BWLS to tweak public participation


SUNBURY — The final Big Walnut Board of Education regular meeting of the 2022-2023 school year included a note on changing future public participation.

The May 18 meeting agenda stated in capital letters that “BEGINNING JUNE 15, 2023, PUBLIC PARTICIPATION WILL BE HELD AT THE END OF THE MEETING.”

One of the four members of the public who spoke during the public participation portion of the meeting said that this change in policy “is effectively like a gag order. It tells parents in the community that the board knows everything, and they control the votes so no public opinion matters, and why no explanation on the change?”

Different districts have their public participation at different times during their meetings as determined by policy. At least one central Ohio district has been known to have them early in the meeting, which allows board members or administrators to publicly respond to a comment or question if they wish before the board attend to business, and for the public to leave before the business items if they wish.

This person also said she was “tired of my input as a parent being ignored … no one wins when there’s division within the school board. … Not opposing the Backpack Bill is almost like striking a blow against our own public school district. The board should put the public-school interests above the potential loss of state funds that we can’t afford to lose.”

The bill she was referring to is an Ohio House Bill which would provide universal school vouchers for students. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission reports “State expenditures would increase by about $1.13 billion in FY 2025 if all 185,400 newly eligible nonpublic students take a scholarship under the bill.”

The first woman said not enough is being done to address bullying in the district and felt like she was getting the runaround. “My 11-year-old should not be depressed and hate going to school,” she said. “I hear so many parents with similar stories or even worse, and they feel like nothing is being done for them, either.”

A second woman said she had been made aware of threats made to two of the district’s schools. “Why is this happening in our schools? Big Walnut needs to wake up … we have to stop the mentality of it will not happen here. This is not OK!”

She went on to say her nephews were being bullied and there was vandalism by third graders, and the senior prank involved students getting into the high school.

“There’s no discipline, there’s no accountability, and this is what we end up with,” she said.

A fourth person said he and his daughter, a Big Walnut student, moved to the district from Washington state last year.

“This is a lot more welcoming, a lot more inviting, a lot better relationship-driven place than where I came from,” he said. “Yeah, there’s things to work on … just know that you’re ahead of some other places. We can be better tomorrow than we are today.”

In business and personnel items, the board approved:

• A contract with State Security for $84,000 in improvement funds to upgrade the security system at Big Walnut Middle School immediately.

• A financial and construction audit of the 2017 bond projects.

• Joining two purchasing cooperatives at no cost to the district.

• Selling three buses to Fremont City Schools at $25,000 each.

• Repairs to the tennis courts, including two pickleball courts for public use.

Last, but not least, the board approved the 2023 graduating class.

During the board members’ comments, Steve Fujii said that while some members of the public have disagreed with his decisions, he has not received the vulgar emails that Board President Doug Crowl and others have received. He didn’t like that they have received vulgar emails, but he felt the reason he didn’t receive those kinds of emails is because, “I choose to be responsible with my language. I choose to be responsible in preparation for board meetings. I choose to be responsible in all communications with community and staff.”

Fujii, Angela Graziosi and Alice Nicks thanked the senior class, teachers, administrators and staff. Nicks noted that Fujii and Superintendent Ryan McLane have graduating seniors.

“Welcome to the adult world,” Crowl said to the class of 2023. “It’s a blast!”

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].

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