School board holds first meeting of the year

LUSK – Fifth graders at Lusk Elementary and Middle School (LEMS) presented their science projects on the human body at the Niobrara County School District Board meeting on Monday. 

Holly Kerkes’ class created artistic representations of the nervous system, digestive system and circulatory system. The projects featured interesting facts about the human body and was comprised of materials from balloons for the intestines to packing peanuts for the spine. 

After the presentations the board went into executive session to discuss personnel issues. 

During information items, LEMS Principal Lucinda Kasper gave updates on what has been going on at the schools since coming back from break. Kasper said there was a flood at Lance Creek Elementary school and there is no word on the total damage yet but only one computer was lost. Kasper added they were lucky to have everything backed up and there were no major issues. 

Joe Heywood, the Head of School for Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) addressed the board about the program’s report halfway through the schoolyear. Heywood said the students finished their Star 360 testing with 97% participation and high passing rates among them. 

Heywood also talked about the graduation rate at WYVA which he hopes to be around 60%. According to Heywood, WYVA’s graduation numbers have improved since becoming more selective as to who enters the program based on credit deficiency. 

“Now we’re interviewing every family saying well wait a minute if you’re credit deficient, go to your alternative high school or your own district’s virtual program if they have one but for us, we’re very rigorous and we’re not a credit recovery program,” Heywood said. “We’re not built that way.”  

Heywood also said while they can reject students from the program, they really only do so in cases of credit deficiency. GPA and test scores are not screened for enrollment according to Heywood. 

During the superintendent report, George Mirich informed the board of upcoming events including the Wyoming School Board Association (WSBA) winter workshops on Jan. 15 and 29, virtual board chair training on Feb. 5, WSBA legislative forum on Feb. 20 in Cheyenne and a regional roundup pre-legislative debrief on Jan.19 in Douglas where board members will be able to meet with the local senators and representatives. 

Chairwoman Lexie Ashurst also reminded board members the national conference will take place in San Diego this year from April 2-4. 

In other business, the board approved a robotics club for Pre-K-3rd grade and isolation payment requests from Hillary Brown and Christy Fahye.

The board also discussed possible expenditures for a districtwide climate survey from Win-Culture. According to Mirich, the survey is the first step in a strategic planning process which is normally done every five years. 

The idea of a climate survey was originally brought up at a previous meeting by Trustee Randy Rose to gauge the thoughts and feelings of district staff. At the last meeting, the board had a draft survey which they initially agreed to hold off on in order to refine it. 

Mirich brought the survey from Win-Culture to the board because he believed they wanted a climate survey to begin strategic planning. 

Questions were asked on what the difference was between the two. 

“One is $39, and one is $20,000,” Rose said. 

Mirich added the $20,000 option provides more than just the survey. 

The board agreed to the expenditure for Win-Culture’s climate survey. 

In other action items, the board, approved the superintendent’s contract, the attorney’s retainer, an expenditure for $13,050 for a design of the new PA system, and meeting dates for 2022. 

The board also accepted the resignation of Business Manager Stuart Larson effective July 1. 

In old business, Mirich discussed possible expenditures for ARP ESSER III including ways to retain staff, handicap accessible bleachers, upgrading the weight rooms and more storage space. The next community meeting to discuss possible expenditures is Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. 

The next regular meeting is Jan. 24 at 6 p.m.


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