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Sykes, Molenaur question changes to APS board agenda

DOWNTOWN AKRON — During the March 11 Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education meeting, board member Barbara Sykes asked the administration why discussion topics that were on the board’s agenda earlier in the day had been removed prior to the meeting.
According to board documents printed by the West Side Leader (WSL) on the morning of March 11, in his report to the board, Superintendent C. Michael Robinson Jr. was expected to provide updates to the APS Redistricting-Restructuring Plan. That topic was removed from the agenda before the meeting, and when Sykes asked for an explanation, Robinson said it would be discussed at the next board meeting March 25.
“After we spoke with our attorney today, we will be bringing the plan to the committee meeting, and there’s some discussion that we’re going to have to have around the policy that the board has so that we’re able to move forward to get the work done,” Robinson said.
Sykes addressed Board President Diana Autry and said she is concerned about the board’s open meeting rules and that agenda items are being pulled the day of the meeting.
“There should be adequate time given, not only to the board members but to the public and the media, and I am really concerned about this,” Sykes said, asking Autry what time the topics were pulled from the agenda.
Autry said, upon consultation with the district’s legal counsel, an email with an updated agenda was sent that afternoon to all board members. She said she learned of the changes at that time.
“I am really disappointed that this has happened,” Sykes responded. “I still think that it is in violation of our open records, in violation of our open meetings. It’s in violation of the Sunshine Law, and I want to put that on the record. I want to express my concern, and I think it has been handled inappropriately and illegally.”
Also on the earlier version of the agenda was a third and final reading of the Redistricting-Restructuring Plan and a resolution to rename Robinson Community Learning Center (CLC) to the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF)-STEM High School at Robinson CLC. According to that document, “with the termination of the lease of the building from The University of Akron located at 123 S. Forge St., the NIHF-STEM High School program will be relocated to the building that is currently known as Robinson CLC located at 1156 Fourth Ave.”
Both of these topics were also removed from the agenda before the meeting.
On March 11, the WSL requested from APS copies of correspondence between the district and the university regarding APS’s lease of the NIHF-STEM building from the university, and as of press time, had not received them.
Also during the meeting, board member Rene Molenaur questioned an even earlier version of the agenda, printed by the WSL on the afternoon of March 6, that stated the board would hear a presentation March 11 regarding a College and Career Academies Elementary School Master Plan. That topic was also removed from the agenda before the meeting, and when Molenaur asked for more information about it, her question was not acknowledged or answered by board leaders or the district’s administration.
In other business, the board approved:
• the naming of Ellet CLC’s baseball field in honor of longtime APS teacher and baseball coach John Sarver. A 1973 Ellet graduate, Sarver taught a variety of subjects at APS for 32 years, including industrial arts, math, social studies, English, science and others, and coached varsity baseball for 25 years at Ellet, Buchtel and Kenmore. According to board documents, Sarver “compiled a record of 379-247 as the varsity baseball coach, earning 18 City Series regular season championships, 15 league postseason titles and two Division I sectional titles in 2001 and 2022.” Sarver retired in 2023 and secured funding for a new scoreboard to be installed at Ellet’s baseball field. He is a member of three local sports-related Hall of Fames, and the request to name the baseball field in his honor was put forth by Ellet Principal Kimberly Sabetta and Athletic Director Justin Dimengo;
• the addition to the APS course catalog for the 2024-25 school year: Introduction to Computer Science, AP Precalculus and Pre-AP Algebra I, and for the 2025-26 school year: Pre-AP Geometry with Statistics;
• the retirements of Therese Aidala, child nutrition manager at Jennings CLC; Kimberly Gibbs, secretary for the College and Career Academies department; and Aileen Nicolino, child nutrition secondary worker at Ellet CLC;
• the reclassification of Michelle Marquess-Kearns from Supervisor of Secondary Schools to Executive Director, Secondary Schools, starting March 12. Marquess-Kearns’ new annual salary will be $157,878.66;
• a rental agreement with
The University of Akron to use E.J. Thomas Hall for the Firestone CLC Class of 2024 graduation ceremony on May 29 for a total cost not to exceed $7,832; and
• donations including $15,000 from Firestone Falcons All Sports Boosters for track upgrades at Firestone CLC; an assortment of snacks, socks, undergarments, coats, gloves, personal hygiene items and school supplies (valued at $3,000) from Care Closet/Nancy Maiola to Voris CLC students in need, and $1,500 from the West Akron 5K Walk and Run to Helen Arnold CLC to purchase books and supplemental English Language Arts items for the school’s book vending machine.
Around 7 p.m., board members recessed into executive session, according to Autry, “to consider the employment of a public employee or official.” About an hour and a half later, the board adjourned with no action taken.
The next APS board meeting is set for March 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 10 N. Main St. It will also be available to watch on the APS YouTube channel.