The Buckeye Valley Board of Education on Wednesday welcomed a new member, hired new administrators, and approved board policies.
At the start of the meeting, board President Amy Dutt announced the recent passing of former board member Jeffrey White.
“We’ve lost our previous board member Jeffrey White,” Dutt said. “His resignation was final on June 1, and he sadly passed away the next day. He served us for a long time. He was on the board for six years and probably served Buckeye Valley for 10 years before that on facilities committees. He had seen us through four different facility improvements, at least. Thank you, Jeff. We miss him, and I’m really sad.”
White’s replacement on the board, Troy Jeffrey, was then sworn in by Treasurer Kelly Ziegler.
The board later accepted the resignation of three administrators: Brian Baker, principal at Buckey Valley West Elementary; Sean Smith, assistant principal at West; and Mike Yinger, athletic director at Buckeye Valley High School.
The board then approved three administrative two-year contracts for Michelle Howard, the new principal at West; Josh Martin, the new assistant principal at West; and a contract for Kris Boey, the new athletic director at the high school.
The board then approved the second reading of more than 30 board policies.
In particular, the board discussed an addition to the the curriculum development policy. The policy included the addition of wording stating the district does not endorse school employees requiring the teaching of a number of things related to race, including teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex”; that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously”; and “Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by … members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.”
Dutt questioned the necessity for the amendment and asked if the ideas discussed in the amendment were being taught within the Buckeye Valley Local School District. Board member Tom Ailabouni, who requested the amendment to the policy, insisted they were but declined to provide examples.
“I’m trying to understand what the problem is that we’re trying to solve,” Dutt said.
“We don’t want to have a problem is the reason that we have it,” Ailabouni said. “There are cases that this is going on, and if you guys would like it, we can bring it up but it may embarrass some people, namely teachers.”
Dutt responded, “So this is in response to curriculum that is being taught?”
“Some of it is being taught,” Ailabouni said. “… Nobody should stand for that kind of conduct and that’s all (the amendment) is.”
Dutt said she is worried about the impact the language in the amendment could have on teachers in the district.
“I just want to make sure that this language doesn’t prevent a teacher (from having) open discussion or critical discussion,” Dutt said. “… What I don’t want is for our teachers to be afraid to bring up topics for discussion. … What it comes down to for me is does it make us appear frightened or opposed to discussion or instruction of race … or any ongoing oppression that’s been in Ohio or the U.S.”
Ailabouni said the district’s lawyers “didn’t seem to think that it was going against any law or anything,” and he’s not trying to take away discussions of race or history.
“The teachers, everyone agrees, are the best part of Buckeye Valley, and I don’t want a teacher to be gun-shy about bringing up a current event,” Dutt said. “I don’t want to make us look afraid of talking about those issues by this policy.”
Board member April Scowden said the policy should be tabled to get input from curriculum staff, adding she needed more information. Ailabouni disagreed.
“If we go down that road we’re going to mention names and classes and when it was done,” Ailabouni said. “So is that going to have a negative effect on those people?”
Dutt asked for an example without identifying a teacher.
“Without mentioning a teacher’s name, because we can’t do that to a public employee unless we’re in executive session, can you give an example of something that was said by a teacher?” Dutt asked.
“No, but if you want to go down that road, I’ll get you all your information,” Ailabouni said.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Froehlich said he’s “just worried about the impact on teachers.”
“It does not prohibit discussion, it prohibits making it part of the course,” Ailabouni said before offering a hypothetical example. “January 3 we’re going to talk about how white people are oppressive and all white people are racist by being born. That’s what it prohibits. On Jan. 4, the teacher can say, ‘Let’s talk about this, are they racist just by being born?’ but teaching it is what it’s preventing.”
Board Vice President Donald Dicke said racism and sexism are “real issues that face society.”
“That’s a societal issue that should be talked about,” Dicke said. “I don’t think this prohibits that.”
Dicke said the board can revise the policy if teachers have issues.
Ultimately, Ailabouni, Dicke, Jeffrey and Scowden voted to approve the policy. Dutt abstained.
The board will meet next on July 20.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.