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School board examines budget, contracts last Monday


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Girls from the Wrangell Girls on Track and Girls on the Run programs stand with skaters from the Garnet Grit Betties on Saturday during a combined skate- and run-a-thon fundraiser. The Betties skated some 3,500 laps around the community gym that morning, and the girls together ran 1,836 laps for pledged amounts. By Tuesday, the groups were set to have raised over $4,100, which the running program's coach Becky McIntyre said would more than cover costs for the next year.

The full Wrangell School Board met Monday evening at Evergreen Elementary to discuss contracts and the upcoming budget as the academic year enters its final quarter.

The board examined budgets past and future, making some minor revisions to its FY15 budget and examining changes to its first draft of FY16. Superintendent Patrick Mayer explained that the changes reflect the expected 2.5 percent reduction in one-time monies allotted by the state.

"The Legislature hasn't sent any indication that they're going to restore that one-time money," he said.

Anticipating some savings in the winter heating budget due to the lower price of oil and recoding the specialist salary line, some further savings have been found by cutting budgeted items like a new van and office phone system.

"We will be doing our final budget at the next meeting," announced Susan Eagle, chairing the board.

The school board also agreed to a memorandum of understanding between Wrangell School District (WSD) and the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). The school system will provide office space for the UAS tech prep program coordinator who already has a home in Wrangell.

"It would almost be like having a satellite UAS campus here," Mayer said. The coordinator's presence would provide local opportunities for partnering with businesses and private organizations and might help develop future programs such as adult education. Wrangell schools would not have any other financial obligation under the agreement.

Board member Rinda Howell mentioned she recently spent some time in Juneau getting to know the UAS tech program better. "It was very interesting and very enlightening," she commented. "There is so much they can offer us if they're here."

The university program is not the only educational partnership WSD has undertaken of late. Last week Cheryl Bobo returned to Wrangell to conduct the Alaska School Board Association-sponsored digital skills consortium. A previous workshop was held in October.

Aided by a half-dozen students, Bobo assisted area adults with their tech questions, from digital marketing interests and self-promotion to setting up photo albums and using new devices.

"It really covered a large spectrum of opportunities for people, depending on their interests," Mayer said. "There was a lot of room for diversity."

On Friday Bobo visited classes at the elementary, helping students and their teachers become accustomed to the capabilities of their new iPads. This year the school purchased enough pads for all 121 of its pupils.

"She made it to all the classrooms," said Mayer. In addition to some tech intro, Bobo also familiarized classes with basics in digital citizenship, respecting other people's privacy and stowing their pads when receiving instruction.

"A lot of the stuff she did was very important," Mayer went on. "I think the benefits were multiple and varied."

Another tech specialist from the association, Chris Romine, was sent down the previous week as part of the exchange to work with Wrangell staff on application management.

The board addressed contracts for next year as well, extending offers to all tenured faculty. Contracts for non-tenured staff will be dealt with after the academic year concludes.

WSD's strategic plan is still in development.

Following a planning session and reception held last month, school staffers are working with community members to put together a simple plan to direct areas of focus for the next three to five years.

"It's coming along," said Mayer. "It's been a great process with a lot of feedback."

K-1 teacher Laurie Brown attended the meeting, walking board members through the selection process for the school's future math curriculum, called My Math.

"It's teacher- and parent-friendly," she explained, with a strong online component and targeted intervention for every grade level. After narrowing down the competing curricula to three options, feedback was gathered from parents before making a final selection.

"I would just say that the process that was orchestrated here... it was very well done," Mayer commented. "It's pretty unusual that you have this degree of consensus."

Speaking as a parent, board member Cyni Waddington thanked Brown and other teachers for the amount of research they put into the decision.

"I'm very excited to see us move to a consistent math program," board member Aleisha Mollen said.

Ben Florschutz from the high school Drama, Debate and Forensics team also appeared to delivered his expository speech on the nervous system for the board, which took eighth place in state competition this year. Not nervous himself, Florschutz took listeners through the process of brain function and how the mind interprets external stimuli and derives from them its various physical sensations.


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