2008-03-15 / News

Walnut Township to have new high school principal next year

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - There will be a new principal at Millersport Junior/Senior High School in August.

After an hour-long executive session Monday night, Walnut Township Board of Education members accepted Superintendent Ron Thornton's recommendation that Principal Roger Montgomery's contract not be renewed. Montgomery's current two-year administrative contract expires July 31. Board members faced a March 31 deadline to either offer Montgomery at least a two-year contract or non-renew him.

Montgomery has led the combined junior/senior high school for seven years. He replaced Ed Abram as principal when Abram was promoted to superintendent. Abram retired last March and was replaced by Thornton, first on an interim basis then permanently. Ohio law requires that Montgomery be offered a teaching position since he attained tenure contract status with his previous district. Montgomery didn't comment Monday night.

When board members returned from their closed session, Thornton read a brief statement addressing his recommendation. He called Montgomery "likeable and friendly."

"Over a period of years, school administrators tend to end up on the hot seat enough times they begin to lose support and eventually, credibility," Thornton said. "Unfortunately, I have seen this occurrence escalate itself at our junior/senior high school over the last 12 months. The end result typically ends up in the necessity to seek a change in leadership and it is evident that we must take this action at this time. The Ohio Revised Code mandates that we either seek other leadership or issue a contract for two additional years of administrative leadership."

"I do not feel we can move forward in this building until we have a change in climate as it relates to improved staff morale and consistent student discipline measures," he concluded.

Public comments were accepted before board members voted on Robert W. Slater, II's motion to accept Thornton's recommendation. Former school facilities manager Bill Yates said he didn't necessarily agree with Thornton's comments about staff morale and student discipline "I hope it isn't based on the last superintendent's recommendations," he added. Tom Laird, with the athletic boosters, said, "I think it is a huge mistake to let Mr. Montgomery go."

Parent and Walnut Township Trustee Wally Gabriel said Montgomery had turned around the building in the last seven years. "At least he has some discipline," he added. "Maybe we should be looking at your job (Thornton's) too," Gabriel concluded.

Gabriel's son Zack said, "I don't see anything violent or outof control in our school." He said Montgomery took an interest in his out-of-school activities.

Jessica Amspaugh, a 2004 graduate, said, "I do think the discipline isn't the same. It seems like kids run this school."

Scott Pohlman, varsity softball coach and a retired law enforcement officer, said Amspaugh's observation would apply anywhere. He said he transferred two children from Northern Local to Walnut Township and is pleased with the results. "I'm a supporter of Mr. Montgomery," Pohlman said.

The vote to accept Thornton's recommendation was 2-1 with one abstention. Slater and President David C. Brookover voted "yes," Carol King voted "no" and new board member Vince Popo abstained. Faye Whitaker was on vacation.

In other business Monday night, members took several steps to keep critically needed improvements on track. Late last year, the district sold $3 million of Certificateof Participation (COP) bonds to finance long over due facility improvements. The bonds didn't require voter approval because they will be repaid over the next 28 years out of current taxes. The district had to prove that existing revenue is sufficientto repay the bonds. Thornton looked at several alternatives to the COP bonds, but the district either didn't qualify for the program or it didn't make financial sense.

The first phase consists of fiveprojects that will cost between $1.3 to $1.4 million. Each should be completed by the time students return August 20. They are:

• Technology Improvements: Monday night the district approved a three-year lease with Keytel Systems of Reynoldsburg for $197,981. The project includes replacing/upgrading data network equipment, a new terminal based high school computer lab, a mobile computer lab at the high school, and a new phone system. Currently, the district doesn't have voice or email available for staff.

• Heating and air conditioning upgrades: Roof-top HVAC units will be replaced at the junior/senior high school. Controls will be upgraded at the elementary school. Members approved an architectural services contract with Schorr Architects to oversee the project and agreed to purchase new Trane units at the State of Ohio negotiated bid list.

• Roofing:Replace entirely the leaking roofs over both schools. Board members approved two contracts Monday night with All Weather Systems of Newark to replace the roofs with a Duro-last system. The materials will be purchased off the State of Ohio bid list. The cost is $145,800 for the elementary school and $196,500 for the junior/senior high school.

• Parking and access: The junior/senior high school needs handicap, staff, student and community parking improvements. Board members approved an architectural services contract with Schorr Architects to oversee this site improvement project. The work will be done just before school starts and after the roofingand HVAC projects are complete. Thornton doesn't want the heavy equipment needed for those projects damaging the upgraded parking areas.

• Bleachers: The unsafe home side bleachers at the football field will be replaced before the first home game this fall. The new bleachers will be enclosed for safety and elevated so the front rows can see over the players' bench on the field. The new bleachers will seat 720. The existing pressbox will be retained. Another contract was approved Monday night with Schorr Architects to oversee this project.

Board members also took the first step toward putting a small bond levy for athletic improvements on the August special election ballot. Last month, a group of parents asked the board for permission to seek an athletic facilities bond issue. The group would pay for the costs of the special election and handle the campaign. Thornton believes the cost will be somewhat less than $1 million to construct an eight-lane track, replace the football field lighting, upgrade the athletic field restrooms and fence the entire area. "We don't feel we should stand in their way," Thornton told The Beacon. The resolution of intent approved Monday night will allow Thornton to finetune cost estimates

Thornton hopes to have a little more than half of the $3 million COP proceeds left when these projects are complete. The district's facility committee will then look at the next phase of improvements. Possible projects are electrical upgrades to classrooms, new electrical service to both schools, plumbing and restroom upgrades and replacement of the gym floor in the district auditorium.

Thornton told board members that students have missed six days of school due to inclement weather. But since the district has scheduled 181 days of school for years versus the state mandated 180 days, he said the district really has only missed fivedays which is the state's maximum allowance. No makeup will be needed unless weather forces another closure.

Board members also approved the 2008-2009 school calendar. The first day of classes is Aug. 20. For the first time, it includes a three day Thanksgiving vacation starting with Wednesday, Nov. 26. Students will be off for two full weeks at Christmas starting on Monday, Dec. 22 and returning on Monday, Jan. 5. Spring break begins on Good Friday April 10, returning Monday, April 20. June 4 is the last day for students and graduation is set for Sunday, June 7.

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