September school board meeting notes; labor issues, new grant


Last Tuesday night, on Sept. 14, Lincoln County School District #1’s School Board met for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Unlike their previous special meeting’s agenda, their agenda was far more routine this time around. However, before the board got into that, a small ceremony was held to recognize the KJSHS Students of the Month for September. The students in question, most of whom are featured on A3, were: Bridger Neria (7th), KayCee Davis (8th), Kylee Batista (9th), Gracee Painter (10th), Landon Heaps (11th), and Jordan Krall (12th). Unfortunately, only Davis was able to attend the meeting, departing shortly after she had been recognized.

Afterward, New Frontier High School principal Cody Hartung spoke up about a new initiative they were beginning at NFHS. He announced that they were beginning to select students of the week with the intention of highlighting their achievements to teachers and peers alike. In addition, Cody mentioned wanting to also highlight students for the School Board.

“Each month, we’ll spotlight 2 to 3 of our students, and our goal is to get to all of our students, and just get to know them a little bit better,” he said.

Hartung also pointed to the meeting’s agenda packet for their first two student spotlights, Dillon Hawkins and Arcelia Herrera. The packet included some questions and a photograph, but it was not immediately evident if the two students were asked to attend the meeting in the same manner that the Students of the Month had been.

After a round of applause for the two students, the Board returned to the agenda. Items on the agenda included finances, employment, resignations, and homeschool matters.

A monthly financial report was prepared, and a recommendation was made for the payment of bills due for the month of August, to the tune of $321,436.09.

Three individuals were also listed as recommendations for employment (with appropriate benefits for the positions):

• Cynthia Sharpe, as KJSHS Paraprofessional at lane 1, step 14

• Dailyn Nelson, as CES Paraprofessional at lane 1, step 5

• Mikayla Hibbert, as CES Paraprofessional at lane 2, step 1

Furthermore, two individuals were also listed as having resigned in the time since the last meeting:

• Brandi McCloud, KJSHS Paraprofessional, effective Aug. 11

• Stevie Peters, CES/Food Service, effective Aug. 31

After the consent items had been reviewed, Hartung, also the Athletic Director, went over the proposed updates for the coaching list. These changes only included minor staff additions in the form of volunteers.

The Board then planned on arranging a future time and date for the separate evaluations of the school board and the superintendent.

Next, Superintendent Teresa Chaulk began going over the COVID-19 status.

“We haven’t had any complaints since we had our special meeting [last week] and implemented our new policy. As of yesterday, we had 18 students out,” she said.

“Some parents are choosing to keep their close contacts at home, the majority are sending them to school with a mask. It’s working well for us right now, and we did say that we would monitor the close contacts if they did end up getting sick.” Chaulk said.

Then, the discussion shifted to the new federal vaccination mandate and how it affected them, as they were all technically state employees. Chaulk stated that she knew other states had filed lawsuits to fight the mandate, but that Wyoming was not currently one of them.

“I know that our governor is going to fight that stance…but we’re doing well, I think most of our constituents are happy with the process that we’re following,” Chaulk said.

Next, NFHS Business Manager Kim Zuniga went over updates about the ongoing work being done at the old school, noting a deadline of Christmas for being fully done with the movement of furniture, books and other such items out. Abatement was still projected to take place in January or February, with demolition taking place sometime in April.

Following Zuniga’s update, the discussion then moved on to the critical shortage of substitute teachers in the district. Notably, this appears to be part of a larger, nationwide trend of a critical labor shortage in many industries, with the governor of Massachusetts even activating members of the state’s National Guard who had their CDLs to step in as bus drivers.

“We do not have substitute teachers,” she began.

“Earlier today, we had a concern that we would not be able to send band to their band dates because we had people out sick, some with doctor’s appointments, and just a lot of activities going on…but we did figure out how to get it filled, as long as nobody else gets sick between now and when everybody leaves,” Chaulk said.

“Bus drivers are the worst [issue] that we have, our teachers are covering [other classes] during their prep periods almost every day, because we just do not have substitutes,” she continued.

Doug Hunter, one of the Board members, had a suggestion for how Chaulk might make a more persuasive argument for new substitute teachers or drivers.

“Well, when you make your plea, maybe make it more aggressive. Like [by saying] eventually, your children, your students, may not be able to [get to where they’re going].” Hunter said.

“That’s how we got the driver to drive on Friday!” Chaulk said, joining the room in a brief laugh.

“Well I mean, that’s kind of what you’re down to,” he added.

But Chaulk emphasized that their labor issues also extended to other areas as well, mentioning that they now had a shortage in one school kitchen due to the departure of Peters last month. Chaulk also mentioned that in her long tenure with this district, that this had been the worst it’s ever been.

Next, Zuniga picked things back up with an announcement that they had received a grant of $19,754 from the Department of Energy to retrofit the high school with LED lights, an amount that also included the exterior lights. She added that Canyon Elementary had their lights installed over the summer, noting that the difference in utility bills was already considerable. Afterwards, Zuniga explained that the grant had been applied for back in July and that installation is tentatively planned to be completed in December 2022.

Before the meeting’s adjournment, Chaulk alerted those present to bills of concern that were currently being drafted and discussed in the state legislature. Of these, she mentioned a transparency bill, identifying it as another critical race theory bill. But rather than explicitly banning it outright, Chaulk stated that the bill would require a publicly accessible and exhaustive list of any district’s curriculum.

“They want every district to literally post every resource that we use, every website, every YouTube video, every professional development. I don’t know who we’re going to pay to do that,” she added.

Following her final updates, the meeting was adjourned.

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