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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Larsen Chosen Peshtigo School Board President

At its annual reorganization meeting Wednesday, May 14, Peshtigo School Board elected Gary Larsen president. Vote was five to two in favor of Larsen over incumbent Bob Thomas. Votes for Larsen were cast by Larsen, Tom Fischer, Kelly Jones, Julie Muenster and Cory Hess. Steve Coble and Mike Fifarek voted for Thomas. Vern Rhode was absent and Thomas did not vote.

Board officers unanimously elected to serve until May of 2015 are incumbent Julie Muenster, vice president; incumbent Kelly Jones, secretary/clerk; Thomas, deputy clerk, and Cory Hess, treasurer.

Larsen indicated he needed time to work out committee assignments, and that will be done before the next meeting.

Thomas, who had been unanimously elected to chair the reorganization meeting, declared it closed. He moved down to Larsen’s place at the board table, and Larsen took over the president’s chair for the remainder of the meeting.

Thomas was named to represent the district at the CESA-8 meeting on Thursday, May 29.

Jones was named District representative to the WASB Convention in January.

Later in the meeting Jones and Muenster volunteered to serve as board representatives on the school’s Technology Committee. Administrative Secretary Ruth Watson said that group will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28 in the District conference Room.

The evening started on a happy note - literally - with teacher Cheryl Lange singing the praises of retiring music teacher Marcia Thurow. That speech, under time for public comment, was followed by musical presentations from three of the 22 Peshtigo students who had taken first places in solo and ensemble competition at the district level.

Sophomores Nick McBride and Amanda Thomas performed their prize-winning snare drum duet and sophomore Alexandra Gordon performed an outstanding saxophone solo.

The musicians were introduced by Band Director Danny Smith. Smith noted that last month District Administrator Kim Eparvier had done a presentation on personalized learning, and explained steps the district is taking to achieve that. Smith said the school’s music program for some years has been based very much on personalized learning, with an emphasis on students setting personal goals that they want to meet.

The ultimate contest for high school musicians, he said, is solo and ensemble competition, and Peshtigo averages 125 to 140 entries a year in various categories in which students play at their own level, individually and in small groups. He explained some students compete in only one category, some chose as many as eight. This year 22 Peshtigo students made it to state. He said those who take part in Jazz Band report voluntarily for practice from 7 to 7:50 a.m. every school day, as a dedication to excellence. Gordon declared through personalized learning she had learned a lot, both on sax and oboe.

Lange said of Thurow: “She’s enabled so many young people to become accomplished musicians ... She knew the heights the gift of music could take these students...Their success was possible only because of a motivated, kind, caring teacher.” She noted the retiring elementary music teacher had received a standing ovation in the gym the previous Monday, and those attending the board meeting repeated the compliment.

Lange’s remarks were immediately followed by Eparvier’s presentation of recognitions to the two retirees: Elizabeth (Betsy) Bradley, expressing thanks for 24 years of service to students of the district, and Thurow, with thanks for 20.73 years of service. He noted she has been teaching for a total of 32 years, first at a private school and then as a part time instructor at Marinette High School, before coming to Peshtigo.

Later in the meeting the board approved resignations of Peter Dodds as elementary language arts teacher and Joe Schmidt as middle/high school social studies teacher, and unanimously approved hiring Tamara Tramnes as elementary music teacher and Keith LeMahieu as middle school football coach.

Eparvier reported one part-time staff member, study hall aide Jenny Hass, has received a layoff notice. Instead of a study hall aide they will have an intervention specialist available, so students can receive help from a certified member of the teaching staff. The board supported this decision by unanimous vote.

Student Council Representative Bryce Trimberger reported this would be his last meeting in that capacity. He will be co-president of Student Council next year and another member will be assigned as board liaison.

The board approved changes to the support staff handbook as explained by Eparvier. Eparvier explained at meetings on the subject the staff had a lot of questions, and there was considerable clarification and feedback. He noted they are transitioning into the new book for next year and one of the concerns had involved new state and federal laws on how overtime is paid. He recommended a change so that all hours over eight hours per day and/or over 40 hours per week will be paid at time and a half. Holidays, sick days and vacation days will not count toward the overtime hours.

There had been long meetings on employee compensation policies, with overtime pay the main concern Eparvier said. “The employees made some good points in their presentation, and I think everybody is extremely happy with the compromise.”

The bargaining units have not recertified, so Peshtigo is exempt from bargaining regulations, Eparvier said. They continue to work on a plan for performance pay for professional staff. This is one of the factors that will go into the expenditure side of the budget for the coming school year.

The board complimented Elementary Principal Tammy Kielbassa on her summer school program that was presented at the previous meeting. Thomas asked about the proposed requirement that at least 10 students must be registered for a class to be held, when Eparvier had told them previously they needed at least 12 to offset the cost. Eparvier explained there was a miscommunication, and she had thought he said 10. Kielbassa said she can live with either. The enrollment requirement is for enrichment courses only, and the minimum will be 12. There is no minimum registration for remedial academic classes.

At last month’s meeting the board had discussed a proposal to allow members of the school’s athletic teams to earn a portion of their phy ed credits from those activities, which will allow them to take other enrichment type courses during school hours. Eparvier said he felt last time there was a consensus of the board that they could draft a policy to that effect.

Coble said his concern was the need to protect students from putting off their final phy ed credits to their Senior year and then find that an injury or other impediment prevented them from participating for the entire season as required. “I don’t want to be sitting on this board the day someone comes to us and asks us to waive that requirement,” he declared.

The school’s phy ed teachers and coaches support the idea as a great opportunity for athletes to take additional classes while still getting the physical activity they need.

The board agreed Eparvier should proceed with drafting a policy to set up the program and cover their concerns.

At the request of Brian Williams, Director of Buildings and Grounds, the board approved purchase of a replacement floor scrubber at a cost of $1,800. He explained the machine uses ionized water, and no chemicals, and does a superior job of cleaning. He felt over the life of the machine they will save more than enough money to pay for it by not having to buy chemical cleaners.

Eparvier congratulated Dawn Warra for writing and receiving a $7,500 grant to be used for purchase of a personal finance curriculum and the technology to support it.

Coble reported he had gone on a field trip with students to the House on the Rock and believes it was a very good experience for the kids.

The next meeting will include discussion on contracted cleaning services, and preliminary work on the 2014-2015 budget.

After concluding regular business the board went into closed executive session to discuss the inability of an employee to return to work based on health status. There was no action taken, but the issue was placed on the agenda for the board’s August meeting.


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