Mt. Gilead School Board gets strong feedback during public hearing on retire/rehire issue

By Donna Carver

August 5, 2014

Mount Gilead Board of Education held a public hearing on July 22, 2014 on the proposed retire/rehire of Superintendent Jeff Thompson, and the community turned out in force to voice their opinions and concerns. The board room was standing room only for the parents, teachers and community members in attendance.

Citizen Roger Meyer, a 14 year employee of Morrow County EMS, spoke, explaining the Superintendent did not allow a public forum to discuss EMS issues to be held at the school earlier this year. He said that he felt the superintendent did not take a neutral stance on this issue.

The remainder of the speakers discussed issues at the Park Avenue Elementary building.

Emotions were high as discussion focused on the number of cuts of elementary teachers, as well as a lack of computers, especially with the third grade testing being computerized next year. Also the return of school was moved up this year to August 12, which was not a popular decision with the crowd in attendance.

Jennifer Williams is a Kindergarten teacher who has been bumped to first grade. A number of attendees expressed their disappointment on this move.

Another issue discussed was the difficulty of passing a levy with a Superintendent that retires then is rehired, as some referred to as “double dipping.”

Board President Rhonda Graham thanked the community for their comments and assured them that their voices were heard and would be taken into consideration at the next board meeting that was scheduled for the following week.

The hearing went on for about an hour, followed by an hour-long executive session. No decision was announced after the session.

The Board of Education met on July 29, 2014 and Board President Rhonda Graham again thanked everyone and expressed that she was delighted to see the number in attendance. She starting the meeting by addressing the concerns discussed at the public hearing.

She explained that Park Avenue Elementary is getting new computers which had been ordered in June but had not yet been received. She relayed that the vendor that the computers had been ordered from could not supply the number of devices ordered therefore the board would be approving another purchase order at this board meeting.

Graham shared that the board looked at the numbers of incoming Kindergarteners and determined that there were enough keep Jennifer Williams as a Kindergarten teacher and they had placed an ad to hire an additional first grade teacher to which, the room erupted in applause.

Graham explained the process the board went through to determine the school calendar and the start date for the school year, “The teachers come to the board with a couple different calendars for us to review and select. Our current calendar for 2014-15 was approved in early spring. The teachers brought this proposed calendar to us to start August 12 so that the teachers had more time with the students prior to the state mandated testing that happens in October.” She did note that school would still take the week of the Morrow County Fair off because of the importance of the fair to the community.

The board covered some of the ways they have cut expenses, including a drastic cut in electric costs.

No decision has yet been made by the board on the Superintendent retire/rehire issue.

In other business at the regular board meeting, High School principal Deb Claus highlighted upcoming events the 11th a combined freshman orientation, open house and pep rally from 6:15 to 7pm on the football field.

Brenda Legros stated that bus inspections have been completed for the year and they are getting the routes ready and would be meeting with the drivers the following week.

Park Ave principal Monica Hubbard reported on the beehive summer program. She shared they had really high numbers this summer.

A presentation of the common core testing was given by Christine Michaels and a presentation was given on technology by Mr. Ames.

Committee reports:

Athletic Boosters: Golf Outing has been changed to October 5th at 1:00. Cost $60 per person $240 per team.

FFA Alumni: Do not meet during the summer due to the Fair.

Music Boosters: Christine Long shared that they had a busy summer of events including electronic recycling, a blood drive, and they will be working the fair gates to raise funds and she encouraged folks to sign up to help fill the schedule. She noted that it is the largest fund raiser for them. They are continuing the instrument drive. If you have a used instrument that you can donate the school is in need. The band has increased in size this year.

PTO: Principal Hubbard shared that the PTO presented Mrs. Conrad the computer teacher with an iPad.

Next Board meeting will be August 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm.