The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The Van Wert City Board of Education officially closed LifeLinks Community School and also approved an agreement that would create a new alternate school through the Western Buckeye Educational Service (WBESC) during its May meeting on Wednesday.

Superintendent Ken Amstutz noted Wednesday that requirements adopted by the Ohio General Assembly mandating that alternate schools have separate staff, a separate treasurer, and a separate director, had made LifeLinks too expensive for the local district.

Van Wert City Superintendent of Schools Ken Amstutz talks about the closing of LifeLinks Community School. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Van Wert City Superintendent of Schools Ken Amstutz talks about the closing of LifeLinks Community School. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

“We just can’t afford to operate it,” Amstutz said Wednesday of LifeLinks, which will officially close the end of June, adding that state regulations requiring the school to be completely separate from the city school district cost VWCS approximately $150,000 in additional annual costs. “Financially, we just can’t afford to do that.”

The good news, the superintendent noted, is the creation of a new alternate school that will also be housed in the S.F. Goedde Building, starting in July. The board also approved a three-year agreement with the WBESC to lease the building as a site for the new alternative school.

Amstutz said the WBESC alternative school would combine LifeLinks with the WBESC’s ACE Academy alternative program. In addition to Van Wert, the new program would serve Crestview, Lincolnview, Paulding, Wayne Trace, and Antwerp school districts.

He noted the WBESC alternative school currently has approximately 20 students, while LifeLinks has approximately 40 students, while stating his opinion that enrollment could possibly increase to 100 students or more in the future.

The superintendent called the ODE settlement and new program a “win-win” situation for all those involved.

“It will be a win-win for everybody; it will be a win-win for the kids, a win-win for us financially, it will be a win-win for the schools involved,” Amstutz said. “In the end, we might even be able to do a better job (than either existing program); time will tell.”

The superintendent explained that the state has been ratcheting down regulations on public school districts that also have alternative schools such as LifeLinks, adding that state officials apparently prefer the stand-alone, for-profit alternative schools not affiliated with public schools.

The closing of LifeLinks comes after months of discussion with the Ohio Department of Education to reach a settlement on the issue.

The Van Wert district realized another financial benefit on Wednesday when the VWCS board approved an agreement with Van Wert County Hospital to provide athletic training services to the district.

“This is something we have been wanting to do for several years,” Amstutz said, noting the district would save approximately $10,000 a year by having the hospital provide athletic training services.

Unfortunately, the board has to spend some additional money to replace the boiler system in the Van Wert High School-Middle School complex.

Amstutz noted that, while the boiler system is only 11 years old, and should have lasted 20 years, continued problems with the current boilers, as well as discussions with a consultant, made it clear the district needed to replace the system.

The superintendent noted that the contractor that originally installed the system was only offering to replace it with a similar system, which he felt could continue the current problems.

“None of us are very pleased that we had to do it at this time, 11 years into the middle school-high school, when it should be closer to 20 years,” Amstutz said.

The board approved a contract with Whisler Plumbing and Heating Inc. of Massillon to provide a new boiler system for the building at a cost of $249,865. The money will mostly come from the district’s permanent improvement/maintenance fund. Work is to be completed prior to the start of school in the fall.

During his report, Assistant to the Superintendent Bill Clifton said students have completed state testing, and thanked staff for their efforts in that area. He also updated the board on committee efforts to decide what to do about Eggerss Stadium, noting that committee members had visited several other communities’ stadiums, while also working on a survey seeking community input on the issue.

Also Wednesday, the board accepted the resignation of fifth-grade teacher Melinda Rauch and kindergarten teacher Kendra Parmenter, and hired Ruth Ann Dowler as district special services coordinator, Franklin Bowen as a high school guidance counselor, Allison Niese and Pamela Switzer as high school English-language arts teachers, Josiah Poletta as a high school social studies teacher, and Alexa Zeeff as a middle school English-language arts teacher.

The board also authorized a one-year leave of absence for Brendon Moody, middle school English-language arts teacher, so he can pursue a doctorate in education.

A number of supplemental contracts were also approved, as follows:

Emily Holliday and Ryan Holliday as co-head cross country head coaches; Keith Recker as head varsity football coach; Craig Syphrit, Steve Sealscott, Drew Golden, and Cole Harting as assistant football coaches; Jordan Daniels as freshman football coach; Matt Hernandez (85 percent) and Eli Alvarez (15 percent) as boys’ head soccer coaches; Soloman Okang (80 percent) and Alvarez (20 percent) as assistant boys’ soccer coaches; Rich Nouza as girls’ head soccer coach; Juliette Bonifas as girls’ assistant soccer coach; Alex Schmidt as girls’ tennis head coach; Jeff Marbaugh as head varsity volleyball coach; Shana Evans as assistant varsity volleyball coach; Tiffany Werts as freshman volleyball coach; Kenzie Ray as high school football cheerleading coach; Kim Doidge as varsity head golf coach; Bob Spath as middle school boys’ cross country coach; Natoshia Wilhelm as middle school girls’ cross country coach; Charlie Witten, Jeff Kallas, and Jay Royer as middle school football coaches; Devon Rodriguez as middle school cheerleading coach; Ben Collins as middle school athletic director (34 percent) and Darla Dunlap (22 percent), Tom Baer (22 percent), and Scott Jordan (22 percent) as VWMS site managers.

Chuck Rollins was approved as a volunteer girls’ tennis coach.

Also approved were the following summer school staff: VWECC – Drew Bittner, Regina Brenneman, Kim Dowdy, Laura Foster, Lisa Knoch, Danae Leaser, Tasha Miller, Shelly Place, Kaitlin Roberts, Jessica Small, Judi Smith, and Janine Warnecke; Tom Baer as VWMS coordinator; and Jeff Kallas as VWHS government teacher.

The following summer custodial-maintenance staff were also hired on an as-needed basis: Nicholas Krugh, Alison Moreland, Justin Overmyer, Andrew Perry, and Ryan Stoller.

The next meeting of the Van Wert City Board of Education will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, in the S.F. Goedde Building conference room.

POSTED: 05/18/17 at 9:16 am. FILED UNDER: News