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by Jessica Brophy
At the Monday, July 2, regular monthly meeting, the Community School District school board approved several new hires for the coming school year.
School board member Stephen York said there were “fine candidates” for every position. All three hires were unanimously approved.
Deborah Ladd was hired as a fifth-grade teacher. Ladd has served for several years as a principal, and “decided her first love was working with students,” said elementary school principal Mike Benjamin. Ladd was hired at a salary of $55,646.
Kimberly Thomas, a graduate of St. Joseph’s College, has a BA in education and will work in the middle level as a reading teacher. Thomas was hired at a salary of $30,709.
Katharine Fodnaess was hired as the K-12 nurse at a salary of $52,162. Fodnaess is also trained and certified as a math teacher, though there are no immediate plans for her to teach within the school.
The board also approved a reduction in force, terminating the position of half-time certified librarian Marcia Schatz (3-1, York). A half-time library aide will be hired.
Early renovation plans for the library
Architect Mike Sealander of Sealander Architects shared initial designs for a library renovation. Sealander was hired at a sum of $4,000 to design the two-phase plan and to oversee the first phase of renovation.
The plan is part of an overall effort to transition the library from study hall and book space to a multi-media hub for the school.
Much of the conversation centered on the library’s mezzanine, which is currently unusable due to state fire laws.
The mezzanine is tricky, explained Sealander. It needs to be slightly smaller to conform with state regulation. Sealander recommended reducing the size of the mezzanine, and removing the large center spiral staircase and instead using a straight staircase against the east wall (farthest from the library entrance). This would “open up” the space, said Sealander, who also suggests low stacks and enlarged windows as part of the overall renovation.
York raised concerns about access for students with disabilities. Sealander explained that the mezzanine would house the server room, and several computer stations currently required for some standardized tests. The space would also be used for computer-intensive group work, said Sealander. The space will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but will not include a lift for students who are wheelchair-bound or unable to climb stairs. Instead, explained Sealander with the support of technology coordinator Markus Ford, accommodations will be made for any students on the ground floor of the library. Several testing stations will also be set up on that floor as well. Sealander said any funds dedicated to reducing barriers for those with disabilities might be better served in other capacities, such as bathroom renovations or other renovations.
Pilot behavior rubric discussed
Middle-level math teacher Josh Frost and special education teacher Billy Voisine shared the new “Behavior Rubric” developed by a committee with teachers and administration, with the help of Stan Davis, an expert on anti-bullying efforts. The rubric standardizes infractions and spells out specific consequences.
“We’re focusing on actions that may cause harm,” said Frost. “We can’t use the word ‘bully,’ we need to focus instead on specific actions.”
The behavior rubric classifies incidents as high, medium or low potential for harm. Incidents were classified for the rubric based on student input from a survey completed by students in grades 2-8.
“This will place everyone on a level playing field,” said Voisine, who said there currently are some inconsistencies from classroom to classroom.
Board member Skip Greenlaw asked about extending the new behavior rubric to the bus. “I think there are a lot of problems on the bus,” said Greenlaw. “At least, that’s what I hear from my grandkids.”
Superintendent Robert Webster said discipline on the bus is handled by the bus company and any changes to that would need to be part of the contract with the bus company. Greenlaw suggested that Webster look into the issue.
Empty English class issue resolved
A recommended .33 reduction in force of high school English teacher Lee Lehto’s position was voted down unanimously at the June 14 CSD special meeting.
The reduction was recommended by administration when a course of Lehto’s failed to enroll any students. A class size policy passed earlier this year said any high school elective enrolling less than five students would be cancelled.
At the July 2 monthly meeting, the board terminated Lee Lehto’s continuing contract upon her resignation. Lehto has accepted a teaching position at George Stevens Academy, according to a press release. Marion Austin, whose teaching position had been reduced to one U.S. history class, will take over for Lehto, bringing her to full time teaching status. Austin is qualified to teach social studies and English courses at the high school level.
York, who requested a task force be started to explore the issue of multi-age classrooms, suggested turning the issue over to the new superintendent and asking him what support or information he would need to start looking into multi-age classrooms. York said he wants to hear back by October on the issue. The board agreed unanimously.
The board awarded a bid for heating fuel to Eaton Oil company at a pre-buy price of $2.929 on the condition that was the net delivered price, as there was some confusion about whether the bid included all taxes and delivery fees.
The bus fuel contract was awarded to R.L. Greenlaw with a 20-cent markup. The current “pay as you go” price is $3.58 per gallon. The milk bid was awarded to Garelick Farms.
The board meets next on Tuesday, August 7 at 5 p.m. at the high school.