Students, parents and staff excited for school year


LUSK – The regular work session of the Niobrara County School District board was called to order by Chairman Joel Richardson at 6 p.m. Following the pledge and mission and vision the agenda was approved as presented.

Visitors:

New Staff members from both buildings were introduced to the board. This included Riki Kremers, Shawna Rowley, Robin Johnson, Jeanna Rose, Cora Fitzgerald, Kelsy Kreymier, Nila McCann and Amy Pontarolo.

High School volleyball coach Sandra Johnson came to ask the board for a third volleyball coach because she has 23 girls out. This is not impossible for two coaches but if one is out or sick then she is by herself. With COVID restrictions there is a recommendation the team be broken down into pods during practices. 

This works better for three small groups as recommended by the Wyoming High School Activities Association. They each take a skill and work a group on that skill. When the team travels for games there are special criteria for COVID and she may need help from an additional coach. Safety of kids is the main concern. 

She has gotten to know Cora Fitzgerald quite well. Fitzgerald traveled to a volleyball camp in Chadron and Johnson is also team teaching with Fitzgerald. She feels Fitzgerald would be a good fit for the third coach position. She has been granted volunteer status at this time but Johnson would like to offer her a formal coaching position.

Reports:

LEMS Principal Lu Kaspers reported the first day was definitely a little chaotic with everything to learn but went well. There was a long line waiting to get in. There were a few complaints but most people were very understanding. Day 2 worked more smoothly. Middle school and staff went through one entrance and elementary through 4th went in the other door. Not as many parents come the second day and that helped as well. Middle school kids have been really good about masking. Little kids are doing well also.

Staff are really great about masks too. With all of the craziness and the new people and loss of others the new staff have had many problems with technology and the certified staff have jumped in and really worked well as a team. This is going to be a really good group of new teachers, she is very excited about them. 

Laptops for third- through fifth-grade students arrived and should be ready to go next week. The kids are excited about those. All of the staff that were administrators for various computer programs have left and they are getting most of those switched over as well. The PD trainings went well. Received positive feedback about the speaker and the cooperative learning training. Down about 10 kids but WYVA will probably make up for that. The last enrollment number with Lance Creek is 193. 

Special Education Director and acting high school principal Robyn Heth said things are going well at the high school. She has been working on the Individualized Education Programs for Wyoming Virtual Academy. They are currently shown at 165 kids on IEPs with WYVA. Bricks has 80-85 kids on IEPs. Kunerth has been attending administrative meetings on the K-12 side. She will also be working through a K-12 Corporate SPED audit next week. 

WYVA Head of Schools Joe Heywood presented a handout to the board detailing the staffing situation. At 1,050 enrolled students with about 400 in the process Heywood feels grateful to be ahead of the hiring cost. WYVA typically experiences an enrollment surge in September as well. 

The number of new teachers should keep case loads at 30-35 per teacher. Right now have three teachers at each grade in the elementary and with enrollment numbers they might need to add a fourth level. The middle school and high school are growing at a slow enough pace that they are hoping to be able to absorb all the existing students. 

K-12 has asked Heywood to hire an elementary principal. Lisa Williams has been offered the K-12 Principal position since she has been the lead teacher. Trying to onboard all the students and it is really stressful inside the school right now. 

They are running into computer shortages with K-12. There are significant delays. K-12 says they have the equipment it is just taking longer to get them to students. If it becomes any more of an issue he wants K-12 to freeze enrollment. If the board choses to do that it is okay with Heywood. 

Business Manager Stuart Larson told the board 457 sign ups continue with more than 80% of the staff now having turned in the paperwork. The auditor will be here the Tuesday after Labor Day. Continuing to work on State reports that were due on Aug. 12. Has one done and working on the second one. Amanda Dawson has been doing a fantastic job getting employment records done and tracking where everyone is at with their paperwork. 

Superintendent George Mirich said staff development days were productive. He feels the district probably wasn’t able to give the teachers enough time in the classrooms compared to what they needed and what they are used to for the new guidelines and expectations but things went very well. New staff have all been very good. 

Kids have done very well and staff are doing well. There will always be things that need to be discussed but things have gone well. The training that was sponsored last Monday and Tuesday was a program on collaborative learning, classroom management skills and instructional skills. It is a robust program and they will get the normal five day instructions spread out over the year. The end goal of this program is better student engagement. 

Spent half a day revising curriculum work. There is still a way to go on that project but the vertical alignment teams did get together to work on scope and sequence. Trying to get goals and targets on paper and then spend more time on assessments. The instruction will be built to the assessments. Two-way alignment to the state standards is how scores improve. 

Staff are also going to be spending a lot of time talking about where are the students at and how much are they invested in their own learning. The first four days in the high school went extremely well. Principal by committee is working well, though a solution needs to be found for the high school counselor position. The previous high school counselor is interested in the position still. 

Vice Chair Katie Kruse wanted to give a shout out to faculty. She has fielded many parent calls saying they love the teachers this year and are very excited. The kids that didn’t want to be there last year are really engaging. The board also reported there were so many physicals they had to bring in a second doctor. It was very well attended and parents and kids behaved very well. The hospital did a great job.

The consent agenda was approved as presented.

Action Items:

The board voted to approve WYVA recommendations for staffing as presented

They accepted the bid for deposition of the school car, a Ford Taurus. The winning bid went to Barbara and Larry Orr for $1,725.

Following extensive discussion the board moved to approve WHSAA forms and expenditures for catastrophic injury insurance per student and the membership dues. They also moved to make Randy Rose the WHSAA Activity representative for the district. 

The board approved the letting of school pictures bid. The district will be seeking bids for school pictures. These bids will include photos of clubs, sports teams and other events. Mirth will work with several other staff members to come up with types of pictures and contracts needed.

The retirement of Pam Peterson effective at the beginning of October was approved.

The resignation of Lisa Williams as a WYVA teacher and the hiring of Williams as the WYVA Elementary administrator was passed.

The revised chrome book and internet use agreement was approved.

Old Business:

School board vacancy were filed for by Sheila Boldon, Loren Heth, Jeremy Nelson, Katie Kruse, Patricia Goodwin, Cheryl Lund and Jeff Miller.

The board moved to go into their scheduled executive session to discuss employee retirement and the replacement of that individual, high school volleyball third coach and the high school counselor position. 

Following the executive session the board moved to hire Cassandra Matney as a paraprofessional to replace Pam Peterson.

The board adjourned. 

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