UL hires superintendent


Times Leader Staff Writer

BELMONT-Administration, safety and technology were three topics of discussion at Thursday night’s Union Local Board of Education meeting.

The board approved a new school superintendent, Doug Thoburn, who says he is “excited” to be coming to the district.

Thoburn grew up in nearby Cambridge, then spent 20 years in the United States Air Force, 13 of those as a training instructor at the airlift center in Oklahoma. He has a bachelor’s degree in vocational education from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma.

After retiring from the Air Force, he earned his principal’s certification from Muskingum College and a superintendent’s certification from Salem International in Salem, W.?Va. His wife Susan’s parents live near the Union Local campus, and they have a daughter and son who live out of state. His youngest son is attending college in Florida. The Thoburns have four grandchildren.

Thoburn pursued the job as “an opportunity to be in southeast Ohio again and get back to my roots.” He says inquiries about Union Local brought favorable responses from other districts.

Regarding strategy, Thoburn says, “I think it’s just recognizing the strengths that the district already has. The school board has a strong focus on their direction. I’ve heard very good things about the teachers and that the students are great. I want to learn more about the needs here and begin to focus on those. I also want to be a voice to the governor’s office about school funding issues. I’m really looking forward to working with the teachers, the staff and the board.”

A lack of respect is putting children in jeopardy according to a Union Local bus driver. He informed the board that parents picking elementary school students up are disregarding the “no cars” and “buses only” signs in the loading zones at the end of the school day. He and other drivers have seen several children nearly hit by these cars pulling around the buses as they leave the area.

Parents are supposed to park in the main parking lot to wait for their children or accompany them across the drive. The bus driver says that he’s seen 14 to 22 cars a day parked in the bus lane just over the past week-so many that the buses have a difficult time navigating and parking. This has been an ongoing issue that is getting worse.

Principal Scott Bowling says that he has sent letters home to parents about parking restrictions after school, and he has stationed teachers outside to monitor the students heading to the buses and parking lots. The school has also tried staggering dismissal times to alleviate congestion.

“We’ve tried to address this over and over,” adds Bill West, Union Local operations director. “People just don’t have respect for the rules.”

Others at the meeting noted that their attempts to ask offending car owners to move their vehicles put them on the receiving end of insults and expletives, but no one moved out of the way. Parents have also moved barricade cones placed in the drive to get their vehicles through the bus lane or to park in the reserved spaces.

Board members are viewing this as a “serious” problem, and may be enlisting law enforcement to help insure the children’s safety. Ohio state law requires that buses line up close enough to prevent children from running between them. Cars parking in the bus line could be ticketed from now on.

“I think we should start writing people up when the rules are broken,” says board member Todd Kildow. “It’s happening because the rules aren’t enforced well enough. This goes for everything from parking in the handicapped spaces illegally to blocking the gym entrance where the ambulances should have access to bringing food and drinks into the gym. People are not respecting the rules.”

Jeff Bizzarri, technology and EMIS coordinator for Union Local, brought members up to date on unfunded, state mandated technology requirements for online testing in 2014. Computers and tablets will need a minimum of Windows 7, Mac, Android 4.0 or Chrome operating systems, 1 GB of RAM and external keyboards. The district will also need to run 34 megabytes of bandwidth to accommodate the activity. Currently they operate with less than 20 percent of that, meaning an additional cost of $8,000 to $10,000 per year.

There are 100 total laptops for all three schools right now, but the state is requiring testing to be completed within 20 days. If the schools’ tablets are enlisted, external keyboards will have to be purchased.

At Union Local, 960 tests will need to be administered in the elementary and middle schools in four subjects, a rate of 48 tests per day for all 20 days. So far there is no provision regarding a network going down during the tests.

“The state knows that this is a financial burden on the schools, but there is no help,” Bizzarri adds.

Other agenda items will appear in an additional article.

Valenti can be reached at gvalenti@timesleaderonline.com.