At the May 8, 2017 meeting of the Bethel Board of Education (BOE), the board approved an emergency contract with Midwest Maintenance to address much needed building repairs. The BOE dispensed with the bidding process for contracts over $25,000 because of the urgency to begin the repairs. Midwest Maintenance will replace the lentils and cracked masonry and repair the tuck points on the north side of the elementary building to prevent falling limestone masonry from seriously injuring a student. The work will begin as soon as the weather permits.

In other building construction news, Owner’s Representative Joe Hackleroad announced that the addition is complete. Temporary occupancy has been granted. The only work left is what is on the punch list and cleaning. He said, “People can walk through the facility without a hard hat.” He also reported that although the building is complete there is still a lot of work to be accomplished before the start of school next year.

Hackleroad said, “As soon as school is over for the year, work will begin on the front parking lots, the modular classrooms will be removed, the middle school office will be renovated, and the playground will be completely reworked.”

He also added that because of the front parking lot resurfacing, the only entrance to the grounds will be the north entrance; parking and entry into the facility will be through the rear of the building for summer sports programs and staff.

In addition, advertisements for bids for the middle school rework and entrance have been issued. The bids are due by May 24, 2017. He added, “We have been watching the budget closely. We are cutting it close but I am comfortable that we will come in slightly under budget.”

Superintendent Virginia Potter thanked the community for their approval of the two renewal tax levies that were on the May 2, 2017 ballot. She also thanked the Alumni Association for their support by granting six $750 scholarships and one $500 scholarship to this year’s seniors.

Potter announced that enrollment is still around 1318 students with the largest classes of students are 118 students in the first grade and 122 students in the third grade. She added that the kindergarten registration for next year went smoothly with 60 students registered so far. She said, “We expect that number to climb to 100 students before the beginning of the next school year.” She also said that open enrollment is officially closed. They are still taking applications but all new applicants will be placed on a waiting list. As the new year approaches evaluations on enrollment will be based on class sizes for next year.

In addition, Potter noted that currently the district has several posted positions including positions for coaches, a library aide, a third-grade teacher, and bus drivers.

For the Elementary school, Potter announced that the elementary school students raised over $7000 in the annual Read-A-Thon.

Potter also announced that May 11, 2017 through May 17, 2017, Bethel Students will be participating in Service Week. The project for this year is to Fill the Bus with Food Campaign. The students and the entire community are invited to donate nonperishable and canned goods to fill a school bus. The donated food will be donated to Bethel Food Pantry on May 18, 2017. High school students will also participate in service week. On Monday, Javier Sanchez, who is an author, performer, and filmmaker, delivers life building messages while entertaining through comedy, spoken word poetry, and powerful stories from his own life. On Tuesday, the students will have the opportunity to attend a non-profit fair at the school that will expose them to the opportunities available to do volunteer work. On Wednesday, the students will participate in an outreach program during which they will decide where they want to volunteer their time. And on Thursday, the students will spend the day doing some type of community service.

In addition, on May 26, 2017, Tim Knight who co-authored the book Above the Line with Urban Meyers will be at the school. The public is invited to attend. The theme of is talk is Event + Response = Outcome.

During the Public Hearing, Jacob King expressed his concerns that the football and soccer fields are not being mowed. He volunteered to mow the fields. In addition, he questioned the BOEs transparency and the board always favoring the same contractors because of their use of a single contractor and the lack of a bid process for the brick repair on the elementary building.

In addition, Natalie Donahue expressed her concerns regarding whether students and/or teachers were attending school on the makeup snow days. She said, “It is unclear from the postings whether they do or not.” She also said, she had contacted the school office and the person she spoke to was unclear as well.

In addition, Donahue expressed her concern over the change in the athletic fee policy from installment payment plan to a lump sum payment up front. She said, “This is not about a parents’ income. We should consider that the students whose parents can’t afford the $200 or $400 payment might be the most vulnerable and need that sport more than other students. We need to consider alternatives.”

She also expressed her disappointment over the choice of the social studies curriculum. She said, “I am disappointed with the choices and discouraged by the American History texts. There were very few facts and most of the articles were opinions.” She also said that according to the ODE website new guidelines will be available for social studies by June. “Why are we spending the money on a new curriculum when it all could change next year. Please buy enough books. The students don’t have enough, so they can’t take them home to study. This is a total waste of money.”

Furthermore, Rachel Kiplinger provided a list of her concerns. She said, “The agenda wasn’t posted until today and didn’t work when it was posted. Second, the salaries of personnel are not listed. The community deserves to know.” She echoed Donahue’s concerns about the social studies curriculum. She added, “When the school brings in speakers, parents should be notified who the speakers are the topics they will address, so we can monitor student participation.” She also said, “I was told by Potter that the school was not going to project-based learning, but now the teachers have a two-day training session on it.”

In regular business, the BOE approved a transfer of $35,000 from the general fund to the athletic fund. Per Treasurer Randy Bryant, the transfer of funds is from the Pay to Participate Program. When the funds are collected, they are deposited in the general fund and transferred to the athletic fund as budgeted or needed.

The BOE also approved employment and salary increases for certified and classified class for the 2017-2018 school year.

They also approved issuance of diplomas to 81 students who have met or will complete all graduation requirements of the Bethel Local School District and the State of Ohio.

In addition, they approved the 2017-2018 Ohio High School Athletic Association membership and contracts with SOITA for professional development for teachers and Public School Works for 2017-2018.

They also unanimously approved the new Social Studies curriculum for 2017-2018 despite public concerns.

The next Bethel BOE meeting is scheduled for June 9, 2017 at 7:00 the school auditorium.

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