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APS district honors longtime employees

6/13/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

Along with celebrating all the high school graduations, each June the Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education also honors its staff — one person in each department or category who is retiring with the most years of service, a minimum of 30.

Nine Distinguished Emeritus Employees were presented with certificates for their outstanding — and lengthy — service at the board’s June 10 meeting.

Heading the list was teacher Gust Kalapodis, who is retiring after 46.5 years, most at North High School. Karen Grindall was honored for her 43.5 years of elementary school teaching, most at Portage Path Elementary School, now called Portage Path Community Learning Center (CLC).

Mark Gilbert is retiring after 43 years in the Maintenance Department and Carol Healy after 39 years, most of them as career education coordinator.

Cornelia Leavell has completed 38 years as an educational assistant, and middle school teacher Donald Gromley is retiring with 37 years of service, most at Hyre Middle School, now called Hyre CLC.

Administrator Mae Walker also has 37 years of service, most as an assistant principal and principal, most recently at Essex Elementary School.

Audrey Martin has worked for 37 years in Child Nutrition Services and Robert Hood 35 years in the Buildings and Grounds Department, at Firestone High School and Litchfield Middle School, among others.

Board President Jason Haas said honoring the emeritus staff members is a way to “thank them officially and publicly.”

In other business, the board voted to turn its sponsorship of the Akron Digital Academy over to another educational entity. Superintendent David James explained that after the board voted May 20 to drop its sponsorship of the charter school, the legal counsels of the two groups conferred and worked out a mutual agreement.

The Warren County Educational Service Center will become the new sponsor, James said following the board’s approval, so the district will be out of the charter business and the Digital Academy can stay in operation. Warren County is in Southwest Ohio.

In other business, the design development phase of the future Firestone/Litchfield CLC is complete, has been approved by both the board and the Joint Board of Review and will be submitted to the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

Paul Flesher, director of facility planning and capital improvements, said some early geothermal site bids have been let, and bids are beginning to come in. He said facility officials hope to bring bids to the board for approval in July, with in-ground geothermal work on the former Litchfield site to begin later this summer.

At a special meeting May 30, the board approved a five-year financial forecast, which school districts are required to submit to the state twice a year, that is based on a projected 6 percent increase in state funding for the biennium beginning July 1.

Since the forecast was due in Columbus before the Ohio General Assembly passed a final version of the House Bill (HB) 59 two-year budget, Treasurer Jack Pierson assumed the 6 percent increase based on news coming out of Columbus.

The forecast can be changed if the final budget deviates from where it was May 30, said Haas.

The board also voted to oppose the part of HB 59 that would expand the Educational Choice (EdChoice) scholarship program. One new option in the governor’s proposal would expand vouchers for private or parochial school tuition to kindergarteners in families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level without regard to the academic performance of the child’s public school.

The proposals in the budget would significantly reduce state funds “from the already financially beleaguered local public school districts,” stated the resolution that the board approved, which added the APS Board of Education opposes “any legislation that seeks to transfer public dollars to support private education.”

Another area of financial anxiety for the district in the prospective HB 59 is a busing provision.

The Ohio Revised Code requires public school districts to provide transportation for children in kindergarten through eighth grade who live more than 2 miles from their school.

Public districts must also provide transportation for students who live in the district but choose to attend parochial or other nonpublic schools. If it is impractical to transport such a student — the other school is too far away or the district has no bus available at the time the student needs to go, for example, the district may offer payment in lieu of transportation.

According to APS Director of Business Affairs Debra Foulk, the current state-mandated minimum required payment in lieu of busing is $240 per student per year. In one of the General Assembly disagreements on HB 59, the Ohio Senate wants to reduce that amount to $225 per year, while the House of Representatives wants to increase the annual payment to $833 per child, Foulk said. The APS currently has 557 students who have requested transportation to a parochial or other nonpublic school, she said.

Haas said if the House amount is passed in the final budget bill, the APS would have to pay an additional $320,000 per year to make in lieu of payments for those Akron students to go to private schools. The bill must be approved in Columbus by the end of June.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for June 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway St. in Downtown Akron.

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