APS details plans for ESSER funds
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education members learned how the district plans to use $96 million in federal stimulus funds May 23.
Ellen McWilliams-Woods, APS chief academic officer/assistant superintendent, and Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pendleton reviewed the latest draft of examples and allocations for the district’s use of Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds over the next few years to “safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students.” Pendleton said the district is investing the funds in resources that help it “emerge stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
McWilliams-Woods said to create the current plan they used feedback from a survey provided last winter to parents, guardians and teachers on how ESSER funds should be spent, as well as information collected by teams of district “stakeholders.” The plan now focuses on 10 strategic investments under three categories: Thriving Scholars, Thriving Schools and Thriving Families.
District teachers packed the boardroom and overflowed into the hallway to show APS leadership they think their concerns are being ignored.
“I’m asking the board tonight to acknowledge our educators in a significant way so that our voices may be heard, our opinions considered and our experience respected,” said Ann Merendino, a teacher from Barber Community Learning Center (CLC), located in Goodyear Heights.
Board Vice President Derrick Hall encouraged McWilliams-Woods to give teachers more input into the use of the funds.
“I’d like very much to hear that feedback, especially before the board decides that we’re going to spend all this money,” Hall said.
McWilliams-Woods responded, “Any time through this, [teachers] can come and we can have feedback sessions around this. We can start to unpack some of these. We can look more deeply.”
Also during the meeting, the board unanimously approved the district’s five-year financial forecast.
“We do have a much different financial picture,” Pendleton said in comparing current finances to those in past years. “It is a healthier financial picture than when we started this journey prepandemic. It is not levy imminent. It actually gives us some breathing room to make, to try, to test and to sustain those new initiatives. For a situation that is absolutely horrific as the global pandemic, it allowed school districts to pause, reflect and plan better than they ever have.”
Also at the meeting, the board adopted a resolution that at the July 11 board meeting members will evaluate and report on funds needed to repair the Kenmore-Garfield High School building and then potentially schedule the necessary repairs. The move is in preparation for Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts to possibly move into that building for the 2023-24 school year.
Students at Kenmore-Garfield High School will move to the new Garfield CLC in the fall.
During the meeting, several Kenmore community members spoke to the board about not allowing the old high school building to sit vacant. Akron City Councilman Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) and Tina Boyes, executive director of the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, said their community members have worked to revitalize the Kenmore Boulevard area, and its business district includes a live-music venue, guitar shop, recording studios and other businesses that would be ideal partners for Miller South.
“This is the right place for this school,” Freeman said of the Miller South move.
Board members also approved:
• the employment of Susan Mertz as a summer school teacher and tutor for special education Braille transcription; Laura Siplivy as a non-public schools tutor; Jennifer Burton as a non-public schools substitute tutor; Carl Kasicki as an equipment mechanic; Stirlyn Harris and Jeff Kozlowski as Title II teachers; RayShaun Nevins and Nicholas Skeriotis as summer grounds helpers; Tamie Collins and Joy Kaalima as temporary custodial workers; three secondary summer school coordinators; three special education tutors; four secondary summer school coordinators; four Title IV teachers; four athletic summer camp administrative staff members; eight instructional specialists; eight special projects teachers; nine teachers and four coordinators for the “Path to High School Success” summer program; 13 substitute teachers; 16 secondary summer school teachers; 19 athletic summer camp coaches; 22 home instruction teachers; 23 summer school teachers for credit recovery; 35 secondary school teachers for the Be Ready Program; 40 paraprofessionals; instructors and lifeguards for the Firestone CLC natatorium; numerous secondary summer school camp teachers;
• the retirements of Rebecca Brant, Felicia Campbell and Beth Marie Egbert; and
• accepting donations that include $1,000 from Akron Paint & Varnish to support a program at North High School; $600 from Crossings Akron to support the summer food boxes for refugee children at Jennings CLC; and $320 from Akron Turner Club for North High School’s Haslam Scholarship.
The next APS board meeting is scheduled for June 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 10 N. Main St. in Downtown Akron. It will also be available to watch online at youtube.com/akronschools
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