Superintendent Pempin makes clear statements about school and bus safety

By Melanie Williamson

The Vermilion School Board of Education met on Monday, May 13, for a regular meeting. Following the Vermilion Elementary School citizens of the month being recognized, the board started with the student liaison report.

Summer Camps
Nancy Mitchel and Jim Balotta spoke to the board about two summer camps opportunities that will be available again this year to Vermilion school students. The first is Camp Invention, which is in its third year in Vermilion. This summer program allows students to explore areas of robotics, science, and technology within the scope of learning about inventors. Mitchel shared the camp is open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. They utilize high school students as counselors to help with the camp, which gives them the opportunity to learn leadership and organization skills. There are also five instructors including three Vermilion teachers.

Mitchel went on to explain that Camp Invention is a nationally recognized summer enrichment program. The curriculum used includes showcasing inventors and connecting with them through video, learning about farm technology, taking on the role of a superhero to help an inventor protect their patent, a deep-sea mystery, and the opportunity to build a robot.

The second summer camp opportunity being offered is through the Boys and Girls Club of Lorain County. This program runs five days a week throughout the summer. It includes meals, educational and recreational activities, and field trips. It is open to students aged 6 through eighth grade. There is a cost for this camp, but scholarships are also available. If parents are interested in either of these camps, they can contact their child’s school.

Swim team proposal
Mike Rini and several members of the swim team were again in attendance at the school board meeting to talk to the board about making swimming an official VHS sport. Rini stated that he understands the board and administration agreed to relook at the issue, and he wanted to get an update for the kids on the team.

He shared that last year’s team was comprised of 12 students, which they believe will be up to at least 20 for next year. Rini also stated that he understands it is a long reach for the district to fund 100% of the team, but they are willing to look at other avenues as well including fund raising and hosting swim meets, which he assured the board are revenue generating.

Before responded, superintendent Phil Pempin asked if anyone else wanted to speak on the topic of the swim team. VHS freshman Ben Rini addressed the board stating that swimming was great conditioning for your entire life. He went on to say that the sport helps to build bonds between the students and between the students and the coaches. He believes it is a highly beneficial sport to be offered to all students.

When Ben was finished, Pempin responded that they were expecting the swim team to again attend the board meeting, and the board and administration appreciates their persistence. He went on to say that he has been talking to the board members about it and has met with the district treasurer to go over the financial side of it, and they are closer to coming to a decision. Pempin stated that while he agrees with all of the positive aspects of swimming that they have brought up, there are also some drawbacks that the district has to consider including limited participation, funding, and competition with other sports. After significantly more discussion, Pempin asserted that they will have a clear answer by the next board meeting.

Shout out to athletes and coaches
Later in the meeting, Pempin read two letters that the district recently received regarding Vermilion athletes and coaches. The first was from an officiant not associated with Vermilion, who wrote that he was so impressed by how the Vermilion athletes and coaches conducted themselves during competition that he felt compelled to reach out. He wrote, “I have officiated every day this spring, and I don’t recall a more impressive group of individuals…from what I observed, your program is exceptional.”

The second letter was from an organizer of a recent track meet, who shared that one of the members of the Vermilion track team, who he didn’t know the name of, worked the entire time to help retrieve the discs from a fairly flooded field for both his team and all the other teams. The letter stated that the weather was bad the entire time, and the water was more than an inch deep in several areas. Despite this, the athlete he observed was friendly and helped the entire time. He ended his letter writing, “thank you for such a great coach and group of students.”

Pempin stated that he knows sports often gets a negative view, but he sees these letters are evidence that sports is more than just teaching students how to play a game and win. It is teaching them how to be people and work together. “You cannot underestimate the value of what sports do bring for students.”

School Safety
On Monday, April 29, a letter sent to parents regarding a threat at the high school. Pempin stated that it is always difficult when deciding to notify parents due to the delicate nature of the information. They want to keep the parents informed, but they also need to ensure privacy and adhere to the laws regarding information involving minors. The letter was sent out via Facebook, telephone, and email in an effort to ensure every parent saw it.

Pempin went on to say that whenever information is spread through social media, they are subject to a great deal of criticism, and that is okay. He stated they will keep utilizing social media to reach students and parents, and they will consider constructive criticism. Pempin then stated that the message he needs parents to hear is that if they hear of something said or done at school from their child, they need to contact the school. He said it doesn’t matter if it is about bullying, drugs, a threat or anything else, the school needs to be made aware so they can investigate it through the proper channels.

Pempin reiterated what officer Brian Beckwith has stated at previous board meetings; every reported threat is investigated. It will not go unnoticed. Pempin shared that they know there was another school shooting, and that heightens everyone’s awareness throughout the district. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike feel nervous when those things happen, and “it is heartbreaking.” If parents or students hear anything, even if it is secondhand, they are encouraged to tell someone at the school. Every report is looked into.

Safety on buses
After discussing safety in the schools, Pempin turned the topic to safety on the buses. He started by saying that they have talked to their drivers about this and they will again. Drivers are encouraged to not tolerate behavior that is disruptive or distracting because it is not safe. This includes students using profanity or putting their hands on another students. Pempin stated it is a short ride to the school and the kids have to behave. Administrators are encouraged to support the drivers and work together to keep the kids safe while on the bus. Pempin urged parents to talk to their kids about behaving while on the bus, so they can get to school without incident.

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