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Message from the Board President

Posted on: September 14, 2020

September 14, 2020


Talawanda Families:


The Board of Education would like to provide some information to our families, share some details regarding how school boards are mandated to legally operate, outline what kinds of interactions members of the board are permitted to have with one another, and when parents can expect to hear more from the school board about Talawanda educational plans during Covid-19.


First, school board members are not permitted (Ohio Sunshine Laws) to meet with one another outside of their regularly scheduled monthly business meetings, or permitted to have private conversations as a group.  This is a legal requirement that ensures transparency to the public regarding discussions and board action taken on school/district policies.  School Boards are permitted to have work sessions, which must also be advertised and open to the public, so that the community has the benefit of listening to presentations and discussions of the board members.  The next meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2020 at 7pm, and the link to the agenda and the virtual meeting will be available on the Talawanda website by the end of the day Friday.   


The Board has become aware that there is a lot of misinformation that is being shared throughout the community, and that social media has become a widely used information source for this.  Not everyone uses social media, and not all of the information sources available there are accurate.  The Board can assure community members that meeting agendas, minutes of the meetings, and (more recently) videos of school board meetings are available to the public, and more importantly, have accurate information regarding discussions and actions taken by the Board.


We know there is disharmony among parents regarding the Board’s decision to put the current remote learning plan in place. We know some families want to go back to traditional school, while other families wish to remain in a remote learning setting. We know we will not be able to please every family.  We assure you that we did not come to the decision to institute a remote learning plan without a lot of research and discussion.  The administration, and specifically our curriculum team, developed 3 potential plans last spring as requested by Governor DeWine. This included the traditional school model, a hybrid plan, and a remote learning plan.  These plans were shared at the June 2020 school board meeting, and were shared again at the July 2020 school board meeting.  Throughout the summer months our intent was to return to school in August under the traditional school model, but a spike in Covid-19 cases in our community and in Butler County caused us to rethink that idea.


We asked the Talawanda administration to bring us the best educationally and curricularly sound plan they could if it became clear that we would not be able to return to school safely.  The team felt that 2 days per week of instruction in a hybrid plan was inferior to the 4 days per week of instruction we could provide, while utilizing Wednesdays as an  intervention opportunity for students and staff.  The Board chose this plan over a return to traditional school on August 3, 2020.  The Board committed to the community that they would begin to revisit this decision in weeks 5 and 6 to determine if students could safely return to traditional school at the end of the first 9 weeks.  We intend to do that.  Today we began week 4 of the remote learning plan, and the Board will discuss future plans next week (September 21, 2020) at our regularly scheduled business meeting.  We are committed to providing the best quality education we possibly can in these terrible circumstances, and our citizens can count on us to do what we have said we will do and reevaluate the plan next week.


As school board members we care about the quality of the education that we provide in Talawanda School District.  We do not feel that there is any plan that is superior to providing traditional face-to-face instruction, but in this pandemic, our concerns regarding the spread of Covid-19, and the health and safety of our students and staff were the ONLY factors that led to our decision to institute a remote learning plan.  Again, we feel the current plan was the best option (if face-to-face instruction was not safe) and provided the most days of instruction from our own teachers.  We didn’t feel that the hybrid option was as strong from an educational perspective.  We struggled with this decision knowing it was still imperfect.  We knew that it would take several weeks for students, teachers, and parents to adjust, and to also assist with technology.  Our staff has been working tirelessly to support everyone’s needs in this area, and we have raised funding through grants to cover additional technology needs.  The rumor that the Board of Education instituted remote learning because Talawanda could not afford to host traditional school is completely false.


We want to take this opportunity to thank the many parents who have written to us to share their thoughts, views, and experiences.  We read each and every letter and email.  We care very much about our students and we truly want the best for them.  


In closing, we want to emphasize that this Board cares a great deal about our students and staff, and we understand the weight of the responsibility we have as leaders in our community and as members of the Talawanda Board of Education.  We do not take this lightly.  We ask that people behave in a civil manner to our school staff and to each other.  We look forward to our meeting next week and we hope that people will tune in.   Our intention is now, and has always been, to keep people safe, while also providing the best quality curriculum we can.


Chris Otto

School Board President