NAPOLEON — A crowded junior/senior high library here was the setting for the Napoleon Area Schools’ board of education meeting Thursday evening.

Residents gathered for a couple issues that have been at the forefront of conversation in Napoleon: a request from local residents who have worked with the Cultural Center of Henry County to extend the time needed to renovate the former Napoleon school building on West Main Street; support for Megan Sherman, a teacher whose employment was recently terminated.

Guests who wished to speak at the meeting signed in beforehand and the board allowed guests to the meeting to speak for three minutes uninterrupted.

“The board recognizes those guests who have signed in and anyone who wishes to speak may do so for three minutes. This is not a time for conversation with the board, but a time for individuals to address the board,” said Board President Ty Otto.

Jill Niese, a teacher at Napoleon who was retiring after 25 years, commented about the need for discipline in school.

“... it has become nearly impossible for myself and my colleagues to do our job in educating our students,” she said. “The lack of discipline, and the fear of administrative and parent repercussions have drastically changed our ability to serve our students. We learned in child development in college that children need structure and routine in order to feel safe. Our primary job as educators is to keep our children safe. We are no longer able to perform this duty without fear of losing our jobs.”

She went on to enumerate a list of concerns that she said teachers endure because of the lack of discipline. Her point was that in order to teach, discipline is necessary, saying that her own children had a “healthy fear” to act appropriately for fear of disappointing their father.

Doug Westhoven also stood to speak about the termination of Sherman.

“... many feel that we are not hearing the whole story. It seems ridiculous that anyone be treated this way, knowing what she has been through,” he said.

Tommy Noss, a local resident also spoke on Sherman’s behalf.

“... last time I was here, I said to you all that it just didn’t feel right — that it felt rushed and we didn’t really know what was happening. It’s been a few weeks and I have heard a lot of people reaching out. ... I have known Megan for a while, like many, many years, she’s been with our family on camping trips. ... when I heard about what she was being fired for, I just couldn’t believe it. ... My concern is that ... we have got a leadership problem ...,” said Noss.

As recently reported in The Crescent-News, Sherman had been terminated after an incident that involved a “disruptive child” in the classroom.

“I had him stand in the doorway while I asked the kids to close their eyes and put heads down. They were asked to raise their hands if they were tired of interruptions in the day due to various behavior, if they were frustrated with (student), if they thought (student) was a nice boy ... if they liked it when (student) acted silly ... “ she reportedly said about the incident.

The board had a special meeting on May 4 to consider Sherman’s termination, but before that session held a fact-finding meeting on Feb. 22, pre-discipline meetings on March 3 and 30, and an independent investigation by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That investigation found that “a charge of emotional maltreatment/mental injury to a child was substantiated,” according to the resolution passed by the board.

Addressing a second big topic discussed Wednesday, Patty Weimken spoke in support of the cultural center’s plans for renovations to the former school building.

“I am here to make the case that the quality of life in Napoleon will be greatly enhanced” with the cultural center’s plans, she said. Wiemken asked for the board to consider extending the timeline so that the renovations could be realized.

Also speaking for the timeline to be extended was Gary Westhoven, who asked for “two more years” for the center.

The board had sold the building to the cultural center for $1 with the stipulation that the funds be raised to demolish the building if renovations were not realized within a given timeline. That timeline ends mid-June.

In other news:

• Treasurer Mike Bostelman presented his five-year forecast for the district. He said that Napoleon Schools will be operating in deficit spending for the foreseeable future, noting that he would like to be proactive with cutting costs where possible. “What we are looking at in our language is looking at a levy to raise funds needed,” said Bostelman.

• heard from Ryan Wilde that the high school is prepared for graduation this Sunday with almost 170 graduates expected.

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