-11. A couple of questions were asked, for clarification, and we then unanimously accepted his proposal.
The next item on our agenda was a proposed Tentative Agreement with the Swanton Education Association (SEA). The proposal called for a one-year rollover contract that included a flat 3% raise to the base, and all other contract points to remain the same. This TA passed with a 4 to 1 vote.
I was the only "no" vote on this proposal. In today's teetering economy, with double-digit unemployment in Fulton and Lucas County, I could not justify agreeing to this proposal. Other districts around the state are negotiating their contracts for more reasonable amounts which is the appropriate course of action, in my opinion. Acceptance of this TA effectively delays contract negotiations with the SEA for another year - yet, part of our job as a school board member is to negotiate contracts with our various employee groups. I could not, in good conscience, approve this TA. If you are interested in why the other four board members voted "yes", please feel free to contact them.
After that vote, we went into Executive Session one last time, and finally came out and adjourned at 9:42 p.m.