Board wraps up year's business


Last week's monthly meeting of the Miles City Unified Board of Trustees covered a lot of ground, as the board prepared for the end of the school year.

"There was a lot on the agenda," said Superintendent Keith Campbell. "At the end of the year, we always have a ton of things to get through, everything from policy to graduation to hiring all our teachers and administrators. Construction grants for the summer, new handbooks, all-day kindergarten, the list goes on. Just a lot to prepare for for next year."

The meeting began with an impassioned plea from several parents of Sacred Heart students, hoping to get the board to reconsider its policy on athletic participation at Washington Middle School. Originally addressed at meetings late last year, Policy 3510 as it currently reads prohibits private and home-schooled students from participating in MCPSD athletics. 

Trustee Chair Bob Wagner explained that a committee had met twice regarding the issue, and the decision was made to leave the policy as it currently stands. Citing a long-time and successful affiliation with Washington Middle School, however, Sacred Heart parents asked the board to revisit the policy again in the future.

"Obviously, Sacred Heart is a strong member of our community, and we respect their opinion," Campbell said. "We're sympathetic. I can say we had two committee meetings where the issue was addressed. Our committees were very supportive of Sacred Heart; it's just procedurally, how do we make that work? We just found it very difficult to approve any change in policy that would be all-inclusive."

Campbell cited the potential for liability as a primary factor in the board's decision to uphold the policy.

"Extending our liability was something the board didn't feel comfortable with," he explained. "You would like to think nothing would happen … But it's a chance we can't take. The risk factors have increased significantly over the last few years for all public entities."

That said, the board will always be open to what the public wants, according to Campbell. He said he would be surprised if the issue is not revisited again in the future.

"Now when it will be considered again, I'm not sure," he said. "We have it in our procedurals when we consider policy, and there is a waiting period that goes along with that. But the board will always consider any suggestion, it just has to go through the proper channels."

In staffing, the board voted 7-2 to approve all tenured and non-tenured teachers, as well as administrators. The board also voted to return the position of assistant principal to full time at Custer County District High School. First-year AP Vince Gundlach had been spending half his time at CCDHS and half at WMS in an effort to provide an extra administrator at both schools. Campbell called it an experiment that made sense on paper, but didn't quite translate to desired results.

"My recommendation after trying it a year was that it hadn't worked as well as all had hoped," Campbell said. "It wasn't the optimal situation in our education environment. It did save us money, but sometimes you pay for that in other areas. We didn't provide the same level of service that we could provide with a full-time administrator. We will now open that half-time position at the WMS. We have a lot of options. A teacher could go half-time teaching and half-time administrator, or we could hire someone who just wants to be a half-time administrator."

Another first-year experiment proved more successful, as the board voted to approve the return of all-day kindergarten next year, not just at the pilot site at Garfield Elementary but at all three schools offering kindergarten.

Also under staffing, all fall sports coaches at CCDHS were approved for rehire by the board, as was the boys basketball coach. As for girls basketball, Jacqui Engstrom was dismissed as head coach by a 5-4 vote. Jon Harris, the wrestling coach, will have to wait one more month to find out if he will return to that position. The vote was deadlocked at 4-4, with one board member abstaining from voting. The board will vote again in June.

"Activities Director Mike Ryan and I made the recommendation to rehire all our coaches," Campbell said. "The result of the votes was surprising to me, but it was a board decision. They represent the community, and that's how they felt. We'll move forward from there."

New hires ratified in the Elementary School District include Jessica Campbell-Summer Mowing; Theresa Nalewaja-Substitute Teacher; Summer Help at Lincoln- Sacha Dunnam; Painting at Lincoln in June: RaeLynn Roseler, Kris Crews, Janice Warn; Holly Porter, Jill Nalewaja and Melinda Tangen.

Resignations/Terminations in the Elementary district include  Ronda Holland-Kindergarten Jefferson; Cara Willson-Speech Pathologist Aide; Katie Merkel-Occupational Therapist; Kim Peterson- Paraprofessional Highland Park.

New hires ratified – High School District: Jessica Campbell-Summer Mowing; Karen Kaze-Summer maintenance.

Resignations/Terminations – High School District: Jim Bott-Agriculture Teacher/FFA Advisor; Anne Schmidt-Aide and Copy Room.