Walnut Township, Berne Union boards agree on new leader
MILLERSPORT - Dale Dickson will likely become the third superintendent in Ohio to serve two school districts at the same time.
Monday night, Walnut Township Local Schools board members unanimously approved an intent to employ letter to Dickson. Berne Union Local Schools board members unanimously approved an identical letter to Dickson Tuesday night. The two boards have also scheduled a joint special meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22 at the Fairfield County Educational Service Center, to formally employ Dickson. He is expected to start at Berne Union on July 1 and at Walnut Township sometime this fall.
Dickson is currently the superintendent of the Perry-Hocking Educational Service Center based in New Lexington. He has held that position for 13 years. Before moving to the ESC, he was superintendent of the New Lexington City School District for two years and assistant superintendent there for four years. Dickson started his teaching career in 1985 as a high school social studies teacher at New Albany Senior High School. After four years there, he became principal of New Albany Middle School for a year, then moving to New Lexington as the junior high school principal.
He is a graduate of New Lexington High School and has Bachelor of Science and Masters in Educational Administration degrees from The Ohio State University. Dickson was a five year member of The Ohio State University Marching Band and a three-time “i” dotter in script Ohio.
Dickson will replace Walnut Township Local Schools Superintendent Ron Thornton who has also been serving as Berne Union’s superintendent since May. Thornton wants to retire by mid-fall. District treasurer Kirk Grandy has been shared with Berne Union since January. By sharing their two top administrators, both districts expect to save about $30,000 a year on the superintendent’s position and about $20,000 a year on the treasurer’s position.
The only other shared superintendent in Ohio serves Orrville City Schools and Rittman Exempted Village Schools.
In other personnel actions Monday night, board members unanimously accepted Thornton’s recommendation to seek a certified math teacher with experience in athletics and administration to serve as high school athletic director/Dean of Students while teaching two math courses. The Dean of Students position became vacant when Jeff Stought was promoted to high school principal. A new State of Ohio mandate requires four math credits, up from three, to graduate. Thornton believes that will require two more math classes, thus the need for a part-time math teacher. He noted that managing school athletics has been a long term issue.
“We can be cost neutral,” Thornton told board members, noting that the athletic director and Dean of Students are paid on supplemental contracts.
“Those people are out there,” he added. “We can combine all three positions in one.” He asked and received immediate approval so the search can begin.
Stought commented that it will be very helpful to have a Dean of Students teaching just two classes per day rather than the six he taught this year. The new dean will have more time to spend with students. His students will also benefit since the reduced teaching load means he won’t be pulled out of class as much to deal with crisis.
Board members also approved a number of supplemental contracts including ones for a head football coach, assistant football coach, football cheerleading coach and assistant junior high football coach.
“We are not 100 percent sure that enough kids will come out to field a football team,” Thornton told board members. All supplemental contracts are contingent upon having sufficient student participation. “We may not have the team for some of these contracts,” he added.
“I hope we have 20 kids capable of playing varsity football,” Thornton said. “The word that football is in trouble is out in the community,” he added. The program’s fate won’t be known until they see how many players show up August 1. He warned board members that they may face a difficult decision if the numbers are just in the mid-teens.
Thornton presented retiring elementary school science teacher Chris Deardurff with a plaque from board members thanking her for her years of service to the district. “We’re going to miss her,” Thornton said.
Supplemental contracts approved Monday night include:
• Rob Wiseman, head football;
• Terry Holbert, assistant football coach;
• Kenny Hardy, assistant junior high football;
• Amanda Schneider, football and basketball cheerleading;
• Donald Bowen, assistant volleyball;
• Chip Schneider, head golf;
• CJ Schmitz, junior high girls basketball;
• Tom Laird, head softball; and
• Steve Pierce, head track.
The following volunteer coaches were recognized:
• Football - Justin Carpenter, Jeff Dupler, Alan Sharp and John White;
• Basketball - Bob Weldon;
• Baseball - Dave Fry; and
• Softball - Joe Gant
Grandy presented his updated five-year forecast to the board. It includes an approximately $ 140,000 improvement from the last forecast as revenue was $56,000 higher than originally estimated and expenditures were approximately $85,000 less than expected.
He is projecting a deficit of $215,843 by the end of fiscal year 2014 (June 20, 2014) if the district’s two small emergency levies and the 1.25 percent district income tax aren’t renewed. If all three are renewed at current levels, the projected deficit is pushed back to fiscal year 2015.
Board members took two steps to push that projected deficit as far back as possible. They unanimously took the first step to ask voters to renew a five-year emergency levy that brings in $250,000 a year. The renewal, which will be on the November ballot, will not increase taxes or revenue for the district.
The district income tax will be collected through calendar year 2013. It must be renewed in 2013 if collections are to continue. Grandy is projecting income tax revenue of $1,108,431 for fiscal year 2012 which runs from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012.
Board members also unanimously accepted Thornton’s recommendation that they approve a three-year contract extension with the teachers’ union. “The economy is horrible,” Thornton told the board. “ Let’s keep the status quo.”
The contract now runs through June 30, 2016. The extension only affects the master agreement with the teachers’ union. It does not affect individual contracts with teachers. Their performance will still be subject to review based on the length of their individual contract.
Teachers agreed to forgo an increase in base pay for next school year. The base pay freeze will be evaluated with the union next spring. Teachers will continue to get step increases which are based on time on the job and their level of educational attainment. The Walnut Township contract has five pay scales for teachers depending on the level of their education. Step increases are calculated off the base for each scale, meaning they decline slightly as years of experience grow and if the teacher stays on the same scale. For example, the step increase off the base for a teacher with just a bachelors degree is 3.8 percent. It’s 4.8 percent for teachers on the Masters degree scale and for the two post-Master degree scales.
Board members also approved band camp at the Allegheny West Camp, Thornville for July 24-29. They also approved a request for a group of students to travel to Spain and France during next year’s Spring Break. The total cost of the first-ever international trip will be borne by students and their parents. There will be no cost to the district.