SIDNEY — As the 2017 year comes to a conclusion, Paul Heins and Bill Ankney are seeing their terms of office as Sidney City Schools Board of Education members also end. Their last day on the BOE is Dec. 31.
The pair attended their final board meeting on Dec. 18. Ankney, who is currently board president, has served the community for eight years. Heins, the board vice president, has been on the board for almost five years.
“There was so much turmoil going on when I came on the board,” said Ankney. “There were failed levies and the district’s financials were in such bad shape.”
As a former business manager for the district, Ankney said he approached then Superintendent Pat O’Donnell with solutions to some of the district’s problems.
“There were things as the business manager that I was told by Pat that I couldn’t do,” said Ankney. After being nonrenewed for his job, Ankney ran for a board of education seat.
“Everything Pat said we couldn’t do, the board has done,” said Ankney. “Members of the board treat the public with the respect they deserve from the board.”
Ankney said he’s amazed at how fast the district turned around from the financial crisis of several years ago.
Heins was appointed the complete the term of Melanie Cook after she resigned from the board. He was also elected to one full-term as a board member. Heins had served on the Hardin-Houston Local School Board prior to his family moving to the Sidney School district.
“I knew what the situation was when I was appointed to the board,” said Heins.
His previous board experience, said Heins, helped bring the turmoil in the district to an end.
“We are financially stable now,” said Heins. “The district has 425 employees. When you have that many employees, there always going to have some issues come up.”
Heins said one of the biggest negatives all board members have to deal with are the “hoops” the BOE has “jump through to deal with the state of Ohio, legislators and the state board of education.”
“They are changing the testing every six months,” said Heins. “They (state) asks the teachers and administrators to conform with it. How do we know how good the test scores are if they (state) don’t know what they’re doing?”
Both men agree that the district’s inability to pass a permanent improvement levy is hurting the district.
“We have aging elementary schools,” said Heins. “they need heating upgrades. The 3 mills would have allowed us to go school-to-school and get all the upgrades completed.
“It would take $12-13 million to build one large elementary school,” he said. “There’s no reason why our existing buildings couldn’t be upgraded.”
“Historically, the voters don’t support the schools,” said Ankney.
They said the stability of the school district is something they are proud to be part of.
“Financially, we’re stable,” said Heins. “We’ve added extra programs in the district.”
The school security system, initiated by Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and Superintendent John Scheu, is one of the best in the nation.
“We have staff participation in that,” said Heins. “Everybody across the county is looking at what Sidney is doing. We’re not going to take a back seat (in student safety). We looked at what we could do locally and I think it’s worked out pretty durn well.”
Ankney said numerous staff members had received their conceal carry license prior to the implementation of the security program in the district.
“The sad part of it is if you have it available (training) and don’t use it and something happens, how can you ever look a parent in the eye again.”
The Workforce Academy, said Heins, has been beneficially for all students in the district.
“The Workforce Academy has public and private businesses supporting them,” said Ankney. “There are few academies in Ohio that are privately funded like ours.”
The FFA program is one of the largest ag programs in Shelby County. It is run independently by the district.
“Our band went from 17 members to 130 members,” said Heins. “The success of it is a real positive for the district. We want to get the kids involved in programs at the school.”
Heins said he loves seeing the students involved in the extra curricular activities.
“My daughter is involved in the arts, German Club. This makes her a well-rounded person,” said Heins.
Ankney said the leadership in the district in another positive for the students.
“The leadership holds the people responsible for what they are doing,” said Ankney.
He credits the teachers for helping lead the district out of the financial woes it was experiencing.
“The teachers came in for negotiations,” said Ankney. “They came in knowing they had to do something. They came in with the pay cuts proposed. They laid out the ground work. They themselves saved the district.”
The upgrading of the maintenance staff is another way the district is best utilizing its finances. They have a plumber, electrician and HVAC trained staff members, which eliminates the need to call an outside company or agency to come in and do repairs.
Both men have served on the Upper Valley Career Center’s board of education. Ankney will continue to serve on the UVVC board as local boards can appoint business leaders to serve the district.
“We didn’t just represent Sidney on UVCC,” said Heins. “We were representing all of Shelby County.”
Both men said they will miss serving on the board of education.
“I’ll miss working with Bill and the other board members,” said Heins.”I like to get their opinions. I have spoken in front of community members when we were trying to pass the levy. I like to talk about public education and interact with the community. The board president (Ankney) is excellent about getting the opinions of the board members and community. You have to have the community involved to have a successful district.”
Ankney said he likes to listen to other people’s opinions.
“I’ve had some great discussions with people,” said Ankney. “I’ve worked with some really good people. We were about to have civil disagreements and still get along.
“I had fun with Kelly (Rees) and Darrell (Spangler) when they were on the board,” said Ankney. “People thought I had an axe to grind when I got on the board. I liked the discussions we’ve had and I like listening to them.”
Ankney said he knows the public “wanted to be listened to” and that’s what he and his fellow board members try to do.
“People hate that 5-0 vote,” said Ankney. “They want to know we’ve had discussion about it and just not rubber stamped it.
“We have a very active board,” he said. “That’s been the most pleasant thing about it (being a board member).”
Ankney and his wife, Donna, a retired teacher, have two children, Derek and Brienne, and four grandchildren.
Heins and his wife, Lori, are the parents of four children, John, Robert James, Chloe and Ryan.
“If it wasn’t for her (Lori) I couldn’t serve on the board,” said Heins. “We moved to Sidney because the parents needed help and they had health problems.”
Both men chose not to run for re-election in November. They will be replaced on the board by Linda Meininger and Jason Schaffner. Their terms begin Jan. 1. The board’s organizational meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.