Thursday, September 14th, 2023
Solemn moment at board meeting
By Abigail Miller
ST. MARYS - More than 25 community members, students and school staff observed a moment of silence during Wednesday night's school board meeting in memory of fifth grade student Jersey Poff and longtime teacher and basketball coach Jeff Johnides.
Poff, 11, died Sept. 3, 2023, at Dayton Children's' Hospital after a brief illness, according to her obituary.
Superintendent Bill Ruane said Poff was a beautiful, energetic, young student who enjoyed singing, soccer and girl's wrestling.
"She brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people," he said. "She sang the national anthem at a lot of events. She was very big in her faith and her worship band. Our hearts and prayers are with the Poff family."
He noted that last week was rough for the district due to Poff's unexpected passing.
"It was great to see our community come together in support of everyone," he said. "I was very, very impressed with our staff at West Intermediate. Many of them had been teaching for 30-some years and said it was the hardest day they ever had as a teacher. It's not easy in that situation. The teachers were obviously impacted, but they did a nice job of talking with the students."
West Intermediate principal Amanda Wendel also said she appreciates the community support during this difficult time.
"We just (say) thank you to the community for loving on our family, students and our staff," she said. "It was a hard week."
She additionally thanked administrators for their support amid the tragedy.
"I kind of went to them in desperation, like, 'I need you to help our staff,'" she said. "They sent me people to help. I just appreciate everyone sending us all of their love and walking with us."
Johnides, 71, formerly of Celina, died Sept. 1 at his residence in New Albany, according to his obituary. He was a long-serving educator and sports mentor at St. Marys.
Johnides had the longest tenure of any St. Marys boys' basketball coach and remains the only St. Marys coach to lead a team to the boys' basketball state tournament, Ruane said. He also taught government.
"He changed many lives and had a great impact on many players," Ruane added. "Our prayers are with him and his family."
Prior to the moment of silence, high school student Loralei McCollister performed the national anthem using American Sign Language.
Ruane said McCollister signs "The Star Spangled Banner" at most St. Marys football games, and will soon apply to sign the national anthem at Dayton Dragons baseball games.
In other business, treasurer Andy Wilker reminded board members that the district has an emergency property tax renewal levy on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.
Wilker said the levy would be reduced from 5.92 mills to 5.823 mills and continue to generate $1.8 million annually.
The millage decreased because the levy collects a fixed amount of dollars and property values have risen. It would collect the same amount it did when it was first passed in 2004, and taxpayers would see no increase.
He added that the average cost of the levy to a person who owns a $100,000 home would be about $204 annually.
The school board meets next at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 in the high school auditorium.