Bruegger resigns from school board

Rhett Wilkinson/Lusk Herald Tyler Stream, the Niobrara County School District No. 1 school resource officer, speaks to the school board Monday about lockdown preparedness.

LUSK – Travis Bruegger has resigned as a member of the Niobrara County School District No.1 board of trustees, Superintendent George Mirich announced at the Monday board meeting.

“I will be resigning my position as board trustee, effective today. As much I would like to work with you toward our district goals, I simply cannot,” Bruegger said in a letter Mirich read. “I will continue to support you however I can.”

Bruegger, who was not at the meeting, is a former board chair.

“It’s unfortunate. He’s a good board member,” Mirich said. “He’s been an asset to the school board for quite a while now.”

Bruegger has a child deeply involved in athletics who is “getting old enough where (Bruegger) is having to follow (his child),” Mirich said.

“He’s not at work anymore at all on Fridays,” Mirich said, adding that Bruegger runs his own ranch.

The board also committed the district at the meeting to an initiative led by revered former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne as it heard from its school resource officer, Tyler Stream, talk about lockdown trainings for active shooter situations. Other developments also took place.

TeamMates Mentoring,
the Osborne-led initiative

TeamMates Mentoring is a program Osborne started in 1991 that provides mentorship to youth. The initiative permits its vetting process to districts and individuals can be referred. It is rooted in athletics, and Mirich encouraged seeing it grow before the board committed to it. Mirich talked about hiring a TeamMates facilitator for the district.

“In this job, it never stops,” Mirich said. “There’s no offseason.”

Board Member Candy Dooper expressed concern with the TeamMates requirement to meet with a student during school hours since that interfered with work schedules.

Mirich said that mentoring during school hours is important to make the program work. He said he was aware that someone in the program may be resistant to being mentored. He also thought business owners may be interested, upon hearing about the program, to give an hour a week to mentor.

Mirich said it would be nice to have more mentors than students in the program to start, though he thought it would look like the “opposite.”

Kruse talked about putting out feelers for possible mentors, but Mirich suggested committing an initial $1,000 to the program. If the program is not a success this year, the board would not have to commit next year. There is also a one-time down payment of $2,500, in addition to the $1,000 annual fee.

Before Mirich pushed for the program in his district, Osborne spoke with a group of 20 individuals, including Mirich.

ALICE

Looking to upgrade on “everything,” including its lockdown approach, Stream said, the board heard from Stream about the approach Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Combat, Escape (ALICE). Among other parts of his presentation, Stream talked about the instruction to a student to hide under a table, as opposed to taking their own initiative, to be an old directive. (It’s something Board Member Lexie Ashurst noted.)

“It is important you have those discussions (like Stream’s) because hiding under a table is kind of like asking to be a victim,” Mirich said, calling the ALICE approach “lockdown on steroids.” “No one has ever been shot behind a locked door. So if you are in the school in which you cannot lock the doors or the doors are not normally locked or cannot be locked when warned, you need a different plan than hide in place. We’re just taking our crisis preparedness to the next level.”

Stream said: “we can’t just tell first grade they’ve gotta do the same thing as 12th.”

Stream also did an exercise of a prospective active shooter situation with the board.

Upon evacuation, students are concerned about how they will get home and how they will see their family – there’s a lot to the lockdown scenarios, Stream said.

“But so many of these questions, when you ask staff members or upperclassmen, they don’t have answers to these things,” Stream said, noting that his son didn’t know, for instance, what to do if he needed to go into lockdown mode in a gym.

“I said ‘you run,’” Stream said.

Stream reads a couple “little books” to younger classes who need to learn about going into lockdown, he said.

Stream pointed out that he can be 30 minutes away from being able to help and that 60 percent of the time, a shooter will commit suicide by the time law enforcement arrives.

Stream described ALICE as a “cookie-cutter” program but still applauded it, noting also that in an approach that involves steps one, two, three, four and five, you might jump from one to five.

“How do you think it is going to go over?” Board Member Katie Kruse asked.

Stream said that “everyone (he has) talked to has been very positive about it.”

Booster appearances

Tricia Goodwin and Kristen Stauffer, the secretary and chairwoman, respectively, of the Tiger booster club, spoke to the board. Goodwin spoke, among other things, about a scholarship fund for seniors and a membership drive coming up for homecoming. Stauffer said that no one was helping with the club until Goodwin stepped up and noted that the group is “looking for hands.”

Vistabeam contract kicked
back to Mirich

Kruse wanted to “kick” a Vistabeam contract back to Mirich to renegotiate the price. Mirich talked about getting $3,000 per year from Vistabeam, rather than $600.

Kruse made the related motion, which passed.

Andrew Wicker, chief infrastructure operations officer at Vistabeam, explained safety implications to the radio Vistabeam wants to put on a district building roof or the side of the building.

“We’re all being exposed more to the radio frequency from that,” Wicker said, pointing to a device on the ceiling.

Vistabeam is looking for 24 inches by 24 inches of space.

Wicker said that he would prefer paying more in rent to a school than another building, if Vistabeam were to pay more.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Wicker said. “We want to be a good partner.”

Hirings

The board hired Justin Miller, Heather Heth and Shawn Leimser to fill grounds and custodial, assistant middle school volleyball coach and assistant high school coaching positions, respectively. Mirich recommended Miller, a former contract employee. The position will be a “mechanics helper” and relief custodian while working with grounds. Miller will work games on Fridays and Saturdays instead of employees being paid overtime, Mirich said.

“He’s a real good worker is what we’ve found,” Mirich said.

Other items

West Elementary Middle School Principal Lou Kasper said the district’s Raptor system, which identifies people in background checks – includig sex offenders – has had two “hits.” Kasper also reported the school is already seeing a child with nine absences; two families are sending home backpacks as part of the district’s backpack program; and the district’s after-school program on Mondays and Wednesdays is averaging eight to 10 students, about half whom are in kindergarten.

The district policy committee agreed to change the start time of board meetings to 6 p.m. year-round. Currently, the meetings start at 7 p.m.

Board member Randy Rose said that the board starts “shutting down” if the meeting hits 9:45 p.m.

“If you want to change it (from 6 p.m.), we can, but this change is barely a year old,” Mirich said. “But there has been a lot of concern about the length of time.”

The time must be changed in a board meeting, and Mirich will bring it forward for the next school board meeting, Mirich said.

The board also discussed whether the board should continue to be the body to approve volunteers in the district, in a policy that passed two years ago. Currently, volunteers must be vetted, but coaches, who often oversee adult volunteers in practices, are foregoing that process, Board Chairman Joel Richardson said. 

“It would be left up to the coaches to do the policing and they weren’t policing,” Richardson said.

Also, questions surrounded what makes a volunteer, Richardson said.

“This isn’t going to leave committee,” Mirich said of the current status of the volunteer policy discussion.

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