Board hires several positions, questions others
Seeley Lake Elementary School Board
June 25, 2020
SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Elementary School board discussed hiring and hired some of the proposed summer and kitchen staff positions at their June 15 meeting. They also approved several contracts and agreed to add preschool/transitional kindergarten funding and recreation equipment to the agenda for the July meeting after they were brought up during public comment.
At the start of the meeting, Chair Kyle Marx addressed the nine letters submitted to the board regarding the recent teacher reassignments to different grades. A special board meeting was called for Thursday, June 11 and was canceled prior to the meeting.
“The school board has nothing to do with teachers’ assignments,” said Marx. “That is strictly part of the superintendent’s job and has nothing to do with the school board.”
The letters remained as part of the official record but were not read or discussed by the board.
The board discussed the head cook and kitchen assistant, Summer Adventure Club leaders and Reading and Math Enrichment instructor recommendations separately prior to making a decision.
Superintendent Daniel Schrock recommended hiring Debra Blodgett as the new head cook and Laura Devins as the kitchen assistant. Schrock said Blodgett has cooked in Potomac for the past couple of years and was by far the most qualified applicant and Devins has a lot of experience in food preparation and service.
21st Century Program Director Bridget Laird recommended hiring Ella Batchelder and Eric Lorentz to run the 2020 Summer Adventure Club from June 23 – July 29. Trustee Kathy Teague took issue with Laird’s recommendations. She claimed there was nepotism going on since Batchelder is Laird’s daughter. Teague felt that there were a lot of students back from college that may want an opportunity to work for the Adventure Club.
Schrock said his first recommendation he made to the board when he started last summer was for hiring a paraprofessional position. He “got a lot of grief” because he didn’t advertise the position, even though he made it clear that state law does not require the position to be advertised. The next position he advertised, even though there was an extremely qualified applicant, “to avoid the perception of impropriety.”
Vice Chair Doc Welter agreed that the Adventure Club leader positions should have been advertised.
Laird said she has never advertised any of the 21st century positions in the past five years of the program. Batchelder and Lorentz have led the program for the past two years. She said she is happy to advertise the positions if needed.
For the 21st Century Reading and Math Enrichment Program, Laird recommended hiring SLE staff Jama Mauldin, Zoe Mohesky and Janina Bradley. These positions were not advertised outside of the school but the positions were sent out to the staff.
Schrock cautioned the board hiring the teachers for the enrichment program, highlighting the uncertainty of how the County Health Department will react should COVID-19 case numbers increase. He said many schools are not resuming in-person summer programs until at least July.
District Clerk Heather Mincey said by hiring these teachers the board is not under contract to pay them should the program get shut down. Laird said she has a plan in place to mitigate for COVID-19.
The board agreed that the Adventure Club positions needed to be advertised before they would approve the hires. Laird agreed to advertise the positions in the June 18 Seeley Swan Pathfinder. The board scheduled a special meeting June 29 at 10 a.m. to approve her recommended hires.
When asked, Schrock said that the head cook position was advertised and there was no one within miles of Blodgett’s experience.
The board voted unanimously to hire Blodgett and Devins in the kitchen and Mauldin, Moehesky and Bradley for the Reading and Math Enrichment.
While the Pathfinder commented via the Zoom Chat prior to the vote, it was not read until after the vote that the kitchen assistant position was advertised in the Pathfinder but the head cook position was not. Schrock said that it was public knowledge that the head cook resigned and he received applications from that.
The board agreed that for future positions, they want them publically advertised so anyone who is interested has the opportunity to apply.
During public comment, the board was asked about funding for preschool/transitional kindergarten. They are waiting to find out the amount for Title 1 funding. Mincey said it should be available at the July meeting. Marx said the board welcomes any input for funding preschool/transitional kindergarten and donations to the school for their programs are always appreciated.
Mincey said that if people designate money to the program, then that money is coded to the program. If the program doesn’t happen, then it remains as a miscellaneous fund.
Also during public comment, Trustee Ryan Dunster asked about the school’s recreation equipment. He would like to see an inventory, asked about accountability when equipment is checked out and wanted to know if there was a contract so the equipment is given out in an equitable way.
“My concern is that if it is not something that can be arranged or accounted for then maybe we need to discuss what is available and sell it and put that money into a fund and stop using it all together if it is not going to be available to everybody,” said Dunster.
The board agreed that there needs to be some accountability for the equipment and agreed to add it to the agenda for next month’s meeting.
Schrock’s final superintendent report provided a recap of his year at SLE, things that he has done and he thanked the board for their continued service to the school and the community. While this year has been challenging, in many ways not even including COVID-19, he is proud of the work he accomplished in his year tenure.
“There has been some thought and conjecture that some of the recommendations I have made have been made with less than honorable intentions. Never was that ever the case,” said Schrock. “I made my decisions based on what is best for kids, what is best for the budget, what is best for the team and for the future.”
Teague thanked him for his efforts and being professional with her interactions. She saw that everything he did was for the kids first. She wished him the best of luck.
In other business:
• The board approved the 2020-2024 bus contract with Conley Transportation.
• Schrock provided background on the Strategic Planning process that was initiated last February. They were presented with a document containing the result of the Trustee – Community Cross-Over event. The board agreed to hold a work session with incoming Superintendent Josh Gibbs July 6 at 5:30 p.m. to create a framework with Gibbs to continue with the strategic planning process.
• The board unanimously approved the budget amendment for fiscal year 2020.
• The board approved the 2020-2021 Swan Valley School contract for business services, counseling and special education.
The board will meet June 29 at 10 a.m. to approve the hires for the Summer Adventure Club. They will meet for a work session July 6 at 5:30 p.m. with Gibbs regarding goals and the strategic plan for the school. Their monthly July meeting is scheduled for July 20 at 5:30 p.m.