Executive sessions questioned in SWCS

"I wonder why we are not following the law," asked Rick Redfern of Grove City at the Feb. 11 South-Western City School Board of Education meeting.

Redfern was questioning an executive session the board held last month. He noticed that on Jan. 14 the board adjourned into executive session but the only reason cited was personnel issues.

"The motion cannot simply state that the session is for personnel issues," said Redfern. "It is not efficient."

According to the Ohio Sunshine Law, boards of education and their committees and subcommittees reserve the right to meet privately in executive session to discuss issues such as employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of an employee or official. They may also meet to consider property purchases for public use or property sales, security arrangements, employee negotiations, conferences with an attorney involving pending court action or conferences called by a member of the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

A board may meet in closed session only to discuss "sensitive" matters. They cannot take action – all action must be done in a public setting. Closed sessions can only be held as part of a regular or special board meeting and only after the majority of the board votes to approve the session.

While in the Jan. 14 meeting, the board did say they were going into an executive session for personnel issues, they did not give further information. By law, they are supposed to state the reason behind the matter, such as appointment, employment or dismissal of said personnel.

Redfern said this is not the first time he has questioned the board for lack of information on executive sessions. He said he was told, in the past, it would not happen again.

"I was assured there was an understanding by board members," said Redfern.

Board President Cathy Johnson said under normal circumstances they itemize the reasons for an executive session.

Redfern added, "In that specific case, it was not."

If the board does not offer the reasons for an executive session they could be reported to the Ohio Attorney General which could result in court action, fines, or, if knowingly in violation, removal from office.

School Bell Awards

Eleven employees of the SWCS district were recognized by the board and given a School Bell Award. These awards are presented to employees based on letters of commendation written by members of the community. They are recognized for going above and beyond their regular job responsibilities.

The winners include:

•Brenden Rauh, a math and science teacher from Westland High School, who took time out of his day to tutor a student that was not is his class was awarded.

•Margaret Kloman, an LD tutor at Franklin Heights High School, was given an award for looking out for a student.

•Patricia Ranalli, a DH intervention specialist at Holt Crossing Intermediate School, was given the award for arranging a special meeting for a special needs students. Ranalli organized a meeting between the student and some of The Ohio State University football players during a D.A.R.E march in downtown Columbus.

•Kristy Thomas, an LD intervention specialist at Hayes Intermediate, was honored for making herself available to a family while she was on maternity leave.

•Karen Hoffman, a bus driver and Rita Rodgers, a bus aide got the award for their attention to a special needs student. According to the student’s parent, the transportation employees give the student baseball cards, snacks and other items. When the student got his tonsils removed, Hoffman and Rodgers bought a balloon bouquet for him and got an autographed football signed by former OSU star A.J. Hawk.

•Dana Ogrodowski, an English teacher at Central Crossing High School, received the award for making an extra effort to help a student through a difficult time in life.

•Charles Williamson, a Pleasant View Middle School football coach and aide at Westland High School, got the award for showing extra kindness to those who want to be a part of his football team. Williamson appointed a special needs student as equipment manager of the team. He also allows the student to give the team a pep talk prior to each game.

•Tammie Tatera, a bus driver, was awarded for going out of her way to help a family in need. The family reportedly lost their home. Tatera offered to pick the student up anywhere on her route to get the child to school. In addition, the transportation employee looked for available homes on her route and reported them to the family.

•Nicole Stewart and Kristen Schmitt, fifth grade teachers at Franklin Woods Intermediate, won awards for raising funds to help a student’s family repair their furnace. They collected over $200 for the family.

Each employee who receives a School Bell Award will be eligible for the district’s Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award presented at the end of each school year.

Graduate recognized

The board of education publically recognized Grove City resident and former SWCS student Matt Beaty for reporting a fire on a district bus. Beaty drove past the transportation lot on Southwest Boulevard when he noticed a fire on one of the buses. He called for help.

"Thanks to his actions, the fire damage was contained to that one bus," said Johnson. "He saved the district what could have been a lot of money."

The fire was result of an electrical problem.

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