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West Side Education News & Notes

1/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

Buchtel CLC teacher requests employment hearing

WEST AKRON — Buchtel Community Learning Center (CLC) teacher Melissa Cairns has requested a hearing to plead her case regarding potential termination. An impartial referee will likely hear the case in the next six to eight weeks, according to Akron Public School District (APS) officials.

APS officials said Cairns was placed on leave Oct. 19, 2012, after the district learned that Cairns, a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher, apparently took a picture of some of her students with duct tape covering their mouths and posted the photo on her personal Facebook account with the caption: “Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!”

“The photo was taken during class time, when teaching and learning should have been taking place,” Superintendent David James said in a press release, adding privacy of minors was another concern for the district.

On Jan. 14, the APS school board voted to consider terminating Cairns. She has since requested a hearing before a referee, a provision allowed under the Ohio Revised Code. A referee will be chosen, a date set and then an official hearing held. The referee will then forward his or her opinion/recommendation to the school board for a final vote.

Cairns was hired by APS in August 2007 as a math teacher. She worked three years at Garfield High School and two at Firestone High School. In April 2012, she was placed on a Plan of Assistance at Firestone to help with her teaching skills, according to APS officials.  

She started at Buchtel in August 2012.

A fellow APS employee noticed the Facebook photo and alerted a supervisor. Principal Sonya Gordon asked Cairns to take down the photo. She also alerted parents of students in the class.

Cairns was on paid leave between Oct. 19 and Jan. 14. She has been on unpaid leave effective Jan. 15, after the school board voted to begin the termination process.


Kent State signs agreement with National Park Service

KENT — Kent State University (KSU) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Park Service, providing for enhanced collaboration in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).

The agreement, signed last month, calls for collaborative projects and joint research primarily focused on geology, biology, hydrology and educational programs, according to Todd Diacon, KSU’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

“There have been informal discussions between scientists at the park and KSU faculty for a long time, but over the past two years, we really started to strengthen the relationship and deepen the ties to the park,” Diacon said.

The theme of the collaboration is “The River We Share.” The Cuyahoga River flows through both the CVNP and the city of Kent.

“The collaboration between the park and the university will provide students and the park research and technical services through hands-on education and service-learning opportunities,” said Stan Austin, CVNP superintendent. “This association has the potential to develop future land stewards while enriching the experience for park visitors.”

The five-year pact allows both parties to revisit and revise the agreement at the end of that period.

“This particular national park is unique, as it encompasses urban environments to fairly pristine areas — plus it’s heavily used because of the large population surrounding it,” said James Blank, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at KSU. “At Kent State, we have real interest in urban ecology and hydrology, that is, what’s going on with water as it moves throughout these environments.”

The new agreement will mean expanded internship opportunities for KSU students.

“We have a number of programs across different departments where students want to look for careers related to the environment, everything from working for the park service or the [Environmental Protection Agency] to environmental consulting,” Blank said. “The explosion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Ohio is just one example of an industry that is fueling the demand for trained workers in environmental fields. This agreement will yield enormous benefits for our students.”


Increasing participation in summer food programs focus of statewide summit

COLUMBUS — In Ohio, about 45 percent of all school-aged children receive free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program, according to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

The Summer Food Service Program is designed to help those same children access healthy meals during the summer months, yet last year, only a fraction of eligible children in Ohio participated, according to organizers.

Determined to provide healthy, adequate meals to more children this summer, a group of more than 200 federal, state and local stakeholders came together Jan. 25 to discuss best practices for increasing participation. Kevin Concannon, under secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, addressed the crowd about the importance of summer nutrition programs for Ohio’s children.

“The nutrition gap low-income children face when school is out of session underscores the need and importance for USDA’s summer meal opportunities,” Concannon said. “We anticipate bolstering this investment by working to increase the number of sites where disadvantaged Ohio children can receive a meal in a constructive, safe environment.”

Representatives from local school districts and faith-based and nonprofit organizations from throughout the state shared their best practices for engaging more children in summer food programs.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, stressed how damaging a lack of adequate nutrition can be to a child’s ability to succeed during the school year.

“Food insecurity in children leads to more frequent nurses visits at school, higher rates of chronic conditions, lower math scores and a greater likelihood of behavioral problems,” said Hamler-Fugitt. “Food insecurity during the summer months also leads to lost educational achievement. One experience with hunger has a negative impact on the health of children 10 and 15 years later. We must commit as a community and as a state to provide for the basic nutritional needs of our children.”

Ohio families may learn more about the Summer Food Service Program by visiting www.ode.state.oh.us/GD/Tem plates/Pages/ODE/ODEPri mary.aspx?page=2&Topic RelationID=835 or by calling 877-644-6338 for more information.


Stephanie Kist contributed to these reports.

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