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Salem board joins chorus against voucher program

SALEM — The Salem school board joined a host of other public school districts in opposing Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program, which was recently amended to increase the number and availability of scholarship vouchers for students to attend private/parochial schools.

“We just kind of think the funding of that program is unfair to our district and the public,” Superintendent Sean Kirkland said.

District Treasurer Michael Douglas explained after the meeting that the program makes the vouchers available to more districts. Previously the program was limited and the state paid the cost, but Douglas said now the public school districts will have to pay if any of their high school students decide to go to a private school.

He said it’s similar to open enrollment, where a student and their dollars can go to a neighboring district. The difference in this case would be having public tax dollars going to a private school.

He said this particular voucher program only affects the high school and so far there haven’t been any vouchers issued for Salem students. The resolution said “this board believes that the EdChoice voucher program as it currently exists presents serious constitutional issues regarding the separation of church and state and the funding of religious institutions with public tax dollars.”

The board reorganized for the year and welcomed three new members, former Superintendent Dr. Joe Shivers, Dianna Barley and Brittany Zamarelli. Carol Hrvatin was elected as the new school board president and Ted Bricker vice president.

Zamarelli was named as the delegate to the Ohio School Board Association Capital Conference in the fall, with Barley as the alternate. Meetings will remain 7 p.m. the third Monday of each month, with a few exceptions, including next month’s meeting which will be held Feb. 24 and a rare Wednesday meeting on June 24. Other meeting dates include March 16, April 20, May 18, July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec. 14.

Kirkland marked school board member recognition month by awarding each board member with a framed certificate of appreciation, joking with the board members attending their first meeting that “this is in appreciation of the work you’re going to do.”

As he recognized each board member, he said “we appreciate you being here and helping our district out.”

In other business, the board heard about the junior high robotics class and club from Junior High Principal Matt Ziegler, Junior High Computer Tech teacher Willi Colbert and several students who recently took part in a robotics competition at the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center. Ziegler said the district is continually looking at ways to prepare students for the future and with robotics, the students are increasing their critical thinking skills, learning perseverance and teamwork and having fun while learning. Colbert thanked the board for supporting the program and showed off some of the items printed with the 3-D printer in the Maker Space opened at the start of the school year in the renovated library. Students worked on designing wheels for gravity cars and saw what works and what doesn’t work. They also designed nameplates for school office personnel.

During the recent competition, Colbert said the students were sharing ideas on how to improve their robot and the students themselves talked about their experiences, demonstrating their robot and adding that they hope to build a new robot with better capabilities.

In personnel matters, the board corrected last month’s agenda to show that William Gray retired as a bus driver. The previous agenda said he resigned. Certificated staff moving up on the pay scale included Sarah Burtness and Ted Yuhaniak, both from BA150 to MA and Kera Leskovec from BA to MA. The board accepted the resignations of cashier Dionna Meade from Southeast and the high school and high school custodian Derek May, approved substitute nurse Beth Gilbert and classified substitute Ralph Hoehn, and approved Russ Hopple as junior high boys head track coach and Marshal Sarginger and Kathy Hopple as junior high boys assistant trach coaches.

Donations were accepted and appreciated from the Salem Community Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy for $3,399 and from SCF for a teacher appreciation grant for $9,619, both to aid classrooms and teachers.

The board went into executive session for personnel, with no action to be taken.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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