Board meeting: Arbitrator sides with school, negotiations still underway and regular business

      Two issues involving the Terry Teachers Association topped the agenda of the July 28 regular school board meeting — progress, or lack thereof, on negotiations regarding teachers’ contracts and an arbitrator’s favorable ruling for the school district concerning a conflict on whether the district operated under reasonable measures by placing a letter of reprimand in one of its teacher’s files. 

     Scheduling conflicts with the TTA and the school board have kept contract negotiations for teachers’ salaries and benefits within the district from taking place, according to discussions during the meeting. Board members expressed some frustration at the process the negotiations have thus far taken. Terry teachers are currently working under the old contract, which ended earlier in the 2013-14 school year, until a new contract between the two parties can be ironed out.

     An arbitration that took place May 9 addressing a dispute between the TTA and the Terry School District resulted in a favorable ruling for the school district. The July 14 decision from arbitrator Donald Olson, who was hired by both the district and the TTA, stated the district acted under just cause when it supported Superintendent Casey Klasna’s decision to place a letter of reprimand in fifth grade teacher Susan Tyler’s file. 

     Although discussions during the board meeting didn’t identify the teacher, the Tribune is, since the teacher has been named in previous articles and in a letter to the paper addressing the matter. 

     In part the ruling states, “… Superintendent Klasna determined that an oral warning was insufficient punishment for a deliberate and callous act of misconduct. Obviously, he was correct to issue a written warning to emphasize to the Grievant the serious nature of her misconduct.”

     The dispute stemmed from an incident that took place in the 2013-14 school year when Tyler tore up checks written out by parents to the district for sports buttons in which funds were to be used to support the Accelerated Reading Program. The checks hadn’t been handed or cashed in an appropriate amount of time. Tyler subsequently wrote a personal check of her own, covering the amount raised from the discarded checks.

     In other school board news, trustee Jason Higgins announced at the meeting he will no longer be able to serve on the board, as he and his family have moved to the Miles City area. The board has 60 days from the day the seat is vacated to appoint a trustee, with the appointed trustee serving until the next school election, which is May 2015. Higgins has served on the board for eight years. 

     Several handbook changes made were noted. The coaching handbook will emphasize following Montana High School Association open gym rules, reiterating that there can be no open gym during the sport season of the sport. Another point to be stressed is that adults can’t play against students, due to the liability issue for the school. Another change to the coaching handbook addressed quitting a sport. After some discussion between Klasna and board members it was decided not to use the phrase, “Quitting is not an option,” but rather, “quitting and returning is not an option.” This was added to the handbook after an incident arose during last year’s school year, in which Klasna determined a player couldn’t return to a sport after quitting the sport earlier.

     Changes to the student handbook attendance policy were noted. The attendance policy reads as follows:



Attendance Policy

     When students enter school, they signify that it is their intention to attend regularly.  To assure such attendance, students are not to be absent from a class period more than nine (9) times per semester. Students must attend each class at least 90% of the time per semester to receive class credit.


     1. A student will be allowed nine (9) absences per class, per semester.

      •  An absence is any time the student is not physically present in class.

       •  Students who are absent will be permitted to make up work missed and to receive grades for time absent, provided they bring a parent/guardian or medical/dental excuse prior to absence and/or within two (2) days after absence.  The responsibility of contacting the instructors, getting assignments, doing the work, and submitting it to the instructors rests with the student.  A student will be permitted one (1) day for each day absent to complete makeup work, up to three (3) days.  Absences longer than three (3) days require the student to make arrangements with the teachers.

     •  A student who does not make up assigned work within the time allotted by the teacher will receive a grade of zero for the assignment.

        •  If a student is to be absent, the parent/guardian must call the school by 8:00 a.m. and leave a message or send a note to notify the school of the absence.  The phone number is 635-5533.  If the parent/guardian does not call, the District personnel will make a reasonable effort to call the home when an absence has occurred.  If reasonable attempts to contact the parent have failed, the absence will be deemed unexcused.

        2. The ONLY absences that WILL NOT BE used in calculating the attendance record are:

          a. Those that occur due to school-sponsored activities, since these are considered an equivalent educational experience.  These exceptions will apply to students participating in sports events, cheerleading, music-related events, FCCLA trips, academic field trips, and others deemed co-curricular.  

          b. Bereavement in the immediate family (mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather).  The parent/guardian must notify the school, and any other extended bereavement may be reviewed by the Attendance Board.

           c. Court-ordered, out-of-  district placements for special services will be addressed by the Attendance Board.

          d. Long-term illness and/or hospitalization verified by a doctor’s statement will be addressed by the School Board.

         3. Absences that will be counted in the nine-(9)-day limit include such things as:

            a. Medical/dental appointments, illness, suspension in and out of school, family trips, work days, vacations, visiting friends or relatives, watching tournaments 

    Paula Rein presented a software program that would monitor online activity by students and faculty using the school computers. Pointing out the software proposed would cost less than what the district is currently using, the board ultimately approved the purchase.

     The following personnel were approved: Shari Robertson for junior high volleyball coach; Duncan Hedges for the high school football coach; Leann Lantis volunteer cross country coach and Dani Hudson as high school volleyball volunteer. Substitute teachers approved were: Roberta Roelfsema, Richard Coburn and Barbara Mooney. 

     The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 18 at 7 p.m.

Published August 13, 2014

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