SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Board of Education held its annual organizational meeting on Jan. 13, with meetings, memberships, and duties being the major points of discussion.
New members Angela Graziosi and Alice Nicks were sworn in by Treasurer Jeremy Buskirk, followed by reelected member Douglas Crowl. Their terms expire at the end of 2025.
The two returning board members are Sherri Dorsch and Stephen Fujii, whose terms will expire at the end of 2023.
Crowl was nominated to be school board president for 2022 and was named president following a voice vote. Fujii was nominated for vice president, and he asked Crowl if the board might have more meetings than originally scheduled on the meeting’s agenda. Crowl said yes — they would be on the first Mondays, third Thursdays, and last Mondays of the month — a total of 31, and eight more meetings than 2021. Fujii was named vice president.
After the officers were sworn in, Crowl further discussed meetings. He said the meetings will be held in the evenings due to public participation. The last Monday meeting each month will be held at rotating buildings “so that the board would be more familiar with the assets of the district, and the conditions of those assets.” Board members will have the opportunity to recess and tour those buildings, he said. The other two meetings each month will be primarily for business.
Graziosi and Nicks said they liked the idea. Dorsch said she thought it was an interesting idea, but with everything going on, she preferred having longer meetings if it meant having fewer meetings.
Fujii said he recalled a time when the board met once a month in the morning. He asked if the meeting at different buildings could be bundled into the second meeting. Crowl said it would depend on the workload, noting that the board last met Dec. 16, and now they were meeting on Jan. 13, a whole month later.
“Some of the meetings in 2021 went quite lengthy,” Crowl said. “I realize construction will be wrapping up on the high school, but there are many other issues that I think the board needs to review. … I envision the board going through the board’s policies and reviewing them. That’s going to be a lengthy project, but it hasn’t been done. I know we do the updates, but the board that sat in 2009 is dictating how this board operates.”
Buskirk and Superintendent Angie Hamberg said the third meeting option would need to be introduced as a new motion and could be presented as such at a future meeting.
The board took action on the motion as it was written on the agenda, approving continuing the meetings as currently scheduled. Essentially, the meetings are 7:30 a.m. on the second Thursday and 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, with every month having at least one meeting in the evening. Those meetings will be held in the board room of the District Administrative Office, 110 Tippett Ct., Sunbury. “The Board may schedule additional meetings as needed throughout the year,” the text said.
While going over the superintendent’s duties, Crowl asked to amend the motion from calendar year 2022 to fiscal year ending June 30, 2022. Fujii, who served as president pro tem at the organizational meeting, asked why.
“I’m of the opinion that we need to do some research on the viability of creating a business manager position, and this grants us the time to do that, between now and June,” Crowl said. He said having a business manager would change some of the superintendent’s authority and would report to the board.
“I’m not aware of any districts that have a business manager,” Hamberg said. “Do you have a concern with the way I have been approving things as a purchasing agent?”
“I have a concern anytime where I see an organization where all the power rests with one person,” Crowl said.
The motion to amend carried by a 3-2 vote, with Crowl, Graziosi, and Nicks voting yes.
Next came the treasurer’s duties, and in response to a question, Buskirk said he does not generally issue blanket purchase orders.
Crowl asked to amend a provision for public records training with the treasurer as represented designee to include each board member also receiving the training so they “know what’s required as elected officials.” That amended provision was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Fujii voting no.
The next matter was regarding legal representation, with Bricker and Eckler representing the board, and McGown Markling offering five hours of pro bono legal services. That passed by a 4-1 vote, with Nicks voting no.
The board members then volunteered for various committees, where up to two could serve. Fujii said board representation at township and municipalities often fell to where they lived. Hamberg recommended covering the areas where there was development occurring, but each governing entity had at least one member.
The board was then asked to approve memberships to different organizations. Nicks asked about the Ohio School Board Association membership, which cost $8,127. Hamberg said OSBA helped the district in an advisory capacity, and kept administration updated on legislative happenings at the state level.
Nicks said she didn’t want to be listed as an OSBA member. “That’s a lot of money that could be going to teachers and kids,” she said. She said the OSBA was associated with a letter which “called parents domestic terrorists.”
“That was an action I found completely repulsive,” Crowl said. “I heard they had distanced themselves — there’s a difference between severing ties and distancing.”
However, news reports have said the OSBA was not associated with the letter, which was actually sent by the National School Boards Association to the Biden Administration. In October, the OSBA terminated its membership in the NSBA.
In response to another question, Buskirk recommended continuing in purchasing cooperatives. The memberships were then approved by a 3-2 vote, with Graziosi and Nicks voting no. “That was a very slim yes by me,” Crowl said afterwards.