SENECA - A large agenda, some lengthy reports on recent listening sessions and lots of items in the closed session agenda made for a long Seneca School Board Meeting on Monday, June 18.
One of the early discussions in the meeting centered on wages for staff in the coming year. The state formula set the rate for raises at 2.13 percent based on cost of living figures.
However, the board and administrator had previously discussed the possibility of going to 2.5 percent. The higher percentage was favored by several board members including Larry Kelley, who reminded his fellow board members the district needed to stay competitive with other districts when hiring and retaining staff.
Recently elected board member Charles Clark said the 2.5 percent raise seemed reasonable. Rachael George also spoke in favor of 2.5 percent.
Clark made a motion to approve a 2.5 percent increase in staff salaries for the 2018-19 school year. The motion was seconded by Tyler Aspenson and approved unanimously by the board with Chad Sime abstaining.
The board also discussed two listening session reports. The first presented by Rachael George involved a session with students. The second with teachers was presented by Rachael George and Larry Kelley.
The report on the student listening session started with suggestions made to change some of the middle school lockers. Apparently dividers running down the middle of the lockers are creating difficulties for students with filled book bags.
George said she found replacements for the locker that would run about $100 per locker.
District administrator Dave Boland said the school had other sources for lockers but they were fairly spendy. Boland said he would investigate removing the dividers from the current lockers to create the larger space for book bags.
The lockers are the oldest lockers and one third of the lockers are new.
George noted that in addition to the students’ complaints about the divided lockers every teacher also mentioned it.
George also mentioned that an old water fountain in the middle school was not filling the student water bottles during the break. She said the students suggested a water bottle filler and possibly replacing the water fountain.
Boland said that there was a possibility the district could.
Students also requested that the district update the locker rooms in the new gym with an eye toward providing more privacy.
There were also several suggestions aimed at cleaning and repairs. The students asked that floors in the school and particularly the locker room be cleaned daily. There were also suggestions to fix leaking or inoperable faucets, toilets and urinals at different location in the school.
Students also suggested the school lunch menu be improved and that chicken be offered less often. Perhaps by adding lasagna or other entrees. They also suggested adding soup to salad bar offerings.
There were also suggestions to improve the parking lot for more space and adding more handicap spaces.
Another suggestion was to get more IT help to assist Laurie Nelson in fixing the students’ Chromebook computers, when they experience problems.
Clark said he felt it was important for the district to do anything visible in response to the students’ suggestions.
At one point, George was asked to prioritize the suggestions into what she thought were the three most important.
For her part, George saw the most pressing concerns from the students would be updating the locker room with attention to improving privacy; creating more space in the parking lot; and improving the menu of the school lunch program.
George joined Kelley in reviewing the teachers’ listening session.
George said the staff also said there was a need to improve the water fountain for water bottle filling.
Some staff felt the air conditioning in the IMC should be improved to help keep the library books in better condition.
Another problem outlined by the teachers concerning library books was the tendency for some sixth graders to select high school level books, which were not appropriate for their age level.
Boland suggested that access to the IMC be restricted to times when teachers are present.
There was also suggestions from teachers that their be more uniformity in enforcement of the three-inch inseams rule on the current fad of wearing short shorts. Some female teachers said they were offended by some of the shorts.
Male teachers reported they were uncomfortable trying to enforce the rule and would not do it.
Some teachers suggested that as part of the school security package maybe teachers outside the buildings with students should have a walkie-talkie to remain in communication with office staff.
When discussion on the listening sessions ended, Boland said the district could be happy the discussions centered on water fountains and lunch menus not bullying or other more serious problems that can occur at schools.
In other business, the Seneca School Board:
• raised the price of school lunches by 10 cents to stay in compliance with federal guidelines on pricing
• opted to reduce the breakfast price by 10 cents to offset the increased lunch price
• heard in a report that the school lunch program seems poised to end the 2017-18 school year $10,000 in the black
• approved the 2018-19 membership fee for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards of $2,322
• approved a $200 membership fee in Shared Purchasing Solutions
• approved a $200 membership in the Wisconsin Association of Equity Funding, which often lobbies on behalf of smaller schools
• approved providing a coach for the middle school cross country program for the coming school year
• heard updated reports on the 2017-18 budget and the proposed 2018-19 budget
• discussed the need to talk with Town of Seneca officials to clarify the shared maintenance responsibilities of a field used by the school district
• approved trading in a 2005 Suburban to purchase a 2017 Travers from the Fillback dealership at a total cost to the district of $21,963—some of which is funded by insurance settlements on hail damage
Following discussions in a closed session, the board reconvened in open session and:
• accepted the resignation of Special Ed Director Pat Wenske
• approved Stace Anderson as the new Special Ed Director
• hired Andy Karls as a part-time Spanish teacher