District seeks to hire student advocate • The Yellow Springs News
The YS School Board held a special meeting on Tuesday, May 31 to approve some urgent actions, including the job description for a new student advocate to be hired for the district. The position as described was unanimously approved by all four board members who voted; Board Chairman TJ Turner was not present at the meeting.
According to the approved description, a District Student Advocate will be “responsible for providing support and guidance to students (and their parents and guardians) to address issues of discrimination, bias, equity and discrimination. ‘opportunities – in the classroom and throughout education’. the environment – which have an impact on students’ learning and mental well-being.
The new district post comes after an incident in May at YS High School in which a white teacher, Karleen Materne, allegedly used a racial slur in front of students. The incident resulted in a student walkout and Materne’s resignation; the board approved this resignation during the special meeting.
An April workshop coordinated by YS Speaking Up for Justice that hosted district officials and staff, students, and community members identified the need for accountability for student complaints of bias and discrimination in schools . This need was repeated by students during the May walkout, which culminated in a rally in Gaunt Park.
“Students were asking—students of color in particular—to have an attorney,” board member Judith Hempfling said. “I think it’s good to know that; it’s kind of the background of how [the district] arrived at this position.
After Hempfling asked if such a position — often found in middle schools — is common in high schools, district student services director Donna First said the position was “somewhat progressive.” She identified the hiring of a student advocate as consistent with the district’s “ongoing equity plan.”
“I think it’s an all-encompassing thing that this district is doing that’s proactive,” First said.
Board member Luisa Bieri Rios added that working for diversity, equity and inclusion in the district will be “up to everyone.”
“I wouldn’t want the district to feel like all the responsibility is on one person to make the systemic changes that are clearly needed,” she said.
Newly hired communications director Corina Denny presented a draft communications plan for the district at the special meeting. The outline of the plan includes the following initiatives:
• Create guidelines for graphic and brand assets for consistent brand recognition and awareness.
• Improve and maintain the content, timeliness and consistency of all communication platforms.
• Establish an employee communication process to improve employee engagement and increase information integrity.
• Prepare a crisis communication plan to support security issues and crisis situations.
• Build relationships with the media and provide them with accurate and positive information.
• Create opportunities to build engagement and support from stakeholders, who are identified in the draft plan as parents, students, school board, school staff, village government, township of Miami, YS Community Foundation, YS Alumni Association, business and media partners.
Denny reported that in an effort to improve district communication, a new schools website was soft-launched last month and is expected to be completed “very soon.” A mobile application that will integrate with the new site is currently under development and should be ready in time for the 2022-2023 school year.
Referring to the fourth point of the communications plan, Denny said the schools already have a crisis communications plan filed with the state, adding that she and Superintendent Terri Holden have discussed hosting this information on the district’s website for parents.
The district will continue to use the One Call Now platform to deliver information to parents via email, text and voice, Denny said. However, the district is exploring the possibility of moving to another platform, ParentSquare, which performs similar functions.
Board Vice-Chair Dorothée Bouquet noted that she has spoken to other parents in the district who have reported issues with consistently receiving information through the current One Call Now platform.
“There is a reliability issue with One Call, and I would be very interested in investigating an alternative product such as ParentSquare,” Bouquet said.
The communications plan includes several ideas for increasing “stakeholder engagement,” including implementing surveys, promoting school events, establishing a “state of schools” narrative, and the implementation of awards for staff, students and the community.
Denny discussed streamlining interdepartmental communications by creating a procedure for school events and calendars to reduce the risk of error when disseminating information.
“It’s really important that it goes through one person or one department,” Denny said.
In addition to events and calendars, the plan aims to strengthen procedures around “requests for facilities to hold events”, “shared access to branded materials” and “requests for positive news”.
Denny also discussed a new protocol for all media inquiries — “This district gets a lot of media inquiries,” she said — which will now be routed through Denny.
“I really hope to create good relationships that strengthen [with media outlets]because then we can make sure the information is correct,” Denny said.
New strategic plan
Director of Student Services Donna First spoke at the special meeting about the process of creating a strategic plan for the school district, which the board will work to clarify and complete. The latest strategic plan, the Class of 2020 10-year initiative, was finalized in 2011.
First outlined the five goals of a potential strategic plan that have been established by Superintendent Terri Holden: to improve teaching and learning; become an equitable organization; create a strong culture; work collaboratively with the community; and improving neighborhood facilities.
“That doesn’t mean these have to be your end goals; it’s something to get you started in the strategic planning process,” First said, adding that the best strategic plans are quite broad in scope.
“And the lifespan of a strategic plan is about 10 years?” Bouquet asked.
Bieri Rios responded that a new strategic plan could focus on a shorter period of three to five years, an approach that could make the goals more manageable.
First says that many districts hire a strategic planning facilitator to help councils develop a plan; Asked by Bouquet about the “rough and average” cost of hiring such a facilitator, First said the most expensive options would be around $50,000.
“[It could be] as much or as little as you want,” added District Treasurer Jay McGrath.
First suggested the board start by focusing on creating a timeline for the plan, which would help members decide whether or not a facilitator is needed.
The council extensively discussed community involvement in strategic planning – a precedent that was set with the district’s previous ten-year strategic planning process, which involved workshops and public forums and took over a year to complete. .
Bouquet said the board should be careful not to ‘unilaterally’ decide on short-term goals
for the new strategic plan and to engage in a “conversation with the community”.
“Some community members reached out to me last year with some great ideas about how they could partner with schools, and I thought maybe that’s where that conversation is going,” said she declared.
In other school board business from May 12:
• At the regular May 12 school board meeting, three long-serving staff members who retired this year — intervention specialist Donna Haller, teacher and guidance counselor Dave Smith, and caretaker Steve Wilson — received plaques for their service.
Holden said that although Smith, who was not present at the meeting, is retiring, he will return to YS High School next year to teach French lessons and train new guidance counsellors.
“His loss will be felt, but perhaps not quite [immediately] — it’s a gem,” Holden said.
McKinney Middle and YS High School principal Jack Hatert said at 27 years in the district, Smith is the longest-serving outgoing teacher.
“He’s a trusted adult not only for our children, but also for our families,” Hatert said.
Wilson, who has worked in the Village District for 32 years, was also not present, but Mills Lawn Principal Megan Winston spoke warmly of the outgoing caretaker.
“He’s so caring and so generous,” Winston said, recounting how Wilson provided him with a fake tree after hearing his desire for greenery in his office, which doesn’t let in enough sunlight to grow plants.
“So when I heard he was retiring, I asked him, ‘Is this the office tree or is this Megan’s tree, so I can take it with me wherever I go. i will and always have [Wilson] here with me?’ He said it was Megan’s tree,” she said. “He will definitely be missed at Mills Lawn.”
Haller was present at the meeting to accept her plaque from Hatert, who said her “kindness and caring for others is deeply felt and will be deeply missed.”
“She’s a real Renaissance woman,” Holden said. “She’s created an amazing mentorship program…she really cares about the kids in her case, and she cares about them.”
Fighting back tears, Holden added: “When I first came to the district, she was one of the first people to reach out because it was so difficult – I never said that to [her]but it meant so much to me.
Briefly summing up his time in the district, Haller said, “I absolutely loved it.”
• The Board welcomed a slate of new staff at the regular meeting, including Eric Brabston, Technology Coordinator; Rachel Madison and Amy Tritschler, intervention specialists; and Taylor Hemrick, fifth grade teacher.
• At the regular meeting, the board approved new open-source English and Language Arts programs based on EL Education’s APP and CommonLit 360 for grades 7-10. The board praised the new degree programs for the diversity of literature included in their resource lists.