SUPERINTENDENT DR. ANDREA TUTTLE and OPS Board President Rick Mowen are shown during the Monday, June 13 regular monthly meeting of the school board.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
Several topics were tackled through discussion and voting during the Owosso Public Schools Board of Education meeting Monday, June 13 in the Washington campus gymnasium. Only about 15 community members attended the meeting, not including teachers and administrators. Many community members did not stay for the lengthy meeting to listen to all agenda items.
Some “for action” agenda items the school board addressed during the Monday evening meeting included a presentation by Charmian Fletcher from the Shiawassee Regional Education Service District on Career and Technical Education related to the RESD 1 mill request on the Aug. 2 primary ballot, approving resolutions revising appropriations for the general and school service funds for fiscal 2021-22 and approving the 2022-23 updated student handbooks.
The board unanimously approved an item to move regular monthly meetings from the fourth Monday of the month to the fourth Wednesday of the month. The next regular board meeting will be at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 27. (Board member Sarah Keyes was absent.)
Following a discussion on whether to continue with the monthly Committee of the Whole meetings held in recent years, the board decided to keep those meetings on the calendar by including them on the second Wednesday of each month (minus June, July, Aug., Dec. and March). The Owosso School Board has utilized the Committee of the Whole meetings, though such meetings are not mandated under law and many school districts meet just monthly.
Superintendent Dr. Andrea Tuttle introduced the idea to potentially eliminate the secondary monthly meetings after explaining that the Committee of the Whole meetings never result in decisions, but just discussions amongst board members and offering it would be more transparent for the board to hold those discussions during the larger monthly public forum most often attended by the community. She stated that extra meetings could always be called if necessary and the regular monthly meetings could be lengthened to accommodate further discussion in front of the public. Her logic was that more people generally attend the monthly meetings to listen to board discussions, though the public can attend any meeting involving a board quorum under OMA (Open Meetings Act) rules.
Rick Mowen, school board president, supported Tuttle’s thinking on the secondary meetings, but some other board members expressed opposing thoughts. Vice President Shelly Ochodnicky shared she finds Committee of the Whole meetings “essential” and that the meetings allow board members to discuss topics, gather information and develop questions before attending the monthly meeting. Ochodnicky offered that eliminating the Committee of the Whole meeting would actually permit less transparency with the public.
Trustee Olga Quick supported part of Ochodnicky’s preference to keep the secondary meetings. Quick explained the two-week period between the meetings allows the board to “digest information.” The board voted to continue with the Committee of the Whole meetings.
Another “for action” item included hiring several new staff members. All board members in attendance approved hiring several new teachers for the upcoming year. One issue many districts are currently struggling with is filling staff vacancies at all levels.
During her board correspondence early in the meeting, Tuttle shared that hiring continues to be challenging, though the district is still seeking the right candidates for the right positions. Interested persons should visit the school website. She also mentioned the district is serving roughly 75 breakfasts and 100 lunches per day, though students are now required to eat on site. In discussing the ongoing Emerson Elementary HVAC project, she offered that the old ductwork is being removed, but the project will take a full two summers. She also mentioned removing carpet at Bryant to provide a more sanitary flooring option.
Tuttle also announced that she, OPS Curriculum Director Steve Brooks, OPD Chief Kevin Lenkart and OPD Lt. Eric Cherry interviewed candidates for two new police liaison positions in the planned and Owosso city approved effort to have a total of four liaison officers serving the school district. She announced Sergeant Scott Davis and Officer Jason Schmitz will be working at the elementary schools.
Regarding one “for future action” item discussed Monday evening, Brooks offered a presentation of information from a committee study on a possible, future purchase of new math textbooks/software for 6th- through 12th-grade students. The item will be addressed at an upcoming meeting – and as is the case with any “future action” items, a decision was not made toward updating the math curriculum. The new math items would be paid from ESSER III (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds if approved during the upcoming meeting on July 27.