September 17, 2014

Medina
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Shorthanded Medina School Board nixes contracts

The Medina Board of Education declined to approve two contracts, totaling more than $400,000 in year-end spending, at a meeting where two of the five board members were absent.

The contracts were on the agenda at a special 9 a.m. meeting Friday — the last business day of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Thomas Cahalan

The larger contract was a three-year lease of 190 Apple Macbook Pros, for $219,917.70, with the option of purchasing the laptop computers for $1 each at the end of the lease. The payments would be spread out over three years.

The second contract was to upgrade flooring for the Medina Community Recreation Center at a cost of $182,857.

The vote on the flooring contract was postponed.

Board President Karla Robinson and Thomas Cahalan, who was appointed to the board in March to replace retiring Robert Wilder, voted to approve the computer contract and Doug Adamczyk, who joined the board in April, voted against it.

The contract failed because it required approval of a majority of the five-member board.

Board members Susan Vlcek and Bill Grenfell were absent from the meeting.

“There were only three of us at the meeting,” Cahalan said. “You have to have all three vote the same way in order for it to pass.”

Robinson said Vlcek was out of town and Grenfell couldn’t get away from work.

Cahalan said Adamczyk voted against the computer contract because it was being considered at a special meeting and not one of the board’s regular meetings, which are televised on a public access cable channel.

Adamczyk could not be reached for comment Monday.

Cahalan said he understood Adamczyk’s concerns.

“We are hearing loud and clear from the public that they don’t want us to vote on things when they don’t know what’s going on,” Cahalan said.

Cahalan said he voted to approve the computer contract because it would benefit students.

The computers would be used for a pilot program called “project-based learning,” where students would work on projects instead of just listening to a lecture.

Christina Hank, the district’s secondary curriculum coordinator, said that under the concept, “Students engage in doing a project or working together to solve a problem.”

She said six teams of teachers in six different buildings would receive a cart of laptops. Twenty-three teachers were recruited for the project.

She said about 44 percent of district students would have access to the computers.

John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, said he supported the plan.

“Project-based learning is kind of this state-of-the-art, new idea,” he said. “I just want to see Medina Schools get back to doing those kinds of things.”

Robinson said the board has made an effort to take action on proposals only at regular meetings.

“We’ve been trying very hard to keep voted items off our special meeting agendas if possible,” she said.

She said the computer contract was on the agenda because the administration had negotiated a $15,462 discount from Apple if the contract was approved by June 30.

The board has faced intense public criticism in the past four months after it approved a new contract for Superintendent Randy Stepp during a work session in January.

The controversy culminated in the resignation of board President Charles Freeman, the board requesting a special audit from the state and Stepp being placed on paid administrative leave.

The board also has placed a 5.9-mill, five year levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Robinson said the computer contract — without the discount — would be reconsidered by the board later this month.

Robinson said the computers will be needed in the next two years to meet new state testing guidelines, which will require the tests to be administered on computers.

“At all times we’re trying to balance a lot of concerns. We are trying to balance the concern of being as fiscally responsible as we can be,” she said. “But we also try to plan for the future.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.