Big Walnut BOE names interim treasurer


SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Board of Education held a special meeting on March 4, going into executive session “to consider the employment of a public employee” for about 45 minutes.

When members reconvened, the board noted current treasurer Darren Jenkins was declared incapacitated and placed on unpaid medical leave. A board committee talked to six interested candidates, interviewing two.

Scott Gooding is the new interim treasurer. A Westerville resident, he was previously the treasurer/CFO of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools. He is currently president of the Board of Directors of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

Gooding’s first day was March 5, and he was thanked for his weekly update at the next meeting, where he served as parliamentarian for the board, a role typically given to the treasurer.

“Revenue is up, expenses are down, cash balance is up,” Gooding said during his first report on March 18. Next, Gooding will work on a five-year forecast and facilities financial planning.

“Thank you for jumping in feet-first,” Board President Steve Fujii said to Gooding. Fujii also thanked board member Angela Graziosi for her help in the selection process.

Superintendent Ryan McLane gave an assessment of the storm damage, which was limited to minor damage to athletic facilities.

“I saw this community come together, like it has so many times before in the face of tragedy and adversity,” McLane said. “People lent generators, chainsaws, leaf blowers, and prepared meals. People came out and helped a friend or a neighbor or a family of a child’s classmate. Because that’s what we do in Big Walnut … we are here to assist in any way we can.”

Later, McLane said Souders needed new boilers and chillers (not due to the storm damage), which the board approved.

In committee reports, board member Alice Nicks said on March 15, an email was sent out to Harlem Township residents regarding the proposed merger with the City of Westerville. Harlem’s Strategic Planning Committee said the timeline for discussion had been extended to include more community input, as well as researching other options.

“I think there was enough pushback when this came out that they realized they needed to hear more from the community,” Nicks said. Board member Doug Crowl said it was possible to redraw the districts via referendum so that students from Harlem currently in the Big Walnut district could be placed in Westerville City Schools.

In public comment, one parent and her daughter complained about an assigned book read in the classroom, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.” Another parent defended the district against “vague” critical videos being made about it, citing the state report card and test scores.

After 90 minutes, the board went into executive session for another 90 minutes to again consider employment of an official. When the public meeting resumed, there was a motion to approve a five-year contract for McLane into 2030. Board member Zach Duffey asked to table the motion, saying he had only been on the board for three months and wanted the other board members to prepare a document which listed McLane’s accomplishments, to be presented at the next meeting. However, the motion wasn’t seconded, and the contract was approved by the board, with Duffey abstaining.

Gooding was also given a 30-day contract, to be renewed as needed.

The room had cleared out a half-hour into the meeting after there were recognitions of art students from Big Walnut, General Rosecrans and Hylen Souders elementary schools.

“I just want everyone to get along, whatever their color, size or shape is,” one of the students said of her world peace-themed artwork.

In other district news, spring break began on March 23, and students returned to classes on April 2. The third quarter has ended, and the fourth quarter has begun. On Saturday, April 6, a memorial unveiling will take place during the Golden Eagle Relays at the High School Stadium between 12:15-45 p.m. to honor the late Big Walnut track coach Don “Red” Edwards.

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak photographs and reports on stories in eastern Delaware County and surrounding areas.

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