Troy Board of Education renews superintendent contract 4-0; Ham abstains from voting

By Sam Wildow

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TROY — The Troy Board of Education approved renewing its three-year contract with Superintendent Chris Piper as part of its personnel items during Monday’s regular meeting.

The personnel items were approved by a majority vote of 4-0 with board member Michael Ham abstaining from voting. Ham, when asked why he was abstaining from the vote, stated he wanted staff and the community to feel like they were being heard by the board.

“As a board, we had heard from staff of the school district that there were some issues with communication and appreciation of staff on the part of administration,” Ham said. “I felt that someone from the board needed to reassure the staff of the school district they had been heard.”

Ham said he abstained from voting because he also did not want to stand in the way of the other personnel items on the agenda as they were approved all at once, including supplemental contracts and resignations of four substitutes and one transportation assistant.

Ham said he hoped Piper could work on addressing some of the concerns from staff over the next three years.

“He has my full support in doing that,” Ham said. “I hope he can address some of the concerns that some of the staff have, and I wish him all the best in being able to do that.”

Piper, when asked on Tuesday if he had heard about the concerns from staff, stated, “These are challenging times in our schools, community and nation. Those challenges make communication more difficult than ever, particularly when we are so divided on so many issues. I fully understand how unappreciated our teachers and staff feel when they are being asked to do so much. We will continue to work hard for the boys and girls of Troy City Schools and will dedicate ourselves to letting our teachers and staff know just how much we appreciate them.”

Three local residents spoke during public comment during Monday’s meeting, asking the board to wait to renew Piper’s contract with the district until after the new board members, Levi Fox and Theresa Packard, take their seats on the board in January. They will be replacing Board President Tom Kleptz and board member Ginny Beamish on the board. Beamish did not run for re-election, and Kleptz was not re-elected to the board. Susan Borchers was re-elected to her seat on the board.

“I would encourage the board to postpone voting on that,” Ronald Coblentz, of Troy, said.

Tori Coblentz, of Troy, also asked the board to wait to vote on Piper’s renewal contract, stating she did not feel like she was being heard by the district as a parent.

“You’re elected by the people … which we showed this election that we want change,” Tori Coblentz said. “We, the citizens, would really like to see that you guys hear us as parents.”

Steffani Melvin, of Troy, also asked the board to wait to vote on Piper’s contract, saying, “I would encourage you to put that off until January … Many people in the school district don’t have faith in his leadership.”

Melvin also asked for additional information on the district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. The district’s applications for various ESSER funds are available on the district’s website at www.troy.k12.oh.us. The applications include brief descriptions on what the district plans to use ESSER funds toward, including for the purchase of buses that were delayed due to the pandemic, as well as toward HVAC improvements to improve air quality and the purchase of student devices and remote learning instructional tools. The district also plans to use money toward paying substitute teachers due to COVID-related absences and summer school personnel expenses.

Ammon Brown, of Troy, also spoke during public comment, commenting on funding the district has received related to the COVID-19 pandemic and asking the board to remove the requirement for use of face masks on buses.

Kleptz said the funding the district received was not contingent upon the district implementing a face mask policy, stating the district would have received relief funds regardless of whether or not they implemented its face mask policy.

While the district’s mandatory face mask policy for inside its schools will be ending in January, the district is continuing to require face masks on buses due to federal requirements on public transportation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented a federal mask requirement for transit systems to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 based on President Joseph R. Biden’s Executive Order 13998, issued Jan. 21, 2021.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) followed with a security directive implementing the CDC order under the direction of the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. TSA extended the face mask requirement for all transportation networks, including public transportation, through March 18, 2022. The Federal Transit Administration also issued an amendment to its Master Agreement to incorporate the requirements of the CDC mask order.

Also during the board’s meeting, Piper went over policy changes for the district. Many of the updates were minor changes mandated by state law, some of which the district was already doing prior to the policies becoming state requirements, such as offering electronic enrollment. Other changes include requiring the district to provide transportation for students attending non-public schools, even on days the district is not open. Changes also allow for more non-routine use of school buses.

The district also has to implement a school safety threat assessment team and adopt evidence-based suicide awareness curriculum. The district also has to release a directory of students’ email addresses, if the email addresses are provided by the district, unless specifically asked by parents not to release the email addresses of their children. Piper said those types of directory releases would go to military recruiters and possibly other types of recruiters.

Minor language changes were made to policies on attendance, student hazing, bonding, etc.

The board set the regular annual organizational meeting of the board at 5:30 p.m., on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, at the Troy Junior High School, 556 Adams Street, Troy. The board appointed Borchers as president pro tempore of that meeting.