BLSD votes attract controversy at special meeting

LISBON – The Beaver Local Board of Education passed a pair of measures that met with discontent among those in attendance at the special meeting on Thursday night.

Whispers and murmurs of disapproval were clearly audible from a crowd dominated by members of the Beaver Local Education Association after the board voted to approve the second reading of a new board policy to comply with the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.

In copies of a written statement distributed to each board member, the BLEA asked board members to remove two passages from the proposed policy language. The first would codify the new policy as part of teachers’ contracts, which have been up for negotiation over the last school year, and all subsequent renewals and extensions. “The Board’s policies cannot circumvent the bargaining process,” the statement reads.

The policy also contains a line stating that the new evaluation regime was “developed in consultation with teachers employed by the Board.” BLEA members assert that a pair of representatives were merely shown the new evaluation policy with virtually no input. “Any adoption of the sentence suggesting ‘consultation’ (and by extension, ‘agreement through discussion’) is a direct attempt to mislead the Board and the public they were elected to represent,” the statement said.

The second major action taken was perhaps destined to be even more widely contentious. The notice of the meeting released by the district last week stated that a “public forum” would be held “to discuss the rehiring of retired personnel”. However, the green public participation cards made available at regular meetings to attendees who wish to address the board are not circulated at special meetings. When asked about this apparent discrepancy, Superintendent Kent Polen said that persons wishing to talk were free to contact him in advance of the meeting and state their intentions. “They could have addressed me earlier and said, ‘I want to speak,'” he said.

The matter also went beyond the forum stage when, following an executive session, the board took up the retirement and rehiring of district Treasurer Robert Barrett at an annual salary of $70,000. When the retirement portion of the measure came to a vote, it was unanimously accepted. When the motion to rehire Barrett came immediately after, however, board member Bill Croxall voted no.

“I’ll point out that it’s not personal, I’m happy to have Bob,” Croxall said. He acknowledged that retire/rehire was present in the contracts of Barrett and three teachers whose retire/rehires were also accepted afterward, and it was their choice to utilize it. Croxall contended, however, that it was unfair for the provision to cover only politicians and public employees but not workers in the private sector.

“I don’t believe in it, and I can’t vote for something like that,” Croxall said. He also cast the lone dissenting vote to rehire newly-retired teachers Jean Elayne Lowe, Bonnie Wichryk and Vicki Hoyt, after which Croxall received a round of applause from the audience.