SOLSD Finalizes Levy Plans, Issues at BHS Discussed

The Switzerland of Ohio Local School District (SOLSD) Board of Education held its regular session meeting on Tues., July 15 at 7 a.m. During the meeting, the board approved the final levy resolution, making it a certainty that the district will seek additional levy funding this November. The ballot language has been decided, and the board will seek a five-year 1% earned income tax levy.

In a large expenditure, the board approved the purchase of new reading and literature textbooks for grades K-8 in the district. The books came at the total cost of $208,546.38. “The one-time oil and gas revenues the district collected last year allowed us to make these critical upgrades in our curriculum,” said SOLSD Treasurer Lance Erlwein. The purchase came after administrators and the board recognized the need to take a step forward in improving curriculum district wide.

As has been the case recently, several community members from the Beallsville area attended, and issues at the school were a much discussed topic.

During his remarks, Superintendent John Hall said that he has received a number of phone calls and questions regarding classroom scheduling at Beallsville High School (BHS). Hall commended the BHS staff and said that next school year’s scheduling is completed. He then turned to BHS Principal Rebecca Hilverding to elaborate on the upcoming class schedule.

Hilverding said that her goal was to align the class schedule at BHS with the rest of the district. She also noted that BHS has new courses, such as economics, not even offered at the district’s other two high schools. Hilverding said dual enrollment courses will be offered during the first two periods of the day. Dual enrollment classes, funded through the Straight A Grant recently received by the district, allow students to take classes via video conference from Ohio University Eastern and earn college credit.

Those in attendance from the Beallsville area, including public participant Larry Stukey, asked about the district’s progress in hiring a curriculum director. Superintendent Hall said the Ohio Valley Educational Service Center (ESC) is working on filling the position. He said board members Ron Winkler, Dave Matz and Jackie Hupp have all contacted ESC Superintendent Chris Keylor to emphasize the importance of the district filling the position. 

Superintendent Hall reported that the district is having difficulty filling the curriculum director position and other positions because of its low pay scale. The district is also looking for a special education director after previous director Cassie Anderson left the position recently to fill the Woodsfield Elementary principal role. He said the ESC is working on filling that position as well and having little luck.

Hall noted that the hiring situation is so bad that two programs at the Swiss Hills Career Center may have to be discontinued. The district has not been able to fill the Oil and Gas teaching position or the Ag Mechanics position at the school. According to Hall, qualified candidates are not coming to the district because the pay scale is “significantly lower” than in other districts.

Also reported by Superintendent Hall was that a performance audit had recently been performed on the district. Performing the audit was Tyson Hodges from the Auditor of State office. The office performed the audit for free, saving the district over $70,000.

Results of the performance audit were reported to the board during executive session. Administrators have two weeks to respond to any issues in the audit, and results should be released two weeks after that. At that time, the results of the audit will be available as public record.

In other business, the board passed a motion to hire Rick Meade as head football coach at Beallsville High School. An athletic director was not hired, but the process is underway.

According to the board, previous media reports of the hiring of a coach at BHS had been false. The hiring was not official until the July 15 meeting.

During public participation, Larry Stukey questioned the board and administrators about why they had waited so long to hire the coach. Hilverding explained that the hiring schedule followed district regulations requiring posting to internal certified staff at the building level first at the end of the school year. The positing is then made to certified staff at the district level. Once no internal interest is identified, the position can be posted externally. Each step in the process requires a certain time period awaiting response; hence, the hiring not being made until July. Winkler noted the BHS football position was not the only one affected by this process and that a volleyball coach position at River High School was still unfilled.

In other business, the board passed a motion to award the district’s fuel bid to BFS Petroleum. The district’s tire contract was awarded to Powhatan Tire.

The next regular session SOLSD Board of Education meeting will be held Wed., August 27 at 7 a.m. at Central Office in Woodsfield.