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B y Krystle S. Morey

Focusing on academics, improving the graduation rate and boosting student participation are just a few things Audrey Hicks would like to see done this school year, her second as president of the Granville Board of Education.
Hicks’ biggest challenge, going into the 2016-17 school year, will be getting the board to work cohesively again.
The recent hullabaloo surrounding the appointment of a varsity football coach for the fall 2016 season has driven a wedge between the nine-member board. Questions about violated policy and the contentious reappointment of Mario Torres has established an unofficial divide of the board, which held true with the reorganization vote after the recent board election.
The board voted to keep its leadership the same at its annual reorganizational meeting on July 11.

Audrey Hicks

Audrey Hicks

Audrey Hicks was reelected 5-4 to serve as the board’s president, with board members Molly Celani, John McDermott, Carrie O’Brien and Dale Bucciero voting against. The same vote secured Suzanne McEachron’s reelection as vice president.
Each position, president and vice president, was challenged. Celani was recommended by McDermott to serve as president. After falling short to Hicks for that position, she was nominated by O’Brien for the vice president’s seat, but again to no avail.
“I think for the majority of the past year we did (work cooperatively) … through March it was going really well and toward the end it kind of fell apart,” Hicks said.
Hicks said she is going to push to have board members get together for a workshop on how to work cohesively together. The board has held similar workshops in the past. She said the board may, at its Aug. 16 goal-setting meeting, decide to establish a goal to work more cooperatively.
“It would be nice if we were a little more united,” she said.
Hicks also recognized the advantages to having a nine-member board.
“You have a variety of opinions, backgrounds and philosophies … I think that a lot gets done when people bring different ideas and share different ideas,” she said. “…hopefully we can get to a point where we are all respectfully listening to each other’s ideas and working together toward finding common ground.”
She said she is excited to work with new board members Dale Bucciero and Ed Vladyka, who were elected this year.
Another aspect of the contentious appointment of Torres whittles down to a violation of policy.
The school board voted 5-4 at its June 13 meeting to reappoint Mario Torres as football coach but the dissenters in that vote challenged the legality of the move. The appointment was scrutinized by many board members and community members because it fell into a few gray areas of board policy.
Board Vice President Susanne McEachron brought Torres’ appointment to a vote after a lengthy public session at which community members, players and coaches touted his dedication the school, the football program and its players.
That vote was later determined to be invalid because the superintendent did not recommend Torres to the board, a recommendation that is required by board policy for the appointment of any personnel including teachers and coaches.
“Often times, things come up that you don’t know the answer to, and you look to the policy, but sometimes that comes after the fact,” Hicks said.
Since the months-long Torres controversy began, Hicks said she has spent a bit of time with the policies, reading and familiarizing herself with them. “I think we all need to do better at learning the policies,” Hicks said, noting that a lot of policies are constantly being revised. “However, this board is composed of nine volunteers who have families and jobs. It’s a time-consuming process to go through them and commit those to memory.”
Added Hicks: “I know I have certainly learned a lot over the last few months about which policies exist and which don’t.”
Hicks said her goals are to pick up where the board left off with its strategic planning efforts, establishing a vision for the future of education in Granville.
She proposed, at the board’s July 11 reorganizational meeting, that all board members be part of the strategic planning committee.
“They preferred to leave it in committee,” she said.
In the past the committee stressed the importance of student participation in extracurricular activities. It also looked at the breakdown of students who were using drugs and alcohol.
The board is set to meet Aug. 16 to establish its goals for the 2016-17 school year. That’s when superintendent Mark Bessen will set his goals for the upcoming year as well.
One exciting factor going into the new school year is that the district’s test scores have improved.
“I would like to continue to see that happen,” Hicks said.
She said she would also like to see growth in the school’s graduation rate.
“I’d like to decrease the dropout rate,” Hicks said, unsure of specific statistics.
“Even if one student drops out, it’s one too many,” she said. “I would love to see a 100 percent graduation rate … whatever we can do to reach out and help these kids who feel that either their education isn’t necessary or that they can’t succeed. Every kid can succeed and graduate from high school.”
Identifying how to help struggling students is a challenge, “and one very worthy of pursuing,” she added.

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