District decides parking lot needs take preference over tennis courts

By: Melanie Williamson

Student liaison updates: The VHS computer science coding class has been working for several months now on building a website for the coffee shop that would allow teachers and students to order their drinks online to be picked up after class. This has been quite an undertaking as students described having to learn several different forms of code in order to create the website design, add color, and content.

Several students taking government classes were given the opportunity to attend the State of the State address by Governor Kasich. Some of the students that attended described the experience as “fascinating” and “really cool.” They shared that Governor Kasich was a great speaker and they were excited to hear about things that actually impacted Vermilion such as protecting Lake Erie and battling the drug epidemic.

Legislative update: House Bill 388 passed on April 6 regarding school transportation. This bill disallows people to drive a school bus if they’ve had a DUI within the previous ten years. Prior to this bill, the law stated someone could not drive a school bus if they had a DUI within the previous six years.

Senate Bill 85 is currently in discussion and would effectively expand the school voucher program providing vouchers to families making within 400% of the federal poverty line. Board member Sarah Stepp stated that this bill favors privatization and works against public education.

Science summer camps: Superintendent Phil Pempin shared that the district will be offering two summer science camps this year. Camp Invention will be open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and Invention project will be available for students in seventh and eighth grade. Both camps will be offered in August and will focus on science, technology, invention, art, and math through a wide range of fun activities. There are reduced rates available for students eligible for free or reduced lunches. They need at least 60 students to have the camps, and they are each being offering in part through a grant.

Treasurer report: Treasurer Suzanne Wilson shared the updated financial report with the school board. She explained that at this point in the year, the district is scheduled to be at 75% of the budget for both revenue and expenditures. She reported that for revenue, they are at 91% received due to a recent tax payment, and for expenditures, they are at 76%, which is slightly above the budgeted amount, but she believes they are still on track for the year. Board member Chris Habermehl asked if they should expect any surprises, to which Wilson responded they should not.

Taping basketball games: While it would normally be part of the consent agenda, superintendent Pempin isolated a couple expenses to discuss them further with the board before they were approved for payment. The first being the taping of basketball games. Pempin explained that the coaches want each game taped, so they can review the tapes and how they played. He went on to explain that the coaches get donations to cover the cost of taping, which is why the board has to approve the payment, but that the money is not coming out of the general fund. Board member Nancy Oates asked why they were paying for taping at all and suggested that at other schools students tape the games as part of a class. Pempin responded that the taping and editing is more labor intensive, but again, it is being paid for through donations.

Player uniform washing: Another payment on the agenda that was brought up for discussion was payment to coaches for washing the players’ uniforms. Board president Shelly Innes brought up the fact that paying to have the uniforms washed was only offered for a small handful of teams and this should be all or nothing. Pempin agreed with the statement and went on to say that paying for all the players uniforms for all the teams to be washed was not fiscally responsible. Board member Oates questioned why the players were not being held responsible for their uniforms.

After some discussion, it was determined that it was the boys basketball, boys soccer, and football teams that washed the uniforms for the players. The rest of the student athletes were expected to wash and care for their own uniforms. Both board members Oates and Stepp voiced their concern regarding the players not being held responsible for their own uniforms.

Innes suggested the possibility of approaching the athletic boosters about having all the uniforms dry cleaned at the end of the season to help keep them clean and usable for the following season. She followed this up by saying that is what the band boosters and choral boosters do for their students. Pempin agreed that could be pursued.

Board member Chris Habermehl suggested that the coaches collect and clean the uniforms after each game to maintain control over the uniforms and ensure they are clean and ready for the next game. Oates reiterated her point that doing so is not making the students take responsibility.

Pempin went back to it needs to be all or nothing, so he would talk to the athletic director about the situation and let him know he would need to address this issue with the coaches, but that the district would no longer be paying for uniform cleaning. It was strongly suggested that the coaches come up with a means of making the students responsible including consequences if they are not prepared with a clean full uniform for a game.

Agenda problems persist: Following the discussion regarding washing the uniforms, Habermehl brought up the fact that although they decided to stop the practice of paying coaches to wash uniforms, they still had to approve the payments on the agenda because it had already happened. The payment being approved was for the basketball coaches, who washed the players’ uniforms all season because this had been the common practice year after year.

According to Habermehl, the board was once again approving a payment commitment that was already done and over with. This was an issue Habermehl had raised at the March school board meeting as well. Fund raisers, supplemental contracts, and other issues are consistently added to the agenda after the fact. He insisted that it was important items be put on the agenda for approval before they are initiated and this needs to be changed.

Tennis courts: Superintendent Pempin shared with the board that the district had received three bids to resurface the tennis courts. The bids ranged from $225,000 to $231,000, which did not include the cost of excavation. Pempin stated that because of the high price, he feels they should hold off on this project, so he can pursue alternative funding. He explained that the Vermilion Parks and Recreation Board offered $5,000 per year for five years towards the project, which would amount to $25,000. Although Pempin has talked to the city about helping with the expense, he stated he would go back to talk to them again since the tennis courts are free and open for use by anyone in the community. He is also going to pursue sponsorship for the project possibly involving naming rights to help cover the cost.

Pempin shared that while he feels the tennis courts are an important asset to both the district and the community, they have to really examine what their priorities are in regards to improvement projects due to the high expense. He went on to say that the parking lots at Sailorway and the high school need attention. Sailorway specifically he described as being in very bad shape. He feels the parking lots need to take priority over the tennis courts, but stated that he is confident they will be able to find sponsors for the tennis court project.

Coleys tax abatement: Pempin presented to the board that Coleys has requested a 10-year tax abatement on a large addition they are planning for their business. He explained that their previous tax abatement will expire soon, so the district will be getting an increase in funds there. Pempin went on to say that Coleys was an asset to the community, and he felt it was important as a district to support the request. The board voted to support the approval of the Ohio Enterprise Zone status for Coleys Inc. for a period of ten years.

Selling of the old VES building: Board president Innes asked superintendent Pempin where the district was at with selling of the old VES building. Pempin explained that they were still waiting for the gas company to separate the buildings’ gas lines, which was being held up by weather. The ground behind the building was still very muddy. However, once that task is complete, they will be ready to put the building up for auction.

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