May 20, 2015

School board approves increase

By Jarann Johnson
There was a slow build up to the Beulah School District’s School Board meeting last week. The start was normal with very few questions as the board listened to the superintendent’s and principal’s administrative reports. But the end of the meeting featured an interesting proposition – whether or not to increase to the Mercer County Youth Bureau budget.
Mercer County Youth Bureau Director Michelle Anderson presented her case for a $4,000 increase to the board and said that the Beulah school district currently gives $7,000. Anderson said that she wants to add a 9-month position to the department and cited the additional staff position as the main reason for the requested increase.
Anderson gave a quick financial overview, stating that the Beulah school district currently provides about 8.6 percent of her department’s $84,000 total budget. After presenting her overview, Anderson gave further reasons for the increase to her budget and adding more staff.
“Basically, the main reason for that is the county will still end up paying 65 percent or more for the total position. As things are increasing – I’ve had 49 cases just since January to May alone. I can’t imagine that is going to slow down. I have several visits set up with clients coming up in June,” Anderson said.
“I see 35-40 kids a week, but I’m also doing family meetings and things like that. My biggest concern, you guys, is as my numbers increase I’m one person and this is a diversion program. Diversion can’t happen without prevention. We can’t divert these kids away from the juvenile court system and getting in trouble if we can’t do prevention. And if we can’t do prevention, then the program is not doing what it’s supposed to do,” Anderson said.
Anderson answered one question about her involvement with school counselors -- saying that they work closely together -- before addressing other questions and adding background. Anderson said that time was a problem and that she also wasn’t involved in the elementary schools much as she would like.
The last question that the board asked Anderson was how much time is spent between both Beulah and Hazen school districts. Anderson replied that it changes from year-to-year, saying “sometimes it may be 50-50, other times 60-40 and 40-60.”
Anderson’s final push was clearly financial, and she talked about out-of-home placement cost. She stated that it is almost $16,000 for the average out-of-home placement for one child and explained just preventing two from out-of-home placement saves a lot of money.
The board approved the increase and settled their most challenging decision of the meeting. Before making that big decision, the board listened to administrative reports and approved the hiring of four new teachers.
Todd Kaylor, superintendent, presented his administrative report to the board. There were no questions raised by the school board by his report.
Kaylor addressed House Bill 1087, which is the new civics education requirement. Kaylor said that the first year of testing during the 2015-16 school year will require students to pass with a 60 percent mark, and the following years students will have to pass with a 70 percent mark. The test is allowed to be taken as many times as needed, and Kaylor doesn’t see it an issue for the district.
“It’s one of those things that legislatively it sounds like it’s going to be a huge impact to our school but, in all reality, we do provide civics testing, we do civics assessments in our classes. This will just be more of a straight-forward mandate that we follow,” Kaylor said.
Kaylor updated the board on a possible late start day. Kaylor said the school district has received approval for a 9 a.m. start time on Wednesdays, but wants to get feedback from teachers and the community before moving forward. Kaylor said the first steps are to gather information from teachers and the community before the school district makes a decision.
Amber Skalsky, elementary principal, presented her report to the board and highlighted the middle school orientation event, which is designed to make students more comfortable with the transition from elementary to middle school. The board had no questions for Skalsky.
Stacy Murschel, middle school principal, presented her report to the board and didn’t receive any questions. The highlight of Murschel’s report was the plan to departmentalize classes in the sixth grade.
“One thing that we’ve worked on with our sixth grade team this year, – something that we’re going to do differently next year is we plan to do departmentalizing with our teachers. What that means is that each teacher is going to specialize in a subject area,” Murschel said.
“Each teacher will teach their own language arts but then one of our teachers, Mrs. Behm, will be our math specialist and she will teach math to all of the sixth graders. Mr. Strand will be our social studies specialist, and Mrs. Gibbel will be our science specialist. Not only will it give our teachers a chance to specialize in a subject and be able to focus their time on fewer subjects, but it also gives students a good introduction on what it’s like to rotate classes.”

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