Bellevue residents are concerned about their children's education and some said they wonder why school board leaders are not.
Those in the audience at Bellevue's Board of Education meeting Thursday night expressed displeasure that their children haven't been focused on nearly as much as the controversy surrounding school board leaders and former superintendent Jim Lahoski. A dozen people attended the meeting, with a handful saying they feel more time, money and effort has gone toward the court proceedings against Lahoski rather than educating Bellevue's children.
The majority of the board meeting was centered around the contentious relationship between board President James Linder and Vice President Martin Shelley.
Linder and Shelley were confronted at their residences by Lahoski in late June. Linder, who later testified he's fearful that Lahoski might harm his family, filed a protection order against Lahoski. The order will remain in effect at least until Lahoski testifies Tuesday at a Sandusky County Common Pleas Court hearing on the matter.
"Are the tax payers paying for your legal fees?" Faith Weber, Bellevue resident and daughter of board member Beverly DeBlase asked.
Without receiving a response, she pressed on.
"If so, up until now how much?" she questioned. "Does the board vote on this?"
"The board, by state law, is offered protection," Shelley answered. "We don't have those figures yet, but we can get them to you."
Resident Lynn Dwyer expressed concerns about the ongoing drama and attention brought to the district.
"The Bellevue school system has become a laughing stock," she said, claiming that no one is paying attention to the district's good qualities.
Board members quietly listened, but offered no feedback.
"The continuation of incidences, incidences since you guys have come onto the school board, is ridiculous," said another resident, who didn't give her name and quickly left the meeting. "Something needs to be done. These meetings are not being conducted in a business-like manner, you're not following the rules."
Linder and Shelley were then asked why, if Lahoski was a taxpayer, he could not contact school board members with questions or concerns.
"Is there a (time) window frame to call you?" resident Laurie Orwig asked. "When am I going to be an intrusion on your personal time?"
"Anytime," Linder answered with laughter from the audience. "But I'm not going to accept a phone call from someone using profanity."
Shelley jumped in.
"There's a certain decorum that should be followed, there's a time and a place for a citizen to contact a public official," he said.
Resident Denise Schaffer was particularly vocal during the meeting, even after Linder hushed her and requested to move on.
"Ma'am I don't remember you giving your name and address, so we're going to move on," Linder said.
"Denise Schaffer," she replied. "I'm sorry, but I didn't have my three minutes."
"Let's move on," Linder said.
Schaffer was pulled away by a friend and told she shouldn't have said anything because now she'd be on the "hit list."
Board members then discussed the rising number of elementary class sizes.
"There are 26 kindergartners in some of these classes," DeBlase said. "It's not fair to the teacher or the children."
Superintendent Stephen Schumm said he is focusing on these problematic areas and trying to reorganize the classes.
"We've lost about 200 students in the past year," he said. "So we've tried to utilize personnel because of declining enrollment."
Schumm said hiring more employees at this point would be the wrong route to go since he's not even sure how many have already withdrawn from the school system.
"At the end of this month," he said, "we're going to have all the secretaries come in to check all the withdrawals."
The next Bellevue school board work session will be 9:30 a.m. Aug. 8 at Bellevue Senior High School.