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(Neb.)-Chadron School Board Discusses Facebook, Strategic Planning, And More  Listen

By: Roxie Graham-Marski Posted at: 04/12/2012 03:04 PM

(CHADRON)-It was a busy night at the Chadron school board Wednesday. Discussion ranged from sports concussions to strategic planning committee highlights. 
In what school board president Sandy Roes called a vote of confidence, the board extended school superintendent Caroline Winchester’s contract another year, which now runs until July 2015. After conducting a comparability study of the region, the board kept Winchester’s salary the same, but added five additional days of vacation. Roes said the study showed that Chadron is in the mid-range of area schools when considering Winchester’s experience and time in school leadership. Member David Johnson questioned why another year was being added to the contract, and Roes explained that schools operate differently than other businesses and says she feels it is important to let leadership know they are valued. She says “it can be a great stability factor and motivator” for faculty and staff. Member Charles Kuskie added that if anything ever would come up during Winchester’s personnel evaluation, that she could be terminated despite the contract, because she is not tenured.
The board made changes to the policies regarding Internet safety and staff and student acceptable use of technologies. Kuskie thought it was important to add the phrase “to the extent practical” because he says “it is virtually impossible to police all technological devices in school” all the time. Devices accessing the school’s network will automatically be filtered, but smartphones on school grounds are difficult to monitor. There was some discussion as to how much monitoring can be done on private devices on school grounds, especially if students start bringing items from home to use for school purposes, such a Kindle for reading purposes. Johnson pointed out that students who comment on public forums, such as Facebook, might contest their right to freedom of speech and their right to privacy in regard to the school monitoring their comments. The general consensus was that comments made in a public forum are purposefully made public and therefore have no right of privacy. However, Johnson reminded the group that the topic would likely “continue to be a gray area.” Roes said it is important that students know the importance of thinking through what they say, even in Facebook posts.
The board approved school start dates and end dates for the 2012-2013 school year. New faculty and staff will report for orientation on August 10th, the second Friday of the month, which school board president Sandy Roes says is pretty standard statewide. School will officially start Wednesday, August 15th, with teachers reporting to work the Monday before.
            Three more faculty and staff resignations were brought to the board. Pamela Smith, who worked for 21 years as a guidance counselor, teacher Mandy Morava, and library aide Hazel Montague will be finished working for Chadron Public Schools this year. The board regretfully accepted their resignations. 
The board discussed setting up a joint meeting with other school districts on the Highway 20 corridor. In the past, Chadron schools have partnered with the other schools to provide educational opportunities from the state through Chadron’s telecommunication video system. Roes says sometimes the western part of the state feels far removed from happenings in Lincoln, so the sessions provide a way to keep things more equitable and to allow local school boards, administrators and educators easier access to state educational opportunities. Roes says the group has much they can learn from one another as well and hopes that the joint meeting might provide a platform for growth.
Most of the school’s strategic planning committees, which were born from the need for a more detailed look at the aspects of what the schools need and want to implement and maintain over the years, have all met together to brainstorm and start creating ideas for the future. Members shared reports from their committees on what had been discussed to date.
            Charles Kuskie stated that members of the policy committee discussed the policy of communication and its importance. They also plan to look for any conflict of communication between faculty and student handbooks and school policy. He said the committee is seeking volunteers willing to read over a portion of handbook or policy and search for discrepancies. The next policy meeting is scheduled for April 24th at 4:47 p.m.
            Roes reported that the finance committee also discussed communication, which was an overarching element in most of the committees when they were formed. The finance committee thinks it is important to educate taxpayers, so they have created a Budgeting 101 session. They also discussed keeping property taxes to a minimum, developing coalitions, and fiscal responsibility. Their next meeting will be April 25th at 5:30 p.m.
            Terri Haynes said the curriculum and personnel committees decided on their three top priority items. The curriculum committee is focusing on increasing academic rigor, grade level size, and alternative education. Their next meeting will be April 17th at 5:30 p.m. The personnel committee is concentrating on increasing academic vigor, increasing collaboration within the district, and communication. Their next meeting will be April 18th at 6:00 p.m., and they plan to meet on a regular basis every other Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.
            Keith Drinkwalter said the building and grounds committee is comprised of a good, large group. At their first meeting, Drinkwalter said the group began looking at items on the list from the original strategic planning meeting and started placing them into a long-term plan. They also discussed communication, alternate funding, and finances. Their next meeting will be April 12th at 5:30 p.m.
            Roes stressed that each committee is not exclusive, but rather inclusive, so if anyone knows someone who is interested in taking part on one of the committees, bring them along to the meeting. She also mentioned the legislative committee, which is still in the formative stage, as a new venture that promises to be a benefit to the schools. She said there is now a planning person in charge of setting up a date for the first legislative committee meeting and that information will be announced soon. She says she is all-around pleased with the committees and their members.
                     
(Questions? Comments? E-mail roxie@chadrad.com.)
(Copyright 2012 KCSR/Chadrad Communications, Inc. May not be reproduced in any form without permission.)


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