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Recap of March Bluffton Board of Education meeting

By Paula Pyzik Scott

The March 18 meeting of the Bluffton Exempted Village Schools Board Of Education included action items on teaching and staff retirements, and new hires, as well as a presentation by a well-prepared first grader turned teacher.

A big round of applause followed a lesson on lions by Elisha Birkey, a student in Amber Huffman’s first grade class. Elisha busted the myth that lions live in caves and used materials to illustrate his main points. Answering questions from board members, he explained that he had previously given the presentation to his class in January. 

Superintendent Greg Denecker told the board of the death of 7th grade math teacher Katrina M. Riepenhoff, who was a heart transplant recipient at age 16 (her obituary is HERE). He praised the quick response of grief support volunteers who arrive at the school within an hour of the news on Friday.


In the contracts portion of the meeting (full agenda is HERE), the board accepted year end retirements by teachers David Bracy (20 years 8th grade science) and Scott Hoff (21 years HS anatomy and biology), and staff Mary Hoffer (21 years administrative assistant), Teresa Marquart (25 years administrative assistant) and Chris Wenger (17 years part and FT custodian).

The board next approved hiring two certified employees for 2024-2025. Hayley Heitmeyer was hired to teach Anatomy and Biology. She comes from the Elida school district and also has experience as a volleyball coach. Lauren Holdman will teach 8th grade science; she was not present because she is a track coach at her current school in Mt. Gilead.

The board also approved the 8th Grade Washington D.C. Trip  from May 14-17, 2024.  

The board heard reports from BEVS principals, maintenance supervisor, technology coordinator and from Jeremy Scoles, who also sits on the Apollo Career Center board. Scoles noted that at the recent All Boards dinner, a silent auction raised $3,782. He subsequently noted that a video wall costing more than his house was nearing the end of its useful life and would not be replaced by a comparable unit.

Maintenance supervisor Mike Wilson told the board that new stage lighting controls will be in place for the spring musical, Elf. While it snowed outside, he reported that he had already mowed the football field twice. 

Technology coordinator Courtnee Morris reported on his experiences at a technology conference in Columbus and said that he expected to order some 300 Chromebooks to replace those that no longer auto update.

Elementary principal Ben Thiel reported that signups for Kindergarten registration are progressing well (screening is April 25-26). He noted that the April 5 PTO Science Night will not have all of the usual organizations due to preparations for the April 8 eclipse.

Principal Doug Westrick noted that Bluffton Middle School students are preparing for state testing during seventh period. He also reported that students delight in posing with a WWF-style belt when they celebrate a house victory. (There are four houses: Coraggio, Respe, Excelencia and Wajibu; a pirate-themed CREW)

High School principal Mike Minnig reported that students who do not take the SAT college placement test can sign up for the ACCUPLACER alternative. Minning noted that the March 28 Iron Man Assembly will benefit the Eli Jones scholarship fund.