New class helps Graham freshmen


ST. PARIS – The Graham Local Schools Board of Education met on Monday evening to discuss operations as the new school year began.

To open, Board President Leslie Maurice welcomed William Overla, High School Principal, to give his Curriculum and District Personnel Report. Overla gave the floor to Carolyn Traylor, high school teacher, who shared a breakdown of her Falcon Focus Class, new this year.

This class, geared towards ninth-grade students transitioning from middle school to high school, sets students up for success both at Graham and later in their careers or higher education. The class covers topics such as parental support and communication, college, finances, military and law enforcement options, Hi-Point and career goals.

“It’s kind of a mentorship program,” Traylor said. “I’m trying to establish pride in our school.”

Following Traylor’s presentation, two high school students from the leadership class addressed the board: junior Kaetlyn Swank and sophomore Riley McAlexander. The pair gave an overview of their plans and projects for the school year to raise low morale brought about by the pandemic, as well as promote their chief goals: to share kindness, to appreciate diversity, and to create a family atmosphere. Projects included a High School Appreciation Day (formerly Service Day) in which each student in the leadership class planned a service project. The high school also hosted a Senior Celebration with outdoor activities held to honor senior students.

Overla echoed the success of these events, saying, “You can go to a neighboring school and graduate in 4 years, or you could come to Graham and be a Falcon forever.”

Overla concluded his high school report by mentioning IT progress, such as a web design class in which students will regularly update the district website, as well as the start of a school podcast.

Next, Middle School Principal Nick Guidera gave an update on the plans for the middle school trip to Washington, D.C. After cancelling the April 2020 and January 2021 trips due to shutdowns, GMS is excited to offer this year’s eighth and ninth graders the opportunity to travel to D.C. The trip would depart May 13, 2021.

Guidera plans to continue contracting K&K Tours, a longstanding partner of Graham’s D.C. trips. Though the nation’s capital is in a state of flux, with several key historical sites still closed indefinitely to tourists, Guidera believes that the trip remains valuable and worthwhile. However, the school anticipates a higher emphasis on purchasing travel insurance, as well as less flexibility with deposits. It will also be required to follow all federal guidelines concerning COVID-19.

“It is a great opportunity, but there are certainly risks involved,” Guidera said.

There will be a parent information meeting on October 14, and Guidera hopes to have both a tentative contract and a rough estimate of the cost by then. Fundraising opportunities will be available for all students grades six through nine.

The meeting then progressed to the public participation segment. Three individuals from the community—Elizabeth Carine, Randi Uhl, and Gerald Hillman—addressed the board with concerns regarding the high numbers of quarantines. All parents of Graham students, Carine, Uhl and Hillman mentioned the negative impact that quarantining has on students. They collectively implored the board to reconsider COVID-19 policies for close-contact.

Board member Toni Kite recognized these parents’ concerns later in the meeting, asking how teachers are supporting quarantined students.

Assistant Superintendent Emily Smith reported the district’s most updated numbers: as of Friday, September 17, Graham tallied a cumulative 170 quarantines and 35 positive cases across all three schools. She stated that for any students at home, teachers reach out through Google Classroom, posting work and encouragement; however, she did acknowledge that Graham is short-staffed.

The board agreed that GLS could improve in the area of COVID-19 care and called a special meeting on September 22 to discuss these issues in further depth.

In other news, Superintendent Brad Silvus returned to work after a personal and medical leave of absence. He expressed thanks to all in the community who called or sent cards while he was away.

Silvus then presented the 47 volunteers that would be serving in the district for the year before recommending various new classified personnel to fill open coaching positions, such as Scott Seeberg as the Head Varsity Girls Basketball Coach and Andrea Mitchell as the High School Basketball Cheerleading Coach.

Upon the board’s approval of these contracts, Treasurer Kristie Purtee moved on to administrative items and finances. First, she requested that the board endorse, under the Ohio School Wellness Initiative, the TCN Agreement for Mental Health Services for one year, a grant for $5,000. Graham utilizes the services of TCN Behavioral Health Services to provide staff and students with more resources for mental health than the school could make available.

Additionally, Director of Operations Don Burley reported his work on the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation (BWC) Safety Grant, a competitive grant with matching three to one. GLS won the highest amount, $40,000, upon their contribution of $14,688.55 for a total project amount of $54,688.55. The schools plan to use the monies to add a security camera system to the bus garages to prevent vandalism and purchase a new scrubber for the elementary, more security cameras, and keyless entries.

Burley also presented a three-year-long project in conjunction with Second Harvest Food Bank of Champaign, Clark, and Logan Counties.

As Burley explained, Graham would offer an on-site food bank with the support of Second Harvest. This pantry would be open to the public on Sunday afternoons twice a month. Staff and teachers could provide food-deficient families with groceries, and students could earn community service hours by volunteering.

“We have a significant number of families who are struggling,” Burley said. “This will allow us to fulfill an immediate need.”

This food bank will cost the district nothing except time, as Second Harvest will stock the shelves with their product and provide refrigerators.

Silvus then closed the meeting by giving his Monthly Superintendent’s Report, announcing that there is an opening for a student board member. He will be receiving applications and conducting interviews within the next week in hopes of electing this student by the October board meeting.

The board entered into an executive session at 7:52 p.m. and remained there until 8:40 p.m.

By Katie Milligan

Contributing writer

Reach Katie at [email protected].

No posts to display