Board split on adding new teacher

Classroom size - How many students are too many for the most optimal learning environment? That was a key issue of discussion at last week’s special meeting of the Broken Bow Board of Education. The discussion ensued when a number of parents of next year’s 5th graders addressed the board about adding another 5th grade teacher to the elementary staff. The current 4th grade class has 72 students, meaning that with the current three sections of 5th grade there would be 24 students in each section. Approximately 15 parents were present at the meeting, and several spoke in favor of adding a 5th grade teacher to keep the class sizes under 20, which has always been the goal for BBPS. Parents who addressed the board included Amy Cyboron, Janice Nozicka, Pam Holcomb, Bobby Harrold and Tim Schaaf. Though the vast majority of the guests at the meeting were in favor of the addition of a full time teacher at the 5th grade level, a handful of those present were opposed to the idea. Only one, Sherry Palmer, openly voiced her opposition. Another personnel issue on the agenda actually came into play in the 5th grade teacher discussion. Allison Jonas, 6th grade teacher, tendered her resignation to accept a principal position with Gothenburg Public Schools. Board President Ken Myers suggested that rather than replace Jonas this year, the district just use that position for another 5th grade teacher. In so doing it would increase the classroom size for next year’s 6th grade into 24 in each section, as there would be only two sections. However, Myers and a couple of the other board members were of the opinion that with that class being a little older and more mature, and having two well experienced teachers at that grade level, 24 students per section would be manageable. Board member Michelle Zlomke told the board that a cost analysis shows that new hires replacing current staff - including a fourth 5th grade teacher - would actually cost $22,104.67 less that retaining all current staff members for the 2013-14 school year. Following the lengthy discussion, the vote to hire an additional full time elementary teacher for the 2013-14 school year ended in a tie: Zlomke, Tracy Popp and John Evans voted yes; Myers, Matthew Haumont and Dave Glendy voted no. The motion failed. Though the board did not approve the addition of an additional elementary teacher, they did approve contracts for four new teachers for the 2013-14 school year. Those were: • Skylar Rhode was approved as 5th grade teacher at BA, Step 1 • Krista Scott was approved as kindergarten teacher at BA9. • Nicole Kaelin was approved as 7-12 business teacher at BA9. • Katie Thomsen was approved as P.E./English teacher at BA, Step 1. High School Principal Ken Kujath explained that Cindy Fox will teach middle school computer classes and Ms. Thomsen will pick up the English classes. Ms. Thomsen will also teach 5th and 6th grade P.E. and Mr. Wetovick will pick up the 7th and 8th grade P.E. In other action items to come before the board, approval was given for five additional days to be added to Ed Schaaf’s current 10 extended contract days. The request was made by Schaaf as the result of him taking on additional responsibilities with scheduling. Schaaf will also be meeting with the new principal during the summer. The board also approved the ESU 10 Special Education contract for 2013-14. BOARD COMMENTS: Board member Glendy reported on behalf of the operations committee, which recently met with BD Construction regarding progress on the North Park project. BD reported that $266,000 is available from the contingency fees to spend on projects that were initially cut from the project. The operations committee agreed to use the funds from fencing, drainage and parking and will continue to meet with BD to discuss future projects. Board members Zlomke reported for the personnel/policy committee, which has reviewed teacher and coach evaluation forms. There was also some discussion on the activities survey, and it was decided to schedule a work session prior to the May board meeting. Board member Haumont reported that a preliminary budget and goals have been reviewed by the finance committee. ADMINISTRATOR COMMENTS: Elementary Principal Kim Jonas reported to the board that planning on the revisions at Custer school is continuing. A parent meeting has been scheduled for April 25. Jonas also announced that kindergarten field day will be May 6, while field day for grades 1-5 will be May 7. Jonas also reported some good news and some bad news for some of the schools other programs. The good news is Central Plains Center for Services received a grant for $85,463 for the After School Program. The bad news is that due to federal cuts there will be some changes to the preschool program with Central Nebraska Community Services next year. The main changes will be that CNCS will serve 3-year-olds, and Broken Bow Schools will serve verified 3 and 4-year-olds, and income qualified 4-year-olds. They will also continue to service students in the Sixpence Program. Superintendent Sievering reported that a grant consortium will be put together to hire a professional grant writer. He also reported on the dates for the final day of school: May 17 for elementary students, May 21 for middle school students (grades 6-8), and 9-12 grade students will return the morning of May 22 for check-out. Sievering noted that the elementary is dismissed earlier than the other grades to allow time for the elementary teachers to pack up their rooms as all elementary teachers will move classrooms this year. The board adjourned into closed session at 8:45 p.m. to discuss personnel issues. No decisions were made following the closed session. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the school board is May 20 at 7 p.m., with a 5 p.m. work session scheduled for a presentation on the activities survey.