LUSK – The Niobrara County School District Board of Education convened Monday evening for their first regular meeting of August in the Niobrara County School District administration building. Business manager Stuart Larson and board members Jeremy Nelson and Katie Kruse were absent.
Chairperson Lexie Ashurst asked for a motion regarding the prospective appointment of an associate special education director, Kelly Bilbrey, for the Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA). Trustee Cheryl Lund requested the board adjourn into executive session to discuss the matter before calling the question. The board then adjourned into executive session.
After a brief executive session, the board reconvened and approved the appointment of Bilbrey. Ashurst then requested a motion regarding the prospective appointment of Jessica Stallman as a food service cook. The board approved Stallman’s appointment to the position.
Despite gaining two staff members, WYVA teacher Chris Spencer resigned, and the board approved the resignation.
Lusk Elementary and Middle School (LEMS) Principal Lucinda Kasper told the board of issues she was having covering music education. Despite the issues, Kasper informed the board of a plan of action to address the problems she is facing.
“We have split the responsibilities,” she said. “We’re going to have Andy Hubbard take care of K-4 General Music, Gina Rose is going to do band and 5-6 band, so high school band, middle school band and 5-6 band…Heather Goddard who will cover high school choir.”
In addition to filling gaps with the music program, Kasper and LEMS Special Education director Hunter Kunerth are working together with Black Hills State University (BHSU) to recruit a Christmas graduate or Christmas student teacher for the music program.
LEMS will also be hosting a joint back-to-school night Aug. 18 at LEMS for Pre-K through sixth grade from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. From 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., there will be a barbeque at the Niobrara County High School for everyone, teachers, parents, students, etc. Then from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., there will be a back-to-school night for the high school and middle school.
Niobrara County High School (NCHS) Principal Robyn Heth added the booster club would be providing the meal for the event.
Kasper told the board numbers were up this year, and online registration was in progress. She noted those who already have an account setup on the parent portal do not need to re-register children, but rather visit the portal and update the information for their students.
For those who are unable to access their account after they previously set it up, they are to call the LEMS secretary, Traci Bruegger, and she will aid them with resetting their password and re-establishing access to their account.
NCSD Superintendent George Mirich proposed the possibility of closing the campus for incoming ninth graders during their lunch hour. Mirich cited past issues with students returning to class on time after their lunch break.
Mirich asks that those who feel there is a need for latitude with the ninth graders speak up and express their feelings about the matter. Despite the plan to close the campus for ninth graders, Mirich said the district still plans to leave the campus open for 10th through 12th graders.
Trustee Sheila Boldon asked what the district planned to do if 10th graders, for example, violated the rules and were habitually late to class.
Mirich said there was a plan in place to provide a lunch detention, where students would be required to stay on campus for meals and would not be permitted to leave.
Mirich told the board he and other administrators had attended a law conference in Laramie last week. The major points of discussion were Title IX issues and issues surrounding transgender students.
Mirich added, “Transgender is a Title IX issue.”
According to the University of Wyoming’s website, uwyo.edu, “Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in an educational setting. It was first passed in 1972, and over the years has become widely and legally understood to define sexual violence as a form of gender discrimination.”
The other topic for discussion at the conference, according to Mirich, was the matter of masking within schools. Mirich reported the state of Wyoming, Wyoming’s state Health Officer and the Governor’s office had all reported there were no mask mandates recommended now. Should COVID infections become an issue, then the board would be required to have further discussion on the matter.
Mirich told the board there are no mandates. In other words, masks will not be required on the buses, in any of the buildings or at any special events.
The board discussed the matter of conflict resolution within the school district and the proper procedure for handling problems.
Trustee Candy Dooper inquired about a superintendent’s council, which she said was a formerly established committee enacted by the school board. The group would meet with the superintendent, go over policies and take time to discuss what was going on within the different schools.
Mirich said he was not opposed to the idea of continuing the council but was clear the purpose of the group would not be to make decisions. Mirich agreed to establish a document which would address the description and roles of such a committee and present it to the board.
Trustees Randy Rose and Loren Heth inquired as to the comfort the community had in reaching out to the different school administrators for specific issues pertaining to students and teachers within the different school buildings.
Heth cited an example where there had been a defective bus which was notorious for breaking down, but the matter of the bus was never brought to anyone, specifically, but it was a well-known issue among many of the parents and some of the board members. Heth held the importance of issues being brought to the school board to be addressed, regardless of the route the issue takes to make it to the board.
Several board members agreed the department heads within the school district need to be accessible and should provide training to parents as to the official route to take when seeking resolution to conflicts in the district.
The next meeting of the Niobrara County School District is slated for the first day of school for the district, Aug. 23, 2021, at 6 p.m.