By JOE SHOUSE • Progress Correspondent
PAULDING – It’s no secret how the Mini Relay For Life has generated thousands of dollars in recent years through the relay held at Paulding Exempted Village Schools. The facts speak for themselves. Over the past three years, more than $57,000 was raised by the students and staff in order to fight cancer and to hopefully one day find a cure. Everyone who has been touched by this dreaded disease hopes for a cure and the sooner the better.
However, it seems that although the success of the relay has brought numerous awards to those participants, and has taught students and adults alike many life lessons, the school board, superintendent and administrative staff feel a change is necessary.
The issues are somewhat twofold in considering this alleged rift between school officials and the Mini Relay For Life committee.
First, the process taken to reach this decision, not to have the relay in the same manner as in the past; and second, how to come up with a solution in order to proceed forward with a successful relay.
For some time, the relay committee and its leadership had been in negotiations with superintendent Bill Hanak concerning the future of the relay. Hanak had voiced concerns to relay committee chairperson Karen Saxton and relay representative Jillene McMichael and asked that they address the concerns, which was the purpose for their attendance at the Jan. 14 school board meeting.
McMichael was informed she would be allowed to speak at the board meeting with her allotted time being two minutes, which is the normal time allowed for those making presentations. In order to stay within her limited time, McMichael presented the relay committee’s feelings and concerns in written form.
“During the process of determining the outcome of this event, we ask that you consider what is being taught to our students: the importance of a healthy lifestyle, compassion for others, empathy, teamwork, a sense of community, and knowing that by working together we can make a difference,” McMichael said in her statement.
The full text of McMichael’s presentation can be read here on the Progress website.
“This Mini Relay is student driven and it’s something they, the community, and many school staff and teachers appreciate supporting. We did what we were asked to do. The superintendent asked us to put our proposal together, which we did, but it seems as though we didn’t meet their concerns satisfactory,” said relay committee member Wendy Price.
Following the board meeting, the relay story was the buzz story in the area, even making the news on WANE-TV, Channel 15 out of Fort Wayne. Both Karen Saxton and Hanak were interviewed, each stating their side of the situation.
“I feel the Mini Relay is a great event and is a good cause. The problem is how the event has escalated in taking up so much instructional time in the classroom,” said Hanak. “In fact, we encourage our students to do this, but we have to make changes.”
Hanak went on to express how he has been approached by other nonprofit groups and organizations who would like to have the opportunity to do similar in house projects.
“We certainly can't honor every request that we receive and it’s not fair to allow one group to have their time while shutting out others,” he said.
Hanak reported how there are options to the situation.
“The bottom line is the school administration and leadership will have the final say in how this Relay will be conducted, if it is to be held here on school property. Right now the options would be an after-school event or a weekend Relay. In the format that it is in right now, it will have to change,” said Hanak.
Relay representatives continue to be in negotiations with school board members in order to resolve the situation and come up with a Mini Relay that will meet the needs of both parties.
In the meantime, some students and other supporters hopeful of changing the administration’s decision are planning a peaceful protest Wednesday, Jan. 29, when the school will have a two-hour delay for teacher in-service. The protest is expected to start around 7 a.m. and last until school starts at 10 a.m.