Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Exeter-Milligan School Board Debates Senior Trip

The Exeter Milligan School board met on Thursday, May 14, 2015 with a large audience of students present.  After President Sharon Kuska welcomed the visitors the treasurers’ report was read and approved and the minutes of the April meeting were approved as part of the consensus agenda.

President Kuska moved the old business agenda item to the forefront to discuss the senior trip.
Superintendent Paul Sheffield shared the research the board had asked him to complete regarding the senior trips any area schools take..  He found that six of them do take a senior trip, “The only ones that go out of state for a few days are Sandy Creek and Bruning-Davenport  and they go skiing every year.”

The board held an intense discussion on the pros and cons of the senior trip. Board member Jim Zeleny spoke up, “I think that’s a great idea.  The only reason I wouldn’t want to vote on doing this is because I hate to decide this for every class.  I would hope to give the students a chance to vote on what they want to do.”

“I think it’s a great trip and every time I have gone the kids have been respectful and have had a great time,” explained Board Member Tim Pribyl.

Board member Kendra Jansky agreed, “I think there are a lot of positives.”

Board Secretary Annette Gloystein wasn’t in support of the extended trip, “I had two (children) go on a multiple day trip and two (children) go on a one day trip and they all had a great time.”

Zeleny emphasized the importance of the extended trip, “It gives the kids some time to be together and bond.  It’s what they talk about when they come back for alumni.”

Audience member Liz Zeleny gave some input, “I think these kids have worked a long time to do something together and to not get to go would be so disappointing.”

Board member Zeleny noted “Something that was brought up at the last meeting I thought was a very good comment.  If we are going to go from the angle of not letting them go more than one day then we are going to have to crack down on everything else like FCCLA trips.”

There was a discussion on the difference between the entertainment nature of the senior trip versus the academic and activity nature of trips like the FCCLA trip.

“I am not knocking anyone, I am just worried about the schools liability.  Even if it’s fun I have concerns about the liability of the school,”  explained  Kuska. “We have to build this back up so that they respect that they have signed a commitment and they have promised that their word becomes good again.”

Sheffield noted he had talked to the school lawyer who confirmed the school is liable for the students when they are on a trip like the senior trip.

The board discussed one of the concerns with cancelling the senior trip, what to do with the money that each class has raised.  Board member Adam Erdakmp stated, “Let’s worry about the money later – we need to decide what we are going to do before we talk about money.”

The board decided to bring the issue to a vote and Zeleny made a motion to keep the senior trip.  He noted that they would need to take a relook at the guidelines if they do continue the trip.  Board member Tim Pribyl seconded the motion.

President Kuska opened the floor for discussion.

Erdkamp spoke, “I don’t have a problem with the trip but I think the punishment should be more severe.  I have no problem with the sponsors we have had on the trip but if a kid wants to do something they will find a way.  I am fine with it continuing.  I don’t think it matters where they go as it is a school sanctioned trip.”

Sheffield reminded the board that the school has a say in how long the trip will be and how much money is available, “We will restrict where they can go and we will have more sponsors.” 
Zeleny voiced his opinion on the punishments, “I think the handbook needs to clearly state what will happen if students are caught violating the behavior agreement.”

The board called the motion to a vote with Erdkamp, Pribyl, Zeleny and Jansky voting yes to keep the senior trip and Gloystein and Kuska voting no.

Sheffield stated that he would have some policy  changes for the board to review  at the next meeting. The board moved on to a building project update. Sheffield reported on the fire marshals visit prompted by the project.  “The fire marshal walked into the kitchen and reviewed the paperwork on the kitchen hood and required us to put in a new hood.”

In addition, the elementary area will have to have sprinklers added along with the office area but the high school will not because it has a higher fire rating to begin with and it was also taken into account the future construction plans to replace the high school.

Sheffield noted that they have added a small room to handle all of the water and the gas services into the entire building
In the curricular report the board discussed a recent Strategic School Improvement Process (SSIP) external visit.  This five member group was comprised of administrators and academic specialists from schools that are around the same size as Exeter-Milligan.   One recommendation from the SSIP visit was to incorporate the writing curriculum for all grades K-12.

Board member Gloystein was present for the exit interview with the group. “They were very very impressed with our technology.  Some of the things they wanted us to implement K-12 had to do with our reading program.  We do the technology part for our students’ future.  If they are not up on technology they will be way behind in life.”

Sheffield remarked, “In the elementary grades they spend about 2 ½ hours in reading and when they get to seventh grade they go down to about 47 minutes.  We are looking at adding an additional period of language and reading in seventh grade and adding writing in the eighth grade. These were things we knew but sometimes it’s good to hear it from someone else.”

Sheffield explained that due to the updated technology that Exeter-Milligan employs they were not able to do the Measurement of Academic Progress testing this fall because the testing software hadn’t been updated enough. They were able to do the testing this spring and hope to do it spring and fall next year to be able to see weaknesses and address them.

Next on the agenda was a discussion on non-certified contracts.  Sheffield informed the board that they would need to hire a new cleaning person as Colleen Foote had tendered her resignation.

The Board approved the 2015-16 SE NE Regional Program contract for students with hearing loss and also approved the contract for Valerie Barnhart a Language Arts teacher who will also be working with the Speech Team and One Act.

The next  agenda item was a resolution for participating in all hazards mitigation planning update process.  Sheffield explained this was important to have, “just in case you ever want to use FEMA funds.  We would have to be a part of this process in order to get funding.  It helps you have a plan in place when things happen like the tornado that went through Cordova and Beaver Crossing last year.”

The board approved the resolution and then discussed raising the substitute teacher pay.  The board voted to increase the pay to $120 per day and $65 for a half day.

The board also voted to amend the JPA budget because they had not scheduled any payments when the plan was made as they were not sure that a project would happen this year.  Not that the project is in place and a payment is scheduled, the budget must be amended.

The board set the next meeting for Monday, June 15 at  8 p.m. in Milligan.

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