LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education meeting highlights

SEPTEMEBER 5, 2023 - regular meeting

  • Public comment
  • Employee retention
  • Supplemental contracts
  • Spotlight - Gearity STEM 
  • Superintendent comments
  • School lockdown 
  • Student dress code
  • Treasurer’s report
  • High school swimming pool use
  • Board comments

Present were President Beverly Wright, Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, James Posch, and Jodi Sourini. Also present were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby and Treasurer Scott Gainer. The meeting lasted about one hour and thirty minutes.

Public comment

Gregory Nachman, career tech-engineering tech teacher at Heights High, as well as a parent and teachers union steward, asked for clarification of the number of situations in the last six months that concerned teacher behavior during discipline events or fights. Because only one of 26 actual events was addressed during a recent teacher training, he said more training was needed. 

Candidates for University Heights City Council Jonathan Bartell, Micah Miliskas, and Alicia Sloan each stated they wanted to support the school district and build a more collaborative relationship between the city and school board. 

Cleveland Heights resident Paula Goodwin announced upcoming candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters. 

Employee retention

The board approved a “voluntary resignation due to job abandonment” [employee failed to show up for work]. Ms. Lewis said this was the second time this year the board had to accept such a resignation. Discussion followed regarding the difficulty of hiring and retaining staff, including teachers, bus drivers, and other support staff. 

Supplemental contracts

Ms. Sourini asked about the difference in the number of new supplemental appointments in the two middle schools. Ms. Kirby stated that not all names had been submitted. [Supplementals are contracts for additional compensation to teachers who take on additional duties such as coaching, extra-curricular advising, etc.]

Spotlight - Gearity STEM 

Ohio requires schools to apply every five years to be designated as a STEM school. Gearity Professional Development School Principal Patrick McNichols detailed Gearity’s current STEM recertification process and the overall STEM curriculum. He emphasized the importance of beginning STEM education as early as preschool and explained how three-year-olds are doing basic coding in the district program. STEM teacher Sean Sullivan presented highlights of the program and explained the curriculum. He wrote a curriculum for the Cleveland Natural History Museum with which Gearity has a hands-on, science-based partnership.

Superintendent comments

Superintendent Kirby commented on school opening events, including a family resource fair where backpacks, coats, and school supplies were distributed. This school year, students in the Associate Pathway program will start high school and college, making it possible to earn up to six college credits during their freshman year.

Ally Academy held two equity training sessions as part of the district’s professional development, using the program provided by Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity.

School lockdown 

Superintendent Kirby reviewed events that resulted in the Cleveland Heights Police Department (CHPD) calling a level three school lockdown on August 30. Fortunately, the concern did not materialize into a real threat, but because of anxiety from the event, a calamity day was called on August 31. The district is following up on the incident in accordance with the student code of conduct and continuing to work with the CHPD. Security personnel coverage for the entrances was adjusted, and the district is in the process of hiring two additional monitors. On September 1, assemblies at the high school and a virtual parent meeting addressed the concern. Curriculum Night was rescheduled to September 7. A committee to review high school security screening procedures and recommendations will reconvene.

Student dress code

Review of feedback sessions for the school dress code will take place September 11 with final recommendations provided for adoption. Training will accompany rollout of the new code.

Treasurer’s report

Mr. Gainer attended an Ohio Ethics Commission meeting. School finance officers must uphold the Ohio ethics law. Standards are in place for ethical behavior, and district employees must acknowledge the state’s employee code of conduct annually. 

High school swimming pool use

The board discussed public use of the Heights High pool, which continues to be a community concern. The athletic department manages the pool. The bond campaign for high school renovation had implied that the pool would be available for community use. However, impediments exist to the city reviving a community pool pass, including additional costs for insurance, pool supplies, and chemicals. Board members questioned whether the change in Cleveland Heights government structure has complicated the partnership. 

Board comments

Board President Wright noted that September is Attendance Appreciation Month. She also drew attention to Ohio House Bills 206, 214, and 240. The latter two relate to school personnel. HB 240 would allow districts to hire chaplains to provide support services to students.

LWV observer: Rosemarie Fairman

Documents for all board meetings can be accessed from the Board of Education webpage: www.chuh.org/BoardofEducation.aspx. Go to “BoardDocs” in the menu; on BoardDocs go to “MEETINGS” in the top menu; click on “Agenda.” Board meetings are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/CHUHSchools) and recorded for later viewing.

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 10:38 AM, 10.09.2023