Piqua BOE releases statement against racism

PIQUA — The Piqua City School District Board of Education began its regular meeting Thursday by giving a statement on where the board stands with regard to racism. This statement was deemed necessary, according to Board President Clint Bostick, given the nation’s current racial climate.

“Piqua City Schools Board of Education confirms that systemic racism significantly diminishes students, staff and the community at large,” the statement reads. “This calls for each staff member to continue to examine and address our own biases and racial tendencies, as well as not tolerate any biases and racial tendencies associated with our work.

“The board is committed to allocating financial resources that strengthen and support diversity, equity and inclusion through professional development, training resources and/or public speakers,” the statement continues. “Additionally, we are committed to keeping this conversation moving forward through regular updates between the board and representation from the Piqua City School District Inclusivity Committee.”

According to Assistant Superintendent Tony Lyons, on June 15, Michael Carter, chief diversity officer for Sinclair Community College, spoke to PCS’s administrative team to share ideas about how to further develop a climate of inclusivity within the district, an effort that Lyons said will be multi-faceted and ongoing.

PCS Curriculum Director Scott Bloom updated the board on Ohio House Bill 239, the Testing Reduction Act, highlighting the changes this bill will bring to the district.

These changes include changes to standardized testing. Students will now have the option to opt-out of the nationally standardized ACT/SAT. On a state level, high school students will now take a combine American history and government test, as opposed to two separate exams.

Superintendent Dwayne Thompson spoke about House Bill 164, which touches on a variety of subjects, and highlighted the issues that would affect PCS. This included issues such as student religious expression, teacher evaluation processes and the waving of things like the third-grade reading guarantee, along with other changes to the education law for the 2020-21 school year in response to implications of COVID-19.

In other business:

• Dan Norton, of Honeywell, gave an update regarding the energy conservation project within the district. Norton presented the Annual Cost Avoidance Report for PCS, which indicates cost avoidance of $210,117 for the year.

• Lyons gave an update on the latest bullying report, citing 58 reports filed within the second semester, five of which were determined to be active cases of bullying.

• Thompson gave a graduation update. Those who chose to wait for an in-person ceremony will participate in that on July 3, with a practice on July 1. Social distancing will be practiced.

• Thompson gave an update regarding the upcoming school year. As of now, no final plan or guidelines have been announced from the governor or the Ohio Department of Education. Thompson said any plan put in place will have multiple alternatives to fall back on, given the many variables and fluidity of the COVID-19 situation.

• The board accepted a list of grants and donations, as well as a list of personnel leaves, transfers, resignations and hirings.

• The board held a first reading of revisions to the district’s random drug testing policy, which applies to grade seven through 12 student athletes and those who, along with consent from their parents, volunteer to be tested, for inclusion in the testing pool.

• The board approved a new blended learning policy, authorizing the superintendent to develop program guidelines regarding the possibility of the necessity of blended learning.

The next regular board meeting will be held Wednesday, July 22, at 6 p.m.