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North Crawford Board approves hiring a guidance counselor
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The returning principal and new hires were among the many topics discussed by the North Crawford School Board on Wednesday, April 26.

Following another medical leave, high school principal Toby Tripalin was welcomed back with enthusiasm during the Wednesday night board meeting.

“Not a ton to report, I just came back last week, but I am so excited to be back,” Tripalin told the board. “I am excited to have my cancer in remission, my hip rebuilt and be back and passionate about learning.”

Superintendent Brandon Munson advised the board that for the short term former ED/Athletic Director Dave Bergum would continue to take care of some administrative aspects of the principal position, such as sports and discipline. The plan going forward is for Tripalin to continue his in-classroom work and teacher evaluations and the situation would be evaluated on a week-by-week basis.

During open session for public comment, a former paraprofessional for North Crawford, Melanie Jelinek, expressed concern about the pay scale of one of the new hires. Jelinek is also a school district resident.

“I know you guys will go over the new guidance counselor position,” Jelinek said. “I just wanted to have some input on the income level as a taxpayer. I just think it’s a little steep to start, I’m not saying it couldn’t be something for the future, but to start I think it’s kind of high.”

The guidance counselor position Jelinek referred to is the new position created this year for Pre-K through eighth grade.

“We received sixteen applicants for this position, which was higher than we expected,” Munson told the board. “We narrowed it down to five strong finalists. The hiring committee recommended Zoe Ellerbusch, who is also known as Zoe Coleman, a North Crawford Graduate.” 

Munson informed the board that Ellerbusch has been working with the Madison School District for the last four years and has a Masters degree in counseling psychology.

“There is something strong to be said about someone who is starting a new family and is looking to relocate back home from the city,” Munson said. “She understands the district and understands the students so we are very excited.”

The rate of pay offered to Ellerbusch was a bit of a concern for some board members, as well as Jelinek.

Munson recommended Ellerbusch be placed on the salary schedule at MA+12, Step 9 based on her education and experience. That translates to $47,412 a year.

“We haven’t in the past given full years of service to new hires,” said school board member Terry O’Donnell.

“After some negotiating this was where we settled, and where she needed to be for her to relocate,” Munson explained. “This was where we also felt comfortable budgetarily. This was an individual everyone felt very strongly about, and this was the number she felt comfortable to agree to.”

“I’ll just add there might be more positions like this in the future and with low applicant problems in Wisconsin there has to be some negotiation to get the person you want,” Demetri Andrews pointed out. “There probably isn’t a tech ed teacher in the state making less than $50,000 a year. And our salary scale is low compared to other districts, it’s just what it is.”

“Giving the extra year was my concern, I just felt it needed to be said,” O’Donnell noted.

“I’m sure she’s bringing a lot of experience to the position,” board member Jesse Swenson noted.

The board approved the hire of Ellerbusch. The board also approved the hiring of Angie Wall as the Summer Rec Softball Director; Amy Allbaugh as the Summer School Coordinator; and Kurt Meyer moving into the fifth grade teaching position.

An update on the UNESCO projects offered a surprising change for North Crawford School.

“The front entryway flooring was one of the major projects during the remodeling, to make secure entries at the school,” Munson explained. “To our knowledge, the district has always been asbestos free, that has always been our report. The company doing the work came in and did testing and found that some of the tile outside of the main office had glue on it that tested positive for asbestos. The tile in the office however, tested negative.”

Munson explained that after some investigation with director of maintenance Harry Heisz, it was discovered that the offices were initially carpeted. The carpeting was replaced with new tiles in 1996. This led them to believe that it is only the original tile glue used in the entryway that contains the asbestos.

“It is safe right now as long as we keep wax on it,” Heisz told the board.

Munson also noted that as long as it isn’t disturbed and turned into particles that could be inhaled, the asbestos isn’t a risk.

“The dilemma is that removing tile needs abatement which is an increased cost,” Munson explained. “But, the advantage is that the company is already going to be here.”

Although the cost for the tile replacement was anticipated to be increased, a ray of sunlight shined on the situation.

Demitri Andrews explained to the board that the school was getting unanticipated revenue from the previously completed lighting and door projects.

The rebates came from Focus on Energy and Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, and totaled about $46,000. 

“We expected the money from Focus on Energy, but the $15,000 from Scenic Rivers was totally unexpected,” Andrews noted. “We will be able to use some of the rebate money to offset the cost of doing the front hall and use what’s left in the UNESCO contingency fund and rebate.”

The total cost of the asbestos abatement for the front hall (which runs in front of the library and between two offices) is estimated to be just under $12,000, and will be completed by a company called Dirty Ducts Cleaning of Madison.  There will also be a cost for air quality testing which will be contracted with another company at the cost of approximately $2,700. The new Polytech flooring will cost about $18,000. 

It was estimated that the cost for abatement for the entire school could be upward of $400,000.

“We think about eight classrooms have the new tiles, but until we pull samples we won’t know for sure. It is safe for now,” Heisz reiterated.

During the District Showcase portion of the meeting, the playhouse and state forensics participants were presented.

“It is my honor and privilege to recognize the Play House,” Munson told the board.

Playhouse director Rob Ghormley and Camille Smith were both on hand to talk about this year’s North Crawford Playhouse, as well as plans for the future.

“We performed ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ for our musical this year,” Ghormley explained. “We never had a sellout house which is unusual. It is not as well known as some musicals we have done, but it was fun.”

Ghormley went on to explain that the spring play performance was ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’

“It went well, one of the best attended plays we’ve ever had,” Ghormley said.

Next year will the 50-year anniversary of the Playhouse. To celebrate the program, there are plans to do the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ with a creepier vibe than the movie that so many are familiar with.

“We want those monkeys to be every bit as scary as they were when we were children,” Smith noted with a chuckle.

Another part of the anniversary celebration will be reprinting posters from every musical from the last 50 years. The Playhouse will be reaching out to the community seeking photos that are missing from the archives of previous musicals.

In forensics news, Ghormley alerted the board that the largest group ever from North Crawford went to the state tournament this year. The group achieved a total of 25 medals for their efforts. 

Elementary principal Julie Kruizenga briefed the board about how things were going in the elementary and special education department. She told the board that the entire elementary school would be attending a movie at the Vernon Square Cinema. 

Kruzizenga also shared a positive story with the board, “The Beyond the Bell group went swimming today, and one little guy walked in the door and said ‘It was a great time Mrs. K, and I did it the North Crawford Way!’ It was great to hear that they are doing things right, no matter where they are in the community.”

The school board also learned about a small change to the lunch procedure. In the past, the policy stated that if a student's account was delinquent, they would no longer receive normal hot lunch. Instead for three days, they would receive a sack lunch before being cut off completely. Munson expressed that the entire food service team discussed this policy and felt extremely uncomfortable with not feeding a child at school. It was decided that there would be no cutting off of meals to a student. Instead, they would receive a sack until other arrangements could be made.

The board was also notified that teachers are working together with the special education staff to come up with one-page goals for the special education students, so the entire teaching base can work more effectively with the students who have special needs.

In other board news:

• ‘Muffins with Mom’ was called a success

• Health insurance at the school is facing a nine percent increase, but no final action had been taken- waiting to see if anything better comes along.

• School band director Holly Jones was donated an electric piano by Geraldine Smith and she was very grateful.

• The board was presented with the Summer School Booklet.

• Public kudos were given to Amy Allbaugh for her hard work with Summer School Project.

• The board learned of a new licensing proposal that could allow teachers to teach beyond their current licensure.

• A heating unit was being replaced in the bus garage to increase efficiency.

• School-based mental health services would be available for a small number of students at the school.