Business as usual at School Board meeting

LUSK – Board Chair Joel Richardson called the February 10 meeting of the Niobrara County School Board to order at 6:15 p.m. The Agenda was amended to include additional items under action items and executive session. Agenda was approved as amended.


Student of the Month for December and January were recognized. December students were Lincoln Heth, Caleb Miller and Tyler Basile. January were Paul Kruse, Raven Dinorog and Riley Shaw. Lance Creeks student of the quarter was Will Kruse. Employee of the Quarter for the high school was Transportation Director Kevin Gaukel and for LEMS Secretary Traci Bruegger.

Jim Kruse was present to make a statement of support for Mark Hughes, a candidate for the district attorney position. He has worked with Mark before as board member for BOCES and credits Mark with helping BOCES avoid several lawsuits.

Lindsey Allbright, K-5 Computer Science/Technology facilitator provided an update to the board on the Social Media presence for the school district. An official Facebook (FB) page and Twitter account have been set up and are linked with the website. She is working to train staff on the website and how to update for events. This is the next step in improving the districts communication with the community. The FB page is called Lusk Tiger Pride. The logistics of using Niobrara County in the naming and logos for social media created a cumbersome and awkward hashtag and logo so the decision was made to stick with Lusk Tigers. 378 followers and growing quickly. The separate FB pages being used by LEMS and the HS will be shut down at the end of the year. 

Allbright and several other staff members have revived the technology committee. This is a leadership team that is going to begin working on the Future Ready School status. This process involves a self-evaluation and then development of a digital learning plan. Another initiative that is being worked on by a technology leadership team/committee. Allbright will be holding a parent training/information night for all technology being used in the district. 

Administrator Reports:

High School Principal Phil Garhart reported that the high school had a new student join at mid-year. Second semester attendance is down because of illness, it is currently at 91.97 percent. five-day letters have gone out. WyTOPP interim testing saw some gains in Math and a few in ALA. Positive improvements in Freshmen Algebra 1. Math 180 kids didnt make a lot of progress because they start lower than the interim testing starts. Achieve 3,000 is going fairly well. Freshmen have done well with the program. Reviewing incentives or competition options to challenge kids to push it both as a class and as individuals. 

Garhart also reviewed the drug dog visit in the schools on Tuesday, February 4 and what a Stay Put§ drill§ is. Friday the 31 a contractor was walked through the auditorium auditory system. He is putting together a package recommendation for upgrading the auditorium from a technology perspective.

LEMS Principal Lu Kaspers also discussed interim WyTOPPS results saying that LEMS had seem similar results with Math looking good and less growth in ALA. In Achieve 3,000 the lowest kids are not growing very quickly but this program only started on Dec. 1. Some high level kids opted in at the middle school and those high kids have grown exponentially. The middle school has been experiencing some social issues. There have been inappropriate behaviors between boys and girls with a great deal of peer pressure and inaccurate information going around. On February 11, students, boys and girls, will be separated and staff will be holding a workshop with students on No Means No§ and socially and physically appropriate behavior. An opt-out form was sent how and parents can request that their children not attend. Wednesday, February 12 at 1 p.m. Abraham Lincoln will be presenting to 5-11 grades at the auditorium. Elementary kids are going to celebrate his birthday at lunch. County library and Republican party are sponsoring this event.

As at the high school, illness has significantly impacted attendance at both the grade school and middle school. Documented illnesses include Pneumonia, RSV, Croup, Influenza A and B and sinus and ear infections. The board held discussion regarding the stay home§ information that parents need to be given and follow. A key component is keeping a child home if he or she has a fever without use of fever reducing OTC medicine (Tylenol) and excessive coughing.

Dr. Joe Heywood of WYVA passed around information on STAR 360 middle of the year data. Should be giving a snapshot of where students stand as they progress. WYVA students also took the WyTOPP interims for the first time as an academy and are just finishing up assessing a few of the outlier students. They will gather and look at how it compares to the mid-year STAR 360. This testing seemed to go well tough not all students were assessed because of weather and road conditions.

Enrollment is up to 601 with 38 kids in the portal waiting to be approved. Could reach as high as 640. Last year at this time in the enrollment was in the 580s. Student numbers jumped significantly in the middle school. The high school has 226, middle school is at 154 (last year mid-year high 90s), K-6 is 221. The middle school staff are at maximum capacity for the middle school and elementary resources are beginning to be strained. If numbers remain this high there will need to be staffing changes made for the fall semester.

Stuart Larson, Business Manager, updated the board on his progress with his Financial Coach Master training, he is 37 percent done. Hoping to be done at the end of May, but will probably complete earlier. There is still no report from the WDE auditors. His office is almost caught up on the Title 1 School Improvement Grant. General fund and fund 11 WYVA are both up month to month and year over year. Total expenditures are down $21,000 compared to last January. Presented updated daycare projections and budget tracking. Everything is in line as of the end of January.

Superintendent George Mirich reviewed several important items. He provided an update on the policy committee. This committee began a restructuring per the decisions made at the previous board meeting. The individuals on this committee will now remain static and it will be considered a closed committee. The committee has additional changes and stability to the volunteer policy and also began reviewing the grading systems policy. Will be discussing the transition to standards-based grading. This committee will also be presenting the policy on graduation requirements. The requirements themselves are not going to change globally but some specifics will be changing (i.e. what types of classes actually quantify for credits). These policies are being discussed because our district is not meeting the levels that needs to be met to be considered career and college ready.

The district has an early retirement policy and have been giving people that benefit if they havent actually retired early. Sometimes functions as an early retirement sometimes it is actually a longevity bonus. May want to look at other ways to do it even better for the employee with other alternatives. Will be discussed in executive session.

The upcoming legislative session has some bills that could significantly impact education in a negative way should they pass. Mirich emphasized the need for board members and community members to educate themselves about these bills and begin contacting state representatives. February 23 is the legislative forum hosted by the Wyoming School Board association in Cheyenne. Attendance would be helpful. That is the districts opportunity to invite the legislators to visit with board members and to have a discussion about what items are good and bad for education in Wyoming. Mirich has a list from the Superintendents association of the initial bills that will be brought forward. Some may change but the list as is and the weblink to the actual bill will be sent to board members.

The annual Digital Learning Conference will be held in Austin, Texas Feb. 24-26. The board is encouraged to send one or two representatives to this conference. At this time the district administrators are registered. As the district continues to evaluate the digital future and the skills associated with that the district needs to begin getting serious about what their intentions are. This year Mirich would like to see a leadership group to attend and then create a vision of what this looks like going forward. Technology isnt going to go away and the district is beginning to lay the groundwork. the Learning Management platform is a start. 

Going to need to create a policy for basic instructional program. WYVA has a program they would like a policy built around. The Virtual program must coincide with the brick basic instructional program. Those two policies will be brought before the board. Would like some latitude to let Heywood know this instructional program can be the practice in the virtual realm and policies for bricks will be built shortly.

Item H added under action items. Half-time CTE coordinator position for WYVA. WYVA is ahead of the game in trying to get CTE classes available for their students. They have approved funding at the K-12 level for this position. There is an individual being brought forward as a recommendation.

Consent agenda was approved as presented.

Action Items:

Approve resignation of Cara Bandalos at the end of her contract year. Moved to go into executive session at 7:25 p.m. following a two-minute break. Came out of executive session at 8:32 p.m. Motion carried.

• Approved early retirement applications for Teri Goddard, Lisa Pischel, and Johnny Krein.

• The board approved the rehiring of Phill Garhart, Lu Kaspers, Stuart Larson and Robyn Heth. for the 2020-2021 academic year.

• Tabled the approving of policy recommendations from the committee. Will be tabled to the first meeting in March. Discussion was held regarding the volunteer policy. Opinions were offered on districts that the policy could use to model a new policy.

• Approve making IT position full-time and then approved moving Patrick Weisbeck into a full-time position with associated benefits for the remainder of the school year.

• Approved Eva Titchener to teach 1 period a day twice a week through the remainder of the school year at LEMS.

• Approved Randy Rose and Debbie Rose as classroom volunteers in the music room.

• Approved Janae Miller as the half-time CTE Coordinator for WYVA

Board went back into executive session at 9:13 p.m. and adjourned following executive session.

The board meeting will be held on February 24 as normally scheduled. It is a work session.


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