A new era begins in Springboro schools

The new Springboro school board met for the first time earlier this month, in a meeting punctuated by laughter and standing ovations, rather than controversy and disagreement.

Lisa Babb and Jamie Belanger, who ran unopposed in November, officially took their seats on the board Jan. 14. They replaced the final members of a voting majority that cut costs and rolled back a levy, but drew more attention for its debates to bring creationism and conservative interpretations of the U.S. Constitution into classrooms than the quality of its schools

“This is a process we started years ago and are seeing it come to fruition tonight,” Ron Malone, the new board’s president, said during the meeting.

Malone, along with Charles Anderson and David Stuckey, were elected in 2013, regaining the voting majority. But the board continued to argue over issues ranging from textbooks to finances into last December.

Jim Rigano and David Petroni, the final members of the previous board majority, did not seek re-election.

“I just hope the board will be strong representatives for parents and the community at large,” Rigano said last week.

New era begins

Every vote at the Jan. 14 meeting was unanimous.

“All five board members, philosophically, are pretty mainstream,” Malone said last week. “I think it’s going to lead to a lot more cohesion. Therefore, a lot more progress for the district as a whole.”

Rigano, who served two terms on the board, said Babb and Belanger would be more effective if they thought and acted independently, rather than joining the majority.

Belanger could not be reached for comment.

Rigano said he would have questioned Superintendent Todd Petrey about new board policies that went through a first reading at the new board’s meeting.

Babb, who did ask questions about the policies, referred further questions to Petrey or Malone.

“I guess the verdict’s still out,” Rigano said.

While the the board will still have differences of opinion, Malone said it will get more done due to members’ common philosophies on the school district.

“If the philosophies are too far apart, you spend too much time and energy debating that. You’re not nearly as productive,” he said.

The most extended discussions at this month’s meeting involved whether to lengthen the board’s annual retreat and new ways to enable members of the public to speak during work sessions.

“If the community is going to take the time to come to these meetings, I would like it to be more welcoming,” said Babb, who was often an audience member during board meetings for the past five years.

Babb was also a levy supporter and a leader of efforts to turn back the board’s attempt to replace Malone, the long-time high school principal who retired before his election to the board.

During the new board’s first meeting, Petrey also said he would be seeking pay hikes for young administrators in hopes of keeping them in the district.

The swearing in of Babb and Belanger drew standing ovations from some in the audience. When Anderson handed over the gavel to Malone, laughter ensued.

“We will do everything to keep your trust and to provide the direction for the board that you as a community would like us to have,” Malone told those in the audience.

About the Author