In response to issues the district is having with busing services, the Chardon Board of Education last week agreed to hire Community Bus Services of Eastlake to provide management services for the district transportation department at the request of Superintendent Michael Hanlon.

During the first few weeks of the school year, parents of Chardon students posted on Facebook complaints about students waiting at their bus stops for long stretches of time, officials said.

“The district has experienced busing issues which have created a critical problem because transportation involves student safety,” BOE President Madelon Horvath said during a meeting last week. “In anticipating a shortage of drivers, Dr. Hanlon and [Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Steven Kofol] hired extra drivers from Community Bus Services as well as from other sources to help us start the school year.”

Dr. Hanlon said after the meeting that the issue is not about the number of buses, but rather that the district does not have an on-site transportation supervisor.

Treasurer Deb Armbruster said that the school had purchased two 78-passenger school buses with camera systems and strobe lights for $89,115 apiece.

In other expenditures, the district is also looking to purchase new turf for Memorial Field sometime in 2021 to replace the turf for the first time since 2008.

“The Board earmarks $40,000 per year toward field turf replacement within its permanent improvement fund in order to be prepared when the turf replacement is due,” Dr. Hanlon said. “We must move forward with replacement of the field and that is included in the district’s Capital Improvement Plan for the summer of 2021.” While they haven’t selected a final supplier yet, Dr. Hanlon said the district has $480,000 set aside for the new field padding.

Mrs. Armbruster said she was very pleased to report that the district has been selected for a $1 million Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grant from the Ohio Department of Education to “use for professional development, engagement and intervention activities in grades K-3 at Maple Kindergarten, Munson Elementary and Park Elementary over the next four years.”

The grant will provide for the purchase of books for teachers, early release time for teachers to meet and review data, salary and benefits for a literacy coach, literacy materials for parents and students attending a summer learning camp and stipends for personnel to lead literacy nights, she said. The grant also will be used to purchase subscriptions for all students in kindergarten through third grade to a monthly reading service called Kids Read Now, microphone headsets for students to use and professional development training and online module support for a few reading programs.

Mrs. Armbruster told the board that they were approved for a $10,000 BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant, which allowed the district to purchase 65 hot spots for students who lacked reliable broadband access at home and needed to take part in remote learning.

Dr. Hanlon said that the units cost $60 apiece initially and come with a $17.50 monthly subscription cost, with all $10,000 needing to be spent by the end of the year.

Dr. Hanlon told the board that he has been selected to provide testimony to the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Subcommittee on primary and secondary education relation to Ohio House Bill 305, an effort to create a new school financing system.

“I served as the co-chair of the Distribution Committee that determined how funding would be distributed to all 610 school districts in the state of Ohio,” he said. “My role is to explain the method being proposed to determine the appropriate state and local share required to educate a typical student in Ohio’s school districts.”

Each school district is different from every other in terms of its capacity to generate local revenue, he said, so they each require a different amount of state funding. House Bill 305, he said, seeks to address the fact that Ohio has been operating without a funding formula for the past three years while providing an equitable method of distributing state funding.

Officials said that Chardon High School student Ethan Peterson was recognized as one of the top ten singers in Northeast Ohio when he represented the district in the Shining Star CLE singing competition. His placement earned a $10,000 scholarship for himself and $2,500 for the high school Music Department.

The board also voted to name one of its members, Keith Brewster, as the district’s delegate to the Ohio School Boards Association, where he will help review and vote on the OSBA’s legislative platform when they hold their annual Capital Conference the week after elections.

In response to an event in early September in which a Chardon High School football player took the field at their home opening game carrying a Thin Blue Line flag, Chardon Board of Education President Madelon Horvath opened last week’s meeting with a statement.

“Since March of this year, we have been dealing with concerns of the pandemic. With the shift to remote learning, the cancellation of all activities including graduation, senior activities and sports, administrators and principals made Herculean efforts to hold graduation and other activities for our seniors. Through the persistent efforts of our school administrators, principals, teachers, coaches and staff, we started school. Everybody who feels comfortable being there is able to do so. And our teams are up and running as well. So we were breathing a sigh of relief.”

The Friday following the event, Dr. Hanlon issued a letter to the community in which he said that the district does not condone political symbolism at school events, such as the pre-game ceremony. Residents spoke out both for and against Dr. Hanlon’s statement.

“At this point,” Mrs. Horvath continued, “we began to hear from people who believe this statement was critical of our police. As reinforced repeatedly last week, this had nothing to do with our district’s unwavering support and appreciation. We did not ban the Thin Blue Line or any flag from athletic school events. People at our games have flags in the stands, including the Thin Blue Line flag. We simply followed our existing and board policy common to most school districts and public bodies that cover staff participating in perceived political activities. I have to say that many of the phone calls and emails we received were personal and ugly. I choose to believe that this is not who we are as a community.”

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