Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Board reviews approves strategic plan, increases principal position

Swan Valley School Board


November 28, 2019

SWAN VALLEY – The Swan Valley School Board approved the Swan Valley Elementary School Strategic Plan and reviewed their evaluations at their monthly meeting Nov. 20. They also unanimously approved increasing Principal Ralph King’s position from one day a week to two days a week for the rest of the school year.

The board has been conducting annual evaluations since they adopted the Strategic Plan in February of 2015. The Strategic Plan is one of three documents that the School board uses to provide direction and governance for the school. The second document is the Board Evaluations and the third is the Action Plan.

When asked why they do these yearly evaluations, Mercer said it was simple.

“Imagine if you put a piece of cardboard over the dash on your car and took off to go driving. How would that work for you?” said Board Chair John Mercer. “An evaluation gives you feedback. You don’t know how you are doing if you don’t do it.”

Mercer said that while the evaluations are part of the best practices for schools, the board was concerned that there wasn’t a culture of evaluation in the school.

“We thought if we start maybe that would help and it would trickle down,” said Mercer. “I know Ralph is very committed to that. It is nothing to be afraid of. It helps us learn.”

Mercer compiled the evaluations of the board operations, contract of services with Seeley Lake Elementary and the clerk manager. Four board members, one teacher and one staff submitted evaluations.

“Looking at the evaluations and the notes it got really clear to me that I think there has been potential for confusion about who actually is responsible for some of these things,” said Mercer. “The Board’s responsibility is to establish goals and objectives.”

Mercer said it was also clear from the evaluations the staff doesn’t always read the plan making it difficult to meet the goals and objectives laid out by the board.

Mercer summarized the eight-point board operations evaluation, “This suggests that we are reasonably functional as a board and are doing some things pretty well and making progress in all areas.”

The evaluation of the contract of services with SLE asked three questions based on the 2018-2019 school year. Comments praised the business manager Heather Mincey, special education and counseling services and some support for staff. Areas for improvement included staff meetings and evaluation, curriculum development, administrator availability and observations for teachers and staff. Recommendations for change for the 2019-2020 school year included staff observation, curriculum evaluation, staff mentoring, training and evaluations.

Mercer pointed out that SLE no longer provides the administrator. After speaking with the teachers and staff, King is now providing all of the requested support “in spades.”

The final evaluation the board reviewed was for the clerk/business manager contracted services. Mincey is the current clerk and business manager for Swan Valley School.

Mincey was highly praised for her work by both the staff and the board with no areas recommended for improvement.

The 2019 Swan Valley School Strategic Plan developed at the Aug. 6, 2019 Board Retreat passed unanimously and is available for the public to review at the office.

Mercer recommended that they reduce the list of deliverables outlined in the 2019-2020 Action Plan. When they didn’t have an administrator onsite, the board tried to provide as much structure and direction as possible for the staff. However, now with King in place, he has taken on that responsibility.

Mercer asked the board members, King and the staff to provide their input on the deliverables for the 2019-2020 Action Plan before next meeting so it can be discussed and approved at the December meeting.

“We still, as a board, need to make the decisions and set the direction,” said Mercer. “But I think what this will do is provide more input and feedback and involvement from our teachers and our staff in the process so that we are all really on the same page.”

Mercer asked the board to consider increasing King’s pay from 0.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) to 0.4 FTE. He quickly noticed after King was hired that he is always at the school. Mincey confirmed that the school would stay within the budget to increase his time.

“It is an investment more than an expenditure and will see a benefit way beyond the dollars,” Mercer.

After a brief discussion, the board agreed unanimously to support the direction approved the increase for King.

In other business:

• The board approved Chris Auchenbach and Katie Gleason as this year’s basketball coaches.

• The board approved a $1,000 stipend for testing coordination to be paid to third – fifth grade teacher Jamie Matthew.

The Swan Valley School board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.


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