PIONEER — North Central Local Schools Superintendent William D. Hanak opened Tuesday’s school board meeting in triumph, introducing each member of the district semifinalist varsity volleyball team and their individual accomplishments during the single best season on record.
However, a little while later, tempers flared during the time allotted for public discussion.
Hanak introduced the team by stating, “It’s kind of a unique situation. This is, in fact, the best team ever to come through North Central in the history of the school which started in 1958.
“They’ve won an awful lot of games and excelled in the classroom,” he said. “Sectional champions, district semi-finalists, all-state scholarship team. 19-5 overall, 6-1 in the Buckeye Border Conference and, for the first time ever for the school, Kendal Bonney achieved 1,000 career kills. They are fantastic kids, fantastic students and fantastic athletes and we are very proud of them.”
Then, before the team left the room, parent Jamie Terrill stated, in open session with the media present, that her 8-year-old son had an “accident” in class on Oct. 27.
The problem, she said, was that the school’s Eagle Bucks program rewards students for positive behaviors, including participation in regularly scheduled bathroom breaks. It “promotes kids trying to withhold necessary bodily functions because they want to earn more Eagle Bucks,” she said. “Doing so can cause a whole bunch of medical crises, not to mention them not being able to hold it and having the same situation my son had to deal with already.
“Rather than demerits, I’d like to see it used as positive reinforcement or a reward system instead of teaching finance that they will learn later on,” Terrill said. “They are young children and they shouldn’t have to learn that stuff. They should be kids a little longer.”
Audience member Felice Lanham added that she was “appalled” by what she was hearing, “not just (from) this lady but many others with children urinating in their pants. Why can’t children go to the bathroom when they need to? What’s behind that?”
Board member Anthony Burnett responded by stating the Eagle Bucks program has been in place nine years, and dates to when his own daughter was in school. This was the first such incident he had ever heard of and he met with the faculty and administration as soon as it came to his attention.
“Nothing is keeping any child from going,” he said. “One classroom takes six breaks a day and another five. If a child has to go in between they are allowed to go. We don’t keep them from going just so they soil themselves in a classroom.”
He also stated that he disagreed with the pay-to-go process and the school had “reversed the system.”
Said Hanak: “It’s not just about going to the bathroom. When you’re in a classroom you can’t just send kids out all the time while you’re with a bunch of other kids. The whole concept is about safety as well.”
Hanak said the pay-to-go process had been eliminated and no student would be penalized for using the facilities, but they would still get bonus points for not leaving the classroom between scheduled breaks.
“So you’re encouraging them to hold it as long as they can?” an unidentified audience member shouted.
“They can go to the bathroom any time they want,” Hanak said. “They can and they do. Nobody here is encouraging anybody to not go to the bathroom. Nobody in this school would want somebody to go the bathroom in their pants and not do anything about it. That’s not who we are, that’s not who North Central is and it’s not who these teachers are. They are outstanding people who do a great job; They work hard to make things the best they can plus educate kids but it’s hard to educate kids when they aren’t in the classroom.”
Terrill then insisted the school “eliminate bathrooms altogether from Eagle Bucks. My son shouldn’t have to sit in dry (urine) clothes because nobody pays attention. You opened the door for so many, many things. Children don’t forget anything. He will carry this for the remainder of his school career wherever he goes.”
Lanham reiterated that she had “heard from many, many parents, because I’ve asked them, that this happened before to their kids. This bathroom thing is ridiculous and it’s been going on for years. Some say this has happened to their kids three times.
“You just hear so many stories,” she said. “Maybe you should check into how many times this has happened over the years.”
Board member Tim Livengood, who also serves as the village of Pioneer police chief, replied, “Sometimes one coming forward brings up others. They hear it or see it posted on social media and it gets in the hands of many people.
“We have to have an opportunity to sit down and look at the program,” Livengood said. “Can we please everyone? Absolutely not. There will always be something; If you look long enough and hard enough you can find fault with anything.”
That’s when a second unidentified parent stated, “My child was involved, too.”
In other business, the board went into closed, executive session from 7:23-8:05 p.m. to discuss employment. Afterward, in a four-to-one decision, they approved the creation of a new custodian/bus driver job description. Leigh Boothman, who cast the lone vote against the measure, declined to comment on her vote when asked by The Bryan Times.