Hilltop School Board Meeting Well Attended On Busy Evening

DSC_1071 WEBBy: T.J. Hug
The Village Reporter

In a gathering that both began and concluded in Executive Session, the Millcreek-West Unity Board of Education met for their February regular meeting on Monday, February 23.

Immediately after calling the meeting to order, the board entered into the initial Executive Session in order to investigate charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual. Or, as the meeting agenda clarified, a level four grievance hearing in accordance with the district’s Collective Bargaining Agreement was to take place. Leaving the library for the board’s conference room were Superintendent Larry Long, Treasurer Tracey Thompson, school employee Vicki Rhodes, accompanied by a union representative, and the board itself.

After roughly a half hour of deliberation, all attendees of the Session filed back into the school library, where the regular meeting was being held. Upon their return, the board decided to deny the grievance.

Due to a large number of visitors at the meeting, two of which were intending to speak, the board elected to move the recognition of visitors portion of the agenda ahead of the principals’ and superintendent’s report.

First to address the board was Roger Burdine, on behalf of his daughter, Samantha Burdine. His topic was an issue he’s had with the board over the course of several months; his daughter’s failing grades in post-secondary courses she had to drop, despite excelling in them, due to the workload conflicting with her everyday activities as a high school student.

Roger brought up a few discrepancies he had found with a letter the board had sent him regarding the issue. Board President Sarah Carothers expressed a feeling that these matters had been discussed in previous meetings, and, because of the board’s bylaws, were not allowed to be rehashed by Burdine. While the two sides disagreed on both the the intent of the policy and whether or not it was being violated, the board eventually proceeded with their meeting, and Burdine quietly exited the room.

Mishelle Hall was next to speak. Also addressing a previously discussed issue, Hall informed the board of the lack of action taken in regard to the school’s lunch policy. In particular, she was upset about the continual dumping of kids lunches into the trash if their account balance with the school goes too far in the negative.

“Lunches are still being taken from kids.” Hall stated. “Dumping kids lunches shouldn’t happen.”

As a result of this practice, Hall expressed her intention to file two complaints against Hilltop Food Service Manager Ellie Shinhearl, one as a citizen’s complaint and the other for bullying her daughter, as Shinhearl was the one accused of dumping lunches.

During her presentation, Hall also submitted a petition calling for changes in the school’s lunchroom policies. Namely, she asked for three changes to be made. First, a clear policy against the dumping of lunches should be enacted. Second, a sign up sheet should be provided for parents wishing to be informed when their children’s balance reaches the negative. Lastly, the number of free lunches provided for those students who have reached the negative should be increased from three to five, giving them a full week’s time to replenish the account.

In response, the board emphasized a need for rules and procedures, and the need to follow them. However, they also acknowledged that communication between administrators, employees, and parents may need to become clearer. Hall’s petition was accepted by the board for review.

During the principals’ reports, both the elementary and high school administrator made mention of potential changes which they may try to make in the near future. First, High School Principal Steven Riley discussed moving American Government, a class typically reserved for seniors, to a junior level course, citing the increasing demands on students from state testing as the primary reason. He also said that the idea of allowing students to take Physical Education in eighth grade for high school credit was also being considered.

Elementary Principal Laura Springer, in conjunction with Riley, brought up the possibility of adjusting the conclusion of the current grading period from March 13 to March 20, in order to account for the high number of school cancellations thus far this academic year.

Graduate Study Requests put forth by both Mike Bumb and Janie Rivera were approved by the board. Bumb will be taking Technology for Administrators and Politics, Policies, and Community Relations at Ashland University this coming Summer. This will give him six semester hours of coursework. Rivera will be enrolling in Strategies for Student Success at Augusta College during that same period. The class is worth three semester hours.

Several employments were also approved by the board. Linda Koch-Kious and Mary Sauder were named Substitute Para-Professionals, while Kenneth Jacob was awarded the position of Substitute Bus Driver. The role of Long-Term Substitute Teacher was filled by Jennifer Bernal. Nathan Massie was added to the Intervention Assistance Team. Tim Norris was hired as an Assistant Softball Coach as well.

The most prominent hire of the evening belonged to Andrew Bentley, who will be taking over the Hilltop Cadet Football Program. Bentley comes into the position with five years of coach experience at the high school level. He will also bring six years experience from the collegiate level to Hilltop.

Four donations were accepted by the board on behalf of the district. Living Hope Church in West Unity offered the school hats and gloves for students in need, as did the West Unity Presbyterian Church. Student Dictionaries will be handed out to third grade students courtesy of the Williams County Retired Teachers. And the West Unity Lions Club donated $250 for the purchase of safety glasses and lab coats.

The board concluded the meeting by again entering into Executive Session, this time for the discussion of personnel. No action was expected.
They will next meet on Monday, March 16, at 6:00 P.M. in the school’s library.

T.J. Hug can be reached at
publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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