BOE approves contracts, school calendar

SIDNEY — Invoices, fees and community concerns were discussed during the Feb. 22 meeting of the Sidney City Schools Board of Education.

Three invoices — one each for the first, second and third quarter — from the Montgomery County Educational Service Center were approved by the board. The total amount of the invoices is $35,062.50.

Purchased service agreements for the 2021-22 school year with the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center were approved by the board. The agreements are for instructional assistant services at a cost of $28,217.61 and Family and Community Engagement coordinator’s additional days at a cost of $26,524.31, which will be paid with ESSER II Funds.

Proposal two for the 2022-23 school calendar was accepted by the board. The first day of classes for students will be Sept. 6, with a staggered start for kindergarten through fourth grades from Sept. 6-8. New staff orientation will be held Aug. 25-26; staff planning days will be Aug. 29-Sept. 2.

Christmas break will be from Dec. 19-30 with students returning to class Jan. 3 Spring break will be March 27-31. The last day of school for students will be May 24.

The board also approved the school fees for the 2022-23 school year. fees for grades kindergarten to eighth grade will be $35. Fees for grades 9-12 is based on the classes the student is enrolled in.

An an out-of-state student trip to Washington, D.C. for eighth-, ninth- and 10-grade students June 1 – June 5, 2022. Travel arrangements will be provided by Classic Student Tours. All expenses will be paid by the students.

An item dealing with administrator stipends for the 2022-23 school year was tabled by the board.

Treasurer Mike Watkins presented the treasurer’s report. He said the first tax collections for the second half of fiscal year 2022 have been received. Taxes collected for January year to date were more than the budget by nearly $600,000. The state foundation payments received year to date for January were more than budgeted by $1.2 million. January was the first month that the funding received reflected what the new funding formula was calculating.

Salaries and benefits were less than budget by $647,650. Purchased services were also less than the budget by $211,577.

Building reports were presented for Sidney High School and Whittier Early Childhood Center, along with a report from Vartek.

In the public participation portion of the meeting, three people spoke — Tracey Gockley, Christina Knott and Douglas Jackson.

Gockley said she has four children in the school district. She spoke about the reconfiguration of the fifth-grade program.

“When the reconfiguration was spoken of and elementary students moved to the middle school, it was promised to the community and teachers fifth grade would be run as an elementary school,” said Gockley.

“You heard from a SMS teacher yourself (at a prior meeting), asking for help. (Superintendent Bob) Humble wanted you to hear it from the teachers and not him. Why not him… because he did this and the board members who voted yes on it did this to the teachers. You see ‘they’ want the entire middle school to run off same bell schedule/ period schedule. 4 core teachers then have their electives and specials. Teams are no longer in existence. Elementary teachers are now overwhelmed with over 100 students they are each teaching. Why are we fixing something that was never broken? Just to make it more convenient on administration. What about our teachers, our students, and the community? Our community has many kids that don’t have stable home lives, they need the safety and consistency of being on a team rather than random teachers who don’t communicate.”

he said when the fifth- and sixth-grade teachers worked in a team, it allowed the students to thrive more academically.

“They were able to make personal connections with students and collaborate to do what was best for students on learning ability and how the students learned. Now they throw 100s of students and take it all away. I thought SCS put their students first. Seems like students and teachers are put last by the looks/actions taken,” said Gockley. “It is important to foster the independence of fifth- and sixth-graders while providing the support and scaffolding those students need for success. Yet here our administration is setting them up for failure.”

“If this is the direction the district is moving towards, why is the focus on hiring more administration instead of teachers and support staff. The school district has declined 600 students since 2010, which was the last year SCS had an assistant super. So why do you add an assistant super position, two curriculum directors, literacy coach and math when our student enrollment has declined. The priorities need to focus on help needed especially in the elementary grades with large classes and lack of instructional aides,” Gockley said.

“Please put the focus back on our students first and teachers,” she said.

In the first version of the agenda for the meeting, the assistant superintendent, two curriculum directors, literacy coach and math coach were listed. In an updated agenda, the items were removed from the items to be considered.

Knott said she has three sons in Sidney City Schools. She specifically talked about her youngest son who is in the fifth grade. He is on an IEP and in a class with 30 students. There are no aides in the classroom to assist him or other students with IEPs.

“Teachers are superheroes, but even superheroes have sidekicks! These teachers can only do so much. When my son, or anyone else’s child for that matter, needs to be pulled out of the classroom or needs to have additional time on an assignment or test, who is going to give him that? If he needs a break, because he feels that other kids are in his space, their talking, whispers, pencil marks, etc. are bothering him and keeping him from being able to focus, who is able to give him that break?” said Knott. “One teacher cannot leave the herd to give one child what they need and are entitled to have per a legal binding document. This is what aides used to do! The teachers and staff try as best as they can, but they are overwhelmed and stretched thin. They physically cannot be in two places at once. So who suffers? The children who need the extra assistance!

“I was employed as an aide for Sidney City Schools for five years. I worked as a classroom aide and I also worked with children with special needs. Two of those years with SCS, I worked as a one on one aide with autistic students. I saw the inner works of the classrooms, in general education and special education. I saw first hand the help that is so desperately needed. What I did not see was anyone from the board office coming and spending any substantial amount of time in a classroom filled to the max, and filled with students on IEP’s, or that are neuro diverse, to get a feel for the help that our teachers and students need. I don’t feel that they truly grasp all that the teachers and aides do on a daily basis. I have no doubt that their jobs are important, and that they are busy, and I’m sure they do great things, but priority should be put on those positions that directly work with the children of this district every single day, day in and day out.”

Knott said when she was employed at Sidney City Schools, aides were told they would be outsourced and would be taking a paycut if they chose to stay.

“I chose to leave my position as an aide because if I were to stay, I would be taking over a $5 pay cut on the hour. My family and I were not able to financially afford that cut, so I chose to seek employment elsewhere,” said Knott, who said the decision to cut positions has affected every student in the district.