Board hires more staff and discusses WY-TOPP results

Herald File Photo

LUSK – In a continuing attempt to ensure the district is fully staffed for next school year, the board made more hiring decisions at the Monday night meeting.

Joining the staff for the upcoming year will be occupational therapist Kelsey Nelson, elementary counselor John Thayer, high school counselor Jessica Adams, Special Education Life Skills teacher Jeanna Rose, Assistant Director of special education for virtual schooling Dr. Patricia Cook, and Wyoming Virtual Academy Special Education teacher Rebecca VanOrden. There is still an opening for an elementary level teacher and a K-12 music teacher. The board also accepted the resignation of food service director LaTrisha Molzahn and will be hiring to fill that position as well.

Student of the month Kaydence Nelson was acknowledged at the board meeting and received a certificate and gift.

With all of the changes to the clinical staff positions which include the job description/title change for Anna Skeen, counselor and the addition of the occupational therapist position the clinical staff for the district presented the board with a proposed salary schedule and information about the four positions and their jobs as they relate to the district for the board’s consideration.

Most of Monday night’s discussion regarding personnel was held during the executive session.

Other important items fell under staff updates. Business manager Stuart Larson gave an extensive update on all major grants including Title 1, Title 4 and 21st Century which included timelines, transitions and anticipated funding run-out dates.

Robyn Heth, high school principal and Lu Kasper, elementary and middle school principal gave updates on summer school status. It is anticipated that when all students are in attendance during summer school sessions a total of around sixty students will be involved for the district. This is forty for LEMS and twenty for the high school. Administrators did emphasize that this is just the number that were recommended for summer school and that a portion of these numbers are a direct result of the impact COVID had on learning as well as the addition of some social-emotional support that was not previously offered via summer school.

The 21st Century learning program is also holding a summer session which will overlap with summer school by one week. Kasper reported that she is hoping for increased student engagement with those attending summer school by making the after-school program available for the students as well as any others that would like to attend.

Special Education Director Hunter Kunerth provided a summary of major and minor events of reportable behaviors from the 20-21 school year. Kunerth explained that this is the first year using the current program and he hopes to really begin seeing trends and patterns as the district moves through the next school year. Kunerth explained the relevance of the data and how the special education, behavior and teaching teams use that data to help the individual students.

Kunerth also filled the board in on the major policy updates that the Special Education department is working on which includes extensive revamping of the district policies which have not been reviewed since 2014.

Lisa Williams, with the Wyoming Virtual Academy provided the program updates to the board. They anticipate that most hiring will be completed following the board meeting unless a significant influx of students occurs in August. At this time the grades are averaging between forty and sixty students per level. The team at WYVA is working on revisions to both the teacher handbook and the parent/student handbook and the board can anticipate seeing these for approval at a later date.

Superintendent George Mirich rounded out the administrative updates with his report on the planned professional development program for both bricks and WYVA to include time with a trainer from CLI curriculum leadership. While they are based out of Kansas one of their trainers currently resides in Wyoming creating an opportunity for the district to work with a trainer in person during some of the PD days. As far as curriculum work in the district goes, as of right now they have priority standards in 9 of the 10 content areas completed and submitted and the district is well situated to make significant progress on the curriculum changes.

Mirich reminded the board of the various policies that will be reviewed at the next policy committee meeting which includes school searches, graduation requirements, professional relations committee and several others.

He also reviewed an informational flier from Stride (formerly K12) regarding a proposal to partner with Strayer University to provide all students from Wyoming Virtual Academy the opportunity to attend Strayer with a half-price tuition rate. The board indicated they see no reason not to allow this agreement and several agreed that it may open up more opportunity for students. Any student graduating from WYVA either part-time or full-time would be eligible for this tuition rate reduction.

The finalized and publicized WY-TOPP results from the spring tests. As anticipated the district has made significant strides in improving test scores. There are still a few weak areas, but action plans are already in place to begin addressing those areas.

Administration emphasized that upon review of the science portion, it really assesses a student’s ability to read since those students that read best do best on the science portion. Board member Candy Dooper also reiterated that it is important for parents to understand that a timed, standardized assessment like WY-TOPP or the ACT, while a valuable data tool is still only one day and one test. It does not measure tenacity or work ethic. As a whole the board commended the staff and administration for the improvements in test scores. It was also discussed that the WY-TOPPs test is more rigorous than most national standards tests. They will be looking to see how the WY-TOPP scores compare to Fastbridge and Star360 which both have national data available. Wyoming has always been in the top 10 in national rankings for test scores because of the combination of lower testing numbers (not as statically relevant) and the rigorous curriculums used on the whole across the state.

The board was also given a letter asking for support for a hunter’s education class to be offered through a program at the school. It was mentioned that this may be appropriate for the after-school program. The board will not be making a decision on this at this time but will hold it for future consideration.


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