Garden pilot program underway at schools

By Belinda M. Paschal -

PIQUA — A garden project is springing up in Piqua that is expected to involve some 250 schoolchildren in a pilot program to teach students about nutrition and growing their own food, as well as life skills like commitment, responsibility and entrepreneurship.

Ruth Koon of the Friends of the Piqua Parks and Anna Baumeister from the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce introduced the Piqua City Schools Board of Education to the program during a public comment section at Thursday’s BOE meeting.

Baumeister, who had been brainstorming with PCS Superintendent Dwayne Thompson to come up with a community project, gave Koon the bulk of the credit for suggesting the garden program.

The garden, which will be located across the street from Piqua Central Intermediate School, is a collaborative project involving PCS and the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as students and parents, the OSU College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Miami County Master Gardeners. Named “the Garden Tribe,” the program also has been extended to Piqua Catholic for use by their teachers and students.

Volunteers recently took the first step in the project, which entails constructing 13 raised gardens.

“Piqua will be attached to the largest schoolyard garden in Miami County. What a great usage of this empty lot,” Koon said in reference to the lot that once housed Nicklin Learning Center. “This is an exciting, exciting program in Piqua City Schools.”

Koon said that the project has received outstanding monetary support from the community, and that grant applications are in the works as well.

Thompson and Assistant Superintendent Tony Lyons discussed the district’s reported bullying incidents since the last report in December. There were 29 cases reported, many of them anonymous, which Lyons said, “makes it incredibly difficult for us to investigate.”

Through the Public SchoolWORKS school safety training program, Lyons is working on making adjustments to the online form to allow reporting parties to enter more specific information about incidents. He said the district also will be forming bullying response teams to provide a support system for bullying victims.

Board member Bob Luby asked Thompson and Lyons if they thought bullying was a bigger problem now than in the past, to which Thompson replied that the advent of social media has magnified the issue. He used the example of two students who had a disagreement at school that was resolved with intervention methods, but later at home, one of the youths rekindled the conflict online. This can result in the problem escalating further at school, Lyons added, saying, “Access is everything.”

Bullying incidents can be reported online by going to the PCS website (, selecting “Our Schools” from the drop-down menu, choosing your specific school, then clicking “Report Bullying, Harassment or Intimidation Online” on the left side of the page.

Numerous new staff members were welcomed to the district, and a PCS veteran was congratulated for a recent change in position. Mindy Gearhardt, who has been with the district for 20 years, serving at Favorite Hill and Bennett schools before becoming principal of Washington Primary School, will take the post of Director of Student Services on Aug. 1. Her contract will be for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 schools years.

In new business, the board approved the first reading and emergency approval of NEOLA board policy 2464, which involves a revision to the way in which students are identified for gifted education program. (NEOLA is the service for developing and updating school board bylaws and policies.) Thompson said that parents will still be allowed to recommend their children for such program, but that the revision would require the district to do grade-level testing to identify eligible students.

The board also approved a resolution to proceed with submission of a renewal tax levy. First passed in 2008, the five-year operating levy would generate funds for such expenses as classrooms, staffing, transportation, building and grounds maintenance, and other needs.

Thursday’s BOE meeting, as well as past meetings, can be viewed online at The next board meeting will be at 6 p.m. at Springcreek Primary School.

By Belinda M. Paschal

Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341

Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341