Community members speak in support of superintendent

Extra chairs needed to be brought in to the library at Old Fort High School to accommodate the people attending the Old Fort Local School District Board of Education meeting Monday.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. in the usual way – Pledge of Allegiance, roll call for board members, adoption of the agenda — but the 30 minutes of allotted speaking time for the public was used up Monday, and then some.

More than a dozen teachers, parents, students and community members stood up in turn and spoke in support of Superintendent Steve Anway, who has held that position in the Old Fort Local School District since 2014. People at the meeting were concerned about the possibility Anway’s position as superintendent may not be renewed.

Jennifer Adelsperger, first-grade teacher at Old Fort, was the first to speak during citizen’s comments time at the meeting.

“As a parent of students, as a staff member, as a 17-year member of this community, and as a bruised person, on behalf of all of our staff, I am here to speak in support of Superintendent Steve Anway,” she said.

“When I was in school, the superintendent was like the Wizard of Oz, in his office all the time. But Superintendent Anway’s door is always open, and he opens doors for people, and reads to students: he uses his gifts to serve the community,” she said. “If this is how we’re going to treat someone, who else is going to sign on and work for us?”

Rob Eberly, fifth-grade teacher at Old Fort, also voiced his support for Anway.

“His connection with the kids is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. He cares about those kids like I’ve never seen before,” Eberly said.

Others followed and echoed similar sentiments, such as Old Fort baseball coach Bart Clouse.

“You couldn’t ask for a better person to work with,” he said. “There’s not a better person to be a representative for this school, and we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly over the years.”

Rachel Eberly, a recent graduate of Old Fort high school, also spoke at the meeting on behalf of Anway.

“He gave me recommendations for jobs and reference letters for college,” Eberly said. “We even joked around in the hallway when we walked past each other. My friends from other schools were dumbfounded by the fact that our superintendent has relationships with the students at all.”

After the public statement of support for Anway, the agenda for the rest of the meeting was carried out.

Laura Bryant, K-6 principal at Old Fort, gave her monthly report, discussing upcoming events and the Reading Achievement Plan, a two-year plan meant to boost reading ability and grades for elementary students.

Erica Cobb, 7-12 principal at Old Fort, then gave her report, which included mention of senior Karli Colson’s creation of a Big Brother/Big Sister program, which she implemented at Old Fort through the work of her Teen Leadership Corp Class. The Teen Leadership Corp Class at Old Fort High School is a newer class in which students are expected to engage in community endeavors and outreach.

“I hope that future students will continue to support this Big Brother/Big Sister program,” Colson said.

Treasurer Thomas Siloy gave the monthly financial report and the board approved it as presented. Siloy also recommended the board approve donations to the school, including five monetary donations in memory of Mutt Keim, sensory items from Seneca Autism Learning & Support Association for elementary students, five scarves from Vicki Shade for elementary students, winter wear from Old Fort Banking Co. for elementary students and $1,500 from Old Fort Banking Co. for the FFA program, and $500 from the Old Fort Lions Club for needy families in the district.

During the superintendent’s report, Anway recommended the board renew Old Fort’s membership to the Ohio School Boards Association and to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Old Fort Local Education Association to adjust work days and professional development days for the 2019-2020 school calendar, with the inclusion of five professional development days for staff. Anway also recommended the board approve the proposed 2019-2020 school calendar as presented. The board approved all recommendations.

The board went into executive session at 7:35 p.m. and the public filed out. Board members did not comment about the public response.

At the organizational meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m., before the regular meeting, the board voted Larry Bowman as president and Val Steyer as vice president. Bowman then approved Nicholas Baker as legislative liaison, Val Steyer as student achievement liaison, Bowman as Vanguard-Sentinel board member and Jay Pence as athletic council member.

The board also:

• Authorized the treasurer to pay all bills as bills are received in good condition.

• Authorized the superintendent to appoint non-certified substitute employees as provided for in the appropriate resolution.

• Appointed the superintendent to be the purchasing agent for the school district in 2019.

• Authorized the superintendent and treasurer to apply for federal and state grants as needed and appropriate for the school district in 2019.

• Appointed the law offices of Bricker and Eckler LLP to provide legal counsel as needed.

• Designated The Advertiser-Tribune and The News-Messenger as official newspapers for the publications of notices.

• Regular meetings for the year were also scheduled. Meetings are to continue to be at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of every month in the library at Old Fort High School. The next regular meeting is set for Feb. 11.