Comments cause commotion at South Range again

BEAVER TWP. – Public comments caused another stir at the South Range school board meeting this week.

Last month, multiple community members criticized boardmember Taylor Christian for spreading unsubstantiated rumors and dividing the board.

At this week’s meeting Rich Ferenchak, a vocal opponent of the school board and administration, once again stood up to call for board president Ralph Wince’s resignation.

Wince cut Ferenchak off and asked him to sit down, citing board policy that enables the presiding officer at a meeting to “prohibit public comments that are frivolous, repetitive, and/or harassing; interrupt, warn, or terminate a participant’s statement when the statement is too lengthy, abusive, off-topic, obscene, or irrelevant; and request any individual to leave the meeting when that person does not observe reasonable decorum or is disruptive to the conduct of the meeting. The policy also allows the presiding officer to “request the assistance of law enforcement officers in the removal of a disorderly person when that person’s conduct interferes with the orderly progress of the meeting.”

“You are consistently getting up meeting after meeting to talk about irrelevant things,” Wince told Ferenchak.

Ferenchack attends nearly all the board meetings and speaks during both the public comments portions – once for agenda items and once for non-agenda items. He continued to talk over Wince calling for his resignation before finally sitting down.

Ferenchak’s outburst drew criticism from two audience members, including Rob White, husband of boardmember Amy White, who reported a rumor that Ferenchak had audio recorded his interview in executive session for the board’s vacant seat last month, without the knowledge of the other board members. Wince said he did not know if Ferenchak was recording the interview and was not aware of the rumor. Ferenchak refused to say whether he did or not.

Wince said last month the interviews were being held in executive session in order to make the applicants more comfortable during questioning since the public portions of the board meetings are heavily attended and streamed live online. Christian voted against conducting the interviews in executive session stating the current board members had to run for office in public.

According to Ohio Revised Law, the school board can enter an

executive session to consider the appointment of a public employee or official.

Before entering executive session to discuss personnel at the meeting this week, Wince read a passage from the Bible calling for people to love their enemy. He said he and the board always try to do that.

“Love the person” even if you hate what comes out (their mouth), he said, encouraging everyone to continue to stay positive and embrace the love shown by faculty, staff, parents and community members despite anything that appears negative.

Also at the meeting, Ellen Christian, mother of boardmember Taylor Christian, questioned how booster groups are monitored and whether the board or administration approves booster events.

Ellen Christian noted the district has a drug testing policy for students with discipline taken for failed tests and asked why a booster fundraising event should be allowed to include alcohol, comparing it to using marijuana and vaping, as a fundraiser for school programs. She referenced an incident first discussed at a board meeting in December in which boardmember Terri Lally admitted to moving unopened bottles of alcohol for a booster fundraising event from someone else’s vehicle trunk to her’s while on school property. The incident is what the community members criticized Taylor Christian for discussing without proof and claiming she was selling and consuming alcohol on school property.

Schools Superintendent Dennis Dunham said the boosters coordinate with him for events on school property, but he has no control over events held off the property. He said the hope is boosters conduct events in good taste, but noted alcohol is something adults can consume and share off school property.