June 19, 2003
The Yellow Springs Board of Education tabled last week a vote on upcoming levies after board members said they wanted to give the public more time to comment.
Although scheduled to vote on the placement of two levy renewals on the November ballot at their meeting June 12, board members followed the suggestion of president Tom Haugsby and tabled the first of two votes on the levies until the July 10 meeting.
Haugsby suggested the change in response to concerns that the board’s work session on the levies, held at Haugsby’s home on May 29, may have discouraged public input because it was held in a private residence. Haugsby cited concerns raised by board member Bill Firestone, who could not attend the work session, in a column that was published in last week’s Yellow Springs News and a News editorial in the same issue.
“The board wants and the public has the right to expect that board business is done in decorum and in public,” said Haugsby, who suggested the board focus its regular June 26 meeting on the levies, and seek more public input.
“We should do this to make abundantly clear” that the board seeks public participation, Haugsby said. “This will be a meeting for questions and for considering alternatives.”
Last month, Superintendent Tony Armocida proposed that the school board place on the November ballot a renewal of the permanent improvement levy, which funds technology and buses and which expires the end of this year, and a renewal of the current emergency levy, which expires the end of 2004.
In light of the new school income tax, which voters approved in 2001, Armocida recommended that both levies’ millage be reduced, so that property would be taxed at a lower rate than it is currently. He recommended that the permanent improvement levy, now 1.3 effective millage, be reduced to 0.6 mills. The levy would provide schools with about $64,200 a year for technology and bus needs.
Armocida recommended that the emergency levy, with a current millage of 10.1 mills, be reduced to 9.9 mills, or a reduction of $21,400 a year.
At its May 29 work session, board members questioned whether the reduced levy amounts were adequate to fund school needs and whether both levies should be placed on the ballot in the same year.
The board also agreed last week to hold a special meeting on Monday, June 23, 6:30 p.m., to discuss how board members communicate.
“To be effective, we need to communicate with each other and trust one another,” said board member Mary Campbell-Zopf. “I see this board as a high-achieving collegial group of individuals, but I feel we’ve stumbled somehow.”
Several board members expressed a need to discuss how they communicate, especially in light of the column Firestone submitted to the News about his concerns on the tax levies, which he had not discussed with other board members before publicizing his concerns.
“Bill’s letter indicates that there’s a problem,” said Haugsby, who suggested holding the meeting. “We need to look at how the board works together.”
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In other school board business:
• The board approved a first reading of a new inter-district open enrollment policy. The new policy allows Yellow Springs schools to accept students from any Ohio school district. The current policy allows the district to accept students from continguous districts.
In previous meetings, board members discussed expanding the open enrollment program as a way bring more income to the schools.
• Board members approved a revision of the McKinney/YSHS student handbook, which a committee of students and teachers revised. The group made only small revisions to last year’s handbook, said McKinney School teacher Janet Miller.
“Working on the handbook becomes easier every year,” said YSHS Principal John Gudgel. “There are a lot of commonalities between what the students want and what the teachers want.”
• The board approved step advancements for Mills Lawn aide David Johnston and Craig Conrad, the school district director of maintenance, both of whom recently completed additional training.
• The board approved a district position for a special education supervisor for the 2003–04 school year.