NORTH CRAWFORD - In an upswelling of democratic participation, three incumbents and three challengers will vie for four open seats on the North Crawford School Board in the April election. Incumbents Jim Dworschack, Judy Powell and Terry O’Donnell will be joined by Harrison Heilman, Jesse Swenson and Gereon Wellhouse in the contest.
Three candidates will be elected for two-year terms and the fourth highest vote getter will serve out the one-year term created by the resignation of board member Jill Stefonek.
At their meeting on Wednesday, January 20, the board also decided not to appoint someone to serve on the board to replace Stefonek between now and the April election.
“Selecting someone to serve at this time, with only a couple of months until the April election would give the appearance of the board expressing an opinion about who we think should serve,” board president Mary Kuhn said. “I think we should wait and let the voters decide.”
Board members Tanya Forkash, Terry O’Donnell, and Judy Powell agreed with Kuhn. Board members Jim Dworschack and Ed Heisz were in favor of appointing someone to serve between now and the April election.
Mary Kuhn reported to the board that she had conducted an investigation into the Wisconsin Association of School Board’s Superintendent Evaluation Tool. Based on reports from other similar school districts using the tool, Kuhn recommended and the board approved adopting the tool for use in their evaluation of the district superintendent.
“I talked with people from the Weston, Iola and Scandinavia school districts, as well as Jamie Nutter with CESA-3 about the tool,” Kuhn said. “Board members at Iola stated that they like the tool because it focuses the board on the big picture and allows the administrative team to maintain a focus on how things will get done.”
Kuhn explained that the tool is based on 10 national and state standards for leadership, with seven-to-ten items under each standard. In using the tool, the board will select three of the items under each standard, and the superintendent will create goals and perform a self-evaluation for each item. The package costs $600 for three years, and comes with three years worth of support. Regular ongoing updates are meant to be placed on board meeting agendas every three months.
“We’ve always struggled with superintendent evaluations,” board member Judy Powell said.
“In the past we’ve just done an annual evaluation, but never anything in between,” board member Terry O’Donnell noted.
Paid emergency leave
The board discussed and voted to extend a paid emergency leave authorization that was originally funded with CARES Act funding. The authorization will be retroactive for the last three weeks. The authorization allowed employees forced to quarantine, or to care for a family member who has contracted COVID-19 or must quarantine, for up to two weeks paid, without having to use up all of their paid vacation, personal or sick time.
“Only a few of our employees used up their entire authorized 80 hours,” Brandon Munson said. “Most employees just continued to work virtually if they could not work in-person.”
Munson explained that the authorization expired on December 31, and that “COVID is still with us.” Munson explained that other districts in the area have voted to continue the policy, and that he believed it is in the best interests of North Crawford to continue it as well.
The board voted to continue the authorization eliminating items five and six of the list of conditions where use of the paid time would be authorized. No longer allowed are:
5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19
6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
Public use of facilities
Another topic that caused the board to engage in debate was whether or not to open up the Shed to the public again. The Shed has been available only to students and staff since March of 2020. Munson specifically asked if family members of staff could be allowed to use the facility, even if it is not opened up to the general public.
“We are still not out of the woods with COVID, and I think that we should maintain the status quo until further notice,” board member Jim Dworschack said.
“What’s another two or three months after all this time,” board member Terry O’Donnell said. “We can revisit our decision after the vaccine program gets enough shots in arms.”
“If we choose not to reopen, then I think we need to refund the membership fees to people that have paid them,” board president Mary Kuhn said.
The board voted unanimously to “maintain the status quo” and not to open up the Shed to public use.
In other business
In other business, the board:
• heard that the elementary education team has been evaluating literacy curriculums, and will bring their recommendations to the board when completed
• heard that the elementary team is seeing some learning gaps, especially in the area of early literacy, and that teachers have been enlisted to help correct the gaps
• heard that adjustments may be needed in the number of special education staff for the 2021-2022 school year based on the number of screenings taking place
• heard that all juniors will be required to take the ACT test, but that there will be no state report cards for districts this year based on the testing results
• heard that the administrative team’s ability to make progress on board priorities and goals had been negatively impacted this school year due to the demands of managing the COVID-19 crisis
• heard that North Crawford may receive as much as $250,000 from the stimulus package passed by Congress in December
• hired Heidi Olson-Stovey to fill the part-time FACE teacher position through the end of the school year
• heard that open enrollment for regular education students is open, and that open enrollment for special education in grades three through five, and for speech and language services is capped at this time• voted to continue the wrestling co-op team with Seneca for another two years.