Fort Frye extends sharing plan

BEVERLY – The Fort Frye Local Board of Education on Thursday put the finishing touches on a plan to share administrative services with Warren Local Schools going forward by approving new five-year contracts with Superintendent Tom Gibbs and Treasurer Melcie Wells.

Unlike the previous arrangement under which the districts have shared the positions over the last year, both Gibbs and Wells will have full-time contracts with Fort Frye as well as Warren. The new contracts, and amendments to them acknowledging each person would be working “part-time” for both districts, were approved 4-0, with board member Lisa Perry absent, during the board’s regular meeting Thursday at Fort Frye High School.

Both districts will pay Gibbs a base salary of $75,000 a year and Wells $45,000 under the amended contracts. If he was employed by only one district, Gibbs would have an annual salary of $109,500. Wells’ salary would be $70,000 at Fort Frye and $65,000 at Warren.

Gibbs said having full-time contracts with both districts provides security, and not just for himself and Wells.

If, for example, Fort Frye wanted to end the shared arrangement, “I have the security of knowing that I still have a full-time job, and Warren has the security of knowing they don’t have to go out and search” for a replacement, and vice versa, he said.

The membership of school boards is more fluid than in years past, Gibbs said, meaning the will of the boards in each district could change significantly with this year’s and future elections. Three seats on each board will be on the November ballot.

Fort Frye board Vice President Charlie Schilling said the arrangement makes sense. And if for some reason Warren and Gibbs did decide to part ways, he would like to have him stay at Fort Frye.

“We would be happy with him as our superintendent at a hundred-and-nine-five, for what he’s saved this district,” Schilling said, echoing the sentiment for Wells.

Contacted after the meeting, Warren Local Board of Education President Sidney Brackenridge said having two full-time contracts was discussed when the districts first began considering sharing the jobs.

“It takes care of all three sides of this – Fort Frye’s board, Warren’s board and the employees involved,” he said.

The sharing of services saves Warren about $70,000 a year in salaries and Fort Frye approximately $87,000.

In other business:

The board expressed enthusiastic support after a presentation by Fort Frye High School social studies teachers John Bostic and Doug Pfeffer on adopting new texts in both traditional book and electronic formats. School officials see it as the first step toward integrating more technology into the classroom.

The proposal is to buy enough textbooks for each social studies classroom to have a set and also purchase 90 iPads – 30 for each classroom – with which students could access the textbooks as well as supplementary material like videos, quizzes and even changeable text that presents the same content to students at different reading levels.

In addition, students could access the texts and assignments online from a home computer or other device.

“It’s just like having a textbook on your cell phone, on your iPad, on your Kindle,” Bostic said.

The school and district administration plans to present a “bring-your-own-device” policy to board members in the future to regulate and encourage students’ use of their own devices. A policy would also be developed to allow students without such devices to take the school’s devices home from time to time.

Down the road, Gibbs said, he would like to see each student issued an iPad when they start at the high school and keep it until graduation. An “insurance” fee on the device would replace textbook fees, and at the end of their time at Fort Frye, they would have the option to purchase the device.

Wells made a presentation on the new school funding formula proposed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Although the plan directs $1.2 billion in additional funding to schools over the next two fiscal years, 60 percent of schools would see no increase in state money. Fort Frye, like the rest of those districts, would see flat funding, but Wells noted that is because of guarantee money to make up the difference between what the district is getting this year and the lower amount the new formula says it should receive. She noted Kasich and others in his administration have indicated schools should not be reliant on guarantee funds.

Fort Frye’s guarantee funding amount would be $615,505 in fiscal year 2014 and $652,234 the next year.