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Thornton loses interim tag with Walnut Township

MILLERSPORT – Walnut Township Board of Education members spent more time in executive or closed session Monday night than they did in the open meeting.

Board members used the closed session to wrap up the final details on two critical issues.

First, interim Superintendent Ron Thornton will lose the “interim” tag effective August 1. Board members unanimously approved a five-year contract with Thornton, running through July 31, 2012.

Thornton was named interim superintendent in February, following Ed Abram’s December announcement that he would retire effective March 31. Thornton, who lives in Lancaster, most recently served as superintendent of Teays Valley Local School District from 1989-2006. The Pickaway County district has approximately 3,700 students. Thornton was superintendent of the 700-student Wolf Creek School District in Washington County from 1985-1989.

Board members interviewed four other candidates before deciding to stick with Thornton.

“I’ll do the best job I can,” Thornton told board members.

Second, board members approved a three-year contract with teachers effective July 1. Teachers will receive annual raises of three percent, three percent and four percent. The most significantchange affects health insurance contributions. Depending on when they started in the district, the district paid 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent of the cost for single coverage. The district paid 80 percent of the cost for family coverage. Now the district will pay 80 percent of the cost for single or family coverage.

For years, the district has scheduled 181 days in-school days for students, one over the state-minimum of 180 days. Earlier this year, some teachers asked that the extra day be used as the first snow day makeup day. That question was discussed during negotiations.

If the district exceeds the five-day calamity day limit next school year, that extra day will be the first make-up day. Again additional days required will be added on to the end of the school year, rather than cutting back on Spring Break. Next year, Spring Break starts on Good Friday and extends through the following week.

Both sides praised the negotiating process. “Everybody focused on the issues,” Thornton said. “It turned out to be very productive.” He thanked the association for looking at the “big picture.”

Jennifer Swinehart, president- elect of the Walnut Township Education Association, said teachers were pleased with the process and the outcome. The parties used interest-based bargaining to reach the new agreement.

In other business Monday night, Thornton said he is opening lines of communication with staff this summer. He’s sending out mass e-mails keeping staff up-to-date and asking them to share their summer experiences. “I want to pull us together,” he explained.

Thornton and Maintenance Superintendent Mike Washburn continue to fine-tune the summer maintenance plan. The issue isn’t what needs to be done, but what the district can afford to do. Washburn said the asphalt parking lots must be addressed or they could lose them.

Thornton is researching financial options to fund facility renovations. Part of the problem is the district’s high property valuations which makes it look like a rich district when it isn’t.

Board members also approved a new agreement with Ohio Health to provide a certified, licensed athletic trainer for student athletes. The cost is $22 per hour for up to 276 hours to cover all varsity games and the summer two-a-day practices. Washburn said one trainer will be assigned to Millersport for the year. The district previously used a trainer from Fairfield Medical Center, but switched to Ohio Health when the cost jumped to about $40 per hour. A one-year contract with Allison Buck was also approved. She’ll replace Ken Keener. She is getting married this summer so she’ll have a new name when schools starts.

The following supplemental contracts were approved: Noelle Harkabus, band and jazz band; Steve Mohler, high school music/select director; Brett Prince, head boys basketball coach; Kevin Keener, cross country; Lori Dupler, junior class/prom advisor; Jennifer Swinehart, quiz team advisor; Gretchen Schroeder, student council and National Honor Society; Michelle Peters, publications advisor; Candia Bennie, Spanish Club; Heather Hayden-Carey, German Club; Liz Arnold, head girls basketball; Chad Dupler, assistant girls basketball; Rob Wiseman, assistant football, William McLeish, assistant football; Andrew Phillips, assistant football; Jack Treinish, Jr. head junior high football; Matt Sheridan, assistant football; Dani Green, 7th grade volleyball; Mary Keller, 8th grade vollelyball; Chip Schneider, boys golf; Raeven Herold, jnior high cheerleader advisor; and Holly Ankency, sophomore class advisor. Mike Washburn was also hired as athletic director. Three volunteers were approved: Jack Treinish, Sr., football; John White, football; and Tom Parry, junior high football.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, July 9 in the elementary school library.

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