LISBON — Board members of the Columbiana County Educational Services Center on Tuesday thanked community groups who have come forward to help students at the opportunity center this holiday season.
“They have great opportunities because people care,” Opportunity Center Supervisor Sarah Underwood said.
Some of those offerings included a Thanksgiving meal cooked Tuesday on the last day of school before break, new coats for all the kids on Monday, and recent homework help, fun and camaraderie from some motorcyclists. There are plans for Christmas and even free haircuts in January too.
“People in the community have made this possible for us,” Underwood talked about the holiday feast with turkey and all the trimmings.
Board member Marilyn Parkes suggested the board send letters of gratitude to the organizations, noting that hearing the Opportunity Center report gives her something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
The Opportunity Center is a CCESC-run school on Brookfield Avenue in Lisbon for students who have special needs that cannot be met in their home district. Students range in age from fourth through 12th grade, with about a dozen school staff, including teachers, teacher’s aides, paraeducators, occupational therapists and speech therapists.
Underwood said there was a group of bikers who spent a lot of time with the children, told them about some of the difficulties in their lives, had lunch with them and visited them. The member who originally started the group left, but a few weeks ago others returned to school with gym equipment for the students and a homemade lunch. They also played with them outside.
These community members, Derek and Jenn Hedrick and Joe and Char Russell, have also teamed up with a group known as Share Coats to bring coats to students. Erin Latimer, a paraprofessional at the school, helped arrange the tours. Underwood said they wanted to come back and said everyone was welcome. She described them as open, honest, caring and generous and said the children were very grateful and kind and really bonded with them.
Christian Assembly Church of Industry, Pennsylvania, provided Thanksgiving dinner, as well as hygiene items for the children. They’ve been cooking dinner for nine years. The Gate Church adopts students at Christmas to bring them gifts, and a hair salon in Boardman plans to do haircuts in January.
Underwood praised the community and its staff, saying everything they do is for the kids.
In other cases, Superintendent Anna Marie Vaughn spoke about the Reach for the Stars consignment shop operated through CCESC and the Student Transition Program and said the store was already busy for the holidays. The store is expected to have extended opening hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Hours are normally 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Vaughn said CCESC is still experiencing a staff shortage, saying “I think it’s going to be like this for a few years.” Board member Richard Stoudt said it was a topic of conversation at a recent Capital for School Boards conference. According to Vaughn, the state is looking for ways to increase the numbers, so changes could be on the way.
On personnel matters at recent meetings, the board accepted the resignations of Tammy Pitts, para-educators Caitlyn Lehman, Tiffany Hobbins, Haley Powers, Deborah Mean and Jodine Hull, teacher Michala Sakotas, preschool teacher Delores Alcoces and Assistant Treasurer Jordan Weber; has hired numerous paraeducators, teachers, substitute teachers, staff and academic leaders for Learning’s Cool After School programs and staff for the Reach for the Stars program.
The next meeting of the CCESC Board of Directors will take place on December 20 at 5:00 p.m.