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Talawanda School Board welcomes new and returning members and elects new president

Rebecca Howard and Chris Otto were elected president and vice president respectively of Talawanda School Board at the board's first meeting of 2024.
Rebecca Howard and Chris Otto were elected president and vice president respectively of Talawanda School Board at the board's first meeting of 2024.

Three members were sworn in to serve on Talawanda’s Board of Education for the next four years at the board’s first meeting of the new year on Thursday.

At an organizational meeting preceding the regularly scheduled monthly meeting, previous members Rebecca Howard and Chris Otto took the oath to serve another term on the school board. They were joined by new member Dawn King, who will replace previous board member Kathleen Knight-Abowitz.

In November, all three members won their spots on the board in the general election. They will serve until 2027.

Also during the organizational meeting, the members elected Howard to serve as the next board president for 2024. She will take over for the previous president Pat Meade, who will stay on the board until 2025. Otto was elected as the vice president, the position previously held by Howard.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues for the vote of confidence, and I will do my best to shepherd this board along with efficiency,” Howard said.

As president, Howard will continue to serve as the Arts and Athletics Liaison and the building representative for Talawanda Middle School. Otto will continue in his role as the Finance Committee Liaison and represent Kramer Elementary School. King will serve as the Student Achievement and Academic Liaison from member David Bothast, who will take over Knight-Abowitz’s role as the Legislative Liaison.

Meade will continue as the Butler Tech Representative to the board, which is a three-year term and paid position. King will represent Talawanda High School, Bothast will continue representing Marshall Elementary School and Meade will continue to represent Bogan Elementary School.

During the regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the board was joined by Bill Hubbard, director of Facilities and Grounds for the school district. Hubbard updated the board on different projects physical facilities had completed in the past year, including updating playgrounds at the elementary schools.

The project, which included new preschool playgrounds at Kramer and Marshall, a new K-5th grade playground at Kramer, inclusive playground pieces including handicapped swings and rubberized surfacing, cost the school district $635,000, paid for through funding from the ARP ESSER Fund.

“We were failing playground inspections every year,” Hubbard said. “These [new playgrounds] are all-inclusive, handicap-accessible and they turned out great. I love going into the schools and seeing them being used.”

Hubbard said Facilities and Grounds has many projects they will conduct this year, but parking lot maintenance is a priority.

Following Hubbard’s report, the board voted to block many items on the agenda, but King made sure the board discussed a recommendation that would approve a new preschool handbook and raise the preschool tuition rate to $320 a month. In 2021, preschool tuition was $280 a month.

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While King thought the rate was low, Bothast worried that raising the rate would act as a barrier to families.

“I don’t see that increasing tuition on a preschool and increasing barriers to education would really make that much of a dent in our bottom line,” Bothast said. “What would be the benefit of increasing it for 48 people?”

Talawanda School District’s Superintendent Ed Theroux said there are currently 88 preschool students enrolled in the district, but only 48 are actually paying tuition because the rest receive free aid through the state. Theroux also confirmed that the rate increase was comparable to other schools in the Butler County area.

Despite King’s concern of the low price, the handbook and tuition rate passed with a vote of 4-1.

The next school board meeting will be held on Feb. 8 in the Talawanda High School Performing Arts Center.