School board meeting tense but productive
LUSK -Several items of discussion at Monday’s board meeting lead to tension during the brief meeting. During board reports the ongoing conflict regarding the video recording of board meetings and subsequent publication of them on social media or YouTube was again brought up. Member Cheryl Lund expressed her concern that this was being practiced and that the board had not, as a group, agreed to do this. She felt this should be further discussed. She also expressed concern regarding an email that was sent from a board member directly to principal Katharine Kruse, including a line in all capital letters. This is not the role of the board, to give a directive to a principal and chairperson Lexie Ashurst agreed that it is a clear violation of the code of ethics. As a whole the board agreed further discussion was needed on this item.
Member Jeremy Nelson then discussed some “grumblings” from staff that board members visiting the school have been a distraction for students resulting in disruption. When board members wander the halls and poke their heads into classrooms this gives the students an excuse to become distracted. Nelsons stated, “I do think it is important for us to have some presence but be deliberate. We need to be very conscious to not put out that we have more authority than we do. Be considerate.”
Long-time board member Loren Heth followed Nelson’s statement up saying that it is one of the recommendations, even required that board members visit the facilities and be available. He did say that it is common practice however to check in with the office and the principal and make sure it is an appropriate times. He also said, “A lot of times the principal will go walk with you through the hallways. That is our responsibility. We are elected. When I am there I always tell people I am only here representing myself and I am only one board member of nine. I try to stay informed that way.” Heth also said that when the kids get to know you by name it is fun to interact with them and get to know them as well.
Rachel Manning added that while it shouldn’t be a distraction per the Wyoming School Board Association “we” (the board) are supposed to do it in a regular fashion.
Chairperson Ashurst concluded the discussion that Nelson’s comment had appeared to strike a chord that would warrant further discussion and members agreed that a work session should be schedule to discuss the issue further. Amber Smith also asked both Katharine Kruse and Tiffany Assman what their preference would be for these visits. Both agreed that a heads up wold be nice since there is so much going on in the buildings. Assman pointed out that it is also nice to know what the intention is and if there is a specific purpose or question that needs to be answered with the visit. It was pointed out that if board member visits are going to be regular and frequent it may behoove the board to consider following the volunteer policy.
Later in the agenda under old business “communication,” Rachel Manning held the floor with three points, speaking for herself, that she felt actions at the previous meeting warranted. Manning verbally reprimanded Superintendent George Mirich for his response to board member Joyce Hammer. Manning stated, “When you got upset with Joyce and got up and got loud at the last meeting it was unacceptable for this board room.” She went on to say, “I think there needs to be better self control and tempers and treating people better than we treat them in this room.” Manning continued on to elaborate on how she felt regarding Mirich’s statements during the meeting regarding a para position and who would fill the position with Manning stating, “It seemed like you were being evasive. It would go a long way for theatrics and communication if we didn’t side step the issue.” And her third point was regarding the ongoing chain of command discussion and Manning did not feel Hammer had overstepped her bounds. Manning would like to see all issues followed through the chain of command and see how they work out. She also stated, “I agree with you both that none of us are part of the chain of command and I think there is a serious issue of what that means to all of us.”
Following Manning’s statements Amber Smith had several items based on research she had in packets from trainings and meetings. Smith would like to see the board establish a formal communications process and discuss expectations. Specifically she would like to see stronger equity of information which means each board member should receive the same information at the same time. As Smith stated, “It doesn’t do the board any good if some know and some don’t.” She also stated that the appropriate message for the appropriate audience is another key element of effective communication. If a member hears a concern who does it go to and who they direct it to are questions to be answered. The only direct report to the board is the superintendent and that determines where it goes. Both Katie Kruse and Ashurst echoed some of Smith’s concerns and the item was delegated to a work session as well.
A final item brought up by Lund was why football games have been moved to Thursdays off the Friday schedule. Principal Kruse addressed the issuing by reporting that at a recently attended district WHSAA meeting Kruse and AD Ryan Nelson had brought up this issue, as had several other AD’s and principals. There are issues with the referee associations around the state and particularly in the southeast regions. Refs are upset about which games they are getting and which ones they are not. For last week’s game, Lingle had refs lined up for Friday and then something happened in Cheyenne resulting in the Lingle refs being pulled by the association and consequently the games being moved to Thursday. In the southeast area alone four ref crews, 16 people total, had resigned creating a significant shortage. Kruse plans to stay on top of this and others are also pressing the WHSAA to not allow the referee associations to dictate the schedule. Additional Kruse did ask that if anyone is interested in referee work or knows of someone to encourage them to get involved to help out the student athletes around the state maintain the ability to compete.
Included in the administrative updates, K-8 WYVA principal Lisa Williams reported two hundred new students since July in K-12 which makes a total enrollment of 308 students K-8 in WYVA> Clubs have started including critter club, fitness club and a newspaper club. Field trips have begun and there is a strong group of families that are invested in the online platform for education.
WYVA high school principal Jennifer Copeland has seen a leveling out of student numbers as well. WYVA is see strong returns on the collaboration with the bricks side of the district and there are 31 students taking a total of 22 classes for 54 credits.
In Kelly Bilbrey’s update she had distributed the updated 504 and special education manual. They had worked with Jordan from KSB Law to pare down the document and make it more appropriate.
Katharine Kruse reported that her building currently sits at 131 for enrollment and sporting events are in full force. The Aware grant paid for a motivational and mental health speaker that was holding a family event the same evening as the meeting. Kruse commended golf coach Fullmer for changing up the way the tournament was held in Lusk which gave more students a chance to compete by running the first day as a scramble. Seventh and eighth grade students will be heading to Mallo Camp next week and the district is looking for more mentors for the TeamMates program. An informational meeting will be held Thursday, September 14 at 8:30 a.m. at the high school.
Following business manager Katie Caffee’s standard report member Joyce Hammer requested a break down of expenses on the $6,000 in attorney fees.
Superintendent George Mirich said the school year had gotten off to a smooth and positive start. He congratulated the staff and students on having such a smooth rolling beginning to the year.
The new 504 and special education procedure manuals were approved pending some grammar and formatting corrections. The revisions and review of Section C policies were approved one first reading with some clarification of the chain of command for the nursing position. As it currently sits the wellness policy was removed completely but it will be replaced at a future date.
Homeschool petitions for Libby Lamp, Jeremy and Tanya Mason, Tyler Richardson and Krystal Peterson were acknowledged.