By Emily Bialkowski
One Caledonia resident stepped forward to voice displeasure with the Caledonia School District’s decision to institute late-start Wednesdays this fall during its June 17 meeting.
Tom Reichenbacher, principal at St. Mary’s School, said that although he very much respects the job the school board has to do, he believes the change will disrupt student routine and learning.
“We need routine in education for our kids. I’m really concerned about losing 18 hours of direct student contact,” Reichenbacher said.
“As a taxpayer and stakeholder in the public schools, I truly challenge you and request data next May on how starting late on Wednesday is helping the students,” he said.
School Board Member Kelley McGraw asked Reichenbacher why he didn’t come forward sooner. Reichenbacher said he met once with Superintendant Ben Barton but was remiss in following up with the school board.
There was no action taken on the item, though later in the meeting Barton said teachers will be held accountable for time spent in peer learning centers, taking place during the late starts.
In a semi-related matter, the board voted to decrease the educational assistants’ schedule by a half hour each week for the 2013-14 school year as a direct result of late-start Wednesdays.
Also in personnel matters, the board agreed to:
• Terminate the employment of Robert Benson, a custodian, effective June 12.
• Decrease the number of extra duty days added to Judith Flaten’s teaching contract to five extra days beginning instead of 10.
• Decrease the number of extra duty days added to Kristi Knutson’s support staff contract to five extra days instead of 10.
• Ratify the part-time teaching contract for Zachariah Hauser as a 0.0858 middle school health and physical education teacher.
• Ratify the part-time teaching contract for Stacey Meyer as a 0.3432 FTE English as a second language teacher.
• Ratify the part-time teaching contract for Jessie Emerson as a 0.5148 middle/high school science teacher.
• Ratify the full-time teaching contract for Julia Erchoff-Costet (art teacher) from 0.6864 to 1.
• Ratify the part-time school nurse contract for Denise Wernecke from 0.40 to 0.60.
Due to low participation, the board voted to eliminate jazz band as a co-curricular activity. The vote was split 6-1 with Kelley McGraw voting no and Spencer Yohe absent.
McGraw pressed his colleagues to consider how difficult it is to build a program if the board keeps chipping away at it.
“It’s hard to sustain if we keep cutting,” McGraw said, adding, “If we’re doing this, we need to do it across the board.”
Barton responded by saying all activities and their participation numbers were reviewed.
“The numbers are looked at as we go,” DeMorett added.
McGraw pressed further and reminded the board that a thriving arts community is of value to the school.
Barton said it is the district’s intention to support co-curriculars but, “It’s a fact that not long ago this school district had 1,000 students and now we’re teetering around 600. There are significant dollars coming out of (the) general fund to support these programs, but it’s hard if the numbers aren’t there.”
Board Member Michelle Werner said she would certainly entertain the request to bring jazz band back – or any other activity – if enough students showed interest and came to the board.
“I would agree with something like that,” Board Member Jean Meyer added.
The jazz band lost two students this year to graduation, leaving only two behind.
Barton said he continues discussion with the Spring Grove School District to see if further co-oping opportunities exist.
In other news, the board approved a contract with Hiawatha Valley Education District to purchase a service agreement for speech and language services.
They also agreed to post a temporary IT support position to help the IT director over the summer. The same position was of great help last summer, the board was told.