TIPP CITY — Disagreements over open enrollment students, and now tuition-based students, continued Monday evening during the Tipp City Board of Education meeting as some board members advocated for moving on to addressing different topics and others advocated on behalf of the approximate 30 students who previously attended the district through open enrollment.
The board ended its April 21 work session with a contentious debate over whether or not to add open enrollment to Monday night’s regular meeting agenda at the request of board members Simon Patry and Joellen Heatherly.
On Monday, the board spoke a number of times about open enrollment during its meeting, during president Theresa Dunaway’s comment portion of the meeting, during the old business portion of the meeting, and again at the end of the meeting.
Citizen comments, which were submitted to the board prior to the meeting and were read aloud by Dunaway and board member Corinne Doll, were also split on open enrollment.
“In our city limits … they are Tipp students right now,” Angie Chronister of Tipp City said. “Tipp allowed them to become a part of our community.”
Chronister suggested that removing approximately 33 students across all grades would not significantly reduce costs, saying, “We are getting tax dollars for these students.”
Stan Evans of Tipp City also asked how the district plans make up the lost tax dollars from not accepting these students.
Previous discussions regarding open enrollment touched on financial considerations both in favor of and against allowing students from contiguous counties to apply to enroll in Tipp City schools. The Tipp City school district receives $6,020 per open enrollment student from the state, amounting to almost $400,000. Dunaway noted the Ohio Department of Education’s CUPP report that it costs approximately $10,800 to educate a student in Tipp City.
Kathy Bone of Tipp City said families of open enrollment students were aware they could be refused entrance to the district any year. Bone said Patry and Heatherly were on a “COVID pandemic whine cycle as a reason for woe for these families having hardships because their child cannot go to Tipp.” Bone said she found it to be a “slap in the face” for families to have children attend the district without living in the district.
“I believe the school board should focus more on the academics of our school,” Bone said.
During the president’s comments portion of the meeting, Dunaway called on the board to move on to focusing on different topics like distance learning instead of continuing to return to open enrollment, which the board has voted on twice. After the second vote, the board voted down open enrollment for the district by a majority vote on March 31. Doll, Dunaway, and board member Anne Zakkour voted against open enrollment, while Heatherly and Patry voted in favor of open enrollment.
“At some point it’s important that we move past with this open enrollment rhetoric,” Dunaway said.
During old business, Zakkour expressed disappointment at returning to the topic of open enrollment again, also alluding to another board member having unethical behavior by posting information on social media about open enrollment.
Patry later said he posted information on social media, saying board policy did not prohibit him from making public statements.
”I made a public statement on Facebook and used generalized information, and if something’s inaccurate, I’m glad to look at it,” Patry said. Patry went on to say the district will be losing almost $400,000 in tax dollars if they do not allow open enrollment, explaining that if the district does not make any cuts in staff or expenses to go along with the decreased enrollment, the cost per student will go up in the CUPP report. Treasurer Dave Stevens later concurred with Patry’s statement, saying the cost to educate students would go up approximately $300 per student.
At the end of the meeting, during a discussion on a motion to hold a follow-up discussion on the topic of open enrollment, the board returned to financial considerations of students, as well as emotional aspects of students not being able to return the district they have been attending for much of their education.
Zakkour accused Patry of dodging the $4,000 cost difference between the cost it takes to educate a student in Tipp City versus the tax dollars the district receives from the state for allowing outside students to attend Tipp schools. Patry also accused Zakkour not answering how the district should reduce expenses that went along with those approximately 30 students. Doll said the district has been running a deficit for open enrollment students for years.
Heatherly also accused the board of not caring about students after stating the open enrollment students are currently their students right now.
“I just find it discouraging that we as a board don’t value our students,” Heatherly said. “These are are currently our students and we’re not going to acknowledge that.”
Zakkour responded, asking, “Where does parental responsibility come into this?” Heatherly did not respond to that question. Zakkour said those families have had “ample years” prior to now to move into the district to secure their students’ spots.
Dunaway later said she found Heatherly’s comment about not caring about students to be “egregious” and “offensive.”
When the board eventually decided to go to a vote on the motion to hold a follow-up discussion on the topic of open enrollment. Dunaway commented the vote was a moot point due to the board already having had a discussion on open enrollment again. At this point, Patry attempted to motion to amend the first motion into a motion to vote on allowing open enrollment for the district. Patry’s motion did not receive a second, and the board voted on the original motion. It failed by a vote of 3-2, with Doll, Dunaway, and Zakkour voting against it and Patry and Heatherly voting in favor of it.
Also during the board’s meeting, the board, by the same majority vote of 3-2 as for the open enrollment vote, voted down allowing five tuition-based students from attending the district. Doll said there was no specific policy addressing tuition students as the district was previously using its open enrollment policy for tuition students. The board also tabled a motion not to accept any tuition students for the 2020-2021 school year.
The board’s next work session will be at 6 p.m. May 4. Its next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 18. Both meetings will be streamed on YouTube.
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