Fairlawn approves new pre-K program

By Jim Painter - For the Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY — Fairlawn Local School officials received approval Thursday to implement a third level of education at the prekindergarten and kindergarten levels later this year.

By a vote of 3 to 1, the board of education approved the plan intended to better prepare students emotionally, socially and academically for kindergarten. Board members Bob Gold, Mike Henman and Rita Gilfillen voted in favor with Tony Bensman voting against the measure. Board member Andy Brautigam was not in attendance.

Superintendent Jeff Hobbs said the move will allow students who need additional time to better ensure the kindergarten experience.

At the September board meeting, the First Fives Program was presented by prekindergarten teacher Casie Piper and kindergarten teachers Beth Butler and Mindy Cox.

Piper said then the program is aimed at students who need additional instruction at the pre-K level and would give those children the “gift of time” to be more successful in school. She said previously that pre-K students go through the half-day course with no option but to advance to kindergarten, if they are even borderline prepared. The program would incorporate a full-day school schedule that would include art, music and physical education.

Butler said then a benefit would be smaller class sizes and it would allow academic plans to be better designed to the individual student. Allowing the students to attend a full-day schedule prior to entering kindergarten would be beneficial.

In September, Hobbs said 17 students would qualify to be placed in the new program. Eight of those live within the district; the others are open enrolled. Piper reported then she had 44 students in her pre-K class, Butler had 26 with Cox stating she had 25 children in her class.

Hobbs said then the anticipated startup costs for supplies would be approximately $7,500, not counting the additional staff member. He estimated the first-year salary and benefits at $60,000.

On First Fives employment issues, the board voted by the same 3 to 1 count when they hired Brittany Cathcart as an aide at $11.95 per hour and Rebecca Gehret as a long-term substitute teacher and agreed to hire a full-time teacher in the program’s second year.

• Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart addressed the board and visitors regarding school safety issues at Fairlawn. He was joined by Mark Henman, who is serving as the interim school resource officer.

Earlier this year, the board sought a lower cost method of providing a resource officer to offset the $52,000 cost for the 2016-17 school year. The board stepped away from a contract with the sheriff’s office to find a solution.

In August, the board unanimously agreed to hire Justin Tidwell as the lone, full-time resource officer for the 2017-18 school year. Tidwell also serves as the district’s part-time athletic director and continues in that position.

Tidwell’s annual salary for the resource officer position is $17,000, according to Hobbs in August. He noted Tidwell graduated from the training of the Ohio Police Academy and was an adult probation officer prior to joining the Fairlawn district. Tidwell’s yearly salary as athletic director is set at $30,000.

Tidwell is currently student teaching, being in his final quarter of study for a master’s degree in special education. Henman is covering the position until the teaching time is complete.

On Thursday, Lenhart assured those in attendance that keeping students safe is a top priority for his department and school administrators. He spoke of staff members’ stepping forward to enhance safety programs at their respective schools.

Hobbs spoke of steps currently in place to protect students as visitors and board members quizzed officials. He noted that Tidwell’s student teaching ends later this month.

• The board voted unanimously in support of Ohio Senate Bill 216 that returns control of issues, including graduation guidelines, to the local school board.

Hobbs said the bill is receiving strong support statewide and returns control to those who know their districts best. He noted graduation requirements being determined locally is a plus and reported the hiring of Darren Kaiser to tutor sophomores and juniors at a rate of $20 per hour, not to exceed 25 hours.

According to bill language, SB 216 restores local control of curriculum and instruction; of instruction priorities and class schedules; faculty evaluation and development; kindergarten readiness assessment; student and teaching data; content and assessment stability; and, transparency and community, to local school boards.

Also, by unanimous vote, the board:

• Accepted the resignation of Taylor Hughes as seventh-grade girls’ basketball coach for the 2017-2018 school year.

• Accepted a donation of $100 to the Fairlawn Drama Club by Jerry and Dinah Rhodeback; and a donation of $225 for the Fairlawn FFA in memory of Terry Marrs.

• Awarded a one-year, limited service contract to Kim Cotterman as Foreign Language Club adviser at a pay rate of $677.80.

• Accepted the resignation of Jacquelyn Jenkinson as pep band director.

• Approve Dale Peterson as a volunteer junior high girls’ basketball coach.

• Awarded a one-year, limited service contract to Tammy Langston as mentor for Elisabeth Baker for the remainder of the school year at rate of $338.

By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.