Willow River LifeSmarts members Hayley Johnson, Jacob Nikko, Adam Daoust, Aryn Jacobson and Summer Behrman were presented at the April 9 Willow River school board meeting. Willow River’s LifeSmarts team placed first in the nation on a recent national competitive online test. LifeSmarts is a consumer and life skills competition. Lois Johnson, the coach for the team, said, “The competition tests are not easy. They must study, study, study.”
Johnson said this is the fifth year in a row the team has gone to nationals for a total of six trips to that level. They compete in Atlanta, Georgia, April 20-23 against 39 other teams in both team and individual testing. The board congratulated the team.
School safety options
Superintendent Scott Anderson presented school safety opportunities available through the Pine County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), as put forward in a memorandum provided at a Pine County Collaborative meeting March 20. In the memorandum Sheriff Robin Cole suggested Pine County schools could share a School Resource Officer (SRO) with the cost being about $25,000 per school. The officer would be assigned to the area for the school year for four hours daily.
Anderson said this would be more about school security than it is about behaviors of the students. Anderson said, “We don’t really need a four-hour officer.”
Another option presented in the letter was the presence of a security officer with only the authority to make a citizen’s arrest. Anderson went on to say it would be better to have an officer who could act on a problem than a security guard who could not.
A third option proposed by Cole in the memorandum was not discussed by the board — the arming of school employees.
Anderson mentioned he would ask for a quote on a buzzer release door for a public entrance, a school safety option currently being considered by the Hinckley school district. No decision was made.
Firewall, phone system needed
Technology coordinator Annette Zacharias recommended to the board the purchase of an AirWatch firewall from the Sage Technology group. Zacharias said, “It would allow the teachers to monitor applications used” in their classrooms and would create more restraint for the students. If a student varied from that classroom’s plan it would give them a warning to leave that site before uninstalling it.
School board member Lisa Prachar said they should get “the end users involved” (teachers) in the decision of the firewall. Board chairman Greg Bennett said the technology committee should become involved in doing more research and to find out what other schools have used. The decision was made to review the current technology plan with the technology committee before committing to AirWatch.
Zacharias presented Internet protocol (IP) phone system quotes from Marco phone systems covering a range of payment options. Zacharias said, “They can’t find parts for the current system because they don’t make it anymore.” Bennett asked what the life expectancy would be on the new system. Zacharias said it would be 10 years at least, but it may need minor upgrades. Zacharias said the phone system would fall under the current e-rate federal compensation plan. Business manager Jenny Nelson said the normal reimbursement rate is 70 percent-78 percent to schools and libraries for phones and Internet purchases. No final decision was made.
Staff changes considered
The board approved the retirements of teachers Thomas George and Lois Johnson effective June 3. With the retirement of Johnson, Anderson asked for ideas from the board on the Family and Consumer Science (FACS) position that would be vacated. Prachar said she would “like to keep that chain of curriculum” and board member Tia Grutkoski agreed.
Anderson also asked for an approval to advertise a half-time school counselor position. Anderson said even though it is not required, “This is an area we’ve been lacking. It is needed here.” School board member Gerard Bennett said he would like more information on the need, and the request was tabled until the May meeting.
The board approved advertising for a part-time custodian for summer work, terminating teacher Jackie Hodnefield’s contract at the end of the 2012-13 school year and accepting the resignation of groundskeeper Dave Jensen, effective immediately.
Secondary homeroom added 2013-14
Secondary principal Matt Hosmer reported, after asking students what would be the most beneficial for them, the school will be starting a new half-hour homeroom beginning next school year. Hosmer said this will create available advisory time for students at the beginning of the day. With the half-hour change added, Hosmer stated all class periods for grades 9-12 will align. Anderson said it would also shift lunch times. Hosmer added that strict guidelines will need to be developed for the use of homeroom.
The board recommended changes upon the first reading of three revised policies — Wellness, Student Transportation Safety and Transportation of Public School Students. Changes to the wellness policy included providing healthy snack options, limiting food and beverages as academic or behavior rewards and requiring administrative approval for fundraisers involving the sale of food. The transportation safety changes included a household limit of two addresses for transporting children to and from school and notification of bus route changes to be made by noon.
The transportation of public school student policy was revised to state district buses may not travel on private, minimum maintenance roads or where road conditions are deemed hazardous to student safety. An addition to the policy also allows for the district to limit its bus service when transporting students who live out of the district.
In other business, the honors online agreement with Lake Superior College for 2013-14 was approved.