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Toronto school board hires planners for athletic facilities

ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS EYED — The Toronto City Schools Board of Education on Thursday agreed to hire an architectural firm to plan improvements to the school district’s athletic facilities that may be funded by its five-year operating levy. Taking part in the discussion were, from left: board members George Dobbs, Randy Henry and Andy Reeves and Superintendent Maureen Taggart. (Photo by Warren Scott)

TORONTO — As it prepares to put renewal of the school district’s five-year operating levy on ballots in March, the Toronto Board of Education agreed to hire an architectural firm to plan improvements to various athletic facilities.

On Thursday the board approved a $12,200 contract with James T. Sauer and Associates of Burgettstown to develop a master plan, with estimates and renderings, for the school district’s football stadium, practice field, baseball locker room and multipurpose field.

Superintendent Maureen Taggart said she and the board have discussed various improvements that could be paid using funds from the 5-mill levy, which is expected to generate about $418,000.

Taggart said the levy presents a good opportunity to pursue such improvements because there are no state funds available for athletic facilities and any available grants normally don’t cover larger projects.

“There are a lot of things being looked at, but safety is always going to be a primary focus of ours,” she said.

Taggart acknowledged that she and board members have discussed concerns about the visitors’ bleachers at Clarke Hinkle Stadium lack handicap-accessibility and a central rail to aid attendees ascending them.

In other business, the board took no action on a proposed five-year contract for Taggart, with President Pro-Tem Randy Hood saying members expected to continue talks with her in the near future.

In her third year as superintendent, Taggart has served the school district for 28 years during which she was a teacher, coach, technology coordinator, elementary school principal and the first principal of the district’s new high school.

Board member Julie Ault said the delay shouldn’t be seen as a lack of support for Taggart.

“We have faith in our superintendent and are very confident in her work,” she said.

Taggart said she will continue to negotiate with the board for renewal of her contract.

She added, “I am extremely proud of the accomplishments during my term as superintendent. In the past three years, the district has secured $1.1 million in competitive grant funding, built a new elementary school, created the first school-based health center east of Columbus and south of Cleveland and implemented a $500,000 distance learning and telemedicine project.”

“In addition, we established an associate’s degree program and a media arts career tech program at Toronto Jr.-Sr. High School. I look forward to continuing to work in Toronto,” she said.

Also on Thursday, the board:

¯ Agreed to provide $31.17 per hour for a full-time social worker to provide any needed counseling to elementary pupils at the school-based health center operated by C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc.

Taggart said the expense will be paid from Student Success and Wellness funds awarded to the school district through the state Department of Education.

Because the funds also pay for the prevention resource officer shared by the two schools, Taggart was asked about the status of that position.

A Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy had served in the role for a short time before he was demoted by Sheriff Fred Abdalla after making an inappropriate comment to a student after she sent him a photo of herself.

Taggart said Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Ellenberger filled the position temporarily, followed by Greg Mamula, a retired state trooper hired by the sheriff’s department to serve in that capacity.

She added both Ellenberger and Mamula have been assets to the school.

¯ Accepted Chelsea Fletcher’s resignation as athletic director for the high school sports programs. The position is slated to be posted in the near future.

¯ Approved separate memoranda of understanding with Eastern Gateway Community College and Kent State University allowing students to earn college credit through them while attending the high school.

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