Council meeting heated as residents talk schools

By Scott Halasz -

XENIA — The Xenia City Council meeting turned confrontational April 27 when residents became infuriated that council was not allowing what they felt was ample time for people to speak out against a school bond issue on the May 2 ballot.

Residents packed the chambers in the city administration building to speak about the proposed 4.2 mill, 37-year levy, which would allow the Xenia Community School District to build a high school/middle school complex to replace the current buildings.

Things became heated halfway into the audience comments portion, which lasted 90 minutes. Council President Mike Engle limited comments to two to three minutes due to the number of people in the room.

Xenia resident and former school administrator Norm Auckerman — who is leading a charge to have the levy defeated — went longer than the prescribed time and refused to leave the podium even as another resident approached to speak.

Several residents in the back of the room implored council to let him speak, and several offered to give Auckerman their time to speak, which council has previously said was not allowed under their rules.

Order could not be restored and Engle suspended the meeting and ordered the TV cameras shut off. He also threatened to clear the room if the meeting could not come back to order.

Several minutes later it continued without further incidents.

In all, 18 people spoke, six against the levy, seven for and the rest either speaking about a non-related topic or speaking to clarify previous comments.

Speaking against the levy, Auckerman said new buildings don’t translate to classroom success. He said the K-3 elementary school scores — after three years in the new buildings — were three Fs and a D. He also said XCS was 584 out of 608 schools as far as grade-point average.

“Xenia is the worst school district of all county seat schools in the state of Ohio with that population (range),” he said. “Those (test) scores are worse than (when students were) using our old building.”

He added that the current high school building has room for a third floor expansion.

Thomas Buzzelli said he was not raised in Xenia, but he is voting no on the levy, agreeing that it’s not new buildings that make a district great.

“It’s teachers and parents,” he said.

Billie Carrico said the additional tax, around $12 per month per $100,000 valuation, will put a strain on not only homeowners, but also those who own investment properties.

Xenia resident Bill Miller pleaded with the community to invest in schools and invest in the community, calling the bond issue a temporary tax.

“You have to invest in your future,” Miller said. “You have to invest in your community. If you want good jobs, you want good employees, you want a good factory, you want to have a good school system. A good employee is not going work in the city if their kids can’t grow up in a good school system.”

Holly Bennett said it’s important for people to listen to others, but it’s also important to get information themselves. She said there was an open house at the high school and middle school for residents to see the buildings first hand and only four people showed up.

“None of the people I see here were actually there,” Bennett said.

Heather Henry said she has three kids in the school system and they deserve the best. She said despite her financial situation, she will find a way to pay the extra tax.

Also during public comments, Mike Louderback, brother of Councilman Dale Louderback, called on the city to release the cost of the 2015 ethics inquiry, that city council convened to determine if Dale Louderback and former Councilman John Caupp had violated the city charter regarding a proposed family entertainment center and movie theater.

By Scott Halasz

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.