WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The West Lafayette Community School Corporation Board kicked off 2021 Monday night with its first meeting of the year, starting with swearing in its newly elected members.
Re-elected members Bradley Marley and Tom Schott, along with newly elected members Yue Yin and Amy Austin took their oaths of office. All four won their school board seats in the November election. The group also re-elected Alan Karpick as board president.
At the end of the organizational meeting, the board approved their compensation at $2,000 per year per board member plus $112 per meeting. Board member Karen Springer noted in discussion that this action is taken every year.
It was clear based off the agenda items that the WLCSC school board wants to keep things moving forward in more ways than one. The board approved an update to the Junior-Senior High School construction. The education wing is on track for move in come February, and they expect to host the open house for the new performing arts center in late May-early June.
The board approved a generous donate from the estate of Rose Hedrick. She left $65,000 to the school. Karpick had Mrs. Hedrick as a typing teach when he attended the Junior-Senior High School. He said that while he could only manage to type 26 words per minute, he remembered her as a well-liked and well respected member teacher. They plan to add some kind of memorial to the school in Mrs. Hedrick's honor.
The board moved on to Happy Hollow Elementary. The school board was supposed to vote on the lease for the West Lafayette public library to use the former school. As News 18 reported last month, the City of West Lafayette moved out of the building and the library is looking for a space to move some of its services while it undergoes a renovation. However, the board tabled that lease discussion until the February meeting.
But the board did approve to keep COVID-19 testing at the school. Happy Hollow is one of the ISDH's Optum Serve locations. Another future plan is for Happy Hollow to become a COVID-19 vaccination location as well.
Next, the board made a decision on the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. Margaret Psarros and Laura Falk spoke together at Monday's meeting. They are co-chairing the new task force. Along with Dr. Carolyn Johnson from Purdue, who will act as the group's facilitator. Dr. Johnson is the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Purdue and has helped educational institutions all over the world work towards a more diverse and inclusive culture.
Psarros shared how she and her family moved to West Lafayette when she was a child from the country of Cyprus. She said she and her family didn't speak English well, but they found comfort and support in the West Lafayette community. Now as Principal of West Lafayette Intermediate School, Psarros wants to make sure every family and every child feels welcome at WLCSC.
"We need to now look at what we have been doing well, what can we now add that maybe will be beneficial, and how do we reach the people that we still aren't reaching," she said.
Falk shared how she grew up in a diverse and open-minded community on the south side of Chicago. However, as a Black woman, she was met with racism and close mindedness in her college years. Now as a teacher and a parent of two WLCSC graduates, she wants to make sure they hear every voice.
"Some don't feel comfortable speaking out and those underrepresented voices are the ones that are as important as anyone," she said. "We have to make sure that everyone has a voice."
Their goal is to form a committee of 30 people to provide policy recommendations to the board. They are looking for students, teachers, staff, administrators and any other community members who want to join and give input. The group will put together policy recommendations for the school board using testimony and data from the Indiana Department of Education.
They have four focus topics: academic support, social and emotional support, staff development and parent outreach. They are asking for time and patience as they begin their work.
"This issue is a large issue and it took many years to get to the point of being where we are today and progress has happened but we still have a long way to go still," said Psarros.
"This will take time," added Falk. "We do not want to act off the cuff and just get something done to say we did it. We want it done deliberately. We want it done with intention."
They are accepting applications to join the committee for the next few weeks. Click here to apply. They are planning to have their first meeting this month. The WLCSC School Board will meet again on February 1st.