By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor
The Board of Education for the Willard City Schools denied a grievance filed by four staff members regarding payment of supplemental contracts. After a lengthy executive session at the beginning of the board's October regular meeting, board members voted unanimously against the staff members.Cynthia Shoup, treasurer for the Willard City Schools, said the district is in good shape financially. "Everything's been finalized on my final expenditure report," she told board members. "We are just waiting for our money now. Everything's good except our grant money. "We are part of the Bay Area Gas Consortium," Shoup pointed out. "I'm not really sure right now how that's going to work as far as next year." She shared with board members savings for the past three years as part of the consortium. Last year, Shoup noted, was not as high. "Being a member of it does save us quite a bit of money," she pointed out. "We've got a lot invested in it. We have been in that since 1997. So, it's been very beneficial." Shoup said the district has applied for several discounts from the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation, which have amounted to $63,000. One of the discounts was for training and classes. Another discount was for the transitional work program which assists workers to get back on the job. "About seven years ago, we put in a transitional work program," Shoup said. "And, we have been using it. A couple of times we have had a chance to use it. It's really a savings for us, too." Willard City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz reminded board members of a discussion several months ago concerning a donation from Mercy Willard Hospital to the Capital Campaign. At that time, the in-kind donation was equivalent to $8,000 over 10 years for naming rights to the walking track inside the new school. "They did change it," Ritz said. "It's going to be over four years and it is ($)25,000 a year for four years. It is in-kind and is our athletic trainer and those duties that they have." Ritz said the Third Grade Guarantee, and some changes made at the state level, has left most school districts "in shock" at the stance the state has taken. "It adversely will affect every district, and ours will be affected the worst," he pointed out. "In fact, Central Elementary, specifically, will be affected." Ritz said the third graders just took the Ohio Achievement Assessments. If the students get a 396 to 400, they don't go on a Reading Improvement Monitoring Plan. "But, they don't pass the OAA," he stated. "And it goes against the district. The problem with it is, in years past, in the spring, we had the opportunity to take it again. "And normally, the students who don't pass in the fall, had that second opportunity," Ritz noted. "The state isn't doing that for our students this year." Students will still have to take the PARC Assessments, he pointed out. It is a totally different assessment. The student might pass the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, and they don't go on a RIMP, but they do not pass the OAA. So, that is something to keep in touch with," Ritz told board members. Ritz said a decision will need to be made in the near future as to the board's intentions for the school buildings which will be emptied when the new home for the Willard City Schools opens in August. "We have to make a decision about the property sales, meaning Central, Richmond and New Haven, at the December board meeting as to where we are going to go with that," he explained. "All three properties, there has been interest in the board either donating it or selling it at a cost to other organizations that are all non-profit. That's for a government or another school. "The only one that is truly in our estimate that may be worth an extraordinary amount of money would be New Haven," Ritz added. If the board of education allowed an entity to purchase it, Ritz noted, it has to be offered at Fair Market Value to see if anyone is interested. "Then, if it doesn't sell at Fair Market Value, then you can go back and say we'll sell it to them at this discounted rate," he said. "Once the entity decides if they are interested in purchasing it, then I would bring it to you and say, here's the situation." Ritz said board members need to think through any decisions to keep or sell property. "Whatever we keep, if we don't sell it, you don't want a building there," he pointed out. "It'll get run down. It'll just be an eyesore for the community. "So, you want to demolish and abate the buildings if we are going to keep them," Ritz said. The next thing he told board members they need to look at concerns any possible use the school district might have for that property. One previously mentioned possibility concerned putting a bus garage at the site of Central Elementary School. "I'm talking with the city and everybody said you absolutely do not want a bus garage there at this point," Ritz said. "They said that would be one of the dumbest things you could do. "And, I agree with that, he added. "You are putting your bus garage in the middle of a neighborhood. I just don't think that's a wise idea." Ritz said the board will have to make the decision which direction it wants to go with the properties. Michael Lillo, director of buildings and grounds for the Willard City Schools needs to know that by December. "He has to then put out the bids for demolition," Ritz noted. "If he waits much longer than December, it's going to cost the board more money because the company that demolishes it will be here longer than what they're scheduled to be here." Members of the board of education voted to accept a settlement payment of $7,500 for an accident involving a semi on Ohio 103 which took down the district's fiber system. Originally, Ritz said the district was offered only $3,500. "We had to pay the bill," Ritz said. "The bill was $8,800. The company who was working on the lines at the time, their insurance has offered the board $7,500 to just walk away." The board will take a $1,300 hit on the bill, Ritz pointed out. The board of education could chose to try and recoup that $1,300. "Here's your problem," Ritz noted. "You have to pay for the depositions and everything else. The board has to pay. The cost of doing this, which you will never recoup, is anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500, which is the difference." Ritz said the recommendation was to take the settlement as it was offered. Board members approved the recommendation and will settle for the $7,500 and being well aware the district is taking a loss of $1,300 from the accident. Ritz also discussed the district's report card with members of the board of education. "We had a C overall," he noted. "If you go back in time, that's basically an effective grade. We have many areas we need to improve on." At each board meeting, Ritz said one principal from a school will come in and present a plan for improvement and how to meet the deficiencies. He also encouraged board members to express their own expectations to challenge the buildings. Lillo gave an update on the construction at the new school. He said 90-percent of the concrete has been laid. The cooler and freezer in the kitchen have been installed. Elevators are slated for installation in December, and the third grade wing has been stained in colors. "I think we'll be done in June," Lillo noted. Part of the changes will include widening South Main Street in front of the new school to allow for a turn lane. "I was told they were supposed to bring their equipment in at the end of this week and start next week," Lillo said of the road work. "It's going to be done because the asphalt companies close down in November."