NORTH CANTON  During the regular meeting on Oct. 17, the North Canton Board of Education passed a Proclamation of Excellence for Orchard Hill Intermediate School for being awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon School award given by the U.S. Department of Education.

The district learned in late September that Orchard Hill Intermediate school had been awarded the National Blue Ribbon. The program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Orchard Hill is one of only 342 school buildings in the United States being recognized for this honor. It is only the second school in Stark County to be recognized in the past six years and only the 11th Stark County school during the 35 years of the program's existence.

In addition to the board’s proclamation, Reno Contipelli, a representation of the Ohio School Board Association, presented an award to Orchard Hill Principal Renee Manse for being awarded the National Blue Ribbon designation.

"They don’t give this award to just any school," Contipelli said. "We couldn’t be more proud of you in Columbus."

Racism, discrimination concern

Dr. Monica Womack read a letter her husband, Dr. Sandy Womack Jr., wrote to each of the board members and Superintendent Jeff Wendorf addressing "blatant racist and discriminatory practices" that he believed were occurring in the district. He mentioned in the letter a person from the district who gave descriptions of "harassment, abuse, neglect and lack of action by her teachers when she was verbally assaulted by students in the district." The person he was referring to had attended a workshop sponsored by the African American Policy Forum at Walsh University and shared details of "the fear and intimidation she endured when teachers and administrators failed to act."

A few of the actions described in the letter included hair pulling, being called inappropriate names, fear of asking to go to the restroom during state testing, young African-Americans are driven to school because of racial slurs occurring on the buses without repercussions and Klu Klux Klan photos being shared in the cafeteria.

Wendorf addressed the concerns voiced by Dr. Womack in the letter by saying, "We have had a number of disciplinary infractions that resulted in out-of-school suspensions."

"Such actions are intolerable and unacceptable," Wendorf added. "We have had a number of professional development workshops for teachers and staff and have more scheduled for the future. We also need to work with parents and students to improve the diversity culture in our district and diversity awareness in our schools."

Wendorf also said that all of the students in the district "are precious and important" and that he wants to make sure all students are treated as such.

OTHER ACTIONS:

- Approved an out-of-state awards ceremony for Manse, Director of Instruction Michelle Hostetler and psychologist Heather Kuhns to attend a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Ceremony in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Orchard Hill.

- Heard from the levy co-chairman Dave Cochenour that the campaign committee has taken the approach of educating the community about the levy. He said people in the community can find many answers to their questions and other details on the website at https://www.northcantonschools.org/Issue44.aspx. There were many teachers and community members wearing T-shirts with messages of support for the levy.

- Approved a list of basketball and swim coaches for 2017-18 winter sports programs.

- Authorized an out-of-state workshop and trade show for Food Service Director Jan Williams to attend the HPS Purchasing Group Committee and Trade Show in South Bend, Ind., with no cost to the board.

- Approved two overnight field trips for video production teacher Tom Wilson and three students to travel to Columbus and Cincinnati to participate in the Global Leadership Project with no cost to the board, and for chemistry teacher Steve Wood, biology teacher Sarah Covington and five students to travel to Pittsburgh to participate in the National Oceanic Science Bowl with no cost to the board except for transportation.

- Authorized keeping school lunch prices the same as last year.

- Accepted an anonymous donation of $725 to be used to help pay the costs of some students for the Washington, D.C., trip for middle school students.

- Accepted a $500 donation from McDonald’s to the Orchard Hill Art Department.

UP NEXT: Meets 6 p.m., Nov.14 in the media room at Hoover High School.