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ESC gives thanks to community groups | News, Sports, Jobs

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LISBON — Columbiana County Educational Service Center governing board members gave thanks Tuesday for community groups coming forward to help Opportunity Center students this holiday season.

“They’re getting nice opportunities because people care,” Opportunity Center Supervisor Sarah Underwood said.

Some of those offerings included a Thanksgiving meal prepared Tuesday on the last day of class before break, new coats for all the kids Monday, and recent homework help, fun and fellowship from some motorcycle riders. There are plans for Christmas and even free haircuts in January, too.

“The community people made it possible for us,” Underwood said about the holiday feast featuring turkey and all the fixings.

Board member Marilyn Parkes suggested the board send letters of gratitude to the organizations, noting that hearing the report about the Opportunity Center gives her something else to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The Opportunity Center is a school operated by the CCESC on Brookfield Avenue in Lisbon for students who have some special needs that can’t be met at their home districts. The students vary in age from fourth grade up to 12th grade, with a dozen staff members at the school, including teachers, teacher assistants, paraeducators, occupational therapists and speech therapists.

Underwood said there was a motorcycle group that spent a lot of time with the kids, spoke to them about some of their life hardships, ate lunch with them and visited with them. The member who originally started the group left, but a couple of weeks ago, some others returned to the school with some gym equipment for the students and a homemade lunch. They played with them outside, too.

Those community members, Derek and Jenn Hedrick and Joe and Char Russell, also teamed up with a group known as Share Coats to bring coats to the students. Erin Latimer, a paraprofessional at the school, helped arrange the visits. Underwood said they want to return again and said everybody’s welcome. She described them as open, honest, caring and giving and said the kids were very thankful and gracious and really bonded with them.

Christian Assembly Church of Industry, Pa. provided the Thanksgiving dinner, along with some hygiene items for the kids. They’ve been fixing the dinner for the past nine years. The Gate Church adopts the students at Christmas to bring them gifts and a barber shop in Boardman plans to give haircuts in January.

Underwood praised the community and her staff, saying everything they do is for the kids.

In other business, Superintendent Anna Marie Vaughn talked about the consignment shop Reach for the Stars operated through the CCESC and the student Transition program and said the store is already getting busy for the holidays. The store is expected to have extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Hours normally are 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Vaughn said the CCESC is still experiencing a shortage of personnel, saying “I think it’s going to be like this for a couple years.” Board member Richard Stoudt said that was a topic of conversation at a recent capital conference for school boards. According to Vaughn, the state is looking at ways to beef up the numbers, so changes may be coming.

In personnel matters in recent meetings, the board accepted resignations of Tammy Pitts, paraeducators Caitlyn Lehman, Tiffany Hobbins, Haley Powers, Deborah Mean and Jodine Hull, teacher Michala Sakotas, preschool teacher Delores Alcoces and assistant treasurer Jordan Weber; hired numerous paraeducators, teachers, substitute teachers, personnel and academic leaders for the Learning’s Cool After School programs and and personnel for the Reach for the Stars program.

The next CCESC Governing Board meeting will be 5 p.m. Dec. 20.

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