BG school board talks about teachers, task forces & transparency

Board member Bill Clifford asks question, while Jill Carr and Ginny Stewart listen.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Bowling Green Board of Education heard some tough talk on Tuesday about teachers leaving the district, huge community task forces, and mysterious phone surveys asking local residents how they voted on the last school bond issue.

With school starting in six weeks, Superintendent Francis Scruci noted that the district had hired 25 new teachers. During exit interviews with outgoing teachers, the two most common reasons given for leaving the district were the salaries and the perceived lack of support from the community on the last two bond issues.

“We’re losing young teachers,” Scruci said. “We’re losing them to neighboring districts.”

The hope is that the community support issue may be resolved with two task forces being formed to come up with solutions to the district’s building issues and financing of those buildings. David Conley, of Rockmill Financial, has been hired by the district to help find answers.

David Conley talks about task force process.

Conley reported to the board Tuesday on updates in the task force effort.

“This is really exciting, for a lot of people to start over and have the opportunity to be involved,” he said.

Conley presented the most recent numbers of people joining the task forces, with 94 signing up for the facilities group, and 64 signing up for the finance group.

“To me, that’s really, really nice,” he said. “This is intended to be an inclusive process.”

School board member Bill Clifford questioned if the size of the task forces would make them difficult to manage.

“You can’t have too many people,” Conley said, adding that leadership, positivity, and genuine participation make it work. However, he noted that if members of a task force aren’t working sincerely on the goals, they can be asked to leave the group.

“This is the community’s task force, not the board’s task force,” he said.

Members of the task force will not agree on everything, but they will at least represent the diverse feelings of the community, Conley said.

The first gathering of the task forces will be a joint meeting of both groups on Aug. 28, at 7 p.m., in one of the school cafeterias. The meeting, which is expected to last an hour, will cover the ground rules of the task force process.

Conley will be the facilitator of the finance task force. He is still searching for someone to lead the facilities task force. He is looking for someone from outside the district who has some knowledge of school facilities and construction. The person must be “independent.”

“There’s a lot of emotion around this process,” he said.

Bud Henschen speaks at school board meeting.

Later in the meeting, citizen Bud Henschen, an outspoken opponent of the school bond issues, suggested that the task forces have co-facilitators representing those for and against the last levies on the ballot. He also said the facilitators should not be “outsiders.”

“You don’t want to see it go down again,” Henschen warned the school board.

Clifford said he initially thought the same, but the board has been advised that the facilitators be unbiased.

Henschen also scolded the board for not being transparent – by not telling the community about a phone survey being conducted asking citizens how they voted on the school bond issues.

“Did you hire someone to do a survey,” he asked.

School Board President Jill Carr informed Henschen that the board was not behind the phone survey. “This board is not involved in a survey at all,” she said.

After the meeting, citizen Barb Keller told the board that she also received a school survey call. Scruci and Carr said they have received similar reports from other citizens, but have not been able to determine who is behind the phone calls.

Dallas Black speaks to school board.

Also at the meeting, high school teacher Dallas Black asked the board about the agenda item sending school Treasurer Cathy Schuller to public records training. Black said he had viewed some district emails that had been part of a public records request during the last levy attempt.

Black asked if the training would teach Schuller to “evade public scrutiny.”

“She’s the only one who used her Bowling Green City School public school account,” he said. He criticized the board members for using their personal email for public information.

Schuller said it is typical for a school board to designate someone to attend the public records training each year. “By law, you have to have one person designated,” she said. And since Schuller is new to the treasurer position, it was decided she should attend. Some board members may also attend the training, Carr said after the meeting.

Black also said the board broke a promise by no longer scheduling the public school spring break at the same time as Bowling Green State University’s.

“There was never a promise made,” Scruci responded. It was fortunate to work out that way previously, but with BGSU changing its schedule next year, the city schools needed to stick to its plan due to state testing.

Black also expressed his displeasure about the school board dropping “honesty” from the district’s list of core values. He said several people are “shocked” and he implored that the word be added to the values.

Scruci explained that the decision to drop “honesty” from the list was not due to it being valued any less. However, with “integrity” on the list of values, it was decided that “honesty” was redundant.

“I know what integrity means,” Black shot back.

Brenda Pike talks about meeting times.

Also at the meeting, citizen Brenda Pike asked that the school board consider moving its monthly meetings from 5 p.m. to either 6:30 or 7 p.m., so more members of the community could attend.

“On behalf of the local workforce, I ask you to make this change,” Pike said.

Carr said the board would consider the request.

In other business, architect Kent Buehrer presented an update on the middle school addition. The construction should be done by the end of the month, so teachers can move in during the first full week of August.

Board member Ginny Stewart said she recently toured the addition.

“I’m excited for the teachers and the students,” she said. “The building speaks to a modern way of educating students.”

Head of school maintenance, Chuck Martin, reported on efforts to resolve HVAC issues in the three schools not air conditioned – the high school, Conneaut Elementary and Kenwood Elementary. Many of the rooms are “very uncomfortable for staff and students,” he said.

The temperature problems “started way before I started here,” said Martin, who has been with the district nine years.

Martin plans to go to each problem room and try to make modifications to make them more comfortable.

In other business, Scruci announced a mandatory shut down of all school athletics from June 29 to July 7, 2019. The shut-down will be extended to other extra-curriculars also, to allow for family vacations, he said.

“That has been a really positive thing for our athletes and our families,” Scruci said.

The board went into executive session to discuss personnel, plus safety and security. No action was taken afterward.

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