Groveport Madison school board compromises

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In the wake of a week of conflict between its board members, the Groveport Madison Board of Education cancelled its Dec. 12 meeting. Instead, the board threw a party.

The board and administration officials held a dinner on Dec. 12 in the district administration offices "to honor outgoing members" of the board and "welcome new members."

The week of Dec. 3 was a turbulent one for the board after a disagreement arose over whether newly elected board member Steven Slyh could take his seat on the board before January.

Slyh, who will fulfill the unexpired term of Patti Froehlich who resigned earlier this year, was not given the oath of office by district treasurer Steve Huzicko after some current board members obtained a legal opinion from attorney Jim Burnes and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office that new board members cannot take their seats until January.

Slyh had received information from the Franklin County Board of Elections that stated he could take his seat immediately after the votes were certified. He received the oath of office on Dec. 4 from attorney and notary public J. Douglas Stewart.

Slyh had intended to take his seat at the Dec. 12 meeting in spite of objections from  some current board members.

Superintendent Scott McKenzie, in a Dec. 10 interview, said board officials and Huzicko took steps to cancel the Dec. 12 meeting the morning of Dec. 7.

In an interview Dec. 10, Slyh stated he met with McKenzie and board member John Kershner on Dec. 7 where Slyh said he agreed to a "compromise" to cancel the Dec. 12 board meeting and that no board business would be undertaken until  January.

"It was a mutual agreement," said Slyh.

Kershner did not return a call for comment.

The board’s next meeting will be on Jan. 2 at noon at the district’s administrative offices, 5940 Clyde Moore Drive in Groveport.

Slyh was critical of the timing of the Jan. 2 meeting, noting it is a departure from the board’s regular schedule of meeting on the evening of the second Wednesday of the month at the Madison Township Community Center.

"Why change the time around and have it at a different location?" Slyh asked. "This is supposed to be an open process and the timing of this meeting will make it hard for citizens who have to work during the day to get there."

Groveport Madison statement

On Dec. 7, Groveport Madison Local Schools issued the following statement regarding the cancellation of the Dec. 12 board meeting and the conflict of the previous week:

"The Groveport Madison Board of Education is pleased to announce that even though there have been some contradictory statements issued as to when the term of service commences for an individual elected to fill an unexpired term of office as a member of the board of education, the parties concerned have met and pledged to work together for the betterment of the students of the school district.

"Unfortunately, the Franklin County Board of Elections provided a newly elected board member with written information regarding the commencement of his term of office, while officials from the Secretary of State’s Office and Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office disagreed with that information. Finally, after all parties communicated, it was determined that the information from the Board of Elections was incorrect. Therefore, all newly-elected board members will begin their terms on Jan. 1, 2008.

"Local representatives from both sides of the issue met today to set aside their differences and to pledge to work together for the betterment of the school district and for the advancement of learning for all students.  

"Board of Education Vice President, Dr. Naomi Sealey stated, ‘Hopefully, I can speak for the members of the current board of education, as well as, for our future members in saying that we are extremely proud of our students. We will continue to diligently work as a board to provide the absolute best educational program that our local funding will allow and spend our time promoting excellence in all aspects of our education program.’"

Slyh’s viewpoint

"I was disappointed by the personal attacks on me," said Slyh of remarks made by some board members during the disagreement over his swearing in. "We’re all here because we care about the kids and we want to do what’s best for them and the district as a whole. I hold out hope for a reconciliation and that we can work together. The clear winner in all this is the community in that we can put this issue aside. I still contend that I’m a board member right now, but I’ll be ready to start on the business at hand in January."


Sunshine Law lawsuit

Slyh stated he will wait until January to decide whether or not to continue to pursue a lawsuit against board members Sealey, Kershner, and Board President June Gibbs.

"At this point I just want to get through the next two and a half weeks, step back, and enjoy the holidays," said Slyh.

Slyh alleges that the three violated Ohio’s public open meeting laws (known as Sunshine Laws) in working behind the scenes via telephone and e-mail to instruct Huzicko not to perform the oath of office for him. He has alleged communications among the three board members in essence created a special meeting that was not open to the public.

Sealey has stated Slyh’s allegations are "untrue" and reiterated it was she and Gibbs who contacted Burnes to question Slyh’s swearing in, and that Kershner was not involved.

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