SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Board of Education unanimously approved salary increases for some of its substitute staff at its meeting on Nov. 17.
“It is recommended the Board approve the increase in pay for substitute bus drivers with less than 5 years of experience to $18.37 per hour and those with 5 or more years of experience to $20.20 per hour effective beginning November 16, 2022,” and “It is recommended the Board approve the increase in pay for substitute cooks with less than 5 years of experience to $14.92 per hour and those with 5 or more years of experience to $16.41 per hour effective beginning November 16, 2022,” read the agenda items as approved.
Superintendent Ryan McLane said the increases were meant as an enticement to attract employees to the positions, as well as having staff return to those positions. McLane said that at an earlier meeting, it was requested that substitute teachers receive a salary increase, which he was chipping away at.
Board member Steve Fujii noted that when employees leave, the trend is now to have transition interviews instead of exit interviews, in an effort to retain them in some capacity.
In other business, the board approved adding classes in American sign language, marketing application and psychology 2; and modifying the honors STEM in the 2023-2024 school year. The additions would be based on student interest and would require hiring an ASL teacher.
At the meeting, McLane congratulated all the fall sports teams for their successes. The winter sports season has started already, with all teams seeing action in December.
Grant Coulson was named BWHS Student of the Month; Adelynn Shultz was Prairie Run Elementary Student of the Month; Camden Hafner of PRE was Art Student of the Month; and Clarice Butler was the Early Learning Center Student of the Month.
During the board comment portion, student representative Sophia Erndt said the high school hosted a Veterans Day assembly, with each class hearing from a couple of veterans. She said a student-led Spirit Shop selling BW-themed items is now open during lunch. Erndt said student council recently delivered 150 meals to Hope House in Columbus, more than $600 in canned food items were donated to Big Walnut Friends Who Share, the Spanish Club provided boxes to Operation Christmas Child, and the Leo Club is selling Christmas trees on the Sunbury Square.
Other board members spoke about the proposed policy change regarding weapons, thanking the public and staff for their participation and comments during forums regarding the policy.
Board member Sherri Dorsch said some people have perceived the “healthy debate” as “hate speech and personal attacks.”
“Saying something rude doesn’t necessarily constitute bullying,” Dorsch said. “Some of our country’s division is due to our inability to ask tough questions, to hold others accountable, to work towards consensus, and to collaborate and compromise. I really want to encourage people to keep having difficult conversations. Healthy debate is critical to make the decisions we’re faced with, and we need to fight against the idea that our beliefs are our identity. Let’s just work to be truth seekers to get to the answers.”
Three members of the public spoke at the meeting about the issue, and all were in favor of the board seeking the advice of law enforcement in making a decision. One speaker said he felt the public had sent the board a clear message to that effect in the forums.
Fujii said interim Treasurer Darren Jenkins should factor into future budget discussions the cost of funding a school resource officer for each building in the district, to harden facilities and school buses, and to fund staff relative to the county. He also recommended the board have a meeting a month next year, instead of the 26 meetings that were held in 2022.
After 2.5 hours, the board went into executive session. The next meeting is Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at the above email address.