Board does away with half-day in-service days for next school year

by Dave Cary
Review Correspondent

Thanks to a relaxation of certain state rules, the Plymouth School Board was able to consolidate nine or ten monthly half-day “early release” days into five whole days off starting in the 2015-16 school year.

The change came in the board’s acceptance of the proposed 201-16 calendar Tuesday night.

Previously, the school district had been required to comply with in-session requirements of both days and hours/minutes in scheduling each year. To accommodate staff professional development training, days on which it was scheduled had to be shared with regular classroom time, meaning “early release” days, which were split between classroom instruction and professional training. Kids went home at noon or so after going to school at the regular time.

This rule was relaxed, giving local schools more flexibility in providing in-session time while maintaining specified minimums.

With the change, instead of a half-day “early release” day every month, there will be no school on four or five Fridays, on which faculty members will pursue professional development. Assistant Superintendent Dan Mella told the board the committee working on the calendar had sounded out the public, the staff and other schools in the district and found widespread agreement that the move was a good idea.

As part of the new calendar, May 27, 2016, will be a day designated for possible make up of a snow day. Mella said that under state rules, the first snow day taken by a district does not have to be made up, but the second one does – meaning that if no snow days are called in 2015-16, May 27 will become a day off and be added to the Memorial Day weekend.

Board member Jamie Gambrell said she felt the changes were right; board president Tim St. Clair said he was glad the committee had found consensus.

• • •

The board selected Steiner Electric as the general contractor for the upcoming electrical service upgrade project at Plymouth High School, which, according to business manager Jon Miller, is “really needed.”

Interestingly, the district will purchase equipment directly rather than through contractors for the project, as this avoids sales tax on the items. Cost of this equipment is put at $159,475, with construction costs put at $376,275, $32,000 in design fees – 80 percent of which are already paid – and a ten percencent contingency budget for a total of $621,325. This will be paid for by applying fund balance.

Miller said that a provision in the new electrical code allowed use of aluminum rather than copper connectors, which will save money.

• • •

In personnel matters, the board was informed that:

• Amy Novak, Special Education teacher’s aide, has resigned as of Jan. 6.

• Kurt Adams, District Groundskeeper, has submitted his resignation effective March 27.

• Mary Peschke, School District Nurse, has submitted her resignation effective March 20.

• Cathy Sabel has been hired as a cook/server at Horizon Elementart School.

• Nancy DeGroff has been hired as an assistant cook at Plymouth High School.

• Jennifer Lund has been hired as a Special Education teacher aide at Horizon Elementary School.

• Michael Remington has been hired as a Special Education teacher aide at Horizon Elementary School.

• Bonnie Jaeger has been hired as a Special Education teacher aide at Riverview Middle School.

• • •

Board member Richard York said he hoped people realized that the district’s Community Education staff consists of more than just one or two people. Director Kathryn Murray, he said, works closely with four people, as well as another four who staff fitness programs. Then there are 15-17 involved in Day Care programs, he said, and other volunteers as well, for a total of 25 to 27 people.

York also said that there were opportunities in current fitness or water programs for people to enroll for a week to see whether they liked it or not. He is the board’s liaison to the Community Education Committee.

Board member Bob Travis, liaison to the foundation, said that two new board members had been welcomed at the annual meeting, and that much discussion had centered around the foundations success in the agricultural education area the last year. However, he said, the foundation has other tasks as well – including $30,000 to be awarded to some 20 upcoming graduates through various scholarships.

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