Lakota school board approves policy changes; treasurer announces retirement

Board members divided on issues discussed at Monday meeting

A series of changes to Lakota Local School District policies covering student masks, curriculum changes and the public’s participation at school board meetings were approved Monday evening.

Discussions about the policy modifications by Lakota school board members were lengthy and at times showed sharp differences of opinions among members.

And in an unrelated development, Lakota’s top financial officer ended the meeting by announcing her upcoming retirement.

The board discussions of even relatively minor changes to district policies was a reflection of this latest board, which includes two news members, and its change in procedure wherein such policy discussions are no longer limited to board committee meetings with only two members present.

“We are changing our policy procedure to full-board discussions,” said Lakota Board of Education President Lynda O’Connor.

The fading of some of the most dangerous aspects, for otherwise healthy people, of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Lakota and other area districts’ adopting optional masking policies — has largely lessened the once, hot-button issue of student masks.

The board approved by a 3-2 vote some changes to Lakota’s mask policy and it now specifically states any mask mandate will require school board approval.

O’Connor joined fellow board members Darbi Boddy and Issac Adi in approving the new mask policy.

“This is forward thinking,” said O’Connor, who said the board needed to make a number of changes in student mask policy, created in the first months after the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 and further changed as the pandemic’s impact on Lakota’s 17,000 students fluctuated in 2021 and then into this year.

The board also voted to approve changes to its curriculum development policy and the discussions around that touched on previous allegations by members Boddy and Adi of some Lakota teachers using Critical Race Theory in some classroom lessons.

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Boddy objected to policy language and offered an amendment that would have deleted a curriculum development provision requiring board members’ requests “to view classroom specific materials should be submitted through the superintendent.”

Boddy said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller’s administration had “a conflict of interest” in handling such requests but her proposed amendment to delete that portion of policy was not seconded by any other board member and failed.

Lakota has long contended it does not teach CRT in its schools. District officials are hiring an outside organization to conduct an audit of Lakota curricula in part to examine for any unauthorized CRT lessons.

Adi, however, renewed his allegation regarding CRT lessons, saying “I believe some teachers are doing it” and offered a warning.

“If you are a teacher who is teaching what is not authorized (by the district) — it will come out,” said Adi, who encouraged school parents suspecting CRT lessons to reach out to board or district administration officials.

The board also modified its public participation during board meetings after Boddy saw another proposed amendment — which would have allowed non-Lakota residents to speak at board meetings — fail for lack of support from fellow members.

Boddy contended since the district receives federal monies derived from taxpayers everywhere, non-residents should be allowed to comment at board meetings.

The board did, however, approve by a 4-1 vote to modify its public participation policy and now will require it to not only provide public comment opportunities at regular board meetings but also at special meetings conducted by the board.

Moreover, board audience attendees no longer have to sign up to speak at their arrival at the beginning of meetings but can do so during the course of active meeting, prior to a meeting’s public comment section.

In other business, long-time Lakota Treasurer Jenni Logan announced she will be retiring from her job as of Aug. 1.

Logan, a former winner of Ohio’s top school treasurer award and a frequent consultant of state legislators concerning the state’s school funding laws, said it was a difficult decision to leave the position after nearly a dozen years with Lakota.

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“It’s the right thing for myself and my family,” Logan told the board, adding “it’s been an amazing opportunity and I will forever be grateful.”

Under Ohio law, school boards hire both superintendents and treasurers.

O’Connor said the board will begin addressing Logan’s departure and filling her position in the coming months.

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