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Thorp elected Lakewood Board president

HEBRON – Elections make a difference.

At Wednesday night’s Lakewood School Board organizational meeting, board member Steve Thorp was unanimously elected board president for 2018. Three months ago to the day, former Board President Judy White opened the October meeting and stood up to read a nearly one and one half page long Resolution of Censure directed at Thorp. White said Thorp “has engaged in a pattern of conduct which disregards this principle of joint action and majority rule by repeatedly intervening in school affairs;…has further caused unsanctioned releases of opinions and information which could easily be misconstrued as being those of the Board of Education;” and…”in addition to exceeding his legal authority in the foregoing manner, has intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the consequence of his actions, impeded the orderly operation of the District by”…

When she finished reading it, White moved that the Board approve the Resolution of Censure. Board member Bill Gulick seconded it, with White quickly asking for roll call. It was approved 4-0 without any discussion or comment. Three of the four members approving Thorp’s censure are no longer on the board. Trisha Good didn’t seek reelection and White and Tim Phillips lost their reelection bids last November.

Tara Houdeshell, one of the three new board members, was unanimously elected board vice president.

Two new student representatives for the second semester were introduced. They are Gursimran Kaur and Eli Russell. They did not comment during the meeting.

Board members also agreed to continue to meet at 6:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month in the high school library. The challengers had pledged to eliminate 7 a.m. special board meetings at the administration building in Hebron. They honored that pledge when they scheduled a special meeting to place the bond issue question on the May 8 ballot. That meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 17, at the administrative office and is open to the public.

Board members also set up their committees for 2018:

Facilities: Jonathan Lynch and Gulick

Personnel: Bill Pollard and Houdeshell

Finance: Lynch and Gulick

Policy Committee: Thorp and Houdeshell.

Houdeshell will serve as the board’s legislative and student achievement liaisons to the Ohio School Boards Association. Thorp will be the board’s delegate to the Ohio School Boards Association Assembly with Bill Pollard as his alternate.

The board’s monthly regular meeting immediately followed the annual organization meeting.

By a narrow 3-2 vote, board members took the first step to put a $33,900,000 bond issue question on the May 8 ballot. The funds would be used to construct a new elementary school and make other improvements to district facilities. The bonds would be paid off over 28 years.

Next, the county auditor’s office will certify the millage or tax rate necessary to raise $33,900,000. It is expected to be about 4.25 mills Last September, the district’s financial consultant David Conley said the district’s median home value is $150,000. A 4.25 mill bond levy would cost the median home value property owner $18.60 per month ($223.20 a year). The owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $12.40 a month ($148.80 per year). Conley’s chart topped out with a home valued at $300,000. whose owner would pay $37.19 per month ($446.28 per year).

During board member comments both Lynch and Pollard explained their “no” votes on the bond issue. Lynch said he wanted more time to “vent out these improvements,” noting that some of the current estimates were considerably different from those in the district’s facility review completed in December 2015. He believes the estimated cost to demolish Jackson A and to build the access road off U.S. 40 to the new K-5 school are too low, the cost of new athletic parking lot is too high and wondered how the bus garage improvements went from $175,000 to $1,138,882. “I have a lot more questions than answers and I think voters would have them too,” he concluded.

Pollard said, “We all agree we need a new elementary school. May looks like the right time. I still have more questions in my mind on the items in there…we need to do this exactly right.”

In his comments at the end of the meeting, Thorp said, “My thought this afternoon was voting “no.” He doesn’t support all the improvements currently in the package. “I would never agree to tear down Jackson A.’ He doesn’t want to move the administrative office from Hebron to the campus. Thorp considers the new athletic parking lot planned on the former Jackson A site unnecessary, suggesting that parking can be added in the Jackson A lot and paving the lot at the blue building behind the new football stadium. He also questions the estimate for the bus garage.

In other business Wednesday night, board members learned that at least one cost in the package came in well below the estimate. Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews said the district purchased approximately 16 acres of farmland last month from Licking Fairfield Corporation for $135,000. That was less than half the estimated cost of $322,440. However, most of that savings can be attributed to the Licking Fairfield’s public-mindedness.

Two department directors introduced themselves to the new board members and updated the board on their activities. Jennifer Stover, Director of Food Services, said student participation numbers continue to increase. A major objective has been to provide more lunch options for students. K-5 students now have three lunch options daily and 6-12 students can have as many as 6 to 7 daily.

Transportation Director Rodney Stufflebean said the district is now tracking expenditures by bus. A new oil testing program for buses is being used fix problems before they turn into breakdowns. Last year, bus drivers completed a four-hour critical response training program. Stufflebean is updating the drivers’ handbook now. Director of District Services Patti Pickering commented for the absent Technology Director. She said all 9-12 students now have their own Chromebook. Parents pay $40 a year for the computer and it belongs to the student upon graduation. One effort is looking at tech standardization through out the district and developing a 3-5 year plan for technology.

High school principal Stacey Stein and high school guidance counselors Valerie Kieffer and Phil Sikorski demonstrated the Naviance software program for the board. It is a planning platform for college and career. This is the third year it’s been in use and student usage has grown each year. Naviance has both a local and nationwide scholarship database. Its college database allows students to match career interests with colleges nationwide. Students can apply for scholarships and colleges online. Transcripts and letters of recommendation from teachers are also delivered digitally.

Board members also agreed unanimously to renew the district’s membership in the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation for 2018 at a cost of $300. Thorp will represent the district.

During the second opportunity for public comment, a parent complained that it’s been three months since she asked the board for some answers about bullying problems at the Intermediate School. “Our principal needs more resources to deal with this,” she said. “It’s not just my two kids going through with this,” she added. “We need to deal with prevention.” She added that she couldn’t believe last year’s mandated bullying report from the superintendent that said there were no incidents. Thorp said while board members can’t discuss individual cases, board members could take a look at the bullying policy to see if any changes are warranted.

There were no high school students present at the meeting beyond the two board representatives at the meeting due to a drama presentation so there were no comments about the drug problems raised by students and parents at the November and December meetings.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 14, in the high school library.

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