Berea school board preps for 2022, allots time to hear from residents before meetings | #Education

BEREA, Ohio — At its Jan. 3 organizational meeting, the Berea Board of Education installed three members and approved various agency membership and participation agreements for 2022.

New board member Heather Zirke and re-elected representatives Ana Chapman and Steve Dockman took their oaths of office. Chapman will continue to serve as board president, and Cori Farris retained her vice president position.

“I’m honored the board is again entrusting this role to me,” Chapman told, going on to describe continuing challenges created by COVID-19.

“The CDC rules just keep changing every day. (Superintendent) Tracy Wheeler and the other superintendents in the area meet regularly with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and they get their guidance from there.

“We want to keep the kids in in-person school,” she stressed. “It’s an absolute last resort to go back to remote learning. If we can’t staff our classrooms (due to illness), then that could end up happening. But we don’t want to go there.”

Chapman also said the board intends to engage more with the community. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18, the board has set aside a 30-minute time slot prior to each 7 p.m. Board of Education meeting in 2022. During that half-hour, residents can meet with two board members in a nearby classroom to discuss any concerns they have.

This differs from the usual Public Participation agenda item — where residents generally make statements from the podium — because board members can now have back-and-forth conversations with them outside the confines of the regular meeting, Chapman said.

“The board wants to listen more and hear what residents have to say,” Chapman said. “We hope to gain back the confidence of the community that seems to have been damaged over the controversies the country has been dealing with for the last two years.

“I think there is just a general feeling of distrust among public entities in this country today, and it has spilled down to the local school board level,” she said.

The next board meeting, which is a work session, will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the high school.

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