July 17, 2003


Board of Education comes together on levy proposal

After several weeks of dissension, members of the Yellow Springs Board of Education united last week in support of placing two tax levy renewals on the November ballot.

At its meeting July 10, the school board unanimously approved the first of two votes needed to place on the ballot a five-year 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy and a three-year 10.1-mill emergency levy. Both are renewals of current levies, but at reduced millage compared to current levels.

The board will vote again on the proposal at its meeting Aug. 14.

The permanent improvement levy would provide the schools with $69,000 a year for technology and school bus needs, and the emergency levy, which would go into effect in January 2005, would generate $1.06 million a year for general operating expenses, including salaries and benefits.

“Placing both levies on the ballot in 2003 gives the school more room to plan,” said board member Angela Wright, who had previously stated that she was undecided which way she would vote. She said that “the process of constructive and open discussion” at the board’s June 26 Committee of the Whole meeting “helped me the most in coming together and realizing that this is the best we can do for this district.”

Superintendent Tony Armocida recommended in May that the board place both levies on the ballot. While the permanent improvement levy expires this year, the emergency levy expires at the end of 2004. Armocida cited the difficulty of requesting levies two years in a row as a reason for asking voters to fund both levies this year.

Passing both levies would also help the schools with long-range planning, he said. And passing both levy renewals at reduced rates would provide a tax break for local residents, which the board promised when it successfully sought a school income tax two years ago, Armocida has said.

“Placing both levies on the ballot in November would place all the district finances before the public so that they can make their decisions based on the big picture,” Armocida wrote in his report to the board. He also said that he and Joy Kitzmiller, the district treasurer, “believe we can maintain program and provide a tax break, thus making good a promise to cut taxes when we could.”

In June, board member William Firestone, in an open letter to his fellow school board members that was published in the News, said that he was opposed to placing both levies on the ballot. At the time, he said placing two levies on the ballot was too much for voters, and that the permanent improvement levy amount was too low to adequately provide for the schools’ technology needs.

While board president Tom Haugsby and members Mary Campbell-Zopf and Rich Bullock expressed support for Armocida’s proposal, Wright also voiced doubts as to the efficacy of putting both levies in front of voters at once.

Following Firestone’s letter, the board postponed its planned vote in June and held an additional discussion on the proposal, during which board members debated the pros and cons of the proposal.

That discussion seemed to bring board members together on the issue. At the board meeting last week, Firestone voted for the two levy renewals.

“I’m willing to go along with it,” he said, “but we have to tighten our belts.”

* * *

In other school board business:

• The board approved a new district open enrollment policy making all Ohio students eligible for open enrollment at Yellow Springs schools, rather than just those in neighboring districts.

“This policy would make our schools available to more families in the area and would not specifically target neighboring districts with whom we have had very cooperative relationships,” Armocida said in his report to the board. “By ‘filling the gaps,’ we will also be generating revenue that will help us maintain our programs.”

• The board heard a favorable report from Jim Trent, assessment team chairman of the North Central Association team, which spent two days reviewing the school’s educational plan.

“You have lots to be proud of in Yellow Springs,” Trent said. He said that both teachers and students seem to take seriously the plan and its goals, which are to improve the school community and to improve students’ academic responsibility. “I’m convinced that these goals will be developed to the fullest,” Trent said.

• The board recognized Evelyn Nickoson, who recently retired after serving 27 years as a school bus driver. It also agreed to hire Mary Tidd as a part-time driver for the upcoming year.

• The board approved a three-year limited contract for Jody Chick as special education supervisor for the district.

• The board approved a one-year limited contract for Susan Praeger as school nurse.

• The board approved five waiver days, to be used for staff development, and eight early-dismissal days, which will be used for staff planning.

• A YSHS graduation date of Thursday, June 3, 2004, was approved.

• The board approved 4 percent salary increases for Kitzmiller, YSHS Principal John Gudgel, Mills Lawn Principal Christine Hatton and Teresa Newton, board administrative assistant.

• Kitzmiller reported that the school district ended the fiscal year with a $1.7 million carry over, which was an increase of $105,00 over the previous estimate.

• The board approved a number of co-curricular contracts. Contracts at Mills Lawn School included: Debra Mabra, first/second grade team leader, $2,748; Linda Kalter, third/fourth grade team leader, $2,397; Brandon Zappin, fifth/sixth grade team leader, $2,586; Dionne Barclay, specialists’ team leader, $2,263; Pam Dapore, safety patrol director, $1,104; Amy Minehart and Rebecca O’Brien, TV and media broadcasting, $1,401 each; Don Nowak, Webmaster, $1,104; and Pat Spracklen, Suzanne Hardin, Shanna Winks, Ellen Guest and Jody Pettiford, student assistance team members, $1,104 each.

Contracts for the McKinney School and YSHS included: Pam Conine as seventh/eighth grade team leader, $2,748, and seventh/eighth student council advisor, $835; Aurelia Blake, Power of the Pen advisor, $1,104; Sarah Lowe, Vickie Hitchcock, Kevin O’Brien and David Smith, student assistance team members, $1,104 each; Carla Steiger-Meister, Spectrum advisor, $539; John Day, School Forest advisor, $3,906; Pam Stephens, Student Council advisor, $1,104 and Joyce McCurdy, Quick Recall advisor, $835;

—Iyabo Eguaroje, United Society advisor, $539; Terry Graham and Elizabeth Lutz, junior class co-advisors, $377 each; Michael Ruddell, band director, $1,724; Yvonne Wingard, orchestra director, $1,724; Vickie Hitchcock and Shawn Jackson, principal’s council, $1,104 each; Melina Elum, video club advisor, $835; and Sue Smart, community service coordinator, $1,000.

The board approved athletic contracts for Chris Rainey, athletic activities and events coordinator, $3,532; DeeAnn Holly, site manager for athletics, $1,425; Gudgel, YSHS track coach, $3,529; Rainey, head baseball coach, $2,074; and MacKenzie Reynolds, head soccer coach, $3,528 and softball coach, $2,074.

District contracts went to Vickie Hitchcock, assistant to YSHS principal, $3,502; Teresa Newton, transportation supervisor, $3,664; Susan Griffith, EMIS coordinator, $2,613; Shawn Jackson, district lead mentor, $1,000; and Susan Griffith, Teresa Newton, Roberta Gereg, Sue Smart and Pam Stephens, EMIS data entry at $500 each.

Co-curricular contracts were awarded to the following persons, who are not school employees: At McKinney Middle School, Jason Doyle, seventh grade football coach, $970; at YSHS, Roberta Perry, assistant site manager for athletics, $1,239; Vince Peters, YSHS cross country coach, $1,455; Roberta Semler, YSHS fall cheerleader advisor, $768; and Seth Bothwell, golf coach, $1,455; Jerome Crosswhite, YSHS football coach, $2,505; Jeff Martindale, assistant football coach, $1,697; Fritz Leighty, YSHS football coach, volunteer; Jim Hardman, YSHS soccer coach, $2,505; Brad Newsome, YSHS head basketball coach, $2,505; Sarah Wallis, assistant soccer coach, $1,697; Shirley Cummins, YSHS basketball coach, $2,505; Shirley Martin, YSHS volleyball coach, $1,455; Peters, YSHS track coach, $2,505.

• The board’s next scheduled meeting, July 24, was canceled.

—Diane Chiddister and Lauren Heaton