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Planning ahead

Photo by James Dobbs Andy Sleek, teacher and president of the Fort Frye Teachers Association, spoke on the association’s position on facilities planning.

BEVERLY — The Fort Frye Local Schools Board of Education was met by the president of the Fort Frye Teachers Association to comment on the facilities planning stance of the teachers at Monday’s board meeting.

Andy Sleek, teacher and president of the FFTA, said that at an earlier board meeting, the board stated that there had been no communication from the teachers association on its stance on facilities planning. He said although the subject had been discussed, the organization elected not to take an official stance on the matter.

The district decided not to close any of its schools, which was part of the facilities planning discussion at the beginning of the year.

“Closing a school is a painful thing and the teachers association fully respects the board’s decision to continue to operate in smaller communities,” said Sleek. “It should be noted though, that throughout the year several staff members have addressed the board regarding the current state of inequity among buildings. Many community members have spoken to the board about the wonderful education the Salem-Liberty students receive and the FFTA full heartedly agrees, but while other buildings are staffed with equally wonderful teachers and other supporting workers, the working and learning environments are considerably different for those teachers and students.”

He continued by saying the formation of the middle school has only exacerbated this problem and although class size and workload vary, every teacher falls into the same performance expectations.

Sleek said although the board has been willing to listen to the opinions of the teachers, they seem to have had no effect on the final decision of the facilities plan.

“In fact, at three different board meetings, a response was given and I am paraphrasing, however, ‘if this is your calling, than live with the situation and figure out a way to be happy,’ and while the tone may be well intended, it also seems to be an indication that the voices and concerns of teachers are not of great importance,” he said.

“It is not sufficient to say that we want to be teachers because we like children, we want to be teachers because we’re passionate about educating children. We want to produce knowledgeable and productive citizens. We want our students to leave our schools being able to read, to effectively communicate, to have a foundational knowledge of history, science and the world around us, but our perception is often that these are no longer the goals of the district,” Sleek said.

Sleek said the message is not meant to be malicious, but the teachers want the school to be as respected, professional and productive as it has been in the past.

Stephanie Lang, board president, told Sleek that it has been a tough year and that she valued and appreciated the staff.

“I think the decision not to build a new facility has hit an open nerve in a lot of cases,” said Lloyd Booth, board member. “The decision that we made was made with a lot of thought and very observant of all the facts.”

Booth said that at this time the board couldn’t see the value in disrupting education, especially for the younger students.

Stacy Bolden, treasurer, gave an update on the district’s Five Year Financial Forecast. She said the biggest changes in the forecast are operating transfers coming out of the general fund and going into the permanent improvement account. She said the funds will come out over the next five years in a total of $4.5 million, if the transfers are approved by the board.

She said the district will have a positive cash balance of $14 million by the end of the year. Bolden said deficit spending is shown for this year, but only because of the transfers made to the improvement account. She said if everything stays as is, they will be deficit spending in the following years.

Bolden said the district has seen an increase in both personnel and benefits, because they have needed to add more staff members, like a middle school science teacher position, as well as Special Education professionals at Beverly-Center and the middle school.

Bolden said when you look at year five of the cash balance policy, it says the district should have $4.3 million, but only $3 million is estimated. She said if it stays this way, the district will want to see what they can do to increase the number, whether that be lessening expenditures or increasing revenue.

The board approved to offer a driver’s education course at Fort Frye High School through the Ohio Valley Educational Service Center. Superintendent Stephanie Starcher said she is hopeful that the class will start in August.

“I think it’s a great service for parents and students,” she said. “It’s very difficult for them to find these services.”

She is looking for instructors for Driver’s Ed. For more information contact (740) 984-2497.

The board approved a Memorandum of Agreement for after school and summer programs from the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County. This topic will be discussed more in-depth at the next board meeting at Beverly-Center Elementary on June 23 at 6 p.m.

Trent DeBruin, VSWC Architect, gave a short presentation on how the district plans to increase parking at Beverly-Center Elementary School and the renovation of the building. The renovation plans currently consist of adding walls and hallways and a new office area. Starcher said it is likely that this project would go out to bid in fall, but nothing is set in stone at this time. The board approved to put the parking project out to bid.

James Dobbs can be reached at jdobbs@newsandsentinel.com.

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