Lebanon school board member resigns citing policy, curriculum issues

The Lebanon Board of Education is seeking a replacement to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of board member Michelle Berry.

Berry submitted her written resignation via email to the district on May 15, which was also her effective resignation day. The Lebanon board accepted the resignation at its meeting Monday. After the vote to accept the resignation, Board President Mike Lane said, “We do appreciate Michelle’s time on the board.”

She was elected to her first four-year term as a Lebanon school board member in November 2023 and beat out former board member Esther Banta Larson, who was seeking her fifth term on the school board.

In her resignation letter, Berry cited issues in working with her fellow board members and Superintendent Isaac Seevers. She also claimed that “It has become clear that the current board has minimal interest in actually doing the work of overseeing the district. I have spoken individually with members about including work sessions between voting meetings to establish a time for communication and forward thinking action. I have also suggested establishing committees to review curriculum and policy.”

While these suggestions were made during the Ohio School Boards Association’s New Board Member Training, Berry said “the other members have clearly communicated to me that they either have no time, or feel there is no need for these changes because they trust the administration. They see the function of policy writing as being outsourced and done by “legal.” This mindset results in policies that are adopted without regard to our community.”

Berry also raised issues about the Woven Traditions curriculum that weaves in race consciousness, social justice and social change into every subject matter and every grade level. She said she wanted to have board level conversations and have the opportunity to review the material before the district spent $10,000.

“I feel there isn’t enough discussion at meetings,” she said.

Berry also got involved in a payment dispute between the district and a supplemental employee, which Seevers sent a group email to board members about the specific roles of board members and administrators such as the superintendent and treasurer. She said the board needs to establish community committees to assist in the oversight of the district for policy and curriculum. The district already has a community advisory committee for fiscal policy issues.

“I refuse to act as an uninformed rubber stamper for policies that are aligned with values that do not reflect those of my constituents and curriculum selections that have a heavy focus on equity and social emotional learning,” Berry said.

“I’m disappointed (to resign),” she said. “I have a lot of heart for the kids and teachers in the system. I wanted to help the district be the best it could be. However, I felt that I wasn’t accepted as part of the team.”

Berry did not rule out a future run for a school board seat.

Applications being taken for vacant seat

The board has 30 days to fill the vacant seat from the date it was accepted, which will be June 20. The board said it will appoint a new member at its June 17 meeting, Seevers said.

He said applications for the vacated seat will be taken until May 28.

The person selected will serve until Dec. 31, 2025 to complete the unexpired first two years of Berry’s term. If that person wants to continue, they will need to run for the final unexpired two years of Berry’s term in November 2025, according to Brian Sleeth, county elections director.

More information and application information will be available on the district’s website.

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