School board seeks candidate to fill vacancy


LUSK – A group of Niobrara County High School students who came prepared to address the school board in public session during its regular meeting Monday were moved into a hastily-called executive session behind closed doors.

Under the visitors section of the regular agenda, the students from various grades were acknowledged by the Chairman of the board. The board immediately moved to go into an executive session to speak on “personnel issues” the high school students would be speaking to. Parents of students present were allowed to stay in the executive session. All other community members were excused. 

Attorney candidate Mark Hughes was also allowed to stay in the session, though his contract with the district was not approved until later in the meeting. 

Following the executive session, during which the students presented prepared statements and submitted several letters, the students and their parents left. Open meeting resumed at 6:19 p.m. A break was taken and the meeting was called back to order at 6:24 p.m

Board Chairman Joel Richardson said the statements and letters submitted by the students are considered privileged information since they were presented during an executive session. 

Reports:

Stuart Larson, Business Manager is working on the reports for the fiscal year end. He is looking at budget preparation for the July boar meetings. His office is also working on the 457 paperwork for all employees for the 1% match.

Superintendent George Mirich reported cash reserves for the district were more than anticipated as a result of the school closures from COVID-19 restrictions. Although the food service cost center was higher than budgeted many others did not experience their normal spending. There will be multiple purchases with these cash reserves to ensure the district meets the 15%. This includes the vehicle that is being requested later in action items. The remaining reserves will be placed in the longevity pay benefit account for those staff that have reached 20 years of service or more in anticipation of those expenses. 

Mirich has also researched various options for recording devices for board meetings including one that will create both a CD and a digital file with four wireless microphones. 

The superintendent and staff continue to work on a reopening plan for the fall. The district’s situation is different from many schools because class sizes are already small and the buildings have a lot of space. There are some minor items to look at including how lunch would work but the biggest concern is transportation. With 40 or more kids on one bus route a procedure will have to be created for screening and PPE in order to avoid duplicating the bus route which would drive up transportation costs considerably. Any thoughts or ideas that board members have can be shared with Mirich. There will be additional financial support for the purchasing of supplies that may be necessary under the COVID-19 restrictions through the CARES Act. 

There was a water leak under the new building at the Lance Creek school. Something was loose under the modular and the leak was running for quite some time. It has lead to the drainages being washed out and the landscape around the modular has changed quite a bit. Once the property has dried up that work can start. The building is okay and there is no damage to it or the old building and gymnasium. The contractor had not yet received the final check from the school facilities group so there may be some way to hold someone accountable for the problems.

There were no board member reports. The recreation grant committee will be submitting all information as part of the budget meeting.

The consent agenda was approved as presented.

Action Items

Policies IK-R, IKF, IKFA and IICC were approved on final reading. The only change on any of them from the second reading was some verbiage regarding the term “mastery” in one of the policies. It was requested that for future meetings any third reading action be accompanied with a completed final copy of the policy.

WYVA teacher Janae Miller’s resignation was accepted by the board.

WYVA teacher Christy Spencer requested to move out of state and continue working for WYVA. The board approved this request but during discussion stated that they would like to see policy put in place that would require Wyoming residency to work for WYVA. The board members also requested that within that policy a provision that any teachers currently working for WYVA and living out of state have one year from the date of the adoption of the policy to move back in state.

Hiring recommendation for paraprofessionals Amy Pontarolo, Robin Johnson and Shawna Rowley for the 2020-2021 school year were approved.

A new custodian was approved for hire.

The board approved the attorney retainer agreement with Hughes Law Office for June 2020-December 31, 2020.

The board approved the expenditure of not more than $40,000 for the purchase of a vehicle to be finalized by Mirich. It was clarified the newer Ford Taurus will be turned into the drivers education vehicle.

The resignation of board member Tina Christianson was accepted with regrets. Mirich provided a review of the school board vacancy policy. The position must be filled within 30 days of the date the vacancy occurs. Whomever is appointed will serve until the next annual election of the trustees. This particular situation will apply to the November 2020 election. In addition to Christianson’s position, there are also five other positions which will be open. One two year term and five four year terms. An application of interest is available to pick up from the administrative offices and must be turned back in to the office by July 6. This position is only until the end of November pending filing and running for a board position. Chairman Richardson stated he will not be running for the board again.

Old Business

The board held extensive discussion regarding the record of executive sessions and whether those sessions and open meetings should be recorded. Several members expressed concern that if the executive session is recorded it may hinder open and honest communication during the executive session. They felt that keeping records to satisfy the legal requirements is appropriate. The board requested a note-taking template be created by Mirich for whoever is recording information for the executive session to facilitate appropriate documentation of those sessions. 

Recording of open sessions was deemed appropriate but not decided on at this time.

The board moved a second executive session, this one scheduled on the agenda, for the deliberation of a grievance and personnel at 7:25 p.m. Following the executive session the board adjourned their meeting.

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