Fed funds help West Branch with staffing

BELOIT — The West Branch school board this past week approved the expansion of two positions thanks to federal funds.

The board amended the position description of Joe Ginocchi, who the board last month approved as in school suspension coordinator, to include student achievement and community liaison. He will now work with students and parents to address attendance and tardiness issues in addition to serving as in school suspension coordinator.

The board also hired Christy Biery as a student success liaison. She will assist at-risk students achieve graduation in addition to non-academic issues such as child care.

The money for both positions is provided through federal funds for Student Success and Wellness Initiative. The new money allows for expansion of Biery’s role to larger population of students, focusing on mental and physical health.

Board member Karen Rice questioned the approval for Biery’s position, noting federal money is still taxpayers’ money, and voicing concern that the pay for her position is not stipulated in the motion. Board member Courtney Stryffeler also was reluctant to approve the hire without knowing the pay for the position.

Following several minutes of discussion, the board determined Biery would not be paid more than in previous years and all members approved the hire.

In other business, the board approved an agreement with Dr. James Pietrzycki, an independent contractor and certified orientation and mobility specialist; Harbor Education Services LLC (Leap Program); Sheree Ricketts, teacher of the visually impaired; Pathway for counseling services; and Education Alternatives and Proactive Behavior Services LLC for special education services. All contracts are on an as needed basis.

Schools Superintendent Timothy Saxton noted the district is legally obligated to provide the services to special needs students, including a couple who are visually impaired.

Rice voted against the contract with Ricketts, noting she felt the cost of $82 per hour and $108 per visit too costly. Stryffeler said Saxton is working to lower the cost.

Also at the meeting, the board approved an agreement with Beloit EMT to provide services for athletic contests at $75 per contest for up to 24 contests and authorized Ohio Schools Council Cooperative to advertise and receive bids for two Thomas Freightliner school buses. The board noted they are not obligated to purchase the buses if the money is not available.

The board also granted permission for the Athletic Boosters to operate concession stands during all home athletic events during the 2019-2020 school year and the Band Boosters to operate concession stands during the 2019 football season; and for the West Branch Little Warrior Football and Sebring West Branch Soccer organizations to use West Branch facilities for the 2019 season in coordination with the athletic director and principals.

Additionally the board accepted the resignation of Russell Moyer as intervention specialist and Connie Suggett as bus driver; and the retirement of Keli Doyle as cashier and aide.

The board also hired Maureen Smith, high school science teacher, under the retire-rehire provision; Mandy Zadigian as a Title I parent liaison; Jennifer Woods as tutor; as Title I tutors Lynn Lashley, Lou Ann Geiger and Cory Tafe for Knox Elementary; David Denny, Sue Dattilio and Ginger Williamson for Damascus Elementary; and Marian Gainor and Leslie Wilson for the middle school; Mindy Steer as a consultant/trainer for the special services department on an as needed basis; and Aaron Oblisk as a part-time mechanic not to exceed 30 hours per week; as well as recalled Vicky Cosma and Holly Zion Morrow as aides.

The board also granted supplemental contracts to Dan Hall for varsity girls golf, Alyssa Hatton for freshman cheerleading, Bryan Stehura for middle school instrumental music, Krista Clay for middle school vocal music, Tonya Edie for middle school newspaper, Penny DeShields for middle school yearbook, Heidi Wilhelm for middle school Power of the Pen, Amy Criss and Tonya Edie for middle school student council, Kristen Tice for National Honor Society, Erica Polinori for Future Teachers of America, Frank Edie for Pep Club, McKenzie Wallace for high school student council, Kristen Tice for high school Environmental Club, Mary Jo Kidd for Academic Challenge, Gayla Bock for high school yearbook, Erica Polinori for sophomore class advisor, John Zamarelli for junior class advisor and Wendy Lough for senior class advisor; and approved as volunteers McKenzie Wallace for Coding Club, Patti Jarvis for Ruriteens, Teresa Santee for Leo Club, Beth Cooley for SADD, and Tessa Wells, Jess Hartzell, Jennifer Zamarelli and Christine Brown for band.

Also, the board approved an increase of $1 per hour, to $14.50, for substitute bus drivers. Board President Mikki Kanagy said West Branch continues to have problems finding substitute drivers and is one of the lowest wages for substitute drivers inside 200 miles.

The board also accepted donations totaling $11,315.62 including $200 from the Damascus Ruritan Club for the girls soccer field, $557.73 from the Damascus PIE for field trip transportation, $8,040 from the Damascus PIE for Chromebooks and carts, $2,267.89 for field trip transportation and $250 from Beloit Friends Church for the McVicker Scholarship.

The next board meeting has been changed to Monday, Sept. 23. The board will meet in regular session at 7:30 p.m. in the high school media center, preceded by a public work session at 6 p.m.


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