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By Dan Rudy 

Coffee's back on for school board, new website up

 


At its last meeting of the year on Dec. 17, the Wrangell Public School Board decided its

members could continue with their coffee talks after all.

After conferring with

the school district’s attorney, board president Susan Eagle

determined its informal coffee sessions were permissible under current policies. Board

members were informed they were allowed to hold public

discussions held outside of

regularly-scheduled meetings.

At previous meetings

this year, various members of staff and the general public have expressed their impatience with the board’s formal process for receiving comments. For its part, the board did not want to seem unaccommodating to public input, so it supported setting aside a half-hour or hour before regularly scheduled meetings to hold discussions in a more informal atmosphere.

No actions would be taken as a result of these sessions, which would instead be used to open up discourse in ways currently unavailable during the formal meetings. The only topics that would be taboo are those related to personnel or individual students.

At the first such session on Dec. 12, former schools superintendent Woody Wilson had raised the question whether or not they were allowed to meet in the informal coffees. Citing several board policies, his interpretation had been that such meetings circumvented the normal channels of workshops and advisory committees and were thus inappropriate.

Toward the end of that discussion, current superintendent Patrick Mayer recommended contacting attorney Robert Blasco of Hoffman Silver Gilman & Blasco, in Juneau. The firm represents Wrangell Public School District, as well as being on retainer for the borough government and hospital.

“Susan (Eagle) spoke with him and he said that there was not a legal impediment to having the meetings outside of those normal times,” Mayer explained. “That was his take on it, and he would know.”

Board member Aleisha Mollen explained that the

meetings would be all right to hold as long as the public is properly given notice and that they know quorum might be met. As before, the board

will aim to hold a coffee session the second Saturday morning of every month. Generally this falls before the scheduled meetings, which are held the third Monday evening of each month.

“We’re trying to schedule them consistently so there’s not too much fluctuation,” Mollen said.

For the board she is putting together a communication survey for distributing to parents. The survey will make use of the school’s current SurveyMonkey account, and should be ready to go out by next month’s end.

People can submit questions they would like to see included on the survey to Mollen at amollen@wpsd.us by Jan. 1. A preliminary draft should be ready by Jan. 4 for review by the attorney and board before being presented at the Jan. 18 meeting.

Another improvement to communication in the offing has been a new website for the school district. A version is now online to view, currently at http://wrangell.schoolwires.net. The site is still in its design phase, and will eventually be located at http://www.wpsd.us.

The school district’s technology department aims to create a single place to get updated information about activities, and to facilitate communication between the administration, parents and students.

Hosted by content management company Schoolwires, the school board will have its own tab, allowing people to contact members directly by email. The site will also provide a place for teachers to create their own pages and tabs, and upload content.

The technology department is still looking for feedback on the site’s new features. Messages can be sent to Cyni Waddington at cwaddington@wpsd.us. The site is expected to go live on Jan. 1.

During the Dec. 17 meeting, talk also turned to next year’s budget. With the state facing a spending deficit of $3.5

billion next year, legislators will need to examine different options for evening out the budget.

Gov. Bill Walker released his budget bills for next year earlier this month, which proposes using a combination of spending cuts, new revenue and investment. Agency operations would see a net reduction of $100 million under the plan, including a portion to education. When the Legislature reconvenes for its second session on Jan. 19, the House and Senate will develop their own budget proposals, which when reconciled may call for even deeper cuts.

Mayer said the school system should be prepared for some reduction in funding, but added there was as yet nothing substantive to base expectations on.

“This is very early in this year’s budget development process,” he said.

In other business, the board approved the resignation of Scott Seddon as paraprofessional and hired Jason Beaty as custodian.

 

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