The Newbury Local Board of Education met for their final meeting Monday night, where they approved the disposition of the school district property, officially leaving the fate of the land in West Geauga’s hands.

As of July 1, the Newbury schools territory transfer went into effect, dissolving the board of education and officially joining the district with West Geauga Local Schools.

Board president Maggie Zock read out the resolution to the board, which highlighted the property as the “heart” of Newbury Township, as well as Geauga County, and that the “continued productive use of this property is essential to the economic health of the township and the community.”

According to the resolution, and as discussed in previous stakeholder meetings, the West Geauga Local School District maintains full ownership of the Newbury school property and will “work in a collaborative manner to ensure that this property [will] be retained for productive public use in a manner that will benefit both the citizens of Newbury Township and all citizens residing within the West Geauga school district.”

Board member Kimya Matthews thanked the West Geauga BOE and Newbury Township Trustees for agreeing to work together for the best outcome of the property.

“I am very encouraged by the meetings that we’ve had.” she said. “I look forward to the months ahead and working with everybody for, as the resolution says, a symbiotic reuse of that land.”

“We’ve talked at length at multiple meetings to suggest that there is a solution that can be made, and I’m hopeful that they will, the people in those positions – those boards, will be able to work together,” Mrs. Zock added. “I hope that they can see the bigger picture of that long-term support of the district moving forward for everyone.”

Before the close of their final meeting as board members of the Newbury Local School District, each gave a heartfelt goodbye, some through sighs and tears, and expressed their gratitude to each other, school administration, teachers and staff, students and the community.

Board Vice President Terry Sedivy said that while on the board 30 years ago he did not believe in consolidating with another district, but “things change, and we have to change with the times.” With the steady decline in enrollment in the district, he said, “It just got to a point where it was no longer viable to provide a separate school district for the number of students that we have.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a decision that had to be made to ensure that the students of Newbury had a stable, educational future,” he added.

Board member Terri Rice, in thanking all members of the district, reminded the community to hold on to their Newbury pride while heading into a new district.

“Cherish your memories of Newbury schools, your friends, teachers and staff and memories of your experiences. Keep those memories vivid. They are what will form lifelong bonds with each other,” she said. “I’m sure that the opportunities offered to our students at West Geauga schools will serve to strengthen our community. And my wish is that, cooperatively, we can move forward and continue to build on the foundation of Newbury pride that we all share.”

Mrs. Matthews noted that the entire process of the territory transfer has been a “long and emotional road,” adding, “I think the toughest part of being in the center of so much controversy is that the average person forgets that we, too, are mourning the loss of our school. After all, most of us are alumni.

“My vote to merge Newbury with West Geauga was the right move, the most reasonable move to provide our kids with what we are consistently falling short on as a district,” Mrs. Matthews added. “But it by no means was an easy one.”

Board member Dave Lair said saying goodbye to the district is like “saying goodbye to a friend.

“We have to unite as a community and understand that we all love this school, and we’ll never forget the school,” he said. “And I hope that the changes that are beginning in our community can be as positive as possible.

“For those of us who’ve had the honor to be part of the history of Newbury Local Schools, that strong foundation will always be a part of who we are,” Mr. Lair said, “no matter where we go or what we do.”

“Every step of the way, it was bittersweet,” Mrs. Zock said. “To succeed in each step of this process meant we moved towards an end to something that I love. It was truly the most challenging and uncomfortable experience, and it’s hard to put that into words.

“My hope is that the community can see that decisions came out of love, not hate, for this district,” she continued. “It came out of compassion and empathy for those who are going to have to go through it. It was so we could walk through it with our heads held high and have pride that we are Black Knights, the mighty, mighty Black Knights.”

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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