Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education regular meeting highlights 12-8-2020
DECEMBER 8, 2020
- Recognitions and awards
- Public comments
- Union contract
- Treasurer’s report
- Superintendent’s update on pandemic operations
- Board comments and announcements
Board President Jodi Sourini and members Dan Heintz, James Posch, and Beverly Wright were present. Malia Lewis was unable to attend due to a medical issue. Also present were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby, Treasurer Scott Gainer, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Operations Dr. Paul Lombardo, and Athletic Director Joseph D’Amato. After the board met in executive session, the public meeting was called to order at 8:03 p.m. It was adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
Awards and recognitions
Amanda Blazetic of Gearity Elementary School was named University Heights Educator of the Year.
Superintendent Kirby recognized Tiger Team Members of the Month.
Heights High sophomore Taylor Evans, a member of the Superintendent’s Student Cadre, presented her personal response to the experience of remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year. She observed that students have grown closer because they all have things in common, for example, meeting by Zoom and Google Meet. She did not expect the amount of work that virtual learning would require, but she is feeling successful. She also said that she appreciates being in the Student Cadre because the students feel accountable for making change.
University Heights Mayor Michael Brennan stated he testified before the Ohio House Finance Committee in support of House Bill 305 (the Fair School Funding Bill) and that people need to express support for HB305. Also, he said he was happy the union and school board reached an agreement for a two-year contract and that the students are the winners. The board thanked Mayor Brennan for testifying in support of HB305.
Resident Jack Rickert stated he was pleased that the board’s negotiations with the union reined in district costs for healthcare benefits. He also stated that EdChoice must be recognized as unfair. He thanked the school board for their work.
Cleveland Heights Teachers Union President Kathy Rego thanked the board for working to negotiate the two-year contract. She stated that the enemy is not the board of education, the administration, or the teachers. The enemy is EdChoice. She called for people to push for proper funding of our schools.
Krissy Deitrich Gallagher of Tiger Nation to Fund Schools thanked the board for finding common ground with the union to reach an agreement. She said that many parents felt torn between the two sides. She also stated that the school funding formula in Ohio must change and called for Heights Tigers to actively come together to work for HB 305. She also encouraged people to participate in the Heights Coalition for Public Education.
Superintendent Kirby and Treasurer Gainer presented key points in the negotiated contract between the board and teachers union local 795. These include an increase in insurance premiums based on salary step, an increase in medical deductibles and co-pays, a reduction in force based on seniority, addition of more teacher-driven planning time to the calendar, and potential pro-rating of supplemental contracts. Mr. Gainer presented the changes in the insurance plan, wages, pay, and STRS pickup, and the savings these items provide to the district. The contract will run through June 30, 2022, and 94 percent of the teachers approved it.
Mr. Heintz observed that the contract does not keep up with the cost of living. He also pointed out that teachers are working harder during the pandemic, and one cannot put a price on the value of what the teachers bring to students. He said this contract is not indexed to the teachers’ value.
Mr. Posch and Ms. Sourini thanked Superintendent Kirby, teachers, staff, and community members, especially those involved in the marathon negotiations. Mr. Posch noted that Mr. Gainer kept running the numbers so the negotiators could review the impact of proposed contract items. He specifically thanked union president Karen Rego and board president Jodi Sourini. Ms. Sourini said she looks forward to additional collaborative work.
Ms. Wright said that teachers and staff are much appreciated. She hopes that in two years, negotiations will not be such a rough road.
The board unanimously approved the contract.
Mr. Gainer submitted written testimony on Ohio House Bill 75 and Ohio Senate Bill 95 regarding property taxes and the school district’s ability to challenge evaluations.
An appropriation adjustment of $33,000 was made to the general fund; this money came from the CARES Act to provide aid to disadvantaged families. It must be used within a tight timeline. Over the next two weeks, the district will distribute gift cards from local grocery stores to disadvantaged families.
Superintendent’s update on pandemic operations
Remote learning update: A multiple disabilities/autism advisory group was formed in November to advise on school reopening. All students were moved to remote learning on November 19. Seniors will attend end-of-course testing in-person at the high school; this testing is a graduation requirement. The PSAT is scheduled on January 26 at the high school. Plans for PSAT and SAT preparation opportunities will be available in 2021.
Recommendations for winter athletes: Athletic Director Joseph D’Amato presented the current approach: 1) On December 14, athletic practices will resume in pods; 2) competition will resume December 18, but most sports will not resume competition until 2021. The competition structure will be adjusted for each specific sport. All home contests will be live streamed. No fans will be permitted at home games; and 3) pulse oximetry assessment of blood oxygen level will be part of the daily COVID prescreening of athletes. Before students will be allowed to participate in sports, Superintendent Kirby will require them to take a “COVID Pledge” to avoid social gatherings outside of school. She intends to meet with the athletes.
Child Find Assessment Clinic: The clinic remains open and operational. The district continues to conduct initial evaluations for children with suspected disabilities and re-evaluations for children with identified disabilities.
Building air quality: The engineering firm HEAPY assessed school building heating and cooling systems. They determined that the air quality aligns with CDC regulations and that the buildings are COVID ready. A report will be posted on the district website.
Flu immunization clinics: In partnership with MetroHealth, the district staffed immunization clinics at Heights High, Roxboro Middle, and Monticello Middle. They provided 68 students with flu shots and missing immunizations.
Board comments concerning COVID vaccination: The board requested that Superintendent Kirby investigate how to facilitate early vaccinations for the teachers. Mr. Heintz stated the importance of developing protocols and a policy regarding vaccines. President Sourini asked whether the district would work with MetroHealth on the vaccination process.
Ms. Kirby stated she will work with NEOLA [an education consulting firm] on these concerns, and will speak with the MetroHealth health department.
President Sourini will remotely attend the school board presidents’ meeting, and Mr. Heintz will attend the Heights Schools Foundation quarterly meeting, also remotely.
All meetings are held virtually, streamed on the district’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/CHUHSchools), and recorded for later viewing. They can also be viewed at: https://stream.meet.google.com/stream/8f442366-4bbd-4160-aaeb-ece0f7ab6534.
LWV Observer: Rosemarie Fairman.