Herald Lusk | More vacancies for the district

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LUSK –The Niobrara County School Board opened its meeting with Lance Creek neighborhood student Ellie Adams. The other students for the month of February could not be present and will therefore be recognized at the next council meeting.

The student council representatives gave the council an update on their recent activities. Lance Creek students won the participation prize for the February costume days. Student council members brought pizza to Lance Creek and hung out with the students. The council will provide tokens of appreciation to teachers and seniors. They also plan to provide treats and support to students during testing activities over the next few weeks. The council plans to relaunch the Duck Race fundraiser. Many of them remember the elementary school duck races and look forward to hosting this event again.

Nationally qualified FBLA students were present at the meeting to thank the district for their support of the chapter. They reported on the results of the state and their plans for the nationals. The national conference is being held in Chicago this year, which is extremely expensive. The projected cost per student is $1,645 per student. In the past, the district has supported the FBLA and FCCLA between $750 and $1,000 per student. The FBLA charged $1,000 per student and held numerous fundraising activities to help offset these costs. A male chaperone has also been requested to accompany the chapter to Chicago.

The FBLA also plans to host an evening showcasing Cinco de Mayo industrial and fine arts. The cost will be $12 per adult, $7 for grades 1-12 and kindergarten and below is free. It will be May 5.

Joyce Hammer signed up as a visitor asking to speak to the council. Hammer read a prepared statement detailing her past experience as a teacher and a district school board member. She also “asked” the school board to consider that every story has two sides. Hammer was vague in his credentials but reiterated, “I wish that before you make any decisions about layoffs or resignation, you would take some time. I want our district to be great again and that will only happen if you respect teachers, students and community members… you can talk to teachers, you can talk to people, I wish you would.

According to reports, Stuart Larson, Chief Commercial Officer, briefly touched on the recommendation he would make regarding health insurance premium increases. Larson has no comparisons to other businesses, but said it’s “not the worst” increase the district has seen or even the worst he’s seen this year in other districts.

Superintendent George Mirich reported that the ESSER 3 grant has been finalized. The Literacy Grant had one element remaining and was then submitted. The fire alarm project is completed and approved. Training for council doctors is scheduled for April 25.

Reporting to the Board, Katie Kruse informed the Board that she attended the FCCLA State Conference and was impressed with the attitude, demeanor and achievements of these young women who had gone to represent Lusk.

Member Sheila Boldon requested that each director guide the board through the performance review process. All reported using a combination of rubrics and observation. The process often includes two or more observers depending on the position and the number of supervisors they have. Potentially, a teacher can have up to four observers in their class. Rubrics are completed and there is also a self-assessment component. Next, the primary supervisor sits down with the employee and reviews the results of the assessment.

Loren Heth updated the district on the challenges BOCES has encountered with staffing. They have now raised their base salary for cabin workers to $18/hour, but many of the base salaries at Gillette are $20/hour and Heth doubts they can find $18 staff.

Moving on to action items, the board met in executive session for staff discussions. When they resumed open session, they accepted the resignations of Jeanna Rose, Amy Hollon and Lynette Hunter. This leaves the district with a position for English/Language Arts 7-12, Biology and Life Sciences 7-12, Music K-12, Special Education (Possible Life Skills), and a Counselor orientation / secondary career. They are also looking for a full-time bus driver and janitor.

The board decided to approve the district’s payment of the increased health insurance premiums. The increase for the year will total $117,852. The board also ordered that Larson’s replacement must add research into potential alternate plans to his “to do” list for next year.

Katie Caffee has been approved for the position of business manager with a contract from May 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023. Two WYVA teachers have also been approved, Ray Swanson and Julie Erickson. Amy Swisher was approved as an assistant college athletics coach and Officer Tyler Stream as an assistant coach. Shawna Rowley was approved as an assistant golf coach in high school.

The results of the climate survey have arrived and the consultant would like to present the results. The Board agreed that given both the financial investment and the seriousness of this undertaking, they would like the consultant to present the findings and facilitate in-person discussion. The board agreed that they would be available for a special working session (open to the public) for this particular item. Mirich will coordinate and organize this session.

The board worked on the self-assessment, then moved into the executive session for staff and superintendent evaluation.

The net meeting is an ordinary session of April 11, 2022.

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