School board covers negotiations, upcoming hearings among other items

 By Kay Hoffer

Contract negotiations with teachers, discussions of upcoming hearings and the renewal and nonrenewal of instructors were among the highlights of Monday evening’s regular school board meeting.

Terry School Board Chairman Brian Morast reported contract negotiations with Terry Teachers Association representative Maggie Copeland ended abruptly after an agreement regarding insurance questions could not be reached. Morast and Jason Higgins were among the school trustees who met with the TTA earlier to talk over new contracts for teachers, just hours before the regular April 14 school board meeting.
The negotiation committee, which met at 5 p.m., ended after only 30 minutes.
“That was the extent of negotiations tonight,” Morast reported to the board. “We really didn’t do a damn thing.”
Morast said talks stalled when questions were raised regarding whether Terry Schools would be responsible to provide health insurance for its 10 full time classified employees, under the new health insurance provisions. Morast estimated that could raise the cost for Terry Schools by as much as $96,000 annually, if not more.
According to Morast, Copeland had advised that schools with under 50 employees were not obligated to provide the insurance.
“Everyone you talk to has a different version of the truth on the insurance,” Morast said.
Discussions then moved on to the district continuing to iron out details on what kind of health insurance can be offered to its teachers. Under the new healthcare law, there are many questions as to the school’s options. Increasing costs continue to be a concern.
Two hearings involving Terry Schools will be held within the month. 
An arbitration hearing regarding a disagreement between the Terry Teachers Association and Terry Schools over whether a letter of reprimand should have been placed in fifth grade teacher Susan Tyler’s file will be held May 9 at Stockman Bank. 
An April 23 hearing at the Prairie County Courthouse has been scheduled for a religious discrimination complaint filed in 2012 against Terry Schools by Shawn Springer with the Montana Human Rights Bureau.
Near the conclusion of the regular meeting, Superintendent Casey Klasna offered his recommendation to the board for renewal and nonrenewal of teachers. The board accepted Klasna’s recommendations unanimously. They were: Renewing all tenure teachers; renewing non-tenure teachers Rita Pehl, Elizabeth Hanneman and Jessica Spaulding; not renewing non-tenure teachers Tom Mock and Stephanie Holt.
Mock currently teachers high school shop classes, while Holt teaches high school math classes.
Other topics covered
Board members listened as reports were given from three teachers regarding whether trimester scheduling would work at Terry Schools. The teachers had recently visited Culbertson school to review how trimesters worked there and were asked to share their opinions with the school board, which has been reviewing whether the new scheduling should be implemented in Terry.
Two of the teachers provided letters, which were read by Klasna to the board, while music instructor JoDee Hess was on hand to share her opinion.
Physical education and business teacher Elizabeth Hanneman’s letter stated she didn’t feel that trimesters would be a good fit for Terry Schools.
“I feel it is wrong to deny students classes that are beneficial for college just to allow the trimesters to work, no one wins. We should not force a new idea if it does not benefit everyone involved. Remember to have trimesters work successfully in our school that means hiring at least 2-3 additional teachers or denying the students classes that are currently offered.”
Hess’ verbal report ran along the same vein. She contended trimesters would be detrimental to the music program and questioned the accessibility to finding curriculums for trimesters.
“It would hurt it greatly,” Hess said of trimesters’ affect on the music program.
High school science teacher Greg Mendenhall offered pros and cons to implementing trimesters at Terry Schools in his letter to the board.
According to Mendenhall, trimesters will reduce the number of classes taught at a time, which would allow him to focus more on each class. Elimination of a study hall would reduce wasted time. On the other hand, the elimination of study hall would hurt some students who use the time effectively. There will be a steep learning curve for students and teachers, Mendenhall stated. He also raised concerns about the size of Terry’s staff restricting the availability of classes and class times under trimesters.
“I don’t want to rule it out,” Klasna said of the trimester option after the reports were given. “I really like the electives the kids could take (under trimesters).”
Klasna suggested having a schedule made for Terry Schools for the board to review at an upcoming meeting.
Klasna address concerns he has regarding the current student attendance policy. Noting he had 19 attendance meetings, regarding 12 students, within the first semester, Klasna said a new approach to the attendance policy might be more effective. He would like to change the wording of the attendance policy to allow the loss of credit in a class rather than a drop in grade, as it currently reads.
Klasna reported to the board that the Grandey blacktop recently received a seal coat and repair. The cost was $3,500. A purchase of a new storage shed was also reported to the board. The 12 foot by 18 foot shed, with a roll-up door will store track and field gear among other items. It was $4,800.
Klasna suggested the board look into hiring a part-time principal for the school noting it, “would be beneficial to the district and the students.” Klasna along with trustees Higgins and Kelly Hubbert will get together soon to write up a job description for the possible new position.
Terry Schools currently doesn’t have a drivers education teacher. There are about 12 students who will be eligible to take drivers ed this year. It was suggested to check with the Wibaux school to see if Terry could use their instructor.
Klasna reported that he has accepted the resignation letter of Jody Haidle, who has taught high school family consumer science and art classes for the past 14 years. Noting her contributions to the school, Klasna said finding that quality of teacher to replace Haidle will be difficult.
Tammi Prete also resigned as the junior high volleyball coach.
The regular school board meeting was closed to the public for the clerk’s evaluation.

Published April 16, 2014

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