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By Dan Rudy 

School service gets new bus, new board president


A new bus has been added to the fleet serving Wrangell, the Public School Board learned Monday.

Etolin Bus Company has acquired a new Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 model bus, which will be used for transporting middle and high school students on daily routes.

Etolin operator Greg McCormack brought it and the previous Blue Bird model down to Evergreen Elementary to demonstrate the differences.

“The new bus we have is what I consider the world’s most modern school bus,” he commented.

Compared to the older

vehicles, the Thomas sports a number of added safety features. It has longer crossing arms, larger windows, compartmentalized seating with extra padding, and inside LED lighting.

The bus also features four onboard cameras, which captures activity inside the bus and out. McCormack explained having the cameras allowed for greater accountability, being able to account for mishaps, misbehavior, even traffic violations via the dash-mounted camera. Already McCormack noted two vehicles have ignored the stop sign and safety flashers deployed when students are offloading.

“It’s really been a blessing,” he commented.

In other board business, being its first meeting since the October 4 election, its members welcomed a former colleague back to its ranks.

Georgianna Buhler was elected to the board with 248 votes, and joined reelected member Rinda Howell at the table Monday evening. In the board’s first piece of business, officers were selected, with members nominating Buhler to serve as president. Buhler had previously served on the board from 2002 to 2010, chairing it for five years. She was elected to do so again unanimously after Susan Eagle declined a nomination to continue as president.

Eagle was nominated and elected to the post of vice president. Tammy Groshong was named board secretary.

Buhler explained part of her reason for wanting to serve again on the board was personal.

“I have a grandson now who lives with me,” she said. “I need to start pouring back in and giving to the community.”

The other motivation Buhler had was to assuage any perceptions that the board was “closed off.” She wanted to ensure the its processes were open to input and responsive to concerns. To that end, she asked that school superintendent Patrick Mayer begin including a full list of requests he receives from parents in his monthly reports, so that board members can be better aware of issues as they come up.

Also at Buhler’s request, an item which would have approved a memorandum of understanding between the Wrangell Public School District, City and Borough of Wrangell, Wrangell Cooperative Association and Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program was deferred to next month’s meeting.

As presented, the MOU would establish an exclusive commitment between these parties to develop a residential, accelerated high school for ANSEP. Beyond opening communication about the idea, it calls for development of strategies to fund designs and operations for the facility, its administration, and the roles of each signatory party in the project.

The idea was first publicly pitched during development planning sessions for the former Institute property in the spring. ANSEP initiated its first full-time accelerated school in the Matanuska-Susitna area this fall, but expressed interest in developing a residential school in Wrangell capable of teaching students from around the state. The Borough Assembly already issued a resolution in favor of the proposal and has organized a special committee to track its progress.

In requesting the deferment, Buhler pointed out she would need more time to examine the proposal before making an informed decision.

Board members approved the hiring of Mary Fredrichs, Patrick Longmire and Brenda Rang as paraprofessionals; offered an extracurricular contract to Penny Allen for middle school basketball coach; and offered a part-time teaching contract to Matthew Gore. Gore is currently the school district’s technology director.

At Eagle’s recommendation, the board policy covering nondiscrimination was submitted to the school’s attorney for review. The policy was last revised in 2004, and reviewed in 2011. Other policies pertaining to the board’s mission, district’s legal status and goals, and the review and evaluation process were reviewed and approved.

The board also requested from the superintendent more information on the high school’s senior capstone course, a mandatory class for outgoing seniors. Speaking before the meeting, student Joe Hommel suggested splitting the course into two sections, focusing on post-preparatory studies and senior projects. This year the two courses were combined, and together made mandatory for graduation.


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