By Lynne Phillips
New London Local Schools treasurer Sue Guthrie told board members during Tuesday night's meeting the district's audit was "very good"."There were a few verbal comments," she told the board. "We met with the auditor and the final audit will be sent to the auditor of state and when it is approved it will be posted on the auditor's website." She noted, "The verbal comments about the audit are not posted. They are things that have been reviewed and suggested we do." Superintendent Brad Romano reported he has been meeting with high school principal Cosetta Adkins and counselor Betsy Pertner regarding branching off into online schooling. "We would actually work with Epiphany Management Group (EMG, the district's technology company) to produce, market and develop our own online academy," he told the board. "The reason for this conversation," he said, "is that it would take a pretty significant financial commitment from the board to get things up and running." He added, "I feel there is a market there and there is a need. But there is no promise, if we build it they will come. "Here is what we know," he stated. "We have about 63 students, K-12 that are currently in online education of some kind. We are talking about Townsend Community School sponsored by Margaretta Local Schools as well as the ECOTs, Ohdela, Ohio Virtual Academy and those types of programmings. "Every year we tend to have more and more students going there. The trend data doesn't suggest we are increasing the number of kids that are going but it does suggest that every year we do lose a certain part of our population. The students that tend to be leaving the most are those in the seventh, eighth and ninth grade years. And we do know that the majority of them return to us at some point." He explained, "Those that return are typically more deficient in terms of credits and academic foundation than they were when they left." A couple things that need to be taken into consideration, according to Romano, "We are losing these students and when they do come back they are further behind. Secondly other school districts in our region like Mapleton, Vermilion, Norwalk, Margaretta and Sandusky are starting to develop these types of programs. They will come after our students as well. "There is a bit of financial risk for the district," he said, "but if it pays off there will be a significant reward. "From a financial standpoint," he explained, "we can attract some students back to the district and obviously increase our state funding." Board president Bill Given questioned how far along in development are other area schools. Romano said last year Mapleton started a credit recovery piece for high school students where online courses are offered during their academic schedule. This year they branched out to a K-12 learning piece. Vermilion has had a online academy for their students. Margaretta's Townsend has been in existence for three years. Romano said he would gather additional information to present to the board. The board approved the following personnel recommendations: • Classified substitutes Garth McGrail, retroactive to Nov. 11, 2014 and Barry Kaufman. • Supplemental position for Keith Landis as an assistant for girls track. • Joe Thomas as a volunteer for girls basketball. • Gail Ux for the elementary afterschool reading program at her hourly rate. The cost will paid with grant funds. Board members approved the following recommended actions: • A lease agreement with MTB Business Technolgies for three copiers for 39 months for a savings of approximately $982 per year. • Amend a resolution approved on Nov. 17, 2014 that read $246,252 less trade in of $9,000 to read $246,252 including trade in of $9,000. • A three year service agreement with EMG for technology integration professional development service at a total not to exceed $78,000. That amount will be paid through available grant funds. • The resignation of Robyn Kelly from the elementary RTI supplemental position. • The purchase of various instruments from Pellegrino Music Center at a cost not to exceed $12,1500. • A service agreement with Rachel Wixey & Associates for substitute management services of district certified staff at $94.80 per occurance and a one time fee of $2050 for software setup and training. Also approved were treasure recommendations including the amended permanent appropriations. Donations approved by the board included: Miscellaneous concert donations of $60.94 to Elementary Principal Support, Steven Fawcett $300 to the boys basketball program, New London Eagles $500 to the softball program and Class of 1974 $500 to the scholarship fund. Board president Bill Given appointed vice president Kevin Babcock as the President Pro Tem for the board's organizational meeting scheduled for Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. The organizational meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be followed by the tax budget hearing and the regular board meeting. Board members adjourned their regular meeting in favor of a closed door session for the purpose of evaluation of the superintendent and treasurer. There was no action taken after the executive session.