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By Dan Rudy 

Communication added to schools' strategic plan

 


At its Monday evening meeting, Wrangell’s Public School Board approved an amended strategic plan for the next three years.

The meeting was the first held since the Oct. 6 elections, where board members Tammy Groshong and Aleisha Mollen were reelected to their seats. Pam McCloskey was also picked by voters to serve an unexpired one-year term, though she was unable to attend Monday. The board elected Susan Eagle to continue as its president, Howell as vice-president, and Groshong as board secretary.

The strategic plan has been worked on since February by four panels made up of parents, faculty and other community members, and was adopted in April. It outlines goals for the district to further develop the areas of academic achievement, career and technical education, technology, and school climate, safety and facilities.

Most of the approved revisions to the two-page document were to the latter area, considering “school climate” alongside safety and facilities. This includes providing continued training on components of the crisis plan adopted last month, making use of collaboration days and staff in-service sessions to that end. The school district also intends to focus on promoting “spirit” within the schools, and has made improving communication between staff, students and parents a goal.

Communication within the school district has appeared to be an issue of late, and there was some confusion at this week’s meeting over whether it was supposed to appear as a topic for discussion. The addition of communication issues to the next agenda had been requested in September, but it remained unclear whether an informal work session that preceded Monday’s meeting covered that conclusively.

“We all talked about possible ways and reasons why the board needs to have some better avenues or platforms for communications,” teacher Anne Luetkemeyer said of the session. One of the positive results to possibly come from the discussion was an option to hold informal discussions between board, staff and others before the monthly meetings.

In her monthly report, Evergreen Elementary School principal Deidre Jenson explained the lunch schedule has been changed to allow for more time to eat. Five minutes was added for each group, with grades K-2 given the 11:40 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. block, and grades 3-5 taking lunch and recess from 12:15 to 12:50 p.m.

Students participating in the school’s E.A.T.S garden program harvested lettuce and chives earlier in the month, holding a school wide salad snack to celebrate afterward. Potatoes also harvested will be used to create a soup for the school’s fun run planned for Oct. 30. The program is currently in the process of having a new greenhouse built, with assistance from Drew Larrabee’s construction class and local contractors. E.A.T.S. organizers are still collecting box tops and raising funds to complete the structure, and are developing a school cookbook to sell in the near future.

Superintendent Patrick Meyer reported the new Alaska Measure of Progress (AMP) assessment was a major topic for discussion at the state superintendents’ conference held earlier this month. Last spring was the first time the assessment was administered in schools across the state, and results are due to be released on Oct. 29.

Describing the test’s format, Meyer explained the AMP is incomparable with the previous Standards Based Assessment, in which Wrangell students have historically scored very high. Expectations within the Alaska Department of Education are that performance indicators from the AMP will be lower than the SBA, in part due to its more rigorous focus on post-graduation readiness.

Under persons to be heard, local parent Jacquie DeMontigny shared her concerns about the high school’s current sexual education program. She told the board that while she felt the values emphasized in the current abstinence-centered program were fine, looking through last year’s exit interviews, DeMontigny pointed out requests to look into making the curriculum more technical were given “no response due to mixed response from students.”

“I think we shouldn’t have ‘no response,’” DeMontigny said. “It makes sense to me that we have a real sex ed class.”

She suggested bringing in Alaska Public Health or a similar medical

organization to provide instruction, adding that parents uncomfortable with the idea be allowed to exempt their children from the program.

The board said the decision was an administrative one and that DeMontigny should take it up with high school

principal Kendall Benson.

“That would be the process, is take your concerns to him,” Eagle replied.

An exasperated DeMontigny said she had already taken the matter up with administration, and was referred in turn to the board. No action was taken on

the issue.

DeMontigny also brought up the possibility of starting a track and field program. Currently, the school district only supports a cross-country program, and she said any students wanting to participate in regional meets are not able to do so under the state athletics eligibility guidelines.

“I believe we can look at what the process is,” Eagle said, adding the board itself was not responsible for developing a track program. Her recommendation was that DeMontigny get together with other parents interested in having track and field, and develop a plan to present to the school athletic director.

In other business, a contract was approved for retired science teacher Butch Schmidt, who will be available to assist teachers in the classroom on demand.

The contract amount was not to exceed $10,000, with Schmidt to bill hourly for his

services. Contracts were also awarded to Therese Pempek to coordinate Upward Bound, and Scott Seddon as paraprofessional.

Extracurricular contracts were approved for Megan Clark, cheer co-coach; Anna Hagelman, cheer co-coach; Heather Howe, WHS student council advisor; Lucas Messmer, middle school boys assistant basketball coach; Odile Meister, junior class co-advisor; Sierra Reil, DDF coach; Scott Seddon, softball coach; Stephanie Smith, elementary student council co-advisor; and Jenna Turner, elementary student council co-advisor.

 

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